"Do you get the feeling that Chloe and Martha were claiming to be tired more because they wanted to give us a chance to be alone together and less because they flew in from Hawaii today?" Mac called out to Harm as she turned on the water to fill the tub she was planning to soak in.
"Subtlety never has been Chloe's strong suit," he reminded her. "You know, if we hadn't already set a date for the wedding, she'd probably have sat down with a calendar to find the best date for us to get married."
"True," Mac said, laughing as she stripped off her blouse and tossed it in the general direction of the clothes hamper. She missed the hamper and hit Harm, who had just walked into the bathroom, square in the chest.
"Trying to tell me something, Marine?" he asked with a gleam in his eye.
"Not really," she replied as she stripped off the rest of her clothes while Harm watched her. "Although you're more than welcome to join me. There's still room for two in this tub. At least, I think there is."
"Are you calling yourself fat?" he teased as she tossed her shorts at him.
"No, I don't think I'm fat," she admitted. "At least, not most of the time. Every so often I'll catch myself thinking it, especially when I really want to wear something that doesn't fit anymore." She was silent for a moment, then asked quietly, "Do you think I'm fat?"
"Sarah, have I ever given you any reason to believe that I think that?" he asked.
"That didn't answer the question," she said as she tossed the rest of her clothes in his direction. Harm tossed the clothes in the hamper and quickly stripped off his own clothes and stepped into the tub. Mac joined him, settling between his legs as he pulled her back against his chest.
"Do you need to hear me say it?" he asked. "Then I will. I think pregnancy looks very beautiful on you. Call it a male ego thing if you'd like, but I think there is something very appealing about watching you grow large carrying my children. Anyway, I didn't fall in love with you because you had - what did Webb say? - a twenty-four inch waist."
Mac smiled at that. "You know, I never did kill Webb for announcing my measurements in front of you and the Admiral," she joked. "Seriously, let's just forget about this conversation and chalk it up to hormones or something."
"Is that a smile I see on your face?" he teased as he ran his hands over her belly.
"You're getting really good at that," she commented, "saying just the right thing to make me feel better."
"Good," he replied. "Because happy mom means happy babies. I'm sure I read that somewhere. How does your back feel? You were commenting on that earlier."
"The pillow at my back while sitting on the couch helped," she said. "My shoulders are a little stiff though from hunching over my desk most of the day."
"Lean forward," Harm instructed her as he placed his hands on her shoulders and began to kneed them. "Better?"
"Much," Mac replied. His fingers hit a particularly sore spot. "Oh, right there. That feels so good."
"You are a little tense," he said. "Maybe we should make this a nightly routine."
"A nightly massage?" she said with a grin. "Do that and I'll love you forever. But I get to give you massages in return."
"I can live with that," he replied as his hands moved over her upper arms.
"I bet you can," she teased as his hands moved over her belly again before moving upward to gently cup her breasts. She sighed and closed her eyes as she leaned back against him again, losing herself to his touch and the feelings he was arousing in her. His hands left her breasts and moved over her belly again before moving over her thighs, which parted slightly at his touch. He teased her by moving his fingers lightly over the sensitive skin of her inner thighs, careful to skirt around the area where she moved wanted to feel his touch.
"Like that, huh?" he asked, his breath hot against her ear.
Mac smiled slightly as she pressed herself closer to him and felt his arousal against her back. "I'm not the only one, apparently," she replied as she moved against him and he moaned in response.
He leaned over her and his lips left a trail of kisses over her throat and along her jaw line as he teased her by brushing his fingers against her clit and swollen lips before moving back over her thighs.
"Harm," she moaned. "I want ... "
"Want what?" he asked, his fingers moving in circles over her thighs.
"I want ... touch me," she gasped, her breathing becoming ragged. "Please, touch me."
One hand slid between her parted thighs again and a single digit circled around her bud lightly. "Here?"
"Mmmm," she murmured in agreement. He increased the pressure slightly and she gasped. "Yes," she hissed softly as she unconsciously rotated her hips against his hand.
He then slid two fingers of his other hand inside her and she cried out his name as her muscles tightened around his fingers, moaning softly as his fingers slid out of her then back in. Her breathing became labored and he deliberately slowed his movements, delaying her impending climax.
Mac moved forward slightly, one of her hands slipping between their bodies to caress his hard length. She wrapped her fingers around him and slid her hand slowly up and down his shaft as he grew even harder under her gentle ministrations.
His fingers slid inside her again and she threw her head back against his shoulder, her breath coming in short pants as she climbed towards her peak again. "Harm," she gasped. "Let's move this... bed."
Their hands left each other's bodies and Harm helped her out of the tub. He grabbed a towel off the rack, his hands caressing as he moved the towel over her, drying her off. When he finished, she took the towel and returned the favor.
When she finished and had tossed the towel aside, Harm pulled her against him, his lips capturing hers, his tongue delving deeply between her parted lips, his hands tangled in her hair as he pulled her towards their bed. He fell back onto the bed and pulled her down with him.
Their lips broke apart as he put his hands on her hips and guided her down onto his rock hard shaft. Her hands flat on the bed, she put her weight on her arms as she slid forward until only his tip was still inside her, then she slide back slowly until she had taken him fully inside her.
She kept up the slow, torturous pace for a few moments until Harm, his hands still on her hips, began guiding her movements, urging her to move faster over him.
Mac's fingers tightened on the bedspread under her and she threw her head back, biting her lower lip to keep from crying out as she fell over the edge, her body shuddering with the force of her climax. Harm's hands tightened on her hips as he brought her down on him and he climaxed, spilling his hot seed into her.
Sighing, Mac moved off him and stretched out on her side beside him, her arm thrown over his chest, her head resting on his shoulder. "I wish you didn't have to leave in the morning," she said quietly.
"I wish I didn't either," he replied, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and pulling her closer to him, his other hand resting on her belly. "Especially since you have a doctor's appointment on Wednesday."
"I'll call you," she promised, "let you know how it went."
"As soon as you get out of the doctor's office," he said. "I don't care if I'm in the middle of a meeting with the base commander, you call me. I'm sorry I can't be there with you this time."
"I was thinking of calling Sydney tomorrow," she revealed. "If she's free, I thought about asking her to accompany me to my appointment. I feel better having someone there with me, especially since I'm having the amnio done. I think if I have another woman, another mother, with me, I won't worry so much about it."
"I'd feel better if you have someone with you, too," he replied. "I just wish it was going to be me."
"I do, too," she agreed, her eyes drifting closed. "Sometimes I wish we had jobs where we didn't have to worry about going out of town at a moment's notice."
Mac and Harriet walked into the bullpen over an hour late, having dropped Harm and Bud off at Andrews Air Force Base before heading to work. Harriet sat down at her desk and Mac headed for her office until Gunny intercepted her.
"Ma'am, the Admiral asked for you to see him as soon as you arrived," Gunny told her as he took her briefcase and cap from her. "I'll put these in your office, Colonel."
"Thank you, Gunny," she replied as she turned for the Admiral's office. She stopped at Tiner's desk in the outer office.
Tiner didn't wait for her to speak before calling the Admiral, "Colonel Mackenzie is here, Admiral."
"Send her in, Tiner," AJ replied.
Mac entered the office to find four other officers, three Navy and one Marine, with the Admiral. She came to attention in front of his desk and said, "Reporting as ordered, Sir."
"Take a seat, Colonel," AJ told her then began the introductions. "Everyone, this is my Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie. Colonel, this is Commander Allison Krennick, the XO of our JAG office at Pearl; Lieutenant Meg Austin, also from the Pearl office; Lieutenant Commander Kaitlyn Pike, who just transferred out of our office in Okinawa; and Major Jonathan Williams, from the office in San Diego. Colonel, they are going to be handling the prosecution in the Johns and Hodge cases."
"Yes, Sir," Mac replied neutrally. She didn't know any of the lawyers, but she had definitely heard of three of them. Suddenly, a part of her was very glad that Harm had just left town, especially in the case of Krennick. She had a feeling deep down that there was going to be trouble once they saw each other.
"Commander Krennick," AJ said, "anything your team needs, please see the Colonel. She'll make sure you're taken care of. Unfortunately, we are tight on office space, so I'm going to give you conference room two as a temporary office. That will also give you a place to conduct any witness interviews you deem necessary."
"I'd like to spend this morning going over the case files," Allison said, "then start interviewing people this afternoon, as least in the Johns case, since most of the witnesses are here. Colonel, since we don't know anyone here, if someone could draw up an interview schedule, we'd appreciate it."
"Of course," Mac replied. "I'll have Gunny work on that this morning. I should tell you that one of your witnesses has just left for Texas this morning on an investigation and it is unknown when he will return."
"And who would that be, Colonel?" Allison asked.
"Commander Rabb," Mac said.
Allison frowned. "I assume the Commander can be informed that he will need to make himself available upon his return," she said tightly. "I'm sure everyone involved will appreciate these cases going to trial as swiftly as possible."
I'm sure you'd like Harm to make himself available, Mac thought. To Allison, she said, as calmly as possible, "I'm sure he will call in once he arrives in Texas. I'll make sure he's informed."
Kate looked up from a file she was looking over and said, "I see that there are some civilians who are listed as witnesses in the Hodge case. Will there be any problem getting them in here for interviews?"
"Sydney Walden, no problem," Mac said, smiling, "but Clayton Webb might be. He has a job that takes him out of town a lot. I can try to call him and see if he's available."
"I see another witness listed here," Kate continued, "he's military, but there's no duty station listed. Colonel Matthew O'Hara."
AJ jumped in before Mac could reply. "Colonel O'Hara is retired and returned to Kansas two days ago," he said. "I can assure you that his testimony will essentially be the same as mine, Webb's or Rabb's in the Hodge case. His police statement should be in the file."
Kate got the message. "Given that, we may not even need to call Colonel O'Hara as a witness," she said quickly. "I assume he can be contacted if that changes for any reason."
"Yes, he can," AJ replied. "Is there anything else?"
"I don't believe so at the moment, Admiral," Allison replied. "If you have nothing further, then we'll get to work."
"Dismissed," AJ said as everyone rose and came to attention. "Colonel, hang back a moment before you show our guests to the conference room."
After everyone else had left the office, Mac said, "Thank you, Sir."
"Don't worry about it, Colonel," AJ replied. "I assumed discussing your uncle's situation with complete strangers would be a little uncomfortable. I take it from what you said earlier that Rabb is planning to call in once he arrives?"
"Yes, Sir," she said. "I'll let him know about the interview request."
"Good," AJ said. "I'm sure he'll appreciate the heads up about Krennick."
"Sir?" Mac was confused and a bit wary. Surely the Admiral didn't know about Krennick's unwanted advances towards Harm. The Admiral was hardly one to tolerate sexual harassment in his command, even if no complaint was made.
"Let's just say they tended to clash," AJ told her, "especially on the last case they worked together before Allison transferred out of JAG headquarters."
Mac thought for a moment. She wasn't sure, but she believed that last case had been the investigation into Diane's death. Saying that they had clashed on that case was a major understatement. "I'm sure he will do everything possible to cooperate with the case despite that," she said. "Commander Krennick was correct when she said everyone would appreciate these cases being resolved as quickly as possible."
"Agreed. Dismissed," AJ said.
Mac came to attention for a moment before leaving the office to find everyone waiting for her. "Is there anything else you need before I show you to the conference room?" she asked.
"We could use some supplies," Allison said, "pens, legal pads and coffee."
"Tiner can get you any supplies you need," Mac replied with a nod towards the yeoman. "As for coffee, we'll pass the kitchen on the way to the conference room. There are extra mugs in the cabinets and you can help yourselves to the coffee. We only ask that if you empty the pot, you put a new one on."
After getting everyone settled in the conference room and promising to return with an interview schedule, Mac breathed a sigh of relief as she headed back to her office. Meg Austin and Kate Pike seemed like nice enough people and Harm had spoken highly of them, but Mac would just as soon stay as far away from Krennick as possible. She sure didn't need the stress.
After spending two hours pouring over the case files, Allison had reluctantly suggested they break for lunch. While everyone headed off in different directions, she headed for the file room, determined to confirm the thought nagging at the back of her mind ever since she had first seen Colonel Mackenzie.
As she entered the room, a Petty Officer walked up to her and asked, "May I help you, Commander?"
"Yes," Allison replied. "I'm looking for a case from May 1996. It would have been opened around the third week of the month."
"This way, Ma'am," the Petty Officer said as she led Allison to the correct aisle. "Name of the subject?"
"It was an investigation into the murder of Lieutenant Diane Schonke of the USS Sea Hawk," Allison replied as the Petty Officer looked at the boxes holding the files from May 1996. Pulling a box off the shelf, she searched through it and pulled out a file, handing it to Allison.
"Here you go, Ma'am," she said. "Would you like to check the file out or just look at it here?"
"I'll just look at it here," Allison said as she headed towards one of the desks at the center of the room. Just as she was about to sit down, she saw Meg and Kate enter the file room. Turning quickly before they saw her, she headed for a desk towards the back of the room where she could have some privacy. Sitting down, she opened the file and noticed right on top an addendum to the file, added in April 1998. "So the XO killed Lieutenant Schonke," she murmured as she read the report detailing the discovery of the murderer nearly two years after the fact.
Coming to the end of the addendum, she noted the names at the bottom. "The addendum was signed off on by Commander Rabb, Major Mackenzie and Lieutenant Roberts," she said to herself. So Mackenzie is familiar with the case, she thought as she flipped through the rest of the file, looking for the crime scene photos. Finding them at the bottom of the file, she stared for a long moment at the top photo, taken of Diane before she had been removed from her car.
She was right. The uniforms might be different, but the face was the same. These women didn't just bear a resemblance to each other. Lieutenant Diane Schonke and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie were dead ringers for each other.
Mac rubbed her temples, trying to fight off the headache she felt coming on. Try not to think about it, she told herself. Try not to think about the cases, Krennick or the fact that Harm is gone. "Easier said than done," she muttered as her phone rang. Picking it up, she said shortly, "Colonel Mackenzie."
"Sounds like someone could use some cheering up," Harm said. "Bad morning?"
Mac took a deep breath. "Sorry," she said, "but your call is the bright spot of the morning."
"That bad?" he replied. "What's going on?"
"Hold on a minute," she told him, setting the phone down and getting up to close her office door. She didn't want anyone to overhear this conversation, even by accident.
Picking up the phone again as she sat back down, she said, "Sorry. I've got something to tell you and didn't want anyone to overhear. The lawyers who are going to handle the Johns and Hodge prosecutions arrived today. Commander Allison Krennick is heading the team."
There was silence on the other end of the line as Harm digested the information. "Suddenly, I'm very glad to be in Texas," he said.
"You know what," she said, "me, too. Krennick has already told me to make sure you are informed that you need to make yourself available for an interview upon your return."
"Sounds like her," he replied. "You aren't having problems with her, are you?"
"I've barely spoken to her except in the Admiral's office," she told him. "He even suggested to me privately that I warn you she was here. I thought for a moment he knew about - well, you know - until he commented that you two had clashed on the last case you worked on together before she transferred out. Harm, I hate to ask, but would that have been the investigation into Diane's murder?"
"Yes, it would," he answered. "Both Krennick and Meg transferred out right after that, Krennick to Hawaii and Meg to Great Lakes."
"Now they're both in Hawaii," Mac said. "Meg's here, too, along with Kate Pike and a Major Williams. I guess two of them are handling each case."
"Interesting," he said, laughing. "Sounds like the ghosts of partners past."
"Meg and Kate seemed nice enough," she commented. "Again, I didn't talk to them much, but from what you've told me about them, I think the cases are in good hands."
"Tell Meg and Kate that I said hello," he said.
"Will do. Do you have any idea when you will be home?" she asked.
"Fortunately, the Air Force investigative team seems willing to cooperate with the Navy, so I'm hoping we can get this wrapped up quickly," he replied. "I'll call you tonight, okay?"
"I look forward to it," she said. "I love you."
"I love you," he echoed. "And don't worry about Krennick. I'm not."
"And why is that?" she asked.
"Because I know that if Krennick tries anything, I'll have my feisty Marine fiancée to protect me," he teased, causing Mac to smile at the thought. "I'm sure she is more than capable of handling a pushy Navy Commander."
"Well, dealing with my Navy Commander fiancé has given me plenty of practice," she teased back.
Harm laughed as he said, "Glad to have cheered you up, even if you just insulted me. I'll talk to you tonight. Bye, Sarah."
"Bye, Harm," she said. After hearing the click indicating he had hung up, she hung up the phone, still smiling.
Hearing a knock at her door, she called out, "Enter." She was surprised when Meg and Kate stepped into her office. "What can I do for you?"
"We went down to the file room just now to check out the case file on Chief Hodge's previous conviction, Colonel," Meg said. "A Petty Officer down there said that Commander Rabb had checked out the file a couple of weeks ago and hadn't returned it. Since he's not here, we thought we'd ask you if someone could let us into his office to get the file."
"Come on," Mac said, getting out of her chair and heading for the door. "I'll get the file for you. I have a key for his office."
As she led them to Harm's office, she said, "I just got off the phone with Harm, by the way. He said to say 'hello' to both of you." Meg and Kate both smiled.
"If he calls again," Kate said, "you'll tell him we said 'hello' back?"
"Yes," Mac replied as she unlocked Harm's office and flipped on the light. She searched through the stack of files on top of his desk and found the Hodge file. Pulling it out of the stack, she held it out to them and Kate took it.
"Thank you, Colonel," Kate said, flipping through the file. "I see you worked the investigation with Ha - Commander Rabb. If you'd got time later, we'd like to talk to you about this first case, get a feel for what kind of man he is."
"I should have some time this afternoon," Mac replied. "My case load is a little light right now, since I just returned to work yesterday. I'm getting ready to go to lunch now, so why don't we meet in about an hour?"
"Thank you, Ma'am," Kate said as they left Harm's office and Mac locked it back up. "Why don't we meet in your office, if you don't mind? Krennick and Williams are starting their interviews in the Johns case at thirteen hundred, so the conference room is out."
"That will be fine," Mac said. "I'll see you back here in about an hour."
As Kate and Meg headed out of the bullpen, Kate asked, "Are you okay, Meg? You've been quiet today."
"Sorry," Meg said, "it's just that Colonel Mackenzie reminds me ... never mind, it's not important. Why don't we get some lunch ourselves?"
WEDNESDAY, 23 AUGUST
"Sorry, I'm running behind this morning," Dr. Calder apologized as she entered the exam room. "I just finished up an emergency C-section about half an hour ago. How are you feeling today, Sarah?"
"Fine. I just came from seeing Dr. Newman and he said that I'm healing nicely," she replied. "Dr. Calder, you remember my friend Dr. Sydney Walden, don't you? She agreed to accompany me today since Harm had to go TDY."
"It's good to see you again, Dr. Walden," Calder replied as she gathered everything she would need for the amniocentesis. "Do you have any questions before we begin, Sarah?"
"No, I don't think so," Mac answered. "I'm just ready to get this over with."
"Feeling a little nervous?" Calder asked. "I can understand that. I won't lie to you. There are risks, but they're really very minimal."
Mac smiled weakly. "I know," she said. "That's what Sydney said. I guess it's just a little fear of the unknown."
"Well, we're going to do an ultrasound first," Calder told her. "Just to make sure everything is going well in there and to check the position of the babies and amniotic sacs. I'll mark the spots where we're going insert the needle. Since these are twins, we'll do two insertions, one for each sac. I'll numb your abdomen with a topical anesthetic and using the ultrasound as a guide, I'll insert the needle and withdraw some amniotic fluid. That's all there is to it and we should have the results in about a week."
"It will be okay," Sydney assured Mac, squeezing her hand.
"Thank you for being here with me," she said gratefully.
"One last thing, Sarah," Calder said. "Do you want to know the sex of the babies? If you'd like, we can include that with the amnio results. Unlike an ultrasound, the results from the amnio are one hundred percent accurate since we are actually doing a genetic test and not just depending on seeing body parts on the screen. It's up to you. Some parents still like to be surprised."
"Harm and I have discussed it," Mac replied. "We'd like to know. We want to prepare as much as possible and it'd be nice to know if we need to buy for boys, girls or both."
"Okay," Calder said. "You'll know for sure when you get the amnio results, but we can also try to determine the sex today from the ultrasound if the babies are cooperating by being in a good position." There was a knock at the door and a woman stuck her head in.
"Are you ready, Dr. Calder?" the woman asked.
"Sarah, Dr. Walden, this is one of our nurses, Lieutenant Jamie Smith," Calder said. "She's a certified ultrasound technician and will be doing the ultrasound while I do the actual amniocentesis."
Mac took a few deep breaths while the ultrasound machine was set up and the gel was spread across her tummy. She shivered at the feel of the cool gel. Closing her eyes, she said a silent prayer that everything would be okay.
"Everything looks good," Smith said as she began the ultrasound and the images of the twins appeared on the monitor.
Mac opened her eyes and looked at the screen, where she could see her babies, tiny arms and legs moving. "They're bigger than the last time," she said in awe.
The nurse took some quick measurements and reported, "Twin A is about two and a half inches long and twin B is about two and three quarters. I estimate weight at about seventy grams each."
"Still so tiny," Mac said, her eyes fixed on the screen. "What's this about twin A and B?"
"We label them like that so that we can tell them apart when talking about them," Calder told her. "Baby A is always the one closest to the cervix and we go up from there. The last letter, if there are more than two, is the one closest to the top of the uterus."
"Can you tell the gender from the ultrasound?" Mac asked.
"Yes and no," Smith said with a smile. "Twin A is being cooperative and is facing us. Twin B appears to be a little shy. He or she is facing the other direction. Do you want to know now, or wait until the results of the amnio come in when you can find out both?"
"I don't know," Mac began, then shrugged. "What the heck. Go ahead and tell me."
"Congratulations, Mom," the nurse said. "Twin A is a girl."
"A daughter," Mac whispered, tears in her eyes. As she remembered a certain conversation between her and Harm over a year ago, she knew how she was going to tell him the news. She couldn't wait to see the look on his face. Already she could imagine a beautiful little girl with her Daddy wrapped around her little finger.
"Congratulations, Mac," Sydney said, squeezing Mac's hand again.
"That looks like a good place," Calder said, looking at the screen. She pressed something which looked to Mac like a straw to Mac's belly. At Mac's confused look, she explained, "We use this to make the mark where we're going to insert the needle. We don't use ink since it would wash off when we swab your abdomen." Studying the screen again for a moment, she made another mark.
The nurse set the ultrasound wand aside and began rubbing Mac's belly with anesthetic then with alcohol to clean it while Calder prepared the syringes. "Okay, Sarah, I want you to try to relax as much as possible and this will all be over in a few minutes," Calder told her. The nurse held the ultrasound wand over Mac's belly again and Calder, carefully watching the screen, inserted the needle and withdrew the amniotic fluid from the first sac. Setting the first syringe aside, she picked up the second syringe and repeated the procedure for the second sac.
When it was finished, Mac released a breath that she hadn't realized that she had been holding. That hadn't been as bad as she had imagined and with the anesthetic, she'd barely felt a thing.
"Just lie here for a few minutes and relax," Calder said. "I'll be back in a few minutes." Dr. Calder and the nurse both left the room, leaving Mac and Sydney alone.
"How do you feel?" Sydney asked.
"Numb," Mac said, then laughed. "Both literally and figuratively. I don't think it's sunk in yet. Harm and I are going to have a daughter."
"I know what you mean," Sydney said. "Of course, back in my day we had to wait until the baby was born to find out the sex. I remember the first time I held my son in my arms, I was in a bit of a state of shock. I couldn't believe that precious little boy was mine."
"Where is your son now?" Mac asked, curious.
"In medical school at Columbia," Sydney said. "I don't get to see him all that much these days, but I remember how crazy a time medical school is. But he's a good boy and I think he'll make a wonderful doctor."
"Sydney, are you doing anything after we leave here?" Mac asked. "I want to pick something up for Harm, something to let him know about the baby and then I thought about getting some lunch. I could really use the company."
"I'd be happy to join you," Sydney said. "Wednesdays are normally my day for doing consults with other doctors and my schedule today is very light. I don't have any appointments until late this afternoon."
"Thank you," Mac said. "I really could use someone to talk to."
"Is there something wrong?" Sydney asked.
"Not really wrong," she replied. "There's just something going on and I think I could use an objective ear."
"Something to do with work?"
"Yes and no," Mac said. "It's hard to explain without going into detail. I'll tell you over lunch, okay?"
Dr. Calder returned before Sydney could reply. "How are you feeling, Sarah?"
"Okay, but still a little numb," she replied.
"That's normal and should disappear in a few hours," the doctor told her. "You may experience some mild cramping as a side effect. If it is too severe, please let me know. I don't want you to do any lifting for a few days. Other than that, you should be okay. You can go ahead and sit up now, just do it slowly in case you get dizzy. If you're feeling okay, then you can go ahead and get dressed and you'll be free to go. Someone will call you when the amnio results are in."
"Thank you, Dr. Calder," Mac said as she slowly pushed herself into a sitting position with Sydney's help. "Other than getting the results of the test, when should I return for my next appointment?"
"Well, unless there were specific problems," Calder said, "we'd normally stick with monthly appointments at this stage of pregnancy. But with everything that's happened, I'd like to go ahead and see you again in another two weeks."
"But there's no specific problem," Mac asked for reassurance, "it's just because of the shooting, right?"
"That's right," Calder assured her. "If I didn't know better, I'd never know you've been through a horrible ordeal a few weeks ago. Your pregnancy is progressing normally and you're showing none of the usual side effects of a multiple pregnancy with the exception of the additional weight gain. With a little luck, the rest of your pregnancy will go as smoothly."
At the mall, Mac had quickly found the Baby Gap store and she and Sydney had spent some time oohing and aahing over all the baby clothes before Mac decided on a pair of pink baby booties to surprise Harm with when he returned from Texas. Now she just had to keep herself from spilling the beans over the phone before then.
After a quick run into Hallmark to pick up a card to go with the booties, Mac and Sydney headed for the Café Corridor and decided on burgers and fries at McDonalds. Finding a table for them, Mac sank gratefully into a chair, ready to get off her feet, while Sydney placed their order. Mac took out the card she had purchased and wrote a quick message inside and was about to seal the card in its envelope when Sydney joined her.
"So, what did you say in the card to break the news?" Sydney asked as she set their tray of food down and sat down herself.
After pausing a moment, Mac took the card out of the envelope and handed it to Sydney. Sydney looked at it and read the single line, puzzled, "'What if she has your looks and my brain?' I take it that has some special meaning?"
Mac smiled as Sydney handed the card back to her and she put it back in the envelope. "Yes," she said. "It's something I said during a conversation that Harm and I once had." She paused, then decided to tell Sydney the whole story. It would probably be good for a laugh. "The day AJ Roberts was born, Harm and I were there in the Admiral's office when he was delivered."
"What a minute," Sydney exclaimed. "Harriet gave birth in AJ's office? He never told me that."
Mac laughed, "It's a long story. Harm had called for an ambulance, but it took away the wrong pregnant woman and ... Anyway, after it was all over and another ambulance arrived to take Harriet and little AJ to the hospital, Harm and I were talking on the front steps at JAG. I guess we were both excited about what we had just witnessed and I was feeling a little blue as well. Chloe had just been visiting and had left that day. So, Harm and I made this deal."
"What kind of deal?" Sydney asked.
"We agreed that if neither of us was in a relationship in five years," she explained, "that we would 'go halves on a kid'. Those were Harm's words, by the way. He's the one who suggested it."
"Okay, wait a minute," Sydney said, stunned. "You and Harm, feeling euphoric because you had just watched your godson be born, made an agreement to have a baby together in five years?"
"Basically, yes," she replied. "I was not sure about it at first and Harm said that with 'your looks and my brains, he'd be perfect.' I countered ... "
Sydney interrupted, understanding dawning, "'What if she has your looks and my brains?'"
"Exactly," Mac said. "We shook on it and that was it, until we really did get involved in a relationship together and decided that we didn't like the five year timetable anymore."
Sydney laughed, "Only you and Harm would claim to be nothing more than friends then make a deal to have a baby together. There's another one for the 'what idiots Harm and Mac have been' file."
"No," Mac said, shaking her head. "You're still not stuck on that idea of telling all these stories at our engagement party?"
"You'll have to wait until the engagement party and find out, won't you?" Sydney teased, smiling. Actually, she'd had a better idea than just telling stories. She'd already talked to AJ about making a videotape of all their friends talking about Harm and Mac. He'd agreed that it was a wonderful idea and had gotten Gunny and Tiner to start going around and interviewing everyone when Harm and Mac weren't around. She wanted the whole thing to be a surprise.
"It's good to laugh," Mac said, playing with a French fry. "There hasn't been much to laugh about this week."
"Something tells me this isn't just about Harm going out of town," Sydney said. "Is this what you wanted to talk about?"
"Yeah," Mac replied. "I'm okay with Harm going out of town - that's a fact of our jobs. But something happened at work yesterday. No, it's more a fact of someone showing up at work and it's bothering me a little bit. Harm tried to reassure me that everything was going to be fine, but I'm not so sure and I don't really need the stress right now."
Sydney put her hand on Mac's arm. "What don't you just tell me what this is all about?"
Mac took a deep breath and began, "I don't know if the Admiral told you, but the lawyers who are going to be prosecuting Sergeant Johns and Chief Hodge arrived yesterday."
"AJ mentioned that," Sydney said, "as well as the fact that two of them used to work at headquarters. He said one of them was Harm's old partner."
"Yes," she confirmed, "Lieutenant Meg Austin. I came on board when she transferred to Great Lakes."
"This is something more than just Harm's old partner being back?" Sydney asked. "You don't think there was something between them back then, do you?"
"No," Mac answered quickly, "Harm told me there wasn't. They were just friends. Anyway, Meg seems like a nice enough woman and she's not the problem anyway. It's the other person who used to be at JAG, Commander Allison Krennick. She was the Admiral's chief of staff when she was there. And no, there wasn't anything between her and Harm, either. And that's the problem."
"I don't understand," Sydney said. "If there was nothing between this Commander Krennick and Harm, I would think that would be a good thing."
"See, back then, Krennick was Harm's superior officer," Mac explained. "He had just been promoted to Lieutenant Commander when he first met her and she was, as she is now, a full Commander. He was defending a case she was prosecuting. A few weeks later, she went to see Harm at home when she got transferred to Washington and she flat out told Harm that she wanted him."
"If she was his superior, wouldn't that be considered sexual harassment?"
"Yes, although Harm never said anything to the Admiral," Mac replied. "I don't know if it was because he was a little bit flattered by the attention, even if he didn't return it, or if it was because he thought he could handle Krennick. Anyway, Krennick kept throwing herself at Harm and he kept turning her down. As Bud once put it, he 'threw her more red lights than the Beltway at rush hour'."
"So you think Krennick might still be after Harm?" Sydney asked.
"Well, Krennick went after Harm because she saw him as a threat to what she wanted," Mac revealed. "He was the golden boy at JAG and Krennick thought if they were in a relationship, she could control him to get what she wanted. On their last case together, Krennick tried to bring him up on charges for striking another officer. She told him that she didn't want his mistakes to bring her down in the process." Mac stopped and laughed. "It's funny. She was willing to risk her career over a sexual harassment charge, yet she was ready to ruin his career to protect hers over this assault incident."
"This Krennick sounds like some piece of work," Sydney commented.
"Anyway, some other things happened and Krennick never filed the complaint. She transferred to Hawaii as XO of the JAG office there right after that," Mac continued. "I'm just worried that there is just too much unresolved tension there and it could blow up. Plus ... " she trailed off, uncertain about whether to continue.
"Plus what?" Sydney asked gently.
Mac shrugged. "There's more. This last case they were on concerned the murder of an Academy classmate of Harm's. She - well, she and Harm were supposed to get together, decide where they wanted to go with their relationship, when she was murdered."
"He was in love with her?"
"Yes," Mac answered. "NCIS thought he was too personally involved and wanted Harm pulled off the case. Krennick is the one who suggested to the Admiral that she be put in charge of the JAG investigation instead. She came in and started exerting her authority, excluding Harm from key aspects of the investigation. So he decided to confront a prime suspect on his own, which is where the assault charge comes into it. The other officer refused to press charges, saying that he could understand why Harm came after him. He was in love with Diane, too. But Krennick heard about it and decided to report it herself."
"Do you think Krennick was jealous because of Harm's feelings for Diane?" Sydney asked.
"I don't know," Mac admitted. "It's possible, although Krennick disagreed when Harm confronted her about it. But if she was jealous of Diane, then ... "
"She might be jealous of you?" Sydney finished. "Has she said anything to indicate that?"
"I don't think she knows yet about me and Harm," she answered. "At least, I didn't tell her and she hasn't mentioned it. But ... it's hard to explain. I don't know if I should even be telling you this. I mean, if people don't know the whole story, they might get the wrong impression about me and Harm. But he assured me that he never held it against me and I believe him. As far as I know, Harm and Bud are the only ones who know."
Mac took a deep breath before continuing. "That even though there are several years' difference in our ages," she said slowly, "Diane and I look enough alike that we could have been twins."
Sydney didn't react, simply saying, "Please continue."
"I know that Harm didn't fall in love with me because I look like Diane," she explained. "According to him, we just looked alike. Our personalities were different. But someone who doesn't know us, but knows about my resemblance to Diane, might try to make something different of the situation."
"And Krennick knows that you look like Diane," Sydney stated.
"I would assume so," Mac answered. "Since she was involved in the investigation, I'm sure she saw the crime scene photos. Meg would probably know, too."
"Because she was Harm's partner at the time."
"Exactly," she replied. "Don't get me wrong. I don't doubt Harm's love. We've been through too much for me to ever doubt that. But I don't need Krennick rocking the boat either. I've been lucky so far that everything has gone well with my pregnancy in spite of everything that's happened. I don't want anything to jeopardize that."
"Have you talked to Harm about this?" Sydney asked.
"Briefly," she said. "I told him that she was here and he is concerned, but he won't let himself worry about it. He even said that he was confident his 'feisty Marine fiancée' could protect him if Krennick tried anything."
"Well, the way I see it," Sydney said, "you need to do two things. First, talk to Harm about it. Let him know how worried about this situation you are. Second, trust in yours and Harm's love. I've rarely seen two people more in love than the two of you. Hold on to that and I think you can get through anything."
"Thank you," Mac said, smiling. "I've been telling myself that, but it helps to hear it from someone outside this whole situation."
"The 'objective ear' you mentioned earlier," Sydney stated. "Glad to be of help, Mac, and please know that if you ever need to talk again that I'm here."
"Thank you, again," Mac replied. "Just one more thing ... I'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything to the Admiral. He doesn't know about any of this and I'm not sure that Krennick will try anything. I don't see the need to say anything to him until she does."
Sydney noted that Mac had said 'until she does'. She sounded pretty sure that Krennick would try something. Sydney hoped not. Mac and Harm didn't deserve to have this happen on top of everything else they had already been through. She thought about saying something to AJ anyway, but decided against it. Maybe Mac's feelings were wrong and Krennick wouldn't try anything. But Sydney knew deep down that a woman's intuition was rarely wrong.
SATURDAY, 26 AUGUST
Mac slowly made her way downstairs and found Harm in the kitchen, standing at the stove making eggs. "Mmmm, that smells good," she said, standing behind him and wrapping her arms around him, pressing herself against his back.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," he said, covering one of her hands with his. "Sleep well?"
"Best night's sleep I've had in days," she replied, "especially since I had you back with me. I'll feel even better once you feed me."
Harm laughed. "My Marine, always thinking with your stomach," he teased. "Go ahead and sit down at the table and breakfast will be ready in a minute. I didn't think about asking last night, but when did Chloe and Martha leave?"
"Thursday," Mac replied. "Martha said they needed to get back so they could make sure Chloe has everything she needs to begin school on Monday."
"I'm sorry I didn't get to spend more time with them," Harm said as he fixed two plates for them. "I thought I told you to sit down?" he teased.
Mac smiled. This was the perfect time to spring her surprise. "Let me get something first," she said. She went to the living room and picked up the package that had been sitting there since Wednesday. She and Harm had been so busy with each other last night that he had never noticed the package and she had let it slip from her mind. She took it back to the kitchen and found Harm seated at the table, waiting for her.
Smiling, she sat down and set the gift-wrapped box in the middle of the table. "I wanted to give this to you when you returned," she explained, "but I kind of got distracted last night when you surprised me by coming home a day early, so ... here you go."
Looking at her, he tore the wrapping off the box and lifted the lid, finding a card and tissue paper. Rummaging through the paper, he pulled out the pair of pink baby booties that she had bought on Wednesday. He looked at them, mystified, then back at her. "It's a little late to tell me that you're pregnant, isn't it?"
"Oh, you," she said, smacking his arm lightly. He had obviously missed the significance of the color. "Why don't you just read the card?"
He opened the envelope and pulled the card out. He opened it up and read it. His eyes moved over the single line inside again before he looked back at her. "Is this... ?"
She nodded, tears forming in her eyes. "I don't know about both babies," she explained. "One of them had his or her back turned towards us during the ultrasound. But it did show that one of the babies is a girl. Harm, we're going to have a daughter."
"A daughter," Harm repeated in shock. "We're going to have a daughter."
Mac nodded as she moved into his lap, straddling him, her hands on either side of his face as she pressed her forehead to his. "Yes, we're going to have a daughter," she repeated.
"Do you know how happy you've made me?" he whispered in awe, running a hand over her belly.
"I love you and our babies so much," she said.
"Me, too," he replied. "So when do we find out about the other baby?"
"Well, since he or she was a little shy during the ultrasound," she explained, "we're going to have to wait a few more days until we get the results of the amniocentesis."
Harm leaned in to kiss her, their lips nearly touching when the phone rang. Mac pulled away and sighed. "Let me get that," she said, climbing off his lap. "Then we can get back to what we were doing." She picked up the phone and answered it, "Hello, Colonel Mackenzie."
She listened for a moment, then said, "Hold on a minute." She held the phone out to Harm. "It's for you, a Commander Jackson from NAS Ft. Worth," she said.
Harm took the phone from her. "Yes, Commander, what can I do for you?" he asked. He listened for a moment, then said, "No, that's okay. The report is at headquarters so it will be at least half an hour before I can fax it to you."
He hung up the phone and handed it back to Mac with a look of regret. "I'm sorry, but I need to run into the office," he told her. "Someone at the JAG office at Ft. Worth spilled coffee and ruined their copy of the accident report. Jackson called headquarters and got a hold of Tiner, who connected him to me here. I need to run into the office and fax them the report. I won't be gone too long."
"Why don't I go with you?" Mac suggested, but Harm shook his head.
"No, you stay here and finish eating," he insisted. "You need the food. I won't be gone that long and I'll be back in plenty of time for us to go to the softball game this afternoon."
"Okay," Mac sighed. "Just hurry back."
Harm walked into JAG headquarters whistling 'Anchors Aweigh', on cloud nine after Mac's news. Not watching where he was going, he nearly ran over Tiner as the latter was exiting the elevator.
"Sorry, Tiner," he apologized. "I should have been watching where I was going."
"Not a problem, Sir," Jason replied. "Sorry to disturb you and the Colonel at home, but Commander Jackson said it was important that he get that report today."
"No problem," Harm assured him. "I'll just get it faxed to Texas and get back home. We'll see you at the game later, right?"
"Yes, Sir," Jason said. "See you later, Commander."
Harm rode the elevator up to the second floor and headed for his office, grabbing the folder he had dropped off before heading home the night before. A smile on his face, he quickly faxed the report to Ft. Worth and put the folder back on his desk, where he intended to leave it until he presented it to the Admiral on Monday. He froze when he heard a voice from the doorway.
"Well, it's about time you got back, Harm," Allison said, leaning against the open door, dressed in her white uniform despite it being Saturday. "I was beginning to think you were staying away just to avoid me."
"Now why would I do that, Commander?" he asked, smiling tightly. "If you'll excuse me, I was just on my way back out."
Allison ignored his insistence that he was leaving and asked, "Why so formal, Harm? We're the same rank now. I think you can get away with calling me Allison."
"I guess old habits die hard," he explained. "When you were here before, you were my superior officer."
"But I'm not anymore," she replied, moving closer to him. "I'm just a temporary visitor here, unless you'd like me to stick around. You know, we could have had something before. Maybe we still could."
Where Harm might have brushed her off with a flip comment in the past, now he was just angry. After all these years, she still hadn't gotten the message. "I don't think so," he said bluntly. "I am involved with someone."
"Please," Allison said, rolling her eyes. "Tell me it's not that Maria whatever-her-name person."
"Not that my personal life is any of your business," Harm replied, a hint of anger in his voice, "but no."
"And what can this mysterious girlfriend of yours give you that I can't?" she asked.
"She isn't just my girlfriend," Harm told her. "Five weeks from today, she will become my wife."
"Harmon Rabb, getting married?" Allison retorted in disbelief. "I'll believe that one when I see it."
"Believe whatever you want," Harm said, grabbing his keys off his desk. "I really don't care. Goodbye, Commander."
"I guess I should be thankful it isn't that Marine Colonel you're involved with," Allison shot back as Harm tried to walk around her to get out of the office. He turned and looked back at her stunned as she continued, "You think I haven't noticed how much she resembles your dead Academy sweetheart? Given that, I probably should be surprised that you haven't been involved with her."
"You are way out of line, Commander," Harm managed to say through clenched teeth, "and you have no idea what you are talking about." Furious now, he stormed out of the office and headed for the stairs, leaving Allison standing in his office.
"Damn you, Harmon Rabb," she said to the empty office after he had stormed off. She was about to leave, then reconsidered. "Something I said struck a nerve," she said aloud. "Maybe there once was something between him and that Marine Colonel." She decided to look around his office to see if she could find out anything about this fiancée he had mentioned.
Moving around the office, she studied everything. Some of the items she recognized as items he'd had in his office back when she had been at JAG. On top of a filing cabinet was a model of a yellow biplane, a replica of one that she knew he owned. Hanging on the wall next to the cabinet was his law school diploma and a picture of graduation day at Annapolis with two older people she assumed where his parents. On another wall was a picture of him in a flight uniform with his squadron which she assumed was taken sometime before his accident had grounded him.
Next she came to several pictures grouped together. The first was of Harm in his dress whites with Mac, another woman in a wedding dress and a man she recognized as Ensign Roberts from the Sea Hawk, a Lieutenant j.g. in the photo and newly married. Another photo was of the same four people, this time with Roberts wearing the stripes of a full Lieutenant and JAG insignia and holding a baby. The last picture was of the five of them, the baby older and Roberts' wife obviously pregnant again, at a park together.
Sitting down in Harm's chair, she found several more pictures on the desk. One was of Harm in his mess dress with Mac by his side in a dark blue dress. Since she had found out Harm had been promoted to full Commander almost a year ago, Allison figured that the picture had been taken some time ago since he still wore the stripes of a Lieutenant Commander. Another photo was of Harm, Mac, the couple from the graduation photo, an older woman and a young girl, possibly taken at the Fourth of July since all were waving small American flags.
Her eyes fell on the final photo on the desk and her hands tightened into fists. This photo was again of Harm and Mac, Harm in his dress whites and Mac in a dark blue pants suit and obviously pregnant. Harm was a full Commander in the photo and Mac was currently pregnant, so it had to be a very recent photo. Harm had an arm draped over Mac's shoulders and Allison caught the sparkle of a diamond on Mac's left hand.
Damn, she thought. He was involved with her. No wonder he'd gotten so defensive when she'd mentioned the resemblance. Four years ago, Harm had been pining over his lost love when he could have had Allison and now he was involved with a woman who looked exactly like Diane. Allison wanted to do something, needed to do something, but she wasn't sure what. For one of the few times in her life, Allison Krennick didn't know what to do.
Mac was sitting on the couch folding laundry when she heard the garage door open. A moment later, she heard the door leading to the house open and she called out, "Harm, I was just thinking. Do you want to tell everyone about the baby today or what until we know the gender ... " she trailed off when Harm entered the living room and she saw the look on his face. "Harm, what happened?" she asked, concerned.
Harm threw himself down on the couch next to her and leaned back, closing his eyes. "That obvious, huh?" he asked wearily.
"To me, yes," Mac replied, clasping one of his hands in hers. "Please tell me what's wrong."
"I ran into Krennick at JAG," he replied. "It wasn't pleasant, to say the least."
"Do you want to tell me about it?" she asked, leaning her head against his shoulder.
"Want to? No," he said. He'd like to forget Krennick even existed. "But you should know. First, she suggested that I had been trying to avoid her by being in Texas."
"Rather arrogant of her, isn't it?" Mac commented. "The Admiral sent you to Texas before we even knew she was coming."
"I know," Harm said. "Maybe she thought I was dragging out the investigation there so that I could stay away from here as long as possible."
Mac snorted. "Yeah, you stayed away trying to avoid her, but yet you came home a day early," she said in disbelief. "So what happened next?"
"She made a point of mentioning that we are now the same rate," he told her. "I called her 'Commander' and she suggested that it was okay for me to call her 'Allison' since we now hold the same rate. Then she suggested that I might want her to stick around past her temporary assignment, that maybe there could be something between us now."
"And, of course, she didn't hear you when you said 'no'," Mac guessed.
"That was always her problem," he said. "She only heard me when it was convenient for her to do so, like when she wanted to 'disassociate' herself from me during Diane's murder investigation. Anyway, I told her that I was involved with someone."
"What did she say to that?" she asked.
"First, she said she hoped it wasn't the woman I'd been involved with when I first met her. When I told her no and that my personal life was none of her business, she pressed further, wondering what my girlfriend could give me that she couldn't."
"Oh, I don't know," Mac said sarcastically, "maybe a lifetime of love and a couple of children for a start." She looked up at Harm and caught a hint of a smile on his face. "At least I got you to smile a little," she added.
"After my conversation with her, it's hard to find something to smile about," Harm pointed out. "I answered her question by telling her we are getting married in five weeks. She said something to the effect that she'd believe that when she saw it."
"Well, don't expect me to invite her to the wedding just so she can see it for herself," Mac said.
"Maybe when hell freezes over," he said, grinning now. "I told her I didn't care what she believed and I tried to leave."
"Tried?" Mac questioned. "She stopped you."
"This is the point where the conversation got ugly," he told her.
"'Got ugly'?" she countered. "So what was it up to this point?"
Harm shrugged. "Okay, got really ugly," he amended. He was silent for a moment, pondering how to reveal what had happened.
"So what happened next?" she prodded him.
"She said that she supposed she should be glad I wasn't involved with you," he answered. "Then she threw in a comment about your resemblance to Diane. I got very angry, told her she was out of line and left."
"So she doesn't know that I'm your fiancée?"
"I was so mad at that point that I didn't feel the need to enlighten her," he replied. "I guess I figured that if I said anything more, it would get even uglier."
"In other words," she said, "you thought she might suggest that you were involved with me because of my resemblance to Diane."
"Yes," he admitted. After another moment of silence, he began, "Do you ever wonder ... No, forget what I was about to ask. I know better."
"Yes, you do," she told him, pulling away from him so that she could look him in the eye. "Harm, I know you're upset about Krennick, but don't let her get to you like that. We made our peace with Diane's ghost a long time ago. Don't let her cause you to doubt yourself or us."
"I'm sorry," he said softly. "Like I said, I do know better. And you're right in that I shouldn't let her get to me. We need to concentrate on our wedding and our babies. Nothing else should matter right now."
"Of course, that's easier said than done," Mac pointed out, "or we wouldn't even have to have this conversation. It's been bothering me too. I've almost felt this week like I know there's a bomb and I'm just waiting for it to go off. I even had a long talk with Sydney on Wednesday after my appointment. I thought it might help to have an objective listener."
"So what did she have to say?" he asked.
"Just that I should talk to you about what I was feeling and to trust in our love," she told him. "Nothing I didn't already know, but I think it helped a little to have someone else say it."
"True, but I don't know that will be enough against Krennick," he said. "Not that I think she can drive a wedge between us, but she can create a lot of stress that we don't need right now."
"What do we do?" Mac mused. "We ignore her and it's like giving her license to continue pursuing you and causing problems. We back her into a corner by going to the Admiral and we risk her lashing out."
"You know, we're unfortunately not going to solve the problem right here, right now," Harm said. "Why don't we make a deal to forget about it for the rest of the weekend and if anything happens Monday at work, we deal with it then."
"Sounds like a plan," Mac agreed. "On another topic, we both need some cheering up and I've got just the perfect thing. Hold on a minute." She got up and left the living room, returning a moment later with an envelope which she handed to Harm.
"I know it's not quite as big as telling you that we're going to have at least one daughter," she said as he opened the envelope and pulled out the invitation that was inside. The invitation was ivory in color with a rose design embossed in pearl at the upper left and lower right corners on the front. Inside on the left side were the words to the song "The Rose" which they had danced to at the Surface Warfare Ball. On the right -
Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Catherine Mackenzie
"These turned out very nice," he said, pulling her into his arms. "I didn't think they'd be done this soon."
"Well, I'm sure that you remember how Sydney, your mom and I had picked out the design and decided on the wording the day after we first called Annapolis," she said. "Once we went there and confirmed 30 September as the date and set the time, your mom called the printer and offered them a bonus if they had the invitations ready in a week. I picked them up Thursday when I got off work. I had dinner with Sydney and the Admiral that night and we worked on addressing them. With the exception of those that we planned to hand deliver to our friends in the DC area, the invitations were all mailed out yesterday. I figured that we could hand out the invitations to the people at JAG together at the game this afternoon."
"That will work," he said. "So what else happened on the wedding front while I was gone?"
"We're going to discuss it with everyone at the picnic after the game," she told him, "but the run down is that the designer your mom found FedEx'd some sketches for the dresses for the bridal party and Chloe. I'm pretty sure which ones I want, but I was going to show the sketches to Sydney, Harriet, Jackie and Carolyn to get their input. I've already shown Chloe the sketch of her dress and she loved it. Gunny has a line on the roses and Singer contacted the caterer. That reminds me, I've got some suggested menus from the caterer. We need to decide on the menu for the reception within the next few days. Let me see, what else? The organist from the chapel faxed over suggestions for music during the ceremony itself. Tiner has arranged for all the non-flower decorations for the reception, Carolyn found a baker and got a price list and design suggestions for the cake, and Alan found a DJ for the reception. The DJ would like us to provide a list of the songs we definitely want played at the reception - the first dance, dances with the family, as soon as possible. He said he'd provide a list of other songs to play so we could make suggestions or veto a selection. I think that's it so far."
"Sounds like everything is coming together rather well," he commented.
"Let's see if you still think that in a few weeks when we're all running around going crazy, convinced that nothing is going to come together in time," she teased.
"Oh, ye of little faith," he teased in return. "With so many people helping out, how can it not come together?"
Harriet shifted her son into a more comfortable position on her hip as she walked towards the bleachers while Bud unloaded his equipment and their cooler from the minivan. She caught sight of Meg, Kate and Jon Williams and waved in greeting. "Nice to see you could make the game," she said. "I'm sure you could use the break from the Johns and Hodge cases. Did Commander Krennick come with you?"
"Hello, Lieutenant Sims, isn't it?" Meg said. "The Commander is going over some files at JAG, but she gave the rest of us the day off. I love coming to these games. I used to play for the JAG team when I was stationed here."
"Please just call me Harriet," she replied, holding on to AJ just a little tighter as he squirmed in her arms, trying to get down. "AJ, you can get down when we get to the bleachers," she told her son.
"What a cute little boy," Kate said. "How old is he?"
"Fifteen months," Harriet replied with a smile on her face. She never passed up the opportunity to talk about her son. "His name is AJ, but you'll often hear him referred to as little AJ to distinguish him from big AJ over there." She nodded towards the Admiral, who was on the field throwing warm-up pitches to Tiner. She noticed her husband walking towards them and called to him, "Bud, I want you to meet the lawyers I was telling you about."
Bud joined them and immediately recognized two of them. "Lieutenants Pike and Austin, it's good to see both of you again," he greeted them.
"Hello, Bud," Meg said. "It's good to see you again. I hear you're a lawyer now. I'm glad to hear JAG is working out for you."
"Thanks to your recommendation," Bud reminded her. "It has been great. I graduated third in my class at law school and I've been fortunate to have learned so much from Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie."
"It's a pleasure, Bud," Kate said. "I'm a Lieutenant Commander now. What about you? I'm sure you've moved past Ensign."
"Full Lieutenant now," he replied. "I got promoted around the same time I graduated law school. Where are you two working these days?"
"I'm out in Hawaii at the Pearl office," Meg told him. "Kate has just left Okinawa and will be transferred to Pensacola when we wrap up these cases. By the way, Bud, this is Major Jon Williams from the San Diego office. Jon, this is Lieutenant Bud Roberts, one of the lawyers at JAG headquarters. Jon and Commander Krennick are handling the Johns case while Kate and I are prosecuting Chief Hodge."
"Commander Krennick is here, too?" Bud asked, astonished and a little worried. He was one of the few who knew of the history between Harm and Allison.
"Bud, I didn't know you knew Commander Krennick, too," Harriet said. "When did you meet her?"
"She was part of a JAG team that came to the Sea Hawk when one of our officers was murdered the night we docked in Norfolk," he told his wife. "That's where I met Meg, too. She and Commander Rabb were the other members of the investigative team. I met Commander Pike during an earlier JAG investigation aboard the Sea Hawk."
"I didn't know that or I would have mentioned to you they were here," Harriet said.
AJ began squirming in Harriet's arms again, reaching out for something behind his mother. She turned and saw Harm and Mac walking towards them.
"Unca Harm, Aun Mac," AJ squealed. Reaching the group, Mac held out her arms and Harriet handed AJ to her. After her hug, he quickly demanded Harm's attention. "Unca Harm, plane," he pleaded, holding his arms out to Harm. Harm set down the equipment and cooler he was carrying, taking AJ from Mac and lifting him above his head while the other adults watched in amusement.
"Bud, Harriet, you'd better watch those two together," Mac teased. "Harm might be a corrupting influence on AJ."
"Very funny, Marine," Harm shot back.
"Well, Colonel, it's good practice," Bud joked. "In a few months, he can provide a corrupting influence for your children." Everyone laughed at the look of mock horror that crossed Mac's face as she shook her head.
Handing AJ back to Harriet, he hugged Meg then Kate. "Meg, Kate, it's good to see both of you again," he told them. "I'd heard you two were in town."
"It's good to see you again, too, Harm," Meg said warmly. "You heard that Commander Krennick came with us?"
Harm nodded and something in his expression told Meg that Krennick was a topic that was best not pursued, so she quickly changed the subject, "How was your investigation in Texas?"
"Pretty cut and dried," he said. "There was a mechanical problem with the navigation equipment in the Tomcat which caused it to come in off course and the pilots in both planes compounded the problem by panicking. Both were relatively inexperienced."
"Sorry, Harm, I almost forgot," Meg said. "Commander Harmon Rabb, this is Major Jon Williams. He's also part of the prosecution team."
Harm held out his hand and Jon shook it. "Welcome to Washington, Jon," Harm greeted him.
"Thank you, Commander," Jon replied. "I've heard a lot about you and I am glad to finally meet you. Commander Krennick has spoken about you a lot."
Harriet noted to pained expression that briefly flashed in Mac's eyes at the second mention of Krennick's name and decided to see if her friend needed someone to talk to. Obviously, there was some kind of problem there.
Harm ignored the mention of Krennick and suggested with a glance at Mac and Harriet, "Why don't we go sit down? I'm sure Harriet and Sarah both need to get off their feet."
"Amen to that," Mac said to Harriet. "I'm beginning to move into the stage where my feet hurt all the time and my ankles are swollen."
"I wish I could tell you that would pass," Harriet replied, "but you can look forward to more of the same for the rest of the pregnancy."
"Wonderful," Mac muttered. "Also I discovered today the joy of trying to tie one's shoes while pregnant."
Harriet laughed, "I know what you mean, but that's what we have the guys for."
Mac laughed in return. "I discovered that one today, too," she said. "What would we do without them?"
"Well, we wouldn't be in the position we are now without them," Harriet joked.
"This is true," Mac replied while everyone laughed.
"Sounds like my wife when she's pregnant," Jon commented.
"How many children do you have, Major Williams?" Harriet asked.
"Please, call me Jon when I'm out of uniform and we have three," he replied. "Our youngest is just four months old."
"It must be hard being away with such a young baby at home," Harriet commented.
"Yes, but you can't exactly tell the brass to stuff it if they want you to go somewhere," Jon said. "I bought a digital camera recently and I insisted that my wife e-mail me pictures of the baby everyday while I'm gone so at least I will recognize him when I go home."
"That's a great idea," Harriet enthused. "I wish we'd thought of it when AJ was born. Bud went out on a lot of investigations the summer after AJ was born."
"Poor Bud, missed so much because we were short handed at JAG," Mac teased, earning her a stern look from Harm. "You know, Harriet, a digital camera might have come in handy when we were scanning those pictures to e-mail to the Patrick Henry. Then again, if AJ's godfather had stayed ... "
Harm interrupted, "Ha, ha, very funny, Marine."
"I thought so," she shot back, smiling.
"Hey, are you people going to stand there and talk all day," AJ called out, "or are some of you planning to play ball? Talk about the wedding after the game."
"Were we talking about the wedding?" Mac asked. "I don't think I've even heard the word since we got here." Harm, Bud and Harriet all shook their heads while Meg, Kate and Jon looked slightly puzzled.
"Regardless, Rabb, Roberts, get out here," AJ said.
Harm and Bud set everything except their bats and gloves on the bleachers, then headed towards the field at a trot while everyone else joined Sydney and Jackie on the bleachers.
"So, who's getting married?" Jon asked.
"I am," Mac replied, careful not to say more. After what had happened with Krennick, she was a little unsure how Meg and Kate would react to the news that it was Harm she was marrying. "Five weeks from today. Since I was in the hospital, everyone has been chipping in on the planning."
"If you don't mind my asking," Meg said, "how is the chain of command thing being handled? I assume one of you is going to have to transfer out of JAG." At Mac's puzzled look, she continued, "Dr. Walden mentioned it when we interviewed her for the Hodge case. She was concerned about how quickly the case was going to be wrapped up, said you didn't need the stress with the wedding coming up and everything."
Mac looked at Sydney. "You worry too much," she said. "I'm handling everything just fine."
"You can understand my concern," Sydney replied, "especially after our talk on Wednesday."
"That situation is different," Mac said. "And anyway, I did take your advice and talk to him about it. We're taking a wait and see approach. Maybe we'll be lucky and nothing will happen."
Mac looked back at Meg and replied to her earlier question, "I don't mind your asking. It's not like it's a secret or anything. Actually, Harm is taking a job as a military liaison on the Hill. He'll be kind of 'on loan' to JAG when he's not busy there."
"Sounds like a good arrangement," Kate commented. "Congratulations on the wedding and on the babies. Someone mentioned that you're having twins."
"Thank you," Mac said, relieved that Kate and Meg both seemed to be taking the news well. Now she only had Krennick to worry about. "And yes, we're having twins in February. Anyway, I didn't know you two were going to be at the game today or I would have brought your invitations to the wedding with me. Harm figured that he'd talk to you both on Monday about coming."
"Watch Harm get married? I wouldn't miss it," Meg said enthusiastically. "You said the wedding's five weeks from today, right? Where is it going to be?"
"That's right," Mac confirmed, "and it's going to be at the chapel at Annapolis."
"We'll probably still be around then," Kate said, smiling. "Meg's right, we wouldn't miss seeing Harm get married for the world."
"Speaking of the wedding," Harriet asked, "did you bring the sketches?"
"Yes, I did," Mac replied, pulling the FedEx envelope out of her bag. She handed it to Harriet, who pulled out the sketches while Sydney and Jackie looked over her shoulder.
"I love this one for the wedding dress," Sydney said, indicating the top sketch. "I don't know if I'd go with white, though. With your coloring, I think you'd look better in ivory."
"I agree," Jackie concurred, glancing at the other sketches. "I like this wedding dress best."
"Glad to hear that," Mac said, "since that's the one I like best, too. And I was planning to stay away from white and go with ivory anyway since this is my second marriage."
"I don't think anyone pays attention anymore to the idea that only a first time bride can wear white," Harriet pointed out. "But I do agree with Sydney; I think ivory would look better with your coloring. What about for the bridesmaids?"
Mac pulled a sketched out of the stack and place it on top. "I like this one best," she said. "It's simple and can easily be adjusted for Harriet."
She pulled out another sketch. "The flower girl's dress is a smaller version of the bridesmaids' dress, but I was planning to go with ivory for that, same as my dress," she said. She pulled a smaller envelope out of her bag and pulled out two fabric samples. "I was thinking of these colors for the bridesmaids, the darker one for Harriet and the lighter one for everyone else," she continued. "I didn't want to go too light on the bridesmaids' dresses since it will technically be a fall wedding."
"I think these are perfect," Jackie said. "I think this color will look good on all of us. When's the first fitting?"
"If everyone's available, then we can all meet at my house next Saturday morning," Mac said. All three women quickly assured Mac that they were available. "Now I just need to see if Carolyn is available," she added, "and get Harm out of the house that morning."
"I could bring AJ with me and you could suggest that Harm take Bud flying," Harriet suggested. "They haven't gone in a while and Bud really misses it."
"There's an idea," Mac said thoughtfully. "That's probably one of the few guaranteed ways to get Harm out of the house. Tell him to go flying. He hasn't been since we found out I'm pregnant, so he'll probably jump at the chance."
"Does he still have that yellow Stearman that he restored?" Kate asked.
"Of course," Mac replied.
"A Stearman is an old World War I-era biplane, isn't it?" Jon asked.
"Yes," Mac answered. "His grandfather earned his Navy wings in a similar plane. Harm's dad bought the plane and they were going to restore it together. After his dad went MIA, the plane sat on his grandmother's farm until Harm started restoring it after his crash."
"I remember the first time I went up in that plane," Meg said. "He was doing all these rolls and loops and I kept checking to make sure I was securely strapped into my seat."
"First time I went up," Mac related, "he gave me the controls and had me do a roll. Then I did a loop and had trouble pulling out of it. I'm terrified that I'm going to crash this plane into the ground and Harm is sitting in the rear cockpit laughing."
"From what I heard from Bud," Harriet interjected, "nearly crashing that plane into the ground was the least of your worries on that trip."
"Please, don't remind me," Mac joked. "After everything that happened on that trip, it took him six months to convince me to go back up with him and that was only after he promised to bring weapons in case we had to make another emergency landing."
"This is another story I don't think I've heard," Sydney commented as Mac groaned.
"Please, don't tell Sydney this story," she urged Harriet and Jackie. "She doesn't need to hear any more stories that she can use against me at my engagement party." While Harriet and Jackie both nodded, Harriet looked at Sydney and mouthed 'Later'.
SUNDAY, 27 AUGUST
"Why didn't you wake me?" Mac asked as Harm came in from jogging. "I would have gone with you."
Harm walked over to the couch and leaned over her, kissing the top of her head. "I thought you could use the sleep," he said as he sat next to her on the couch. "You were restless last night."
"I had a hard time finding a comfortable position to sleep in," Mac explained. "I didn't keep you up, did I?"
Harm brushed off her concern. "I'm fine," he assured her. If she had to live with nine months of weight gain and lack of sleep, it wouldn't hurt him to lose some sleep too. Watching the pregnancy progress had given him a new appreciation of what women went through. "Do you have any plans for today?"
"The Lawson court-martial is starting tomorrow, so Bud is going to come over this afternoon and we're going to do a final run through our plan of attack," she said. "He's bringing AJ with him. He said that Harriet could use the break to catch up on some sleep."
Harm's appreciation rose another notch. Not only did Harriet have to deal with the weight gain, lack of sleep and other associated effects of pregnancy, she had to do it while trying to keep up with an active toddler. "What about you?" he asked, concerned. "You've only been back at work a week so you're still playing catch up plus you haven't been getting as much sleep as usual recently."
"Harm, I appreciate the concern, but I'm doing okay," she said. "I'll take a nap this afternoon after Bud leaves. Anyway, I've still got six months to go. I don't think it's going to get better any time soon."
"I just don't want you overdoing it, okay?"
Mac looked at him silently, the message in her eyes clear. He held up his hands in mock surrender. "I know," he added. "You're a Marine and you can take care of yourself. Doesn't mean I'm not going to be concerned and watch over you."
Tears started falling from Mac's eyes, startling Harm. Without a word, he pulled her into his arms so that she was sitting across his lap and just held her as she cried against his chest. After a moment, she pulled away slightly and looked up at him as he brushed the tears from her cheeks. "I'm sorry," she said, smiling slightly. "I guess it's one of those hormonal things. I don't know what came over me. I guess I'm just not used to being cared for like that."
"What about Brumby?" he asked reluctantly. "I may not like the guy, but ... "
"Yeah, he was sweet and he liked to take care of me," she explained, "but sometimes - I don't know. It's almost like his attention could be suffocating at times. You remember when Coster was stalking me? You were concerned and you showed that, but you also knew when to back off and let me deal with things at my own pace. Or like when my father died and you knew just how far to push me to get me to do what I needed to do for myself. When I went to Australia after that incident with the mishap report, I know he was trying to show his concern, but he kept pushing me to talk about what had happened and to let him help. I had already discussed what had happened with you and I really didn't need to rehash it. What I needed was a chance to get away from it all with no pressures."
"And you didn't get that?" Harm asked, trying not to sound judgmental.
"I know he was trying his best," she answered, "but he didn't really understand what I needed. He never really knew me well enough to know when to push me and to know when to back away. On the other hand, you always seemed to know that."
"Maybe it's because we've known each other so long," he pondered, "or that we just belonged together, even though we were too stupid or too blind to see or admit it."
"Given that, it seems a little hard to believe that I agreed to consider marrying him," she mused.
"Well, unfortunately, I didn't help out my cause after nearly six months on the Patrick Henry and those two weeks in Australia," he pointed out.
"Yeah, but if I'd listened better in Australia ... " she began, then shook her head. "We've already been over this. I don't see the need to rehash it."
Time to back off, Harm thought. Changing the subject, he asked, "What time is Bud coming over?"
"He said that he was going to have lunch with Harriet and AJ first," she replied, "so about one."
Harm glanced at his watch, then looked at Mac, a gleam in his eye. "I did just come in from jogging," he said suggestively as he let his hands roam over her back, "so I need to take a shower. Care to join me?"
"Well, I already took one this morning," she teased, resisting the urge to laugh at the crestfallen look on his face. "But I would not object to taking another one," she added, pressing against him, feeling him harden against her hip.
"Why don't we take this upstairs," he suggested, his hands moving to the front of her shirt, his fingers playing with the top button.
"Yes, why don't we?" she agreed, climbing off of his lap and standing. Harm joined her, pulling her back into his arms, swiftly unbuttoning her shirt with one hand while the other slipped under her shirt to caress her back. He pushed the shirt down her arms and tossed it to the floor as he slowly led her to towards the stairs, his eyes locked on hers, watching the arousal flare in their brown depths as his hands moved over her exposed skin.
She gasped as his thumbs brushed her hardened nipples through the lace of her bra. He paused at the bottom of the stairs, a question in his eyes. Mac assured him, "It's fine. You didn't hurt me." His hands moved around to her back, releasing the clasp of her bra and pushing the straps down her shoulders. She let it fall to the floor as Harm lowered his head, gently circling one taut peak with his tongue. Her hands clutched the fabric of his tank top as she lost herself to the electricity of his gentle touch and the fire that was building inside her.
Mac lifted his top, forcing him to break contact for a brief moment while she pulled it over his head, tossing it aside as he lowered his head again to lavish attention on her other breast. Harm maneuvered them so that her back was pressed against the wall as his mouth continued to work its magic on her heated skin.
"Harm ... shower ... " she gasped as his hands moved up and down her spine. Reluctantly, he pulled away from her and turned to lead her up the stairs, only pausing to removed his shoes and socks. He led her by the hand up the stairs, pulling her back into his arms once they safely reached the top.
As they moved down the hall towards their room, his hands slid under the waistband of her shorts, pushing them down her hips. They fell to the floor and Mac stepped out of them as one of his hands moved between her parted thighs, his fingers brushing her wet center through her panties for a moment before he pushed those off her too.
Her hands were busy moving over his torso, her fingers tracing the outline of firm muscles, moving lower down his body until her hands cupped the hard length of him through his shorts. His breath came in short, harsh gasps as her hand slowly moved up and down his shaft for a long moment before pushing his shorts and boxers off his hips. Harm pulled away from her for a brief moment as he helped her push them down, stepping out of them as he pulled her into the room, moving towards the bathroom.
Mac lost all track of time as they continued to caress each other as they continued towards the shower. Harm was only dimly aware of pulling open the frosted glass door of the huge shower stall and pulling Mac in with him, pulling the door closed behind them before reaching out blindly to turn on the water.
Their lips finally met in a bruising kiss, their tongues mating furiously as the hot spray beat down on their heated bodies from above. Mac reached behind her for the soap, lathering her hands. She pulled away from him and moved her hands over his body, making sure to cover every inch of him. She paid extra attention to his penis, her hand circling and moving up and down in a slow, torturous rhythm. She continued her gentle ministrations for a few moments, bringing him close to climax before pulling her hand away and leading him back under the spray to rinse off.
Harm then picked up the soap and returned the favor, his hands gentle as they moved over her, caressing every inch of skin as she pulled her lower lip between her teeth to keep from crying out. Finally, he pulled her under the spray to rinse. He then pushed her back against the wall of the stall and his hand slipped between her thighs again, his fingers brushing lightly against her swollen folds before he slid two fingers inside her, gasping as her muscles tightened around them, imaging the feel of those same muscles tightening around his shaft. He would swear her eyes turned coal black as he pressed against just the right spot to send her flying over the edge.
He removed his hand and pulled her against him, holding her as she shook with her climax, her head resting against his shoulder. After a moment, he led her out of the shower and grabbed a towel off the rack and toweled her off, his gentle hands beginning to arouse her all over again. Once he was satisfied she was dry, he toweled himself off then led her to their bed.
"Lie down on your back," he told her as he pulled a bottle of lotion out of the nightstand drawer. He then joined her on the bed, sitting beside her as he poured some lotion onto the palm of his hand, rubbing his hands together for a second before beginning to massage the lotion into the taunt skin of her swollen belly, his hands moving in circles over her.
The night before, Harm had gone downstairs to take her ice cream bowl to the kitchen and when he had returned, he had found her rubbing the lotion into her skin. He had watched for a few moments before she noticed his presence. She had explained that the lotion, which she had bought while he was away, was supposed to help soothe her itchy skin and hopefully prevent stretch marks. More than a little aroused from watching her, he had insisted that she let him massage the lotion into her skin the next time.
Once he was satisfied that he had covered her entire belly with the lotion, he poured some more into his hands and began rubbing it into her breasts, careful to keep his strokes gentle and light. Mac decided, as her arousal intensified under the gentle caress of his hands, that it would be Harm's job from now on to apply the lotion.
Finished, Harm returned the bottle to the nightstand and instructed her to roll over onto her side as he stretched out behind her on his side, spooning his body against hers. He lifted her leg and pulled it back over his as he slowly slid into her, her muscles tightening around him. He began moving in and out of her with long steady strokes as his fingers found her clit, stroking her in time with his thrusts. His breath was hot against her ear as he told her how much she aroused him and how good it felt when her muscles tightened around his hard shaft.
His words aroused her even more and it wasn't long before she cried out his name as she climaxed again. He thrust into her a few more times before he followed her over the edge, calling out her name as he collapsed against her.
A short time later, Harm laid back on their bed, propped up on pillows as he watched Mac pull a new set of clothes out of the dresser and get dressed, an appreciative smile on his face.
"Are you planning on getting dressed," she asked as she buttoned her shirt, "or are you going to lay up here all afternoon while I'm downstairs with Bud and AJ?"
Harm's answer was cut off by the ringing of the phone. Mac, standing next to the nightstand, picked it up. "Hello?"
"Colonel Mackenzie, it's Meg Austin," Meg said. "I was wondering, if you haven't eaten already, if you and Harm would like to have lunch with me."
"Please, call me Mac," Mac insisted. "And I'm sorry, I'm meeting with Bud about a trial starting tomorrow, but let me pass you over to Harm. Maybe he'd like to go." She covered the mouthpiece with her hand as Harm looked at her questioningly. "It's Meg. She wanted to know if we'd like to have lunch with her. I can't since Bud is going to be here in twenty-three minutes, but maybe you'd like to."
Harm took the phone from her. "Hi, Meg," he said.
"I thought you and Mac would like to go to lunch with me," she explained. "Kate and Jon both have friends in the DC area that they're visiting and Commander Krennick - well, she wouldn't be my first choice for a lunch companion."
Harm laughed, "Mine either. As you've already heard, Mac is working today, but I don't have any plans, so I'd be happy to join you. Did you have someplace in mind?"
"Well, I'm staying in billeting at Ft. McNair and someone told me that the food at the O Club here is pretty good," Meg said. "It's just down the street, which is convenient since Krennick has the car."
"If you'd like to go off post, I can take you somewhere," Harm suggested.
"The O Club is fine," Meg assured him. "What time do you want to meet?"
Harm considered for a moment. "Give me about forty-five minutes," he said.
"Okay," Meg agreed. "I'll see you then. Bye, Harm."
"Bye, Meg," Harm returned and hung up the phone just as Mac tossed some of his clothes, which she'd just pulled out of the dresser, in his direction. As he began dressing, he asked, "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"No, go ahead," Mac said. "I gave Meg and Kate our number yesterday because I figured they would want to get together with you sometime while they're in town. It was nice of Meg to include me in the invitation. I'm sorry I can't come. Anyway, I was thinking about inviting them both over for dinner sometime. We talked some in the stands during the game yesterday and I like them. Now, if Krennick had called ... "
"Don't worry," Harm said. "If she had called, I wouldn't agree to get together with her under any circumstances, even if she did invite you along. Neither of us needs that particular headache."
"Agreed," she replied. "Didn't we agree that we that we were going to forget about her this weekend?"
"Her who?" Harm teased.
"Good," Mac said. She smiled saucily at him and added, "Oh, by the way, do me a favor and pick up all the clothes scattered all over the place - preferably before Bud arrives." His laughter was the last thing she heard as she headed down the stairs.
"I'm sorry Mac couldn't join us," Meg said. "I like her, Harm. She's nice, she has a pretty good sense of humor for a Marine, and most importantly, she makes you happy."
"She does make me happy," Harm agreed as he took a bite of his salad.
"I could tell," she replied. "Yesterday, at the picnic after the game, I watched you two together. It was cute watching how you would hold her hand or put your hand on her stomach and listening to you call her 'Sarah'."
"Cute?" Harm echoed.
"Yeah, cute," Meg confirmed, smiling. "Seriously, with her you seem more, I don't know, relaxed than I think I've ever seen you. Your life has always revolved around the Navy, whether it was flying or JAG. You seem to have different priorities now. I'm sure your career is still important to you, but your life seems more balanced now."
"You're right," he agreed. "My life has always revolved around the Navy, even when I was a kid, having an MIA father, wanting to be just like him. I've always wanted a family, but never really pursued the idea, except for once and then it was too late."
"You mean Diane," she stated. "You took it hard when she died."
"I did," he said, "and it took a long time to get over. But I finally did, with help."
Harm nodded. "I had never told her about Diane," he explained. "When she finally found out, she listened to me talk about her and then she stopped me from making what would have been one of the stupidest mistakes of my life when I finally found her killer."
"You found her killer?" Meg asked. "Who?"
"Commander Holbarth, the Sea Hawk's XO," he replied. "When he ignored her sexual harassment claims, she threatened to report him, so he killed her. When I found out, I went after him and Sarah followed me."
"You wanted to kill him," she stated.
"Before I could do anything, Sarah showed up and Holbarth had a rather strong reaction," he revealed.
"He thought he'd seen a ghost?" she asked.
Harm nodded again and added, "It was raining that night and I'd left her standing out in it outside my apartment. Bud offered her one of Harriet's uniforms to wear, so when she showed up in Norfolk, wearing a Navy uniform, Holbarth thought Diane's ghost had come back to haunt him. He lost his footing and fell off the dock. He was crushed between the dock and the hull of a ship."
"It must have been pretty hard for you, too," Meg commented, "seeing Mac in that uniform."
"Not as hard as the first time we met," he replied. "Then, even with her wearing a Marine uniform, all I could see was Diane's face. But it didn't take me long to realize that while they may look alike, inside they were completely different. But that night, while I was a bit stunned when I first saw her in the uniform, I knew it was her." He was silent for a moment, looking down at his salad before continuing. "She told me that I saw her as Diane that night and I never corrected that assumption," he added quietly.
"You know, when I first saw her in the Admiral's office Tuesday morning," Meg said, "it startled me. Then someone told me that you two were getting married and I admit that I was a little worried about you. I'm sorry, I know that probably sounds bad, suggesting that you would fall for her looks alone or use her as a substitute for a dead woman."
"I can see how people who don't know Mac and I or who haven't seen us together might think that," Harm said. "You have nothing to apologize for."
"Anyway," she continued, "you're obviously very happy, so I'm happy for you. I'm looking forward to the wedding."
"I've got invitations for both you and Kate," he told her. "I'll bring them to work tomorrow."
"Mac said that yesterday," she said. "We're both looking forward to it. I don't think either of us is willing to pass up the chance to watch Harmon Rabb, of all people, get married."
"Very funny, Meg," he said. "I know we haven't been in contact much since you left Washington, but you are a good friend and it means a lot to me that you're happy for me."
"You know, I'm not sure if I should ask this, but speaking of old friends, what about Krennick?" she asked. "Does she know yet? I noticed yesterday you got this funny look on your face when her name was mentioned."
Harm was silent for a moment and Meg noticed that he got that same funny look again. Finally, he said, "I stopped in at JAG yesterday morning and ran into her. She knows that I'm getting married, but unless someone has told her more since then, she doesn't know it's Sarah."
"From the look on your face yesterday and just now, I'd say that seeing her yesterday did not go well," Meg commented.
"She made some rude comments about Sarah and her resemblance to Diane," he explained, "among other things. I left right after that."
And you were pretty angry, I'll bet, Meg thought. "I take it she is who you were talking about when you mentioned the possibility of people who haven't seen you and Mac together jumping to the wrong conclusions," she said. "I'm sure it is not a surprise to you that she was interested in you, back when we were all at JAG together."
"No, it isn't," he confirmed. "But it surprises me that you are aware of it. She was always so careful to avoid anything in public that might be construed as improper. It wouldn't have helped her ambitions to be charged with sexual harassment."
"I wouldn't have been," she replied, "if it weren't for Hong Kong. Otherwise, she was always careful to present a strictly professional front in public."
"What happened in Hong Kong?" he asked.
"When you were missing, she admitted that she wanted you," Meg revealed. "If she hadn't thought that you might be dead, I know she wouldn't have said anything." Meg didn't think there would be any benefit in telling him that she had admitted the same thing and for the same reason. "You think she might cause problems, especially after she finds out that you're marrying Mac?" she asked.
"I honestly don't know," he admitted. "I hope not. After everything that's happened, Sarah doesn't need the additional stress."
"You know, I don't know Mac very well and I haven't seen that much of you two together," Meg said, "but from what I saw yesterday and from listening to you talk about her today - if you two love each other as much as I think you do, then you'll be fine. She won't be able to touch you."
"Thanks, Meg," Harm said. "That means a lot to me to hear you say that."
"Anytime, Harm," she said, smiling. "Anytime."
MONDAY, 28 AUGUST
Harm breathed a sigh of relief as he entered his office. He and Mac had not run into Krennick when they had arrived at work. Questioning Gunny, he found out that the four visitors were meeting with the Admiral about their cases. He resolved to stay away from her as much as possible and to not let her get to him if he did run into her.
Smiling, he headed for the kitchen to get some coffee, where he ran into Tiner. "Good morning, Tiner," he said cheerfully.
"Good morning, Sir," Tiner replied.
"When do you start OCS?" Harm asked. "I haven't heard anything about it since the Admiral announced it in the staff meeting a few weeks ago. We were supposed to have a party for you that Friday."
Tiner remembered. The Admiral had made the announcement the day of the shooting and after what had happened, no one had been in the party mood. "2 October, Sir," he replied. "Then I start law school at George Mason the week after I return from Pensacola."
"Not much time to catch your breath," Harm commented, sipping his coffee.
"No, Sir," Tiner agreed, "especially starting back to work here at the same time. But I am looking forward to working with Colonel Mackenzie and you, at least when you're not on the Hill."
Harm smiled. The Admiral had already informed him that Tiner would be aiding him and Mac, much as Bud had done while he was in law school, although Tiner would also spend a few weeks shadowing Imes and Mattoni while Harm and Mac were on leave after the babies were born. "We're looking forward to having you work with us," Harm told him as Allison and Jon entered the kitchen. Forcing himself to keep smiling, he greeted them with a nod and said, "Commander, Major. Tiner, if the Admiral asks about my Ft. Worth report, I'll have it for him before the staff meeting. I'm getting ready to go over it one last time."
"Yes, Sir," Tiner replied as Harm left the kitchen. Allison quickly poured herself a cup of coffee and followed Harm back to his office.
In her own office, Mac looked up from the Lawson file just in time to see Allison head for Harm's office. Sighing, she considered calling Harm's phone to give him an escape, but decided against it. But she would keep her ears open just in case things got heated in there.
Allison entered the office without knocking to find Harm already seated at his desk, going over the report for the Admiral. "Commander, I need to go over your statement in the Johns case with you this morning," she said without preamble.
Harm didn't look up from his report, replying, "I need to finish this report for the Admiral and then, as I'm sure you are already aware, there is a staff meeting. I should have some time after that however."
Allison pushed the door closed and leaned over his desk. "Commander," she said, placing special emphasis on his rank, "you seem to be taking this case rather lightly."
Harm finally looked up, barely concealed fury evident in his eyes. "Oh, I take this case very seriously, Commander," he said angrily. "The woman I love could have died at that ... bastard's ... hands. We could have lost the babies she is carrying. Two other people did die and three others were injured, also. You have no idea what I am feeling, so do not *presume* to tell me that I am taking this lightly. Once again, you are way out of line."
She forced herself not to react. Unlike Meg and Kate, she had not heard that Harm and Mac were expecting more than one baby. Damn her, Allison thought. That Marine obviously has a very tight hold on Harm. "It is my job to win this case, Commander," she retorted, "and to do that, I need the cooperation of all the witnesses. I'm going for the death penalty and I intend to win."
"And when you do win it, I'm sure there will be more than one person here who would be happy to throw the switch," he said. "I have no doubts in your ability as a prosecutor. Everyone in this building is behind you and Major Williams one hundred percent on this case. Just don't make this personal between me and you. There is no me and you. Never has been and never will be."
"Speaking of which," Allison asked, "have you told your girlfriend about us? Better yet, how much does she know about Diane? I can't believe that you're pining over your dead Academy sweetheart that much that you would go out and find a woman who looks exactly like her. I would how your Colonel would feel about that?"
His eyes on her, Harm picked up his phone and hit a button. "Can you come in here please?" he asked, then hung up the phone. A moment later, there was a knock at the door and Mac stuck her head in. Harm gestured her in. "Please close the door behind you," he said.
Mac did as he requested and took a seat in one of the chairs in front of the desk while Allison remained standing, barely controlling her rage. She couldn't believe that Harm was managing to push all the wrong buttons in her, never stopping to consider that she'd brought it on herself.
"Commander Krennick, I want to get something straight with you," he said, "and I want Sarah to hear this. You see, we have no secrets from each other." He looked her straight in the eye and continued, remaining deadly calm, "You are here to prosecute a case which my fiancée and I have the misfortune of being involved in. We support your prosecution of this case and have no problem dealing with you in that capacity.
But should you approach either of us outside of your professional capacity as prosecutor of this case, I will have no problem with going to Admiral Chegwidden and telling him everything, from the first time you approached me at my apartment to the conversations Saturday and this morning." He paused to let the promise sink in, then continued, "You once indicated that you saw me as a threat to your ambitions. You push me - either of us - and you will find out just how much of a threat I can be. Have I made myself clear?"
"I believe you are perfectly clear, Commander," Allison replied tightly.
"Good," Harm said. "Then I would appreciate it if you would leave now. I will see you and Major Williams after the staff meeting to discuss my statement in the Johns case. Is that acceptable?"
"It is, Commander," she replied before turning and leaving the office, closing the door behind her.
After she was gone, Harm let out a sigh of relief. "I'm sorry about that," he said, "but I wanted to make sure she is aware of where I stand once and for all and that I mean business."
"Harm, I'm sure you realize that you just backed her into a corner," Mac said, taking one of his hands in hers across the desk. "She may lash out."
"I know," he said, "but I have made her aware that if she does, I intend to lash back. You know, back then I was a little bit flattered by the attention from her. And it did occur to me that if I had reported her, it be a blow to my ego for people to think that I couldn't handle a woman. But it's not just me involved this time. You and our children are my life and what affects me affect you."
"Harm, you know I am behind you completely," Mac said. "I just wish I was more confident that this is the right way to go."
"I just hope Krennick will take the time to think about it," he said, "and decide that I am not worth risking her career over. If I do have to go to the Admiral, it would very likely ruin her career since it would not simply be a case of he said/she said."
"You mean, because Bud knows about the harassment," she suggested.
"Not only that," he told her, "but Meg told me yesterday at lunch about a conversation that she and Krennick once had when I was being held captive by the Chinese. Of course, Krennick was too smart to say that she was harassing me, but she did admit to Meg that she wanted me."
"In and of itself, not really damning," Mac mused, "but combined with your and Bud's stories of the actual harassment ... "
"It would bury her," he finished.
WEDNESDAY, 30 AUGUST
Mac wearily sank into her office chair after court recessed for lunch, kicking off her shoes underneath the desk and flexing her ankles. She idly wondered if anyone would notice if she just closed her office door for a couple of hours and took a nap. She could let Bud handle the prosecution in the Lawson case and she could rest her aching and tired body.
"And I have to go through this for almost six more months?" she muttered to herself.
"Sorry, Ma'am?" Harriet asked from the doorway.
"Just talking to myself," Mac said, motioning her into the office and towards a chair. "I didn't see you there. Did you need something, Harriet?"
"I just wanted to see if you would like to have lunch with me, Colonel," Harriet said as she sat down. "Bud got called into the Admiral's office just now and I noticed that Commander Rabb is nowhere around."
"I must be more tired than I thought," Mac said, noticing for the first time that from her vantage point, it was obvious the lights in Harm's office were off. "I hadn't even noticed that Harm wasn't here." She looked down at her desk and found a folded sheet of paper. She unfolded it and quickly read the brief note.
"'Got called to Bobbi's office. Will try to be back in time for lunch. Love you, H.,'" she read aloud to Harriet. "Since he obviously has not made it back yet, I think I will have lunch with you. Maybe you can give me some tips on making through the next six months."
"I don't know how much advice I can offer, Ma'am," Harriet said as Mac slowly rose from her chair and grabbed her cover. "I mean, I'm sure having one baby at a time is a lot different from having two."
"Harriet, one baby or two, I've never done this before," she reminded her friend as they headed for the kitchen. "On that score, you know a lot more about pregnancy than I do."
"I guess so, Ma'am," Harriet replied as they entered the kitchen.
Mac opened the fridge and looked for the lunch that Harm had put away that morning. Spotting it, she put a hand on her hip and sighed, "Only a man ... "
Mac gestured towards the open fridge. "Only a man would put a pregnant woman's lunch on the bottom shelf," she completed the thought. Carefully, she stooped and pulled her lunch container out of the fridge then slowly straightened back up.
"Ma'am, you know I love Bud," Harriet said, "and I know you love Commander Rabb. But if we were to wait for them to be considerate all the time about our conditions, we'd be waiting a long time. I mean, a few months ago, when I was trying on dresses for the Surface Warfare Ball and nothing fit, Bud commented that because I was pregnant, I was supposed to look fat."
Mac looked at her for a moment, trying to determine if she was serious. "Bud said that?" she asked, incredulous. "Harm has actually been the opposite in that regard. He's been trying his hardest to reassure me that I look beautiful, not fat."
"Maybe he could give Bud some pointers," Harriet said wistfully as she reached around Mac to get her own lunch off the top shelf in the fridge.
The two women took their lunches downstairs and found an empty table in the courtyard to sit at. Harriet was surprised when Mac pulled out a salad. "Did you grab Commander Rabb's lunch by mistake, Ma'am?" she asked.
"No, but Harm did pack this for me," Mac replied. "With the babies on the way, he's trying to get me to lay off the Beltway Burgers. But how I'm supposed to eat four thousand calories a day on this stuff, I'll never know."
"Four thousand calories, Ma'am?" Harriet asked.
"Dr. Calder said that a daily intake of about four thousand calories helps insure a good birth weight for the babies," Mac explained. "She said that low birth weight can be a result of the mother not eating enough, especially in twins." She paused for a moment, laughing. "You should have seen the look on Harm's face when she said that food high in protein should be a big part of my diet, such as meat. But I did agree to try and cut down on the fat and the junk food."
"Except for the chocolate," Harriet added, laughing.
Mac nodded. "I need one vice," she said. "I've given up caffeine - only decaf coffee or tea for me. I'm cutting down on fat and junk food. I think I'm entitled to one little bad habit."
"But chocolate has caffeine," Harriet pointed out.
"Okay, so I'm not giving up caffeine completely," Mac defended herself. "It's the babies' fault. I never was much of a chocolate eater before I got pregnant."
"That's one way to look at it," Harriet agreed. Then she smiled slyly. "Or we could always blame the men who put us in this position. After all, they don't have to be pregnant for nine months, do they?"
Mac laughed loudly at that, causing everyone within earshot to turn and look at her. She covered her mouth, trying to stop laughing, as Harm walked up to their table, briefcase in hand. "What's so funny, Marine?" he asked.
Mac only laughed harder, shaking her head as Harriet said, trying not to laugh herself, "Just girl talk, Commander."
"Girl talk. Uh huh," he said in disbelief as he grabbed a chair from a nearby table and pulled it up to their table, sitting down.
"So how was your meeting with Congresswoman Latham, Commander?" Harriet asked, trying to divert his attention while Mac attempted to calm herself.
"Fine, Harriet," he replied, distracted, staring at Mac intently. "Sarah?"
Mac finally managed to bring herself somewhat under control. Still smiling, she replied, "I'm fine. Just having a good laugh. There hasn't been much to laugh about recently."
"I guess," he replied, still curious about what exactly it was that had amused her so much.
Mac was saved from explaining more when she caught sight of Kate walking in their direction. "Kate, would you like to join us?" she asked once the other woman was within earshot.
"Actually," Kate replied, "I was looking for you and Harm, anyway. I need to talk to you about the Hodges case."
"Maybe I should go back inside and see if Bud is finished with the Admiral," Harriet suggested as she started to get up.
"No need to leave on my account," Kate assured her. "I just wanted to discuss with Harm and Mac the plea bargain the defense has suggested."
"What kind of plea bargain?" Harm asked, a slight edge to his voice.
"Reduced charges, Hodge goes to a psych hospital instead of back to Leavenworth," Kate told them, "and we don't tack on the remainder of his sentence from the previous charges."
"Don't tell me you've already agreed to this?" Harm said, the edge to his voice even more intense.
"Harm," Mac said soothingly, putting a hand on his arm, "let Kate finish."
"It's okay," Kate said. "I think I can understand why Harm feels the way he does. And no, Meg and I have not agreed to this. We both did agree that we wanted to talk to you about this first before we decided anything."
"Let's see if I've got this straight," Mac interjected. "Hodge goes to a psych ward for treatment, in a few years he is declared cured and released instead of going back to Leavenworth to serve out the remainder of his sentence for the previous charges from the Watertown."
"Well," Kate said, "his attorney's argument is that he was lawfully released from Leavenworth."
"Released because of a clerical error on some paperwork," Harm said angrily.
"I know," Kate sighed. "And believe me, after going over the case file from the Watertown and talking to Mac last week, I'd like nothing more than for him to go back to Leavenworth and serve the rest of his original sentence. But I don't know if it is that simple. He was released because of a mistake the military made. The UCMJ doesn't really cover this type of situation."
"Kate," Mac said, trying to be the voice of reason, "I think it would be one thing if, after Hodge had been released, he had gone on the straight and narrow. But he didn't. He falsified records to get a job at Bethesda and created situations where he could play the hero. There were - what? - three other patients besides me where hospital officials suspect him of tampering with their medications or equipment."
Harm looked at Mac curiously. He had never told her all the details of his conversation with the Admiral, where he had found out how Hodge had been released from Leavenworth and about the other suspected incidents at Bethesda.
"That is true," Kate admitted, "but a lot of the evidence against Hodge in the other cases besides yours is circumstantial at best. He got really good at covering his tracks. Be honest. If you hadn't recognized Hodge, despite his changed appearance, would you have suspected Nurse Eustis of having tampered with your ventilator?"
"Probably not," she replied softly. "If this were my case to prosecute, I could see the difficulties. Your major evidence against Hodge is my ID of him. The oxygen tank he removed from my room was never found and no one saw him enter or leave the room. In addition, no one would have suspected any of the other incidents if it weren't for the similarities to what happened to me. But none of that negates the fact that Hodge did not serve his full term in his first case."
"Which leads me to my thoughts on a plea," Kate said. "We agree to the reduced charges and the psych hospital in the current case but insist that when he is released from the hospital, he return to Leavenworth to serve the rest of his sentence on the original charges that he has already been convicted of."
"The defense would never go for it," Harm said, his voice calmer. "Not if he thinks he can successfully argue that Hodge shouldn't be penalized because of a mistake the military made."
"I know, it's a long shot," Kate said, "which is why I need some help doing research. I'd like to find some cases, military or civilian, where this type of situation has been dealt with before. If we can go into negotiations with some cases that back up our position, it would give us the upper hand."
"I can help with that," Mac said. "My case load is still pretty light. The Lawson trial is nearly over and the Admiral hasn't given me any new cases yet. Anyway, I have a vested interest in making sure Hodge pays for what he has done."
"I can help, too," Harriet offered. "I help Bud with a lot of the research for his cases. I'm sure Gunny would be willing to help, also. He is really good at finding things out."
"Thanks," Kate said. "I appreciate the offer of help and I'm sure Meg will, too."
"On that note," Mac said, pushing her chair out from the table, "I really should get back. Court starts up again in thirteen minutes. Harriet, maybe we should get together with Gunny later and decide how to divide up the research."
She took one of Harm's hands in hers and squeezed gently, smiling at him. Leaning over, she whispered, "Try not to worry." Releasing his hand, she headed for the building.
"I really should go, also," Harriet said with a slight grimace. "I promised Lieutenant Singer some help with researching her current case." She got up and left, leaving Harm and Kate alone.
"From that look on Harriet's face," Kate commented, "I gather she doesn't really care for Lieutenant Singer."
Harm smiled grimly. "No one really cares for Lieutenant Singer," he explained. "Her ambition is to be the first female JAG and she's not particular about who she has to step on to do it."
"But what about Mac and Commander Imes? They both outrank her," Kate pointed out. Harm was silent and Kate added, "Or has she already tried something underhanded? With Mac perhaps?"
"Is it that obvious?" Harm asked.
"I wouldn't say obvious," Kate replied, "but it seems a logical conclusion given what you just said and the look on your face."
"I've never told anyone this, not even Mac," Harm said quietly. "A few months ago, Mac was prosecuting someone Singer and Bud were defending. Part B of the mishap report in the case somehow found its way onto the front seat of Mac's car. When it came out that Mac had seen the report, however inadvertently, she was thrown off the case. If our CO had been anyone besides Chegwidden, she probably would have been thrown out of JAG."
"And you suspected Singer of planting the report," Kate guessed.
"Exactly," he replied. "After the Admiral chewed her out over it, she took some leave to think things through. I didn't see the point, at the time, of upsetting her further by telling her what I suspected."
"But I can't imagine you just let it drop," Kate said, "not with Mac's career on the line."
"I did suggest to Singer that if I ever found proof of who put the report in Mac's car, that I would destroy that person," he said firmly.
"You really love her a lot, don't you?" Kate said softly, staring at him intently.
"Kate," he said, looking away from her, "I'm sorry if this upsets you."
Kate shook her head, smiling, "No, I'm not upset. You and I had fun together, but I never thought that it would become serious. You and Mac have something special. It was obvious Saturday at the game and picnic."
Harm looked at her and smiled, "Meg said pretty much the same thing when we had lunch Sunday."
"She's right," Kate said. "Having never been there myself, I'm not sure I can explain it very well, but ... "
Harm interrupted, grinning, "I am there and I can't explain it very well."
Kate laughed a little at that. She had never seen him so relaxed and at ease with himself and the world around him. As an ex-lover who still considered him to be a good friend, she was happy for him. She had meant it when she'd said that she had never thought they would become serious. She had been attracted to that grin of his that could melt a woman's insides, his looks and of course the dress whites and gold wings. But the most they'd ever had between them had been lust. They'd just been fortunate in that they had remained friends after it had ended. "I guess the best way I can explain it is that she completes you," she said. "And you her."
Harm looked at her thoughtfully. "That sounds familiar," he said, "and I guess that's as good a way to explain it as any."
"It's a line from Jerry Maguire," she explained.
"Ah," he said, understanding dawning. "Maybe it's because she knows me so well, and I her. We've told each other things that we've never told anyone else. And we've been there for each other through some of the worst times of our lives. When I returned to flying and I didn't see her for five months, it was as if a part of me was missing."
"You know what?" Kate said, smiling. "If I ever find a guy who loves me half as much as you obviously love Mac, I'll be one of the luckiest women in the world."
"Thank you," Harm said, "although I guess I'm a little surprised."
"Why, because I'm an ex-lover?" Kate asked. At Harm's shrug, she continued, "Like I said before, I never thought that we would become serious. But I still do consider you a dear friend. And as a friend, I'm very happy for you."
"I guess it's just that the women I've dated since I've known Sarah have tended to be a little jealous of the close friendship we have," he explained. "One even suggested that I was secretly in love with her."
"Maybe they all saw something that you didn't," Kate suggested. "From what I've heard about you two, everyone figured out that you two were made for each other long before you two ever did."
Harm grinned. "Do you know how many times I've heard that over the last few months?" he asked.
Kate laughed, "I can imagine." She stood to leave, then added, "I need to go give Hodge's attorney a call and let him know about our counter offer. Be happy, Harmon Rabb."
Harm watched her leave, thoughtful. He was grateful that Meg and Kate were both happy for him. Even though he hadn't seen them in years, he still considered them good friends. Now if he could just keep Krennick off his back for the next four and a half weeks, everything would be perfect.
Harm was heading for his office when Gunny stopped him. "Sir, there's a call for the Colonel," he said. He paused for a moment, then added, "It's from Bethesda."
Probably the amnio results, Harm thought, suddenly nervous. "Mac's still in court," he said. "I'll take the call. Please transfer it into my office."
Harm headed for his office, entering just as the phone rang. Sitting down at his desk, he picked up the phone and said, "This is Commander Rabb."
"Hello, Harm, it's Doctor Calder," she said. "Is Sarah available?"
"Sarah's still in court," he said. "I'm not sure when she will be free."
"I really need to go over these test results with her," Calder said. "And before you ask, I can't just tell you. Even if you are the babies' father, Sarah is the patient."
"Doctor-patient confidentiality," he said. "As I lawyer, I understand, unfortunately. I can have her call you back as soon as she ... hold on a minute, I see her coming." Setting down the phone and getting up, he went to the doorway of his office and motioned to Mac.
She turned and headed in his direction. "What is it?" she asked.
He took one of her hands and led her into his office, closing the door behind them. "Dr. Calder's on the phone," he told her. "She has your test results."
Mac took a deep breath and Harm could feel her hand trembling in his. "I'm sure it will be fine," he said. "If it was bad news, don't you think she'd tell us in person and not over the phone?"
Mac nodded hesitantly. "You right," she said softly. "If it was bad, she wouldn't do this over the phone."
Harm gestured for her to sit in his chair. She did and picked up the phone lying in the middle of the desk. "Dr. Calder, it's Sarah," she said. "Are my babies okay?"
"The babies are fine, Sarah," Calder reassured her. "The amnio found no abnormalities. Are you ready to hear the sex of the other baby?"
Mac looked at Harm and smiled, silently letting him know that everything was fine. He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. "Yes," she said, "I'm ready."
"As you know from the ultrasound," Calder said, "twin A is a girl and the amnio confirmed that. As for twin B ... "
As she remembered the ultrasound, an idea came to Mac and she suddenly interrupted, "Dr. Calder, before you say any more, I have an idea. Since Harm couldn't be with me when I had the ultrasound and found out the sex of the first baby, I want you to tell him the sex of the other." She paused as Harm looked at her, surprised. "I think it's fair," she explained, as much to Harm as to the doctor. "I was the first to find out the sex of the first baby, so I want him to be the first to find out about the other one."
She handed the phone to Harm as he mouthed the question 'Are you sure?' At her nod, he took the phone and said, "Dr. Calder, it's Harm." He nodded, then added, "Thank you, Doctor. We'll see you next week at Sarah's appointment. Goodbye."
He reached around Mac to hand up the phone, then pulled a chair around the desk and sat down next to her. He took her hands in his, fiddling with the engagement ring on her left hand.
His silence was beginning to unnerve Mac, despite the knowledge that everything was fine with the twins. "Harm, we're not talking life and death here," she joked, trying to lighten the mood. "Just tell me, are we having a boy or a girl?"
Harm chuckled a little. "Sorry, it's just - I'm suddenly overwhelmed," he tried to explain. "When we first made that deal last year, I never expected it to feel like this."
Mac smiled as she remembered their deal and how she had told him about the sex of the first baby. "Well, how about this," she asked, "is he going to have my looks and your brains or are we having another one with your looks and my brain?"
Harm grinned at her and took a deep breath. "Let's just say," he said, "that he'll be perfect."
"He?" Mac echoed, dazed.
Harm nodded. "We're going to have a son," he whispered.
Tears in her eyes, Mac repeated softly, "We're going to have a son." Suddenly, she cried out in excitement, throwing herself into his arms.
Outside Harm's office, everyone within earshot stopped and turned towards the closed door, curious. Gunny, who had an idea what the call had been about, rushed in to allow the couple their privacy. "Come on, people," he said. "There's nothing to see here."
Everyone gathered in the bullpen turned and looked at him, about to protest, until they all noticed the Admiral standing behind him. Suddenly, everyone found other things to do and other places to be, scattering. Gunny turned around and looked at the Admiral, who in turn was looking at the closed office door.
"Gunny, any idea?" he asked, nodding towards the door.
"Colonel Mackenzie got a call from Bethesda," he explained quietly so that no one else would overhear. "I believe it was from her OB."
AJ nodded, thoughtful. "I hope everything is okay," he said as the office door opened. One look at Harm and Mac and AJ knew that all was well. Both were smiling and Harm's hand was resting on Mac's shoulder.
"Since I'm sure everyone is curious," Harm said as everyone stopped and turned to look at them, "we have an announcement to make." He looked around the bullpen before continuing. "Are Bud and Harriet around?"
Lauren, standing at the edge of the bullpen, went to Bud's office. She found Bud at his desk, looking through a file. "Bud, where's Harriet?" she asked. "Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie said they have an announcement to make and they asked for both of you."
"I think she went to the bathroom," Bud said.
"I'll go get her," Lauren said. "You head out to the bullpen."
Bud went to the bullpen to find most of the staff gathered. A moment later, Lauren and Harriet entered the bullpen, coming to stand behind him.
Harm looked around and satisfied that everyone important to them was present, he continued, "Last week, we found out the sex of one of our babies, but we wanted to wait until we knew what the other one is going to be before we made an announcement."
He looked at Mac and she continued, "I just got a call with the results of the amnio that I had last week. First, the babies are fine. There are no problems due to the shooting or the surgery." She paused as everyone expressed their relief at that news.
After a few moments, everyone quieted and looked back at her and Harm expectantly. "As Harm said, last week we found out from an ultrasound the sex of one of the babies, which is a girl," she went on, excited. "The other baby, we just found out from the amnio results, is a boy."
"We're going to have one of each," Harm finished, smiling widely.
"That's wonderful, Sir, Ma'am," Harriet said excitedly as she walked up to them. "I'm so happy for both of you."
"Thank you, Harriet," Mac said as all their friends gathered around to offer their congratulations.
As Kate and Meg were offering their good wishes, Harm looked past them to see Allison standing at the edge of the bullpen, watching with an unreadable expression on her face. Noticing Harm's eyes on her, she turned suddenly and walked away.
Harm wasn't the only one who had noticed Allison's reaction to the news. Watching while everyone else offered their best wishes, AJ was looking around the bullpen when he saw Allison turn and leave. He knew that Allison and Harm had their problems professionally before she had transferred to Hawaii, but he didn't understand why Harm and Mac's news apparently upset her enough that she left so suddenly.
Pushing his concerns aside for now, AJ let the commotion continue for a few moments before he said loudly, "Let's get back to work, people." Everyone moved off, going back to their work.
AJ looked at Harm and Mac and smiled before heading back into his own office. "Hoo rah," he said, just loud enough for Harm and Mac to hear.
FRIDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER
"You know, we still have almost six months before they will even be here," Harm pointed out as he and Mac began exploring the store. "But we are getting married four weeks from tomorrow. We should be concentrating on that right now."
"Maybe they'll be here in six months, maybe not," she reminded him. "Anyway, the wedding is coming together just fine with all our friends' help. So I want to spend an evening concentrating on our babies."
"The nursery isn't anywhere near being ready to start putting furniture in there yet," he said. "I still need to paint in there and put up wallpaper, if we want it."
"Harm, there is nothing wrong with looking and planning," Mac said, beginning to sound exasperated. "We are going to have twins, meaning we have to buy double of everything. Not to mention the fact that we are having a boy and a girl, meaning we have to buy for both sexes. That is going to take planning. In addition, we probably should have paint and wallpaper picked out before you do that, shouldn't we?"
Harm held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, point taken," he said, hoping to calm her down. "We can look and think about what we need to buy. Did you talk to Harriet?"
"Yes," Mac said, pulling a folded sheet of paper out of her purse and handing it to him, "and she gave me this. It's something Bud pulled off the internet when they were expecting AJ. It's a checklist of things to buy."
Harm unfolded the paper and glanced at it, his mouth dropping open in surprise. "They need all this?" he asked.
"Yes, they do," Mac said, taking the list back from him. "And we need double of everything, remember?"
"We could almost send them to college on what we're going to have to spend on them," he said, stunned, "and they're not even here yet."
"Harm, these are our children and money is no object," she said, glaring at him.
Oh, no, he thought. Time for a hasty retreat. "Sarah, I didn't mean it like that," he said, putting his arm around her shoulders. "Come on. What do you want to look at first?"
"Why don't we start with cribs?" she suggested, calmer now. "They're going to be spending quite a bit of their time there." She led him towards the display of cribs as she added, "Harriet suggested getting a convertible crib."
"Convertible? Sounds like a car," he said, confused.
"It's a crib that can grow with the baby," she explained. "As the baby outgrows the crib, it can convert to a toddler bed, then to a headboard for a double bed. Saves having to buy a new bed as they get bigger."
"That sounds reasonable," he said as they separated and began looking at the hang tags on various cribs.
After a few minutes, Mac waved him over to where she was. "Here's one," she said.
He joined her and looked the crib over, shaking it. At her puzzled look, he said, "Bud suggested it, to check for sturdiness. We don't want a crib that will fall apart." He then looked at the tag. "Almost four hundred dollars for a crib?!" he exclaimed.
Mac took a deep breath before replying, "I know, it's a little on the expensive side. But do we want to spend less money now and have to spend hundreds more dollars in a year or two for a new bed, or spend more money now on a piece of furniture that we can use for years."
Harm shrugged. "When you put it that way," he said, "it sounds more reasonable. But that's eight hundred dollars for two. I don't think my - correction, our bed - cost that much."
"That's because you made the headboard when you were remodeling your apartment," she pointed out. "All you had to buy were the mattress, box spring and rails."
"Here, Iet's write down the information on the crib," he suggested. "Then we can do some comparison shopping before we actually buy anything."
Mac dug a pen out of her purse and wrote down the manufacturer, model number and price for the crib on the back of her checklist. "We need to look at mattresses next," she said.
"For that price, shouldn't it come with the crib?" he asked, incredulous. Having spent half his adult life on various Naval vessels, he was used to not needing a lot. Even watching Bud and Harriet have AJ, it had never really occurred to him just how much babies needed.
Mac pointed at the tag. "It says 'mattress not included'," she said. They walked over to the mattresses, looking for the dimensions mentioned on the crib's tag. As they looked, Mac asked, "Have you given any thought to baby names since we found out we're having one of each?"
"Well, I'm not sure I want a Harm III," he said, "but other than that, I haven't really thought about boy's names. There is one name I've kind of always had in mind for a girl, but I'm not sure what you're going to think." As he looked over the mattresses, he commented, "Couldn't they standardize the size on these, as they do for adult beds?"
"Why? That would make sense," Mac shot back. "So what's this name you have in mind?"
"Sarah Patricia," he said, "after my grandmother and mother."
"Don't you have enough Sarahs in your life?" she teased. "How about Patricia Sarah?"
"I don't know," he replied, "I just thought Sarah Patricia Rabb sounded better to my ears than Patricia Sarah Rabb. Anyway, what can I say? Sarah has always been a favorite name of mine." He shot her a dazzling grin.
"No," she said, pointing a finger at his chest and shaking her head, even as she felt a familiar warmth spread through her. "I am not letting that flyboy grin of yours get to me. No way."
He looked at her with his best puppy dog eyes and she sighed. He knew just how to make her weak in the knees. It was a good thing he wasn't wearing his dress whites or she'd be agreeing with anything he said. "Then I want Harmon for our son," she said as he started shaking his head. "For your father," she added.
"What about Matthew?" he countered. "I would have thought you would want to name a boy after your uncle."
"I can," she said, leaning closer to him. "I think Harmon Matthew Rabb has a nice ring to it. And since he would have a different middle name, he wouldn't technically be Harm III."
"What about Matthew Harmon Rabb?" he asked, even as he knew he would probably give in to her, especially if he wanted her to go along with his name suggestion.
"As someone already said," she pointed out, smiling, "I think Harmon Matthew sounds better to my ears."
Harm sighed. "We don't have to decide now," he said, even as he knew that their children would end up being Sarah Patricia and Harmon Matthew Rabb. "We still have almost six months."
SATURDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER
"So, have you given any thought to your married name?" Sydney asked as the JAG women all sat around the living room, chatting while they waited for the pizzas they had ordered for lunch to arrive. Aside from the bridal party, who had come to have their measurements taken for their dresses by Rachel Carlisle, the designer Trish had found, Mac had also invited Lauren, Meg and Kate for a girls' day together. Everyone, even Lauren, was getting along very well together.
Harm had invited AJ, Bud and Alan to their airfield, promising all of them rides in 'Sarah'. Bud, who hadn't been up in the Stearman in a while, and Alan and AJ, who had never been up, had all jumped at the chance. Harriet had brought little AJ with her and after a while of being happily passed around from lap to lap, he had gotten tired and Mac had offered her bed for him to take a nap in.
"I was playing around with it the other day," Mac replied, taking a sip of her glass of milk. Mac had never really cared for it as a drink - unless it was chocolate - but Harm had started insisting that she drink several glasses a day. Sometimes, she was tempted to hide all the baby books from him. She loved him, but sometimes he could be exasperating going on about all the things that he thought she needed to be doing while pregnant. "I got bored during lunch and wrote out several possibilities, trying to decide which one sounded best."
"Well, you have made a name for yourself in the military as Sarah Mackenzie," Harriet pointed out. "That's one of the reasons I decided to keep my maiden name professionally. That, and all the paperwork that has to be filled out to change your name."
"Of course, some women hyphenate their maiden and married names," Carolyn pointed out.
"I thought of both of those," Mac said, "and, of course, Sarah Rabb. Then, I also considered whether I wanted to go by different names professionally and socially or just use one name."
"Sometimes makes you wonder why men can't change their names," Jackie joked as everyone chuckled.
"Finally," Mac continued, "I decided to go for the old-fashioned approach and change my name. I don't think it will make a difference in how I do my job if I go by Sarah Mackenzie or Sarah Rabb. No offense, Harriet."
"None taken," she replied, smiling.
"Anyway, I would be proud to take Harm's name," Mac said. "I also think Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Rabb has nice ring to it. I talked to Gunny yesterday about getting together the paperwork that I will need to change my name on all my military records and to get a new ID card. He has also placed an order for a new sign for my office and business cards. On Monday, I'll order new name tags for my uniforms."
"Well, this will definitely make things easier on the Admiral," Carolyn joked. "Now, instead of asking for Rabb and Mackenzie when he wants to talk to you, he can just yell for Rabb."
Harriet laughed as she added, "I can already hear him now - 'Get me Rabb!'"
Everyone laughed as Lauren jumped in, "At least you have different ranks. If anyone wants to differentiate, they can just append Commander or Colonel in front of the name."
"Can you imagine if they were both Navy?" Meg asked. "Then it would be 'Get me Commander Rabb. No, the other Commander Rabb.'"
"Speaking of names, Harriet," Mac said, "have you and Bud thought about names for your baby?"
"Actually, we decided on a name several weeks ago," she said. "We were going to announce it, but then everything happened ... " She trailed off, reluctant to bring up the shooting when everyone was having fun.
"So, don't keep us in suspense, Harriet," Carolyn urged, drawing her attention back to the topic at hand. "What is it?"
"Well, when I was pregnant before, we decided we wanted to name the baby after someone important to both of us," Harriet explained, "which is how we came up with AJ. So we decided to do the same thing with this one."
"Okay, so is it going to be Sarah or Harmony?" Carolyn asked. No one was surprised. Everyone knew that aside from being mentors, Harm and Mac were Bud and Harriet's best friends.
Harriet smiled. "Actually," she replied, "both. We decided on Sarah Harmony Roberts."
"Oh, Harriet," Mac said, tears in her eyes, "I'm honored and I'm sure Harm will be, too." Suddenly, she started laughing, drawing puzzled glances from everyone in the room.
"Mac?" Sydney asked.
"Sorry," Mac said, wiping her eyes, "it's just funny and maybe a little ironic. Harm and I were discussing possible names last night at Babies R Us. Harm said that he has always wanted to name a daughter after his grandmother."
While most everyone looked at her, not sure how that related to Harriet's name choice, Meg and Kate started laughing. "That is funny," Meg agreed. "I guess you could say great minds think alike."
"What is Harm's grandmother's name?" Carolyn asked, curious.
"Sarah," Mac replied, eliciting laughter from everyone else.
"Well, Sarah is a popular name," Jackie pointed out. "I guess if Harm can live with having both a wife and daughter named Sarah, then there's nothing wrong with having both a Sarah Rabb and a Sarah Roberts."
"As was pointed out earlier," Lauren said, "if you want both of them, you only have to call one name."
"So, is this a definite name or are you still thinking about it?" Kate asked.
"Well, nothing is definite yet," Mac replied, "but I have a feeling that we will go with our first choices for names. Harm wants Sarah Patricia for his grandmother and mother and I suggested Harmon Matthew after Harm's father and my uncle."
"So your babies will be named after you and Harm, but not really," Sydney said, amused. "Of course, you could always call them by their middle names to avoid confusion, except that most people call you Mac, so I guess that would cut down on the confusion."
"Except that since we have been together, Harm has taken to calling me Sarah," Mac pointed out, "and I'm not about to suggest he go back to calling me Mac. I really like hearing him call me Sarah." She smiled, remembering how hearing her given name on his lips made her weak in the knees and warm inside.
"You could always swap the names completely," Jackie suggested, "go with Patricia Sarah and Matthew Harmon."
"That idea was discussed, also," Mac replied. "When he first suggested Sarah Patricia, I suggested reversing the names, but Harm is really close to his grandmother, perhaps closer than he is to his mother. After his crash, he spent his time recovering at her farm and she helped him decide to go to law school. I can understand why he would want to name a daughter after her. He suggested the same thing when I said I wanted Harmon Matthew for our son. I told him that if he was going to insist on Sarah for our daughter, then I was going to insist on Harmon for our son."
"Which mean that despite Mac's saying that nothing is definite," Sydney concluded, "we will be welcoming Sarah Patricia Rabb and Harmon Matthew Rabb into the world in about six months."
"Hey, is it safe to come in?" Harm called out, smiling, as he entered the house from the garage. He was in a good mood. He had just spent the day flying and it had felt good to be up in the air again, to feel the wind in his hair. And Bud, AJ and Alan had all enjoyed themselves also. It had been a very good day.
He nearly tripped over Jingo stretched out on his side on the floor of the foyer. At the disturbance, the dog lifted his head to look at Harm with tired eyes. Satisfied that nothing was wrong and Harm belonged there, Jingo laid his head back down and closed his eyes.
Harm continued into the living room and found Mac stretched out on the couch asleep, her head resting on her outstretched arm. She looked so peaceful in sleep, he reflected, as if she didn't have a care in the world. He leaned over and brushed a stray lock of hair away from her cheek, brushing a finger across the satin smoothness of her skin. Straightening, he turned to leave, not wanting to disturb her.
"Harm?" Mac asked sleepily, propping herself up on an elbow. Harm turned back to look at her.
"I'm sorry," he said, "I didn't mean to wake you."
"No, it's okay," she assured him, pushing herself into a sitting position as she rubbed her eyes. "I should get up anyway. I've been asleep for two hours and fourteen minutes."
Harm sat down next to her on the couch, gently rubbing her shoulders and back. "Did you fall asleep after everyone left?" he asked.
Mac nodded. "We had fun today, just sitting around and talking about the wedding and stuff," she explained, "but it was a little tiring, too. I thought I'd lay down and rest a little bit before I cleaned up, but I guess I was more tired than I thought."
As she spoke, Harm stood and started straightening the living room, picking up the papers and notebooks scattered around. "Harm, you don't have to do that," Mac insisted. "I'll take care of it."
"It's not a problem," he said as he put all the papers in a neat stack on the coffee table. "You want to get some more sleep? You could go upstairs and lie down for a while longer."
"No, I really don't want to lie down," she said, stifling a yawn. "So how was your day? Did you and the guys have fun flying?"
"Yes," he replied with a grin. "Bud was happy to go back up again and the Admiral and Mattoni enjoyed it, also. They can't wait to go up again."
"I'm glad everyone had a good time," she said. "I know you haven't been able to go flying as much recently, and I'm ... "
"No, don't say you're sorry," he insisted, walking over to her and placing a finger over her lips. "I don't mind having other things to occupy my time. As much fun as I had flying today, it's not as much fun doing things without you. I missed having you around today."
"Tell me that after we've been married for years," she teased with a chuckle, "and you're just dying to get away from the ball and chain."
"'Ball and chain', huh?" Harm echoed. "I'll never think that."
"So you say," she shot back with a grin. "I'm glad you had a good time today. We did, too. Even Lauren was on her best behavior and I think Meg and Kate were happy to be included, also."
"That's definitely a noteworthy event," he commented. "So can I ask what you ladies talked about or is it something men aren't supposed to know?"
"Well, we talked about the wedding, of course," she replied, leaning against his chest as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close. "Everyone is happy with the dress designs and the colors I picked out. Rachel Carlisle, the designer your mom found, is really great and she doesn't have a problem being available at the last minute to make sure Harriet's and my dresses fit. We're going to get together next Saturday morning for the first fitting of the actual dresses."
"I'm sure Bud, Mattoni and the Admiral will be happy to go flying again," he joked.
"I'm sure they will be," she said. "We also discussed whether I'm going to change my name after we get married."
"Well, are you?" he asked. "I mean, do you want to? I've never brought it up before because I thought it should be your decision. I didn't want it to seem like I was trying to influence you one way or the other."
"Actually," she said, "it wasn't much of a decision to make. After everything that has happened in my life and between us, I really want this to be a new beginning - not just for the two of us and our family, but for me, too." She shrugged. "I don't know if this is making any sense to you, but so much has happened in my life that I'm not proud of. Now, I can make a fresh start and try to put everything bad that's ever happened behind me."
"Sarah, I know you've had a lot of bad things happen in your life," he said, kissing the top of her head, "but going through all those things - and surviving them - has made you into the person you are today. They've made you the woman I fell in love with."
"I know, but I've been carrying around so much baggage for so long," she tried to explain, "that I want to try and start my - our new life together with a clean slate."
"Changing your name or not changing your name isn't going to change who you are," he pointed out.
"I know that," she said, "and it's not just that. Maybe it sounds a little old fashioned, but I would be proud to take your name. I don't feel that I have to keep going by Sarah Mackenzie to have a separate identity. I don't know. This probably isn't making much sense."
"No, I think I understand," he said. "So you want to change your name to Rabb, professionally as well as personally?"
"I've already asked Gunny to get together all the paperwork I need to change my name on my military records and to apply for a new ID card," she replied. "He's also ordered a new sign for my office door. Anyway, I think 'Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Rabb' has a nice ring to it, don't you think?" She finished by flashing him a bright smile.
"No more so than 'Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie'," he pointed out with a smile, "but it's your decision. Changing your name won't change who you are."
"You know, we also talked about names for the babies," she said. "I told them about the discussion we had last night."
"And what did everyone have to say?" he asked.
"Everyone agreed that they thought we would end up going with our first choices for names," she replied, "Sarah Patricia and Harmon Matthew. There's just one thing. I mean, it's not really that big a deal; it's just interesting. Has Bud talked about his and Harriet's baby to you?"
"Well, he did make some comments this morning about not being sure how to handle a daughter," he said. "You know, about not being able to teach a daughter the same things you would teach a son, that kind of thing."
"Who says you can't do the same things with a girl that you do with a boy?" she mused. "I mean, I'm a girl and I can kick box. I can also field strip a weapon and am an expert marksman. So what's the big deal?"
"Well, I told him that I was planning to teach both our kids to fly," Harm pointed out with a grin. "Maybe after almost a year and a half with AJ, he's just used to having a boy around."
"I guess you two could learn together," she said, laughing. "Before you know it, those girls will have their daddies wrapped around their little fingers. Anyway, Bud didn't mention anything about potential names?"
"No," Harm said. "I take it Harriet did?"
"Well," she explained, "Harriet said they thought about doing the same thing they did with AJ and naming their child after someone important to them - in this case, two someones."
"They decided on Sarah Harmony Roberts as a name," she revealed.
"I don't know what to say," he said hesitantly. "I'm certainly honored that they would want ... " he trailed off, realizing what she was getting at. "So our daughters would have the same first name."
"Looks that way," she said. "I don't really see what the big deal would be and everyone else agreed. Sarah is a popular name - unless I can talk you out of naming our daughter Sarah." She laughed so that he would know she was teasing him. "Anyway, I didn't think it would be right to suggest that Harriet and Bud name their baby something else."
"If Bud and Harriet don't mind our babies having the same name, I don't either," he told her. "Does that mean that you've reconciled yourself to naming our daughter Sarah?"
"Well," she said, "I still think Patricia Sarah would sound just as good, but I do understand why you would want to name a daughter after your grandmother."
"I don't know what I would have done without her after my crash," he said quietly. "She really helped me pick up the pieces and move on with my life in the Navy. I can't imagine naming my little princess anything else."
"'My little princess'," Mac echoed. "Not even born and she's already Daddy's little girl."
"Actually, that would be her name," Harm explained. "Didn't you know that? Sarah means 'princess'."
"I don't know if that really applies to me," she said with a trace of sadness in her voice. "Anyway, where did you find that out?"
Harm got up from the couch and pulled a book out of the bookshelf on the other side of the room. Sitting back down, he handed the book to her.
"You've been reading a book of baby names?" she asked.
"I got this before we found out that we were going to have a boy and a girl," he explained. "In fact, I bought it before we even knew we were having two. I was having a little trouble coming up with ideas for boy's names - aside from Matthew, obviously - so I thought this would come in handy. By the way, don't sell yourself short. You're my princess."
"Flatterer," she teased, playfully swatting him with the book. She flipped through the book until she found the listing for her name. "'Sarah' comes from Hebrew and means 'a princess'. Okay, smarty, what does 'Patricia' mean?"
"As I recall," he replied, "it has something to do with nobility also. It definitely fits with 'Sarah'"
Mac found the name. "It comes from Latin and means 'of noble birth'," she read aloud. "They do fit together as names." She flipped through the book again. "Hm, 'Catherine' means 'pure'. Yeah, right. That one doesn't really apply to me."
"Sarah," he said, rubbing her back. "Don't knock yourself. That's the woman I love you're talking about."
She decided to change the subject. "So, I wonder what Harmon means?" she mused, flipping pages again.
"I wouldn't know," he said with a shrug.
"Like you didn't look it up ... here it is," she said. "From the Greek or Latin and it means 'peace'." She started laughing.
"It's not that funny," he complained.
"I wonder what the Admiral would say," she said through her laughter. "Shooting off automatic weapons in court isn't very peaceable, now is it?"
"Very funny," he deadpanned. "I looked up 'Matthew'. It means 'gift of God'."
"Yes it does," she agreed once she found it in the book. "My uncle definitely was that for me." She turned back until she found Harm's middle name. "'David' is Hebrew for 'beloved one'. I think that definitely fits you."
"So, does this mean you're willing to go with 'Sarah Patricia'?" he asked, rubbing her swollen tummy with his free hand.
"Are you willing to go with 'Harmon Matthew'?" she countered.
"Weren't you the one who once said that one Harmon Rabb in your life was enough?" he pointed out.
"But that was Clark Palmer pretending to be you," she reminded him. "Besides, if he's anything like his daddy, I'll have my hands full with him no matter what his name is. All he'll have to do is look at me, flash that smile and I'll melt."
"Really?" he mused, pulling her across his lap. "So I make you melt?"
"You know you do," she said softly, brushing his lips with hers.
"So does this mean we can name our daughter 'Sarah'?" he repeated hopefully.
"You don't give up, do you?" she teased, playfully swatting him. "Our daughter will be Sarah if our son is Harmon. If we want to avoid confusion, we could call them by a nickname or their middle names."
"I could see us calling our son 'Matt'," he mused. "I don't know about our daughter. I'm kind of stuck on the name 'Sarah'."
"Obviously," she laughed. "When was the last time I heard you call me 'Mac'?"
"I don't know," he shrugged, shifting her in his lap so that her back was against his chest so he could massage her belly in slow circles.
"I don't think I've heard you call me 'Mac' since we've been involved," she stated, leaning back into his embrace. "You've been calling me 'Sarah' all the time."
"Have I?" he asked idly. "I hadn't thought about it. I guess it's because I see you differently now - or I admit that I see you differently now. You're not just my best friend ... is this making any sense? Do you want me to go back to calling you 'Mac?"
"It makes some sense," she replied, "and as for what you call me, I like hearing you call me 'Sarah'. I don't know, it sounds special when you say it."
"You are special, Sarah," he said earnestly, reminded of when she had been doubting her self-worth, both in the past and a few minutes earlier. "And I don't want you to forget it."
TUESDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER
"Good morning, Harm," Clay said as he entered Harm's office and sat down.
"Don't you ever knock, Clay?" Harm asked, looking up from the report he was reading. "What can I do for you today?"
"'Hello, Clay. How are you doing today?'" Clay mimicked. Harm stared at him and Clay shrugged. "Actually, it's what I can do for you. Remember, I was supposed to be finding your old Academy roommate for you?"
"So, where is he?" he asked shortly.
"Geez, Rabb, what is with you today?" Clay asked, a little exasperated with his friend. Do a favor for a man ...
Harm dropped onto the desk the pen he had been fiddling with and sighed. "The attorneys are giving their opening statements in the Johns trial today," he explained.
"I'm sorry, Harm," Clay said, genuinely remorseful. "I'm surprised you're not in there."
"I can't be," he replied. "As a witness, I'm not allowed in the courtroom until they call me to the stand."
"I see," Clay said. He knew Harm was a man of action who didn't like sitting on the sidelines, waiting. He decided to change the subject back to the reason for his visit. "To answer your earlier question, Keeter is - and I don't think I have to remind you that this is classified - running air recon missions over Central America, looking for drug runners."
"Since when does Keeter do recon in drug cases?" Harm asked.
"Since we wanted someone who has worked with us before who can handle themselves if things get dicey," Clay pointed out.
"'Us' meaning the CIA," Harm said. "I don't know why Keeter keeps working for you."
"The same reason you do, Harm," Clay reminded him. "He does his duty and he has a hard time staying away from the action. I haven't been in direct contact with him, but I have passed on the message that he will be pulled temporarily from his current assignment in a few weeks. We've already got someone ready to take his place while he's here."
"Thank you, Clay."
"See, that wasn't so hard, Rabb," Clay said. "I didn't tell him why he was being pulled - mission security, you know. And I thought you'd want to be the one to break the news to Keeter yourself."
"Since when is my wedding a threat to mission security?" Harm asked.
"Since no one is supposed to know Keeter is there," Clay explained patiently. "If we tell Keeter he's leaving for a wedding, the wrong people might start putting two and two together."
Harm shook his head. Sometimes, the Agency seemed a little too paranoid about security. "When is he supposed to get here?" he asked.
"I won't know for sure until I receive confirmation that he has received the message," Clay replied, standing, "but we're looking at pulling him out the weekend before. I've got a meeting at the Pentagon, so I'll see you later. Oh, and Mother said to tell you that she received the invitation and is looking forward to attending the wedding."
"We look forward to seeing both of you there," Harm said. "Thanks, Clay."
Harm watched Clay leave, a thoughtful expression on his face. He'd been turning something over in his mind for a while now, but he wasn't sure how Mac was going to feel about it. It couldn't hurt to look into it, he decided, picking up his phone.
"Gunny, can you come in here for a moment?" he asked, then hung up the phone.
A few seconds later, Gunny was standing just inside his doorway at attention. "You wanted to see me, Sir?" he asked.
"Take a seat, Gunny," he said. "I need a personal favor. I need you to get some information on this person." He wrote out some information on a piece of paper and handed it to Gunny. "And don't say anything to the Colonel. I'm not sure if I'm going to contact this person. I'd just like to know how to get in touch if I decide to."
Gunny looked down at the name on the paper and nodded. "Do you have any other information for me, Sir?" he asked. "Last known location, anything like that?"
"Not really," Harm admitted. "All I know that she was at her ex-husband's deathbed in California in the spring of 1999, which was the first time the Colonel had contact with this person since she was fifteen. I wrote down her husband's name, date and location of death. Maybe you can trace where she went from there. I'm sorry I don't have more for you, but the Colonel doesn't really know much, either."
"I'll get on this as soon as possible," Gunny said.
"Thank you, Gunny," Harm replied. "Dismissed."
After Gunny left the office, Harm turned in his chair to look out the window. He hoped he was making the right decision. He still wasn't sure that he was going to contact her, especially if it was going to upset Mac. But maybe with her talk of new beginnings, maybe Mac would be willing to see her mother again.
"Hello, Colonel," Jon Williams greeted Mac as he and Allison entered the JAG kitchen after court broke for lunch.
"Commander, Major," Mac returned, stirring her tea idly. "How is the trial going so far?"
"It's going very well, Colonel," Allison replied confidently as she poured herself a cup of coffee. "As I'm sure you're aware, the defense is going for the temporary insanity angle, but given this man's history, it will be a tough sell with the jury."
"I suppose," Mac said idly, her mind not really on the conversation. She was just ready for it all to be over.
"Well, I'll see you back in court, Commander," Jon said. "Colonel, it was good to see you again." He nodded towards Mac as he left the kitchen.
"I really need to go, too," Mac said, picking up her mug of tea and turning to leave the kitchen.
"You don't like me much, do you, Colonel?" Allison suggested calmly, leaning against the kitchen counter.
"Whether I like you or not is irrelevant," Mac pointed out just as calmly, determined that she wasn't going to let Allison get to her. "You're not here to be liked, you're here to prosecute Sergeant Johns."
"Touché," Allison said. "But you would rather have someone else prosecuting this case."
"That's not true," Mac said. "From what Harm tells me, you're one of the best prosecutors in the Navy and this is a high-profile case. It makes sense that the Navy would assign its best to this case."
"I wonder what else Harm has told you about me," Allison mused with a smile.
"I don't really think JAG headquarters is the place for this discussion," Mac pointed out.
"No, you're right," Allison agreed. "Especially since what was between Harm and me went beyond work."
Mac was silent, realizing that Allison was trying to get to her. She knew there had never been anything more than work between Harm and Allison. "Good luck in court, Commander," Mac said as she left the kitchen.
In the hallway, Mac nearly bumped into AJ just outside the kitchen. "Sorry, Sir," she apologized. "I wasn't watching where I was going."
"That's all right, Colonel," AJ said. "Would you like to take a walk with me?"
Wondering if he had heard the conversation in the kitchen, Mac followed him to the elevator. Both officers were silent until they were outside the building. AJ began walking around the grounds and Mac followed.
"How is everything, Mac?" AJ asked.
"Fine, Sir," she replied carefully. She was on guard at his use of her name. It was rare for the Admiral to discuss personal business at work. "The trial started today, so I guess I am a little concerned about that, plus things are a little hectic with all the wedding preparations right now. But I'm okay."
"Mac, I'm saying this as your friend and not your commanding officer," AJ assured her. "If there was a problem, you would let me know, wouldn't you?"
"Of course, Sir," she agreed, trying to keep the reluctance out of her voice. "I would let you know if there was something to be concerned about."
"Sometimes," AJ continued, "people think that because I am in command, I don't see some of the things that are going on with the people below me. But I see more than people think I do."
"Sir, I don't know ... " Mac began.
"Let me finish, Mac," AJ interrupted. "People usually don't think that a two-star Admiral would, for instance, notice that two of his people spent four years fighting their feelings for each other. Or that the tension between two officers who used to work together has less to do with work than other things. Just because I'm an Admiral doesn't mean I don't notice things or hear the scuttlebutt."
"Of course not, Sir," she agreed, beginning to see where he was headed.
"Sometimes a commander has to walk a fine line," he explained. "For instance, an incident might appear to one person to be harassment, but the person actually involved in the situation might not see it that way, or they might think they can handle the situation on their own without getting anyone else involved."
"I suppose so, Sir," she said noncommittally.
"As a commander," he continued, "I have to decide whether this is a situation I need to get involved in or do I trust my officers to tell me they are being harassed."
"I can see how that would be a tough decision to make," she replied softly.
AJ stopped and looked her in the eye as he added, "Mac, the day the prosecutors arrived, I thought I saw something in your eyes when I suggested that Harm might appreciate a heads up on their presence. I didn't think it was my place to say more, especially since I didn't know how much you knew. The other day, when you two made your announcement about the babies, I saw that someone was less than thrilled about your news. And word at the softball game was that Harm was a little tense when a certain name was mentioned. When I thought back to some things I noticed four years ago ... "
"Sir, we are handling it," she said, deciding not to pretend that she didn't know what he was talking about. "Harm has explained everything that did - and didn't - happen four years ago. She's only going to be here for this trial then she's gone. We'll get through it."
"I'm sure you will, Mac," he agreed, "but I don't want you taking on more than you should. If something happens, I want you to know that you can come to me. Especially if you feel she is harassing you or Harm."
"Sir, I hope it will not come to that," she said.
"You told him about Krennick?" Harm asked, incredulous. She had filled him in on her conversation with AJ on the drive home from work.
"No, I didn't," Mac insisted as she unbuttoned her uniform blouse. "He figured it out, he said. According to him, he noticed some things both four years ago and since she has been here this time and put two and two together. Anyway, Krennick is sinking herself. She is the one who approached me at lunch today, suggesting that I didn't like her because you two once shared something that went beyond work. The Admiral overheard and that's why he approached me."
Harm shook his head as he sat down on the edge of the bed. He was silent as he began removing his own uniform blouse, carefully laying it on the bed. Mac watched him out of the corner of her eye as she picked up his blouse and carefully hung it in the closet.
"Harm, talk to me," she pleaded. "Are you mad because I had this discussion with the Admiral? He approached me. Anyway, I thought you were the one who said you were going to go to him if she didn't back off."
"I'm not mad," he insisted, with a hint of frustration in his voice. "I was just hoping that it wouldn't come to this. You don't need the added stress right now."
"I know that," she said, pulling a pair of shorts and a t-shirt out of the dresser after hanging her own uniform in the closet. "I'm the one who is pregnant. I'm the one who got shot. But you know what? This isn't just about me. You don't need the stress either. You are the one she was harassing four years ago. And Krennick doesn't strike me as the type to readily take 'no' for an answer."
"I'm fine," he said, standing to remove his uniform pants. "You're the one I'm worried about. On top of everything else, you'll be testifying in the Johns trial in a few days."
"I know," she said quietly as she sat down on the bed, watching as he changed clothes. "Major Williams said that they're planning to put me on last, for the emotional impact. Not that I can tell them much that the rest of you can't. But the pregnant victim testifying is sure to impact the jury."
"I spoke with Williams today, also," Harm told her, taking one of her hands in his as he sat back down. "I'm going on right before you. At least, since I will have already testified, I'll get to be in the courtroom when you take the stand."
"I'm glad," she said simply, looking down at their intertwined fingers. "I just wish this was all over. I wish the wedding was over and that we could settle down and get on with our lives." She paused, then added, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounded, about the wedding being over. I just ... "
"I know what you meant," he said, looking at her with concern. "There's a lot going on right now." He had been debating whether or not to mention that he was trying to track down her mother, but decided that he should wait at least until after they testified at the trial. She didn't need even more stress. But he did have an idea or two about trying to ease some of the stress. He'd have to work on that one tomorrow.
Mac noticed his concern and the fact that he had managed to change the subject away from Krennick and her harassment. But how could they get through everything that was going on without something blowing up in their faces?
FRIDAY, 8 SEPTEMBER
"Colonel, do you have a few minutes?" Carolyn asked, standing in Mac's open doorway.
Mac looked up from the report she was only pretending to read and motioned Carolyn into her office. "Take a seat, Commander."
Carolyn looked at her friend as Mac tossed the report to the side. Mac avoided looking at Carolyn, instead turning in her chair slightly to look out the window. After a long moment, Carolyn finally said, "I thought I'd stop by and see how you're doing, see if you wanted some company while you wait ... "
"Harm's on the stand now," Mac softly interrupted. It wasn't a question.
Carolyn nodded, then spoke when it occurred to her that Mac still wasn't looking at her. "He was called to the stand when I stepped down," she said.
"And then I'm next," Mac said as she finally turned back to face Carolyn. Carolyn could see the tears threatening to spill from Mac's eyes. "It's funny, isn't it? It's been a month as of yesterday. So why is it just now hitting me so hard?"
"I don't know," Carolyn replied. "Maybe there was just so much happening then that we didn't have time to think about it. Now we have to talk about it and maybe it's just ... I don't know. When it happened and Harm turned you over and we realized that you had been shot, it was like we were all on autopilot. Maybe we've been like that ever since. But stress has to relieve itself and maybe the trial is giving us the opportunity ... " Carolyn trailed off when she realized that instead of crying, Mac was laughing.
Mac felt Carolyn's eyes on her and turned towards her to explain, "I'm sorry. It's just that Harm once said that very same thing to me."
Carolyn sensed there was a story behind that and asked, "Do you want to talk about it?" Maybe it would help Mac to think about something else, even if only for a few minutes.
"What? The trial or when Harm said that to me?" she asked.
"When Harm said that to you," Carolyn clarified. "Knowing you two, there's a very interesting story behind that statement."
"I don't know if I'd call it interesting," Mac said. "Terrifying is more like it."
Instantly, Carolyn regretted pressing the issue. "Look, I'm sorry I brought it up," she apologized. "If you don't want to talk about it ... "
"No, it's okay," Mac reassured her. "It was years ago, not long after we met, and I've long since dealt with what happened. Harm talked me into taking a day's leave so that he could take me up in his plane. I was having so much fun, then we developed mechanical problems and had to make an emergency landing in the Appalachian mountains. From the air, we had seen a cabin a few miles from where we had landed, so we decided to hike to it and see if they had a phone we could use to call for help." Mac paused, remembering that day so clearly. That was also the day that she admitted to herself that she had fallen for her partner.
"Doesn't sound too bad so far," Carolyn commented.
"Unfortunately," Mac continued, "the cabin was inhabited by poachers who had just killed a game warden. What we realized later is that when we arrived at the cabin they were burying the game warden out back of the cabin. Harm asked too many questions and one of the men started shooting at us. We managed to hold them off for a few minutes, but while Harm was swiping a fuel line from the game warden's truck so that he could fix the plane, one of the poachers got off a lucky shot and I got hit in the leg."
"I've never heard this story," Carolyn said, surprised. "I mean, the other day you said something had happened the first time Harm took you flying, but I didn't think to ask more. Now I understand why you wanted weapons on your next flight."
"Like I said, it was just a few months after we met," Mac said. "You were still overseas at the time. Anyway, we managed to escape with Harm practically dragging me along. But they were tracking us and when Harm left me for a few minutes to misdirect them, one of them found me." Mac fell silent and Carolyn could just imagine what had happened when the man had found her.
After a long moment, Mac continued, "Before he could ... um, he had a knife and I managed to ... I stabbed him with his own knife."
"Look, Mac, you don't have to talk about this," Carolyn said. "I'm sorry I brought it up. I just came in here because I thought you might want some company while you were waiting to take the stand."
"It's okay, really," Mac said, holding her hand up when Carolyn opened her mouth to protest. "It does help to think about something else, even this. Anyway, later that evening, after we had found shelter for the night, I ... well, I pretty much freaked for a few minutes over what had happened. I still had his blood on me and the sight of it got to me. Harm just sat there and let it run its course. Then he reassured me that what I was feeling was natural. That's when he made that comment about stress relieving itself."
"He really is something, isn't he?" Carolyn mused, smiling.
Mac smiled as she replied softly, "Yeah, he is. So, we made it back to the plane the next day. Harm fixed it and we took off. My leg had gotten infected, so I had to spend a few days in the hospital. He spent most of his time at my bedside. I recovered and life went on as before."
"You know, you two never cease to amaze me," Carolyn commented, shaking her head. "After all that, it still took you another three and a half years to admit your feelings for each other."
Mac laughed at that. It wasn't the first time she had heard something along those lines from one of her friends. Hell, she had thought the same thing many times herself. "What can I say?" she replied, still laughing. "For two very intelligent people, we could be pretty dumb about the things that really mattered. I once told Harm that all I really wanted in life was a great career, a good man and lots of comfortable shoes."
"I don't know about the comfortable shoes," Carolyn said with a smile, "but I'd say you've got the first two covered."
"Ask me again about the shoes after the babies are born," Mac said. "Right now, walking around in my bare feet is uncomfortable."
"So what is it like, being pregnant?" Carolyn asked wistfully, a faraway expression in her eyes. "Remember that lunch we had with Harriet, right before AJ was born? Ever since that day, I've wondered what it would be like to have a baby."
"At least you didn't want a baby so much that you made a deal with your best friend to have one together in five years if neither of you was involved in a relationship," Mac pointed out. She laughed at the wide-eyed expression of shock on Carolyn's face.
"You and Harm ... " Carolyn began. "You won't admit you're in love with each other, but you'll agree to have a baby together! I can't believe you two. And a few months later, you're accepting a ring from another man. If I were you, I would have made it a point to stay single for the next five years."
"Believe me, that thought had crossed my mind," Mac admitted, "but then he returned to flying and nothing was the same after he returned. Then Australia happened and ... " Mac trailed off, staring off into the distance as she remembered the pain of one particular night. Slowly, she continued, "I opened up to Harm about what I was feeling for him and let's just say that I couldn't have picked a worse time. Harm had been back for months but he was still trying to find his way. He wasn't ready to be in a relationship - well, a serious one, anyway. I didn't understand that at the time, even when he told me so."
"So that's why you accepted Commander Brumby's ring," Carolyn concluded. "You thought Harm had rejected you and when someone else offered you everything you wanted ... "
"Yeah," Mac replied sadly. "I'm not even sure why I'm telling you all this. A lot of this I've never told another soul except Harm, although I think Harm told my uncle about what happened in Australia when he asked Uncle Matt for permission to marry me."
"He asked for permission to marry you?" Carolyn mused. "Too bad he doesn't have a brother. Anyway, I'm glad you feel comfortable enough to share this with me. I know we didn't meet under the best circumstances, especially since I wasn't doing the best job of defending Harm against murder charges at the time."
"Water under the bridge," Mac assured her. "I've always been so focused on my career since I joined the Corps, trying to make up for past mistakes, that I've never really allowed myself the chance to make many friends until someone whom I'd just met put himself, his career, and even his life on the line for me and my uncle."
"I guess I don't have to ask who that is," Carolyn said.
"No, I guess you don't," Mac said with a wide smile. "You know, he can be so infuriating sometimes. He can be so smug and arrogant and egotistical that I sometimes just want to throttle him. But under all that, he is the kindest, most compassionate, most considerate man I've ever met. He's the best friend I've ever had. I think becoming friends with him has allowed me to open myself up. I think I've made more friends since I've been here at JAG headquarters than I've had in my entire life and I'm glad to count you among them, especially since you have managed to distract me from what's going on in that courtroom across the hall."
"Thank you, Mac and I'm glad I could help," Carolyn told her. She noticed that Mac was no longer paying attention to her, staring instead at the doorway. Carolyn turned to find Harm standing there.
"It's time?" Mac asked quietly.
Harm nodded slowly in response. "Court's in recess for five minutes, then you're up."
"Well, here goes nothing," Mac muttered as she slowly rose to leave. As she passed by him in the doorway, Harm reached out to take her hand.
"It will be okay, Sarah," he said softly as he turned with her to walk towards the courtroom, Carolyn standing up to walk behind them.
"I'll be fine," Mac assured him. She turned her head to look at Carolyn. "You're coming to the courtroom?"
"Remember what we were just talking about?" Carolyn asked. "That's what friends do. Anyway, I didn't think I'd get much work done today, so I stayed late last night to stay caught up. I don't think the Admiral will have a problem with it."
"Thank you," Mac said, smiling at her. As they entered the courtroom, Mac was a bit surprised to find quite a few of the people who had been in the hallway on the day of the shooting, including Alan and Captain Sebring. Sitting next to Sebring were Admiral Chegwidden and Gunny, both of whom smiled at Mac in encouragement as she, Harm, and Carolyn slid into the bench in front of them, Mac on the end so that she could get up to take the stand.
As soon as she had sat down, the judge - Admiral Lefner, who had been brought in from outside the Washington area specifically for this trial - entered the courtroom and everyone stood. As everyone took their seats again, Allison remained standing and said, "Your Honor, the prosecution calls Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie to the stand."
Mac stood and looked down at Harm for a moment before she walked up to stand in front of the bench. Allison came over to stand in front of her.
"Raise your right hand," Allison said. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"
"I do," Mac replied. She took the stand, taking a deep breath as she waited for Allison to begin.
"Please state your name and billet for the record," Allison said.
I can do this, Mac told herself. She kept repeating it to herself in her mind as she said automatically, "Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie. I'm Chief of Staff here at JAG headquarters."
"Colonel, at the beginning of August," Allison began, standing in front of the witness stand, "you and your partner, Commander Rabb, were prosecuting a murder case. Can you tell us about that?"
"Marine Sergeant Johns was on trial for allegedly beating someone to death at a bar while off duty," Mac replied, her voice sure and steady. "Commander Rabb and I were prosecuting, Commanders Imes and Mattoni were defending."
"Was there any talk of a plea bargain in the case, Colonel?" Allison asked.
"While I was in Quantico on an investigation the week before the trail began," Mac continued, "Harm - Commander Rabb and I spoke on the phone Thursday night. We decided that he would present an offer of manslaughter with fifteen years in Leavenworth to the defense."
"And was the plea bargain accepted by the defense?"
"No," Mac answered. "Commander Imes approached me the following Monday morning. She said that Sergeant Johns wanted to take his chances with a trial."
"When did the trial begin?" Allison asked.
Mac took a deep breath before replying, "It began that morning, 7 August."
"What happened in court that morning?"
"We called a total of six witnesses that morning," Mac said, forcing herself not to fidget as they got closer to the account of the actual shooting, "the owner of the bar and five people who had been in the bar that night. They all testified to what they had seen the night of the beating."
"And what was that, Colonel?" Allison asked.
The defense attorney spoke for the first time since Mac had taken the stand. "Objection, your honor. Hearsay."
Mac was surprised. The same questions, she imagined, would have been asked when Harm, Alan and Carolyn were on the stand. Surely the defense attorney hadn't objected all four times.
"Sir, the transcript from Sergeant Johns' first trial has been entered into evidence," Allison reminded the judge. "It also goes to pattern of behavior."
"Overruled," Lefner ruled, throwing the defense attorney a stern look.
Mac didn't wait for Allison to repeat the question before she answered, "They all testified essentially the same. The defendant had been upset over not being on the latest promotion list, he had a few drinks and picked a fight, during which the victim was beaten to death."
"Were there any discussions about the case after court recessed for lunch?" Allison asked.
"I suggested that maybe Commanders Imes and Mattoni might want to approach their client again about a plea bargain, given that morning's testimony," Mac said.
"Did the Commanders approach Sergeant Johns about the plea agreement?"
"They never had the chance," Mac said, taking another deep breath, needing something to calm her nerves. "Right after that, two Marine guards were escorting Sergeant Johns to lunch when the defendant made a comment about the prosecution playing 'Let's Make A Deal'."
"What else did Sergeant Johns say?"
"He made a comment about Commanders Imes and Mattoni being his defense attorneys, so he expected them to defend him," Mac recounted. "Then he said something about being dismissed after Commander Mattoni had suggested to the guards that they get Johns out of there and he took a step towards us - Commanders Rabb, Imes, Mattoni and myself. At this point, Judge Sebring walked up and ordered the guards to get Sergeant Johns out of there."
"Take your time, Colonel," Allison said, walking over to stand in front of the jury, "and tell us what happened next."
Mac looked out over the courtroom and found Harm's eyes on her. He smiled at her in encouragement. Taking a deep breath, she continued her account, "Sergeant Johns pushed one of the guards aside and grabbed his weapon. I didn't really see what happened next. Commander Rabb pushed me to the floor." Mac paused a moment to collect herself, then added, "I didn't even realize that I had been shot until after it was all over."
"Please continue," Allison encouraged.
"After the shooting stopped," Mac said, a slight catch in her voice, "I realized that I was having trouble breathing. Harm rolled me over and I don't remember much after that. I was kind of drifting in and out of it. I recall telling him that I was having trouble breathing. I think Commander Mattoni gave Harm his uniform blouse to press against the wound. I don't remember much after that until I woke up that evening at Bethesda."
"Can you describe your injuries for the court?"
"The bullet entered, um, just above my right breast," Mac said, her voice faltering slightly. "It collapsed my right lung and broke one of my ribs. In the emergency room, they put in a chest tube and I was on a ventilator for two days."
"How long were you in the hospital, Colonel?"
"Seven days," Mac answered. "I was released the following Monday."
"Your lung wasn't your only medical concern, was is, Colonel?" Allison asked. "You're obviously pregnant. How far along are you?"
"So you would have been three months pregnant at the time of the shooting, correct?"
"That is correct," Mac said, her voice shaking. She glanced at Harm again, who nodded his encouragement. "I was kept hooked up to a fetal heart monitor for two days and I had an ultrasound that Wednesday to make sure there were no obvious problems. Also, to make sure there were no adverse affects from the various medications I was given and from the anesthesia I was given during surgery, I had an amniocentesis two weeks after the shooting."
"And were there any problems with the pregnancy?" Allison asked.
"Fortunately, no," Mac replied, clasping her hands on her belly. "Dr. Calder, my obstetrician, said that everything is going very well, considering everything that has happened."
"Thank you, Colonel. I know this has been difficult for you," Allison said. She turned to address the judge. "I have nothing further."
Mac took a few deep breaths as she waited for the defense attorney, Daniel Bowers, to begin. She was a little surprised at Allison's last comments; Mac thought she actually sounded sincere. She supposed it would play well for the jury, the prosecutor who showed concern for the victims. She looked at the defense attorney as he stood and walked towards her.
"Good morning, Colonel Mackenzie," Bowers greeted her cordially. "I don't have many questions for you, so I'll try to make this as quick as possible. Tell me, Colonel, if your case was as strong as you indicate, why were you trying to push a plea bargain?"
"To save the victim's family the pain of going through a trial," Mac replied firmly, more settled now that talk had moved away from personal matters such as her injury and pregnancy. "Also, the Navy would be spared the expense of a trial and Sergeant Johns would still go away to prison for a long time."
"Colonel, I believe that you're actually pregnant with twins. Such a pregnancy would normally be considered high-risk, would it not?"
"Objection, Your Honor," Allison cut in. "Relevance?"
"Your Honor, the prosecution opened itself up for this line of questioning by suggesting that there was concern about the pregnancy because of the shooting. I think I should be able to show that those concerns existed prior to incident of August 7th," Bowers argued.
"Overruled," Lefner ruled. "But I would wrap up this line of questioning as quickly as possible, Mr. Bowers."
"Understood, Your Honor," he replied as he turned back to face Mac. "Your pregnancy would normally be considered high-risk, correct?"
"Yes, it would," Mac answered, a bit angry as she realized where he was going with that line of questioning. "But I wasn't even aware that I was carrying twins until I had the ultrasound two days *after* the shooting."
Bowers paused for a split second, surprised. He hadn't been aware of that last part. But he decided to persist in this line of questioning just a little bit longer. "But the fetal heart monitor, the ultrasound, the amniocentesis - all of these would probably have been used in any event to detect problems in a twin pregnancy."
"I wouldn't really know," Mac answered firmly. "This is my first pregnancy. I'm new to all this."
"But it is possible that many of the concerns about your pregnancy would have existed whether you had been shot or not?" Bowers persisted.
"Objection, Your Honor," Allison called out. "Witness is being asked to state a medical opinion which she is not qualified to give."
"Sustained," Lefner ruled.
Bowers, satisfied that he had at least made his point, returned to the defense table. "I have nothing further," he said.
Allison stood again and said, "Your honor, I have just a few questions on redirect." When the judge nodded at her to proceed, Allison walked over to the witness stand and asked, "Colonel, had you discussed any type of special diagnostic tests, such as amniocentesis, with your doctor prior to the shooting?"
"I had asked about it at my first appointment," Mac replied. "I was curious since, as I said before, this is my first pregnancy. She said that unless there was something in either Harm's or my genetic history that would be cause for concern or I was over the age of thirty-five, an amniocentesis wouldn't even be considered."
"And do any of these situations exist in your case?" Allison continued.
"No. I just turned thirty-two in July and as far as we know, there is nothing genetic in either of our backgrounds that could possibly be passed on to our children," Mac said.
"Did your doctor give a reason for going ahead with an amniocentesis given these circumstances?"
Mac answered, "As I said earlier, I was told that it was because of the various medications and the anesthesia I was given while I was hospitalized. Even though they were approved as safe for use on pregnant woman, I was told there was still a concern that the medications could cause problems, especially at that point in the pregnancy."
"Thank you, Colonel," Allison told her. She turned to the judge and added, "The prosecution rests, Your Honor."
"Very well," Lefner said. "Court will recess for lunch until 1300 hours, when the defense will call its first witness." He banged his gavel and everyone rose until the judge had left the courtroom.
As Mac stepped down from the stand, Allison and Jon approached her. "You did a good job up there, Colonel," Allison complimented her as Mac managed to keep the surprise from her expression. "We've got a strong case and Mr. Bowers realizes that."
"He did sound like he was grasping a bit in some of his questions," Mac suggested as Harm joined them, putting a hand on her back in comfort and support.
"His client shot six people in a crowded hallway of witnesses," Jon pointed out. "He never had much of a case to begin with. It's only his client's insistence that this go to trial that brings us all here."
"As I recall," Mac reminded them, "that's what got all this started at the first trial."
"Unfortunately true," Allison agreed as AJ joined them. "That's why the sergeant is in chains this time."
"Commander Krennick, Major Williams, good job," AJ told them. He turned to Mac and asked, "How are you doing, Colonel?"
"I'm just glad that's over," Mac replied. "I'm ready to put all of this behind us."
"We all are," Harm agreed quietly.
"By the way, Commander Rabb," AJ said, "I've approved your request for leave the beginning of next week. I'll see you back here on Wednesday."
Mac looked up at Harm in surprise. "Planning to do something?" she asked.
"When the Admiral said 'your request for leave', he was talking about both of us," he told her.
"I don't remember putting in a request for leave," she pointed out.
"We're going out of town after the dress fitting Saturday morning," Harm said. "And before you ask, the 'where' is a surprise. You ready to go to lunch?"
"Definitely," Mac replied, determined to discuss it further with Harm at lunch. They left the courtroom, leaving AJ, Allison and Jon standing there.
"Commander," Jon addressed Allison, "if you don't need me for anything right now, I'll go get some lunch also."
"Go ahead, Major," she replied. "I'll be going to lunch myself in a few minutes."
Jon left and Allison was left alone with AJ. "The case is going well," AJ told her. "This has been a particularly hard one for this office and I appreciate how quickly this case is being handled."
"Thank you, Admiral," Allison replied as she put papers and files into her briefcase. "I was happy to come out here and take on this case. It's been a pleasure working for you again."
"You're one of the best prosecutors I've got, Allison," he said. "I wanted the best on this case."
"Well, I appreciate it," she said. "As much as I enjoy my job out at Pearl, I do miss this place sometimes."
"I see," AJ said, folding his arms across his chest. "I do have some news for you. As I'm sure you're aware, the promotion list for Captain will be out next week."
"I'm on it," Allison stated.
"Confident, aren't we, Commander?" he asked.
"Hmmm," he murmured. "Well, as I'm sure you are also aware, Captain Johnston is planning to retire next month."
"Yes, Sir," she replied. The retirement of her CO was old news to her as he had exhibited a bit of a short timer's attitude in recent weeks. In fact, she had been hoping that her expected promotion would give her a leg up on being named to replace Johnston.
"Allison, it's no secret that I've always thought highly of the work you've done for JAG, here at headquarters, before that in Italy and now at Pearl," AJ complimented her. "So I've put in a request with the Bureau of Personnel that you be assigned to replace Captain Johnston."
"I appreciate the vote of confidence, Admiral," she said, containing her enthusiasm.
"Do you have anyone in mind to take your place as XO?" AJ asked. He had a few candidates in mind, but he was curious to find out what she thought.
"I actually did have one person in mind, but I don't suppose this person would be available," she began. "I think the administrative experience would be good for him, especially if he has any ambitions to eventually be the JAG."
AJ knew who she was talking about, but he wanted her to confirm it. "And who would that be, Commander?"
Allison noted that he had suddenly switched to calling her by her rank and wondered at the change. "Commander Rabb, of course," she replied. "He's one of the best litigators that I've seen, but he hasn't had much experience on the administrative side of JAG, experience that he would need if he eventually wants to be the JAG."
"That is true," AJ admitted. Allison never ceased to amaze him. He knew that her reasons for wanting Harm transferred to Pearl were less than professional, but she managed to make her reasons sound professional and logical. "But on the other hand, Commander Rabb will be starting a new position as military liaison on the Hill in a few weeks and that experience will also be helpful for his future. Unfortunately, dealing with politicos is a part of being the JAG and I think the Commander will be well served by his time on the Hill. Also, you do not have two O-5 level positions available. Even if you did, I would hate to lose both of my best attorneys, especially at the same time."
"As I said, I didn't think he would be available," Allison reminded him. She could be a realist when she had to be. "I have been looking at a few other candidates and I would appreciate the chance to discuss it further with you. Perhaps we could sit down after the trial is over and before I return to Pearl."
"We'll have to see if there is time when the trial is over," AJ said noncommittally. "After all, you are probably missed at Pearl."
"So what is this about getting out of town for a few days?" Mac asked. She and Harm had grabbed some lunch from the cafeteria and had taken it outside to one of the tables. Mac had chosen a table away from the entrance to the building, where most people sat, so that she and Harm could have a few moments alone.
"With everything going on right now, I thought we could use the break," Harm replied, "so I made arrangements for us to get away for a few days."
"Without discussing it with me?" she continued.
"Is that a problem?" he asked, a bit puzzled. "I thought it would be nice to do something for you."
"It is, it's just ... " she began, pausing to collect her thoughts. It was very sweet of him, so she didn't want this to degenerate into an argument. "I just think you should have discussed it with me before you went to the Admiral and asked for time off for both of us. Anyway, is this really the right time to take a few days off given that we will be taking two weeks off in the near future for our honeymoon?"
"The Admiral doesn't seem to have a problem with it," he pointed out. "In fact, when I first brought up the subject, he seemed to think it was a pretty good idea. Anyway, I wanted to surprise you with this. Is that so bad?"
Mac sighed, taking a sip of her water while she gathered her thoughts. "No, I think it's wonderful that you wanted to surprise me," she finally said. "And it still is a surprise to a degree, since you won't tell me where we are going. But this is supposed to be a partnership and I still think you should have run the idea past me before going to the Admiral. How do you know that I didn't already have plans for this weekend?"
"Plans that you hadn't run by me yet?" Harm questioned, raising his eyebrow at her.
"Touché," she admitted, smiling. "Now, I know you don't like to be reminded of Australia, but remember Manly Beach, when I told Mic not to assume?"
"Okay, point taken," he said, "and I'm sorry. Look, if you really want, I can cancel the reservations and tell the Admiral that we will be in on Monday."
"No," Mac said, shaking her head. "You went through all this trouble, so we might as well go. I'm sure that we'll have a wonderful time alone together for a few days. We haven't really had that since we've been together. Now, is there anything that you will tell me about this mysterious trip you've planned?"
"Well, consider it a mini-honeymoon of sorts," he replied, relieved that she didn't seem to be angry at him.
"Which doesn't tell me a lot since you won't tell me where we're going for our honeymoon either," she pointed out with a laugh. "You're just full of surprises, aren't you?"
Harm was quiet for a moment, staring down at the salad in front of him. "I don't know," he said quietly, finally looking up, but focusing on a point just over her shoulder, refusing to look her in the eye. "Maybe I feel that I have a lot to make up for."
Mac cupped his chin and turned his head so that he had to look at her. She smiled, trying to lighten the mood. "Hey, if I'm no longer beating you up over Australia," she teased, "why should you still beat yourself up? I thought we had put that behind us."
"Yes - I guess, maybe," he replied softly, realizing that he wasn't making much sense. "Maybe it will be a while before I can forgive myself for letting my stupidity and my inability to communicate nearly cost me the most important person in my life."
"I never realized that you still felt like that," she said, reaching across the table to cover his hand with hers.
"It's not the easiest thing in the world to talk about," he admitted, taking her hand in his. "I'm not very good at talking about my feelings." He gave her a smile as he added, "I would have thought you would have figured that out after Australia."
"Do you want to try and talk about it?" she asked. She noticed the brief flash of hesitation in his eyes and rushed to assure him, "I don't mean now. This is hardly the appropriate venue for this discussion. But maybe we can take some time this weekend. I don't want the specter of Australia to still be hanging over us as we begin our married life."
"I don't know," he said reluctantly. "I'll try. I know that's probably not what you want to hear, but I think that's the best I can do."
Mac nodded slowly. She didn't want to push him too far. "I can accept that," she replied softly.
SATURDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER
"Okay, so tell me again why we had to drive through DC, Maryland, Delaware, then Maryland again only to end up back in Virginia, which is where we started out?" Mac teased as they got out of the SUV in front of the two-centuries-old inn. She knew they were somewhere in the Eastern Shore region, but she wasn't that familiar with this part of the state. But seeing the outside of the inn Harm had chosen for their getaway, she was liking this idea more and more. If he chose this romantic little inn for a 'mini honeymoon', she couldn't wait to see what he had in mind for the real thing.
"Because it takes about an hour less going that way than it would have going down to Norfolk then across the Chesapeake on the Bay Bridge Tunnel to the Eastern Shore," Harm told her as he got their bags out of the back of the car. "I didn't think you'd want to be stuck in the car any longer than necessary.."
"I appreciate that," Mac said with a smile, "especially since I made you stop twice on the trip as it is. Long car rides are hard on the pregnant body."
Harm looked at her with concern as he closed the rear door of the SUV and slung their bag over his shoulder. "Are you okay?" he asked. "I didn't even think about that when I planned ... "
"Harm, I'm fine," Mac tried to reassure him. "Stopping and getting out of the car those times helped and right now a bed will be an even bigger help. My back can use the break."
"I think I can help out with the back problem. How does a massage sound?"
"Sounds heavenly," she replied, stifling a yawn.
"Sounds like a nap would go over just as well," he commented with a smile as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close.
"Probably would," she admitted with a sigh.
"The next few days are about relaxing and getting away from it all," he told her as they entered the inn. "If that means you spend most of the next few days lying around getting plenty of sleep, well then ... "
"Now," she interrupted with a laugh, "I hope we didn't just drive three and a half hours and spend the money to rent a room at this bed and breakfast just so we could spend all our time in bed ... well, what I mean is ... "
"You have an objection to spending a few days in bed together?" he asked her softly, his breath warm against her ear as they walked across the lobby.
"Very funny," she retorted just as softly. "You know what I mean. If it was just a matter of taking a few days off, we could have done that at home."
"Which would defeat the purpose of getting away from it all," he pointed out. "Remember, this something of a mini honeymoon before the wedding."
They reached the front desk and Harm said to the clerk, "We have a reservation, last name Rabb."
"Here it is," the clerk said, pulling the reservation sheet from a file. "You have the Chablis suite for three nights."
"Ooh, sounds fancy," Mac commented as Harm handed his credit card to the clerk.
"It's our best suite," the clerk told her as she processed the credit card. "Checkout is Tuesday at noon. We have a restaurant, but we do require reservations since it is very popular with the general public. In your room, you'll find a packet with information on the local attractions. Do you want the phone in your room turned on?"
"No," Harm answered. "If anyone needs to reach us, I gave our CO - sorry, our boss - the main number here so he can leave a message for us. Other than that, if we need to make a call, we have a calling card or can use a payphone."
"Okay," the clerk said, placing a paper on the counter in front of him. "If you'll just sign here, you'll be good to go."
Harm signed his name to the registration form and handed it back to the clerk. She handed him their room key and said, "Your room is in the other building. If you go out the side door over there and follow the foot path, it will take you to your building. Right in front of you when you reach the building will be a door. This door is the private entrance to your suite and you'll need your key to unlock it. Then you'll have to climb a staircase to the suite. If you need anything, just dial 100 to reach the front desk."
"Thank you, Ma'am," Harm replied.
"Wow," Mac exclaimed as they entered the suite. "You really know how to show a girl a good time. This is beautiful." The suite had a vaulted ceiling and the large main room was dominated by a king-size iron wrap bed with a cream-colored comforter with a rose pattern. The wallpaper was also in a soothing cream with a border at the top of roses. One door in the room led to a separate sitting area with a sofa, television and a fridge.
Nice if they decided not to leave the room, Mac thought as she wandered around the suite while Harm unpacked their bags. They could just stock the fridge and close themselves off from the rest of the world for a few days.
Another door lead to a very large bathroom with a whirlpool tub more than large enough for two and a separate shower. She smiled as she imagined the things she and Harm could do in *that* room.
She wandered back into the main room and opened the sliding door leading to the screened deck. Even as far away as they were from the beach - looking at the map earlier, Mac had estimated they were about 10 minutes away - she could still feel the cool breeze coming off the ocean and she thought she detected a bit of the smell of the salty sea air.
Mac smiled and leaned back into his embrace as Harm came out onto the deck and wrapped his arms around her from behind. They both stared out over the beautiful gardens below for a few moments, content just to be with each other in the romantic setting.
Sighing, Mac finally broke the silence. "How did you find this place?" she asked, almost afraid to hear the answer. She didn't think she wanted to know if he'd brought past girlfriends to this beautiful place.
Harm smiled above her head. He could just imagine what she was thinking. "Actually, Bud found it for me," he told her, imagining the relief on her face that he'd never been here before with another woman. "I wanted someplace near a beach, so I got Bud to help me do a search on the internet for bed and breakfasts on the coast. We looked at several sites before we found one for this place. When I saw the pictures, I knew this was the perfect for our first trip alone together."
Mac, relieved that Harm had never been here before with another woman, was touched that he would make the extra effort to find someplace special for them. "You know," she admitted, "I never thought of that. This is our first trip alone together. It wasn't long after we first got together that Chloe came to stay with us. We went up to visit your grandmother, but we hardly had any time alone with the whole family there. Then we found out I was pregnant and between that and work, we haven't really had any time to ourselves, especially after - well, you know."
"I'm glad you approve," he said, moving his arms slightly so he could rest his hands on her belly as he placed a soft kiss on the top of her head. "You know, you scared me a little bit yesterday when I thought you were mad about my arranging this without telling you."
"I wasn't mad," she reminded him, keeping her tone light. "And after seeing this place, I'm very glad you brought me here, even if it meant enduring the long drive to get here." She stifled a yawn, which did not escape Harm's notice.
Turning them around, he propelled them back inside the room and towards the bed. Moving away from her, he pulled down the bed covers as he told her, "I think someone needs that nap we were talking about a few minutes ago. Why don't you get undressed and crawl under the covers?"
Mac did as he suggested, laying her clothes on a nearby chair, and climbing under covers dressed in only her bra and panties. As Harm pulled the covers up over her, she asked hopefully, "Join me?"
Harm quickly stripped down to his boxers and joined her under the covers, Mac scooting towards the center of the bed so he could settle in next to her. Harm laid down on his back and Mac slid back over so she could lay on her side next to him, her head resting on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her. Suddenly, Mac had a funny thought and smiled, drawing a questioning glance from Harm. "What are you thinking?" he asked.
"It's kind of funny," she replied, "but I was just thinking that I can't remember in past relationships just cuddling up in bed together without the expectation of sex being involved. Not that I don't love the physical aspects of our relationship; in fact, that part is ... "
"Stupendous?" Harm interjected. Mac slapped him lightly on the chest.
"Funny," she said dryly. "At the risk of inflating your already oversized ego, that and a few other adjectives. But I also love the quiet times when we just lay together and enjoy each other's company. I don't know how to explain it, but just lying here in your arms like this makes me feel cherished."
"Well, I do," he replied. "Cherish you, I mean. I think that's part of why I acted the way I did on the ferry."
"Okay, I must be really tired," she said, her eyes fluttering closed, "because that last statement made absolutely no sense to me. Promise me something?"
"What?" he asked, even as he knew what the next words out of her mouth were going to be.
"When I'm a little more lucid," she said, stifling another yawn, "promise you'll explain that statement to me. I've got to hear how your cherishing me relates to your not being able to let go that night."
"I'll try," he said, giving her the same answer that he had the day before when the subject of the ferry had come up. When she didn't reply, he looked down to find that she had fallen asleep. For a while, Harm lay there watching her sleep, wondering if he could finally find the words to explain everything that he had been thinking and feeling that night.
SUNDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER
Mac awoke with a start, her head still resting on Harm's shoulder, and mentally calculated the time. She must have been more tired than she had thought. Except for a couple of trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night, after which she had crawled back into bed and promptly fallen back asleep, she had been sleeping since six the previous evening. And unless Harm had managed to get in and out of the bed without her realizing it, he had been asleep for the same length of time.
A rumbling in her stomach brought home the fact that it had been longer than that since she had eaten anything. Careful not to disturb Harm, she crawled out of bed, looking for the bag of snacks Harm had bought during one of their pit stops the day before. Finding the bag on top of the fridge in the other room, Mac pulled out the half-empty box of chocolate covered pretzels Harm had bought for her. Munching on a handful of pretzels, despite the early hour of the morning, she next began looking for the hotel information packet.
The packet she found sitting on the dresser in the bedroom. Flipping through it, the box of pretzels under her arm, she read that breakfast service didn't begin until seven on Sundays. Still an hour and forty-one minutes away, she thought, closing the folder. She turned around, jumping slightly when she noticed the pair of blue-green eyes studying her.
"I didn't realize you were awake," she said, sitting next to Harm on the edge of the bed.
"Just sitting here enjoying the show," he said, propped up against the headboard, his hands locked behind his head.
"You've seen me in less than this," she teased as she leaned forward, one hand resting beside him on the bed while her other hand roamed over his bare chest. Her hand slipped beneath the sheet draped over the lower part of his body and under the waistband of his boxers. She grinned. "Looks like you've really been enjoying the show."
"What happened to 'cuddling up in bed together without the expectation of sex being involved'?" he teased, biting back a groan as she wrapped her hand around his hard shaft, sliding her hand up and down his length.
"Do you want me to stop?" she asked with a sly smile as her hand stilled.
"Don't you dare," he managed to say as he brought his hands out from behind his head to grasp her shoulders, pulling her closer to him. Leaning forward slightly, he pressed his lips to hers, taking her lower lip between his, gently nibbling and sucking on it.
Mac leaned forward slightly, deepening the kiss as Harm's hands slid down her back, releasing the clasp of her bra. Pulling her hand away from his shaft, she let the bra fall down her arms and pulled it off, dropping it to the floor beside the bed. Smiling at Harm, she stood and, leaning forward slightly, she hooked her thumbs in the waistband of her panties, sliding them over her hips and letting them fall to the floor.
Stepping out of the panties, she turned back to the bed and pulled the sheet away from Harm's body. Licking her lips, she let her gaze travel over his well muscled body before she reached out to slide his boxers down his legs, Harm lifting his hips to assist her.
Leaning over him, she placed few soft kisses on his stomach before moving lower to take the tip of him in her mouth, letting her tongue circle around him. He reached behind him to grasp the wrought iron headboard, biting his lower lip as she relaxed her throat, taking him into her mouth as far as she could before sliding back up so that only his tip was between her lips.
Harm tightened his grip on the headboard as the tension inside him built, his breath coming in short pants. "Sarah," he gasped, his voice pleading as he fought to hold off his impending peak.
Releasing him, she moved over him, straddling him as she leaned forward as far as she could until her face was just inches from his. Their eyes locked on each other, she reached between their bodies, guiding him into her, exhaling the breath she'd been holding, closing her eyes for a brief moment.
When she opened them again, Harm had released the headboard and placed his hands on her hips, guiding her slow, torturous movements over him as she tossed her head back, licking her suddenly dry lips.
Conscious of the fact that he had been the one to benefit from their foreplay, Harm took one of his hands off her hip and slipped it between their bodies, his fingers finding her clit and rubbing it gently as he leaned forward slightly, his mouth fastening on one of her breasts, his tongue gently circling the hardened peak.
Mac increased the tempo of her movements over him, her muscles tightening around his shaft as he climaxed long and hard, his body shuttering beneath hers as he continued the movements of his hand and mouth on her for a few seconds until she followed him over the edge.
As their movements stilled and their breathing slowly returned to normal, Mac leaned forward again, resting her head on his shoulder as Harm wrapped his arms around her, holding her.
"You comfortable?" he asked softly.
"Um-hmm," she murmured. "You know how much I love you?"
"I hope as much as I love you," he replied.
"More," she teased, her soft laughter the last thing he heard as his eyes drifted closed.
After a leisurely breakfast next to the lily pond behind the inn, Harm and Mac found themselves unable to decide what they wanted to do first. Finally, Harm suggested just driving around until the found something which caught their fancy. Eventually, they had made their way over to Chincoteague Island and Harm had suggested a walk along the beach until they decided what else they wanted to do.
Parking at a beach on the Atlantic side of the island, Harm suggested leaving their shoes in the car and walking barefoot in the sand. Mac had protested, suggesting the pavement they would have to walk over to get onto the beach would be too hot.
"It's not too hot," Harm insisted, taking off his shoes before getting out of the car and walking around to her side in his bare feet to prove the point.
"It had better not be," she retorted as she kicked off her shoes and climbed out of the car while he went around to get something out of the back of the car. Mac noted that the pavement didn't feel too bad beneath her feet. She looked down, making sure there were no obvious hazards such as pieces of glass on the ground and walked to the edge of the sand, stopping to wait for Harm.
When Harm joined her, she was surprised to see him carrying a small pail. Lifting an eyebrow, she asked, "Planning on building a sand castle?" Somehow, she was having a hard time imagining that scenario.
"Hadn't thought of that actually," he replied as they began walking towards the water. "I thought we could collect some sea shells."
"Shells?" Mac echoed. The idea of Harmon Rabb just walking along the water picking up shells was an even harder one to picture than him building a sand castle.
"Yeah," he said, grinning at her. "Haven't you ever just walked along the shore, picking up shells? Come on, it'll be fun. And that's what this little trip is supposed to be about, relaxing and having fun."
Mac shrugged. It did sound like fun and they could always use more of that. As they walked down towards the water, she stole a glance at Harm, marveling at the relaxed expression on his face, trying to remember the last time she had seen him that at ease with himself and the world around him.
Harm turned to look at her and noticed her scrutiny. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.
"Hmmm, just trying to remember when was the last time I saw you looking so relaxed and carefree," she replied.
A thoughtful expression crossed his face and he shrugged. "To be honest," he said, "I can't remember. An obsessive personality doesn't leave much room for relaxation."
"True," she admitted. "I do have to say that I'm surprised to hear you actually admit that you are obsessive. Knowing that you're behaving a certain way and actually admitting it aloud are two very different things."
"Well, thank you for the psychoanalysis, Dr. Mackenzie," he teased as they turned to begin walking along the water's edge.
"And I won't even charge you for that little bit of wisdom," she shot back. Spotting a shell, she knelt down to pick it up, grabbing onto his hand for support. As she slowly pulled herself back up with his help, she suggested, "Maybe we should revise that idea of yours. I point out the shells I want and you pick them up."
"I guess I should have thought of that," he apologized. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it," she assured him, setting her shell in the pail. "Sometimes I have a hard time remembering to compensate for the extra seventeen pounds and counting that I am carrying around my middle."
They walked along the shore for a few minutes in companionable silence, enjoying the feel of the gentle breeze ruffling their hair and the cool water rolling against their feet. Eventually, they came to some rocks large enough to sit on and Mac suggested taking a break for a few minutes.
"Tired?" he asked as they sat down side by side on a large rock, propping their feet up on a smaller rock in front of them.
"Not really," she replied, looking at him intently. "I just wanted to talk and thought we should sit down to do it."
"About Australia," he stated. He'd known this was going to come sooner or later. The coward in him had just hoped against hope that it would be later.
"We did say we were going to try and talk about it," she reminded him. "You seem to still be beating yourself up over it and I don't want that hanging over us forever."
"There's so much that I was thinking and feeling that night," he said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her closer. "I'm not sure where to start."
"Do you remember everything that was said that night?" she asked.
"Kind of hard to forget since I've been torturing myself about it for almost seven months," he pointed out.
"Well, then let's start at the beginning," she suggested, "when you pointed out 'what man ever really understands a woman'."
"Partly it was about you on the beach with Mic," he admitted, "but I was also wondering how someone so smart could keep making such bad choices in men. Well, not necessarily bad men, because even I have to admit Mic was pretty decent about the whole breakup, but how about making choices in men that are bad for you?"
"I don't know for sure," she replied. "Maybe given my past, I didn't really believe deep down that I deserved better. If I knew the answer to that question for sure, maybe I wouldn't have made those choices."
"Of course," he continued, turning away to look out over the ocean, "it drove me crazy, the idea that you were topless on that beach with another man."
"I wasn't, you know," she said softly.
"You weren't?" he asked, unconsciously echoing his words from that night.
"Mic did suggest it," she explained, placing a hand on his knee and squeezing gently. "But I was uncomfortable with the idea, so I insisted that he tie the strings behind my back."
"I also hated the idea that you seemed to be enjoying the fact that I was uncomfortable with the idea that you had been topless," he said.
"I will admit that was not the brightest move on my part," she replied. "I guess unconsciously I was trying to make you jealous, hoping you'd make a move. I had decided that I was going to lay everything on the line with you, as far as what I was feeling, but maybe there was a part of me that was scared about how you would react and I was hoping that you would make the first move."
"Last night, you asked me to later explain that statement I made," he said, turning his head back to look at her.
"When you said that it was because you cherished me that you pushed me away?"
"Yeah," he said softly. "I wasn't at a very good place in my life at the time, with leaving JAG and coming back, the resulting tension between us and some other things. I wanted you; I have ever since I let myself get to know you as Sarah Mackenzie and not just a carbon copy of Diane. That was never the issue. Deep down, I was scared."
"Of what, exactly?" she asked gently as he covered her hand on his knee with his hand.
"Messing it up," he replied. "I knew, given the state my life was in, that if we'd gotten involved at that time any relationship between us would have self-destructed. At that time, I would have just been another bad choice for you. I loved you too much to put you through that."
"That's what you meant when you said you couldn't let go," she said, everything suddenly so clear. "You thought you needed to straighten out your own life before we could pursue a relationship."
"Of course, the ultimate irony is that I couldn't explain it very clearly," he said, laughing bitterly. "I'm a lawyer and a very good one. You don't get that way without being able to communicate effectively, yet I completely screwed up one of the most important conversations in my life."
"It didn't help that I wasn't listening very well that night," she reminded him. "I don't know, maybe I figured that love would conquer all, we'd fall into each others' arms and ride off into the sunset. Sounds corny, doesn't it? But when you didn't respond to the overtures I was making, I was so hurt that I blocked out what you were actually saying and interpreted it my own way."
"And that interpretation sent you running straight into another man's arms," he finished. "We're quite the pair, aren't we?"
"I guess with all the mistakes we've made, we deserve each other," she teased. When he didn't respond, she poked him in the ribs. "Come on, that was a little bit funny."
"I suppose," he said, "but I'd prefer to think of it as we have been through so much that we deserve to be happy with each other."
"Okay, who are you and what have you done with my fiancé?" Mac asked, laughing. "Let's see, in the space of an hour, you've managed to admit that you're obsessive, jealous, scared and unable to communicate personal feelings very well."
Finally, she managed to get a smile out of him. "Don't let it get out," he shot back, "I've got a reputation to protect."
"You keep this up and everyone's going to see that beneath that arrogant, flyboy ego you're just a big marshmallow inside," she said, grinning.
"A marshmallow?" he questioned, kissing the top of her head. "Ouch."
Turning serious again, she asked, "So are we finally okay about everything that happened that night?"
Harm smiled at her, a relaxed and peaceful expression on his face. "Yeah," he replied, "I think we're definitely okay."
SUNDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER
"Hi, Carolyn," Sydney greeted the younger woman as she opened the front door. She motioned Carolyn into the house.
"I'm not late, am I?" Carolyn asked. "I got stuck behind an accident on the American Legion bridge."
"No, we're still waiting for Jackie," Sydney assured her. "Maybe she got stuck behind the same accident."
Carolyn nodded as she followed Sydney into the living room. "Probably," she said. "I think she would have crossed the same bridge to get here."
Mac and Harriet were sitting on the couch, pointing out items in a catalog. Mac looked up as Sydney and Carolyn entered the room. "Hi, Carolyn," Mac said. "Take a seat. Can I get you anything?"
Carolyn sat on the loveseat and shook her head. "No, I'm fine," she replied. "What are you looking at?"
"Baby furniture," Harriet said. "The Commander and - sorry, Harm and Mac - went to Babies R Us a few weeks ago and decided to do some comparison shopping before they bought anything."
"Good thing, too," Mac said. "We saw this crib at Babies R Us that was almost four hundred dollars. We just found a similar one in the Exchange Catalog that's only two hundred and fifty."
"I guess I never thought about how expensive babies could be," Carolyn admitted as she leaned forward to look at the catalog in Mac's hands. "And you have to buy two of everything."
"Which is the main reason for the comparison shopping," Mac said as she flipped to another page. "Ouch, nearly four hundred dollars for a rocker and that doesn't include the ottoman."
Sydney stood at the side of the couch and looked over Mac's shoulder. "Those glider rockers are more expensive."
"That's worse than the crib we saw," Mac said, chagrined. "And with two babies, we should probably get two of those also so that Harm and I can both rock the babies at the same time." She flipped a few more pages. "No tandem strollers in here though. That's definitely on the must-buy list."
"Have you thought about going to the furniture store at Andrews Air Force Base?" Harriet asked. "Bud and I bought a lot of AJ's stuff there and they have more of a selection than the Exchange catalog."
Mac set the catalog on the coffee table and sighed. "We'll have to make a trip out there when we get back from ... wherever we're going for our honeymoon."
Carolyn smiled. "He still won't tell you where you're going?"
"No," Mac said. "I've tried to get it out of him, but the witness is nonresponsive."
"And is that a bad thing?" Sydney mused. "After all, you came back looking pretty ... relaxed after that surprise trip to the Eastern Shore."
Mac smiled softly as she remembered the incredible weekend at the beach a few weeks earlier. That definitely ranked as one of Harm's better ideas. She was about to reply, but the doorbell sounded.
"I'll get that," Sydney said, heading for the door again. When she returned a moment later, it was with both Rachel Carlisle, carrying an armful of garment bags, and Jackie Mattoni in tow.
"I've got all the dresses finished," Rachel announced, laying the bags over the back of a chair. "Is everyone ready to try them on?"
After they had all put on their dresses and while Rachel was checking them for any minor adjustments, Carolyn turned to Jackie. "So did you get stuck behind the accident on the American Legion bridge, too?" she asked.
"I didn't realize there was an accident on the bridge," Jackie replied. "I was just running behind, that's why I was late." She blushed slightly at the last part.
"Spending time with your husband?" Sydney suggested. When Jackie blushed even more, Sydney added, "Come on. With the exception of Carolyn here, we've all got guys of our own and it's obvious that two of us have been very busy with their guys." She nodded towards Mac and Harriet, both of whom were struggling to get into dresses which had fit the week before. Fortunately, Rachel had no problems with a last minute fitting Friday morning after they arrived in Annapolis, just in case either of them put on any more weight in the next five days.
Jackie smiled as she replied, "Funny you should mention that. Alan and I have actually been talking about trying to have a baby."
"That's wonderful," Harriet said enthusiastically.
"You were probably doing more than just talking," Sydney commented knowingly, "since you were late today."
"Sydney!" Mac exclaimed.
"Oh, we're all adults here," Sydney said, shrugging, "and none of us are inexperienced. Anyway, Jackie, that is wonderful. Good luck to you and Alan."
"Yes, good luck," Mac agreed. "It is wonderful news."
"Thanks," Jackie replied, taking off her dress once Rachel was satisfied that it fit properly. "I don't know, I guess being around you and Harriet and seeing little AJ has made us wish for children of our own."
Mac noticed Carolyn had a strange look in her eyes. "Are you okay?" she asked. "All this talk about our guys and babies isn't bothering you, is it?"
"No, I'm fine," Carolyn assured her, not sounding entirely sure herself. "I've always been so focused on my career and now maybe I am wishing a little for a meaningful relationship with a man."
"Mac, isn't Commander Keeter single?" Harriet asked.
Mac nodded. "I could introduce you to him," she suggested. "He is a really nice guy and very polite. And he does have dress whites and gold wings."
"I suppose," Carolyn said, not sounding too enthusiastic about the idea.
"So, Mac," Sydney began, deciding a change in topic was in order, "when is everyone arriving for the wedding?"
"Harm's parents are supposed to be here later this evening," she replied. "We're picking them up at Dulles. Uncle Matt arrives Wednesday afternoon at Andrews. Gram Sarah is coming into Reagan tomorrow afternoon. Chloe and her grandparents are coming in Thursday afternoon at Dulles, just in time for the party that night. Clay still hasn't told us when Keeter is arriving, but it is supposed to be within the next couple of days. Let me think, who else. Commander Coulter is coming in at BWI Thursday morning. Tom Boone is flying into Andrews Thursday afternoon. Tuna, Skates and Boomer are coming in from the Patrick Henry Thursday morning, also at Andrews. Francesca's coming in tomorrow at BWI. Oh, and Lieutenant Rivers is coming in from San Diego Friday evening."
"Sounds like you'll be visiting every airport in the DC area this week," Harriet commented.
"Actually, Harm's parents have offered to pick up some of the guests while Harm and I are at work," Mac explained. "Harm and I have a lot of work to do to get everything at JAG squared away by Thursday. And of course, the Admiral will be picking up Francesca."
"Is this going to be the first time you've met Francesca, Sydney?" Carolyn asked, happy for the change in subject.
"Yes," she replied. "We've spoken on the phone a few times and she seems nice enough and, of course, AJ thinks the world of her. I'm just a little nervous about meeting her. At least I've already introduced AJ to my son. One less thing to worry about."
"I'm sure Francesca will like you," Mac tried to assure her. "After all, you make her father happy."
Carolyn walked into the tavern and took a seat at the bar. After a moment, the bartender noticed her and asked, "What can I get you?"
"Just a club soda with a twist of lime," she replied with a sigh. She didn't even feel up to drinking tonight. She set her purse on the bar and took a handful of peanuts from a nearby bowl.
"Is this seat taken?" a male voice asked from just behind her.
Carolyn looked over her shoulder to see a man with dark blond hair who appeared to be in his late thirties standing just behind her. She shrugged. "No, I'm here alone."
"And something tells me that bothers you," the man commented as he sat on the stool. When the bartender returned with Carolyn's drink, the man ordered a bourbon.
"Is it that obvious?" Carolyn asked, stealing a glance at the man beside her.
He shrugged, "You just look like you could use a friend."
"Oh, friends I've got," Carolyn said as she took a sip of her drink. "In a way, that's the problem."
"I wouldn't think having friends would be a problem," the man pointed out as the bartender arrived with his own drink. "Unless they're the wrong kind of friends."
"My friends definitely aren't that," she replied thoughtfully. "I couldn't ask for better friends. It's just ... " she trailed off, laughing. "This is going to sound funny."
"Well, it's just that they're all so happy," she explained. "Two of my friends are getting married on Saturday and they're expecting a couple of babies in February."
"And you wish that was you," he concluded.
"It's just that ... oh, I don't know," Carolyn said, waving her hands. "Last year, one of my friends had a baby and I began wishing that I could have a baby. Now, that friend is getting ready to have another baby. Another friend, as I said, is getting married and having a couple of kids. And then my partner at work, his wife tells us today that they're trying to have a baby. "
"It does seem like you're surrounded by people having babies," he commented as he sipped his bourbon.
"And then my boss," Carolyn continued, for some reason feeling comfortable talking to the stranger beside her, "who is almost old enough to be my father, is happily engaged to this really nice woman."
"So you're feeling a little down because everyone around you is happy with families," he concluded.
"Something like that," she agreed. She turned to the man beside her and smiled wanly. "You know, I've always been so focused on my career and a family didn't seem as important. But all my friends work with me and when I see them juggling a demanding career and families ... "
"You wonder why that couldn't be you," he interrupted.
"My friend," she added, "the one who's getting married, she offered to introduce me to her fiancé's college roommate. He's the only single person besides me in the wedding party."
"And is that a problem?" he asked. "I mean, if you like him, that would be good, right? If not, then you don't have to see him again."
"I don't know," she answered honestly. "Maybe I'm just feeling a little pathetic that my friends have to set me up on a blind date."
"Well, do you know any men that you are interested in?" he asked her, finishing off his drink.
"There's this one guy at work," she said with a laugh. "I can't believe I'm telling you this. Anyway, he is gorgeous and I mean drop-dead. His smile could make could make any woman melt. A woman would have to be blind not to be attracted to this guy. But it would never go any further than innocent attraction."
"Guys like that tend to be taken," he pointed out.
"Getting married on Saturday," she said.
"Your friend's fiancé?" he asked, smiling. Carolyn nodded.
"He's a good friend, though," she explained, "and everyone's always known that he and his fiancée are made for each other. Took them a while to figure that out though."
"So why was that?" he asked, motioning to the bartender for another drink.
"With them, who knows," she replied, nodding when the bartender looked at her empty glass, silently asking if she would like another also. "They're both really smart people in other areas, but it took them four years to admit to what everyone else knew."
"Sound like a friend of mine and his partner at work," he said. "Except that last I heard from my friend, his partner was practically engaged to another man. I only saw them together once, but the way my friend always talked about her prior to that and what I saw of them together, I thought they were crazy. They both kept insisting that they were only friends."
"So maybe she loved this other guy more," Carolyn suggested.
Her new friend shrugged. "I met the other guy once also," he said. "I can't explain it, but there just didn't seem to me to be any sparks between him and my friend's partner."
"Maybe you were just prejudiced in favor of your friend," she pointed out.
"Perhaps. But my friend lives in DC, so while I'm in town I'm planning to stop in to see him, see if maybe his partner isn't 'practically engaged' anymore," he said.
"So you're not from here," Carolyn said.
"I travel a lot for my work, so I don't really have a home," he explained. "I'm in town because this guy I work with suddenly called me to DC, no explanation given."
"So what do you do for a living?"
"I'm a pilot," he answered. "Maybe he needs me to fly somewhere for him. I don't know. Visiting him is also on the agenda for tomorrow, in addition to seeing my friend. Now, what do you do?"
"I'm a lawyer," she said. "I mostly defend murder cases, but I handle a few other cases on the side from time to time. Anyway, thank you."
"For distracting me," she answered. "You're easy to talk to and you helped get my mind off other things."
"A pretty woman like you shouldn't be sitting here depressed, ma'am," he teased.
"Are you flirting with me?" Carolyn teased back.
"And if I said yes?"
Carolyn smiled. For some reason she couldn't explain, she was drawn to this man. "Then I'd be flattered," she replied.
"Flattered enough to have dinner with me?" he asked, smiling back.
He does have a nice smile, she thought. What the hell? "If I'm going to have dinner with you, I think you should at least know my name," she said, her smile even wider. "It's Carolyn."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Carolyn. I'm Jack," Jack Keeter replied, holding his hand out. Without hesitation, Carolyn shook it. "So since I'm new to the DC area, what's a good place to eat around here?"
MONDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER
Despite nearly being late to work, Carolyn was whistling when she walked into JAG. After an enjoyable dinner with Jack, she had offered to drop him off at his hotel since he had taken a taxi to McMurphy's the night before. After talking about everything and nothing for several hours, Carolyn had said her goodbyes and prepared to leave, saying that she had an early staff meeting in the morning. She had been ready to open the door, her hand on the doorknob. Then Jack had kissed her goodnight.
And what a kiss it was, Carolyn reflected. She'd been kissed before, but never before had it felt so *charged*. Despite the rational, logical voice in her head reminding her that she'd only met Jack a few hours earlier, she had uncharacteristically thrown caution to the wind and had stayed the night. When morning came, she had been very reluctant to leave and had returned home with barely enough time to throw on her uniform, grab her briefcase and race across the Potomac to work.
Entering the bullpen, she saw Lauren and Alfred still at their desks gathering up some files, so the staff meeting had obviously not started yet. Deciding it was probably best not to take the time to stop in her office first, Carolyn kept her briefcase with her and followed Lauren and Alfred into the conference room.
They entered the room right ahead of the Admiral. Carolyn breathed a sigh of relief that she wouldn't be busted for being late. Throughout the meeting, Carolyn was preoccupied with thoughts of Jack, while keeping one ear half-tuned to what was going on around her in case the Admiral asked her something, a distinct possibility since she would be covering some of Mac's cases while Harm and Mac were on their honeymoon.
As the meeting broke up, Carolyn headed for the kitchen for her first cup of coffee of the day. All the while, she wished that she had Mac's ability with time so that she could count down the hours until she would see Jack again that evening.
"Good morning, Commander," Harriet greeted Carolyn when she entered the kitchen to stash her lunch in the fridge.
"Good morning, Harriet," Carolyn said brightly, leaning against the counter with her mug of coffee in hand.
As Harriet stored her lunch, she looked over her shoulder at Carolyn. "You seem to be in a good mood this morning, Commander," she commented.
"I am, Harriet," Carolyn replied, smiling widely. "It's a very good morning, don't you think?"
"Ma'am, it's Monday," Harriet said, puzzled. She couldn't remember Carolyn coming into work quite this chipper. She wondered at the cause of her friend's good cheer.
"Well, sometimes even Monday can surprise you and be a good day," Carolyn said.
"And if you don't mind my asking, Commander," Harriet began, wildly curious, "is there a reason for your good mood? I mean, I was a little worried after yesterday's dress fitting that you felt a little left out when the rest of us were talking about our guys and babies and all that stuff."
"Don't worry about it, Harriet," Carolyn said with a laugh, marveling at the thought of meeting the man who could possibly be the man of her dreams while she was depressed about being the only unattached female in her circle of friends. "After all, I can understand about wanting to brag about having wonderful relationships such as you, Jackie, Mac and Sydney have. As for the other, actually there is a reason."
"And?" Harriet asked, momentarily forgetting about propriety. She was just too curious.
"I met someone," Carolyn confided, nearly jumping with excitement. "His name's Jack, he's a pilot, I met him at McMurphy's, we had dinner and a long talk. He is so sweet and easy to talk to. Eventually, one thing led to another ... " she trailed off, knowing Harriet would be able to connect the dots on the last part.
"Ma'am, this is so exciting," Harriet exclaimed. She was a hopeless romantic and when her friends were happy and in love, she was happy. "Why don't you ask him to accompany you to the wedding? I'm sure the Colonel and the Commander won't mind adding someone to the guest list."
"If they don't mind," Carolyn replied, excited about the idea, "I'd love to ask him. Harriet, I think I'm in love." The last sentence came out in a rush of excitement.
"Well, I think it's just wonderful, Ma'am," Harriet replied. Even if it did seem kind of sudden, Carolyn was so excited that Harriet couldn't help being excited for her.
"Commander Keeter," Bud called out, catching sight of Jack, dressed in his summer whites complete with gold wings, exiting the elevator as Bud headed for his office. "it's good to see you again."
"Good to see you too, Lieutenant," Jack greeted. "Is Harm around? I just got into town yesterday and I thought I'd stop by and say hello before I head off to meet Webb to find out just why he called me here."
Bud was puzzled. "You mean Mr. Webb didn't tell you why he was bringing you here?" he asked.
"No, I just assumed he wanted to brief me in person on a new mission," Jack explained. "You almost sound like you know why he called me here."
"Well, Sir," Bud began, wondering if he should just take Jack to Harm and let him explain. He stole a quick glance in the direction of Harm's office and saw that the door was open, but Harm wasn't at his desk. As he started to turn back to Jack, he spotted his wife and Carolyn coming out of the kitchen heading for the bullpen. He motioned them over. "Harriet, Commander, have either of you seen Commander Rabb?"
Carolyn was about to reply when she caught sight of the man standing next to Bud. Her mouth dropped open in surprise. "Jack," she stammered out, her heart beating wildly, "when you told me you were a pilot, you didn't tell me you were a Navy pilot."
Jack smiled widely at the woman whom he had been thinking about ever since she had left his hotel room that morning. "Carolyn," he countered, his eyes twinkling merrily, "when you told me you were a lawyer, you didn't tell me you were a Navy lawyer."
"Touché," Carolyn replied, smothering a laugh. But nothing could displace the huge grin on her face.
"Commander Imes," Bud said, "I didn't realize that you were acquainted with Commander Keeter."
Carolyn's mouth dropped open in surprise for the second time in a minute and this time she couldn't control the laughter. How was that for irony, she thought. "I should have realized last night," she exclaimed, "when you said that you had a friend you thought was in love with his partner from work and that the last time you had spoken to your friend, the partner was practically engaged to another man."
"That story sounds very familiar," Harriet pointed out, smiling while Bud looked everyone in confusion. So this was Carolyn's Jack, Harriet thought. And if Harriet was any judge of character and the way Jack was looking at Carolyn, he felt the same thing about Carolyn that she did about him. Being the hopeless romantic, she wondered if there could be another JAG wedding sometime in the not to distant future.
"Uh, excuse me, Commander Imes," Bud interrupted, "about Commander Rabb." Carolyn and Jack both turned to look at him, slightly embarrassed that they had been just standing there staring at each other.
"Sorry, Bud," Carolyn said, flushing slightly. "I believe he's in the Admiral's office. I think it has something to do with his transfer."
"Transfer?" Jack asked, puzzled. "He's not going back to flying again, is he? From what he has said, he's happier back at JAG."
"No, he's going to be a military liaison on the hill," Carolyn informed him, then she remembered a bit of their conversation the night before. "That's right, you said last night you didn't know why you had been called to DC."
"Sounds like you do," Jack commented, puzzled at what that had to do with Harm's transfer.
"Well, do you remember last night when I said my friend who was getting married was trying to set me up with her fiancé's college roommate?" Carolyn asked.
"Yeah, but what does that ... " Jack trailed off as understanding dawned. "You mean Harm is getting married!?" Bud, Harriet and Carolyn all nodded, smiling. "And that would make me the college roommate."
Carolyn nodded again, trying to smother a laugh. "I'm sorry," she said, "but you do have to admit that it's pretty ironic."
"I guess it is," Jack replied with a laugh. "So, who is Harm marrying?" Suddenly, his conversation with Carolyn at McMurphy's played in his mind. "You said that everyone knew that your friends who are getting married were made for each other, but it took them a while - four years, to be exact - to figure it out. He's marrying Mac, isn't he?"
"At the Academy chapel Saturday morning at ten hundred hours," Carolyn confirmed. "I hope Mr. Webb at least told you that you would need your dress whites."
"They're back at my hotel room," Jack replied.
"Good, then you won't look out of place ... " Carolyn trailed off when she caught sight of Mac walking in their direction. "Colonel, look who just arrived."
Mac smiled when she saw Jack standing with Carolyn, Bud and Harriet. When she reached them, she greeted him, "It's good to see you again, Keeter. I know Harm will be relieved that Clay was able to get you here."
"Permission to hug the bride-to-be?" he asked, holding out his arms.
"Permission granted," Mac replied as she stepped into his outstretched arms.
"Congratulations, Mac," he whispered to her. "I'm sure you and Harm will be very happy."
"Not trying to steal my Marine, are you?"
Jack stepped away from Mac and saw Harm walking towards them accompanied by the Admiral. He just grinned at his old friend. "Hey, I tried to talk her into running away with me back in the desert, but she turned me down," he joked, a mock frown on his face. "It's good to see you, buddy. Congratulations."
"It's about time you got here," Harm said. "Admiral AJ Chegwidden, this is my Academy roommate, Commander Jack Keeter. Keeter, this is Admiral Chegwidden."
"So you're the one my people have to keep rescuing from hostile countries," AJ commented dryly, folding his arms across his chest.
"Yes, Sir," Jack replied, not quite sure what to make of the Admiral's statement, however true it might be.
"It's good to finally meet you, Commander," AJ said. "Try not to get into any trouble while you're here."
"I'll try, Sir," Jack said, breaking into a smile.
"So, Keeter, did you just get here?" Harm asked. "Have you met everyone? Of course, you already know Sarah and Bud."
"Actually, Carolyn and I met last night," he replied, smiling at Carolyn. "But no one's introduced me to the pretty Lieutenant j.g. here."
Harriet blushed. Being eight months pregnant, it wasn't often that she heard compliments like that. Bud took care of the introductions. "Harriet, this is Commander Jack Keeter. Commander, this is my wife, Lieutenant Harriet Sims."
Jack and Harriet shook hands. "Your husband's a very lucky man, Harriet," he complimented her.
Harriet turned to Carolyn and smiled. "You were right, Commander," she said. "He is sweet."
Jack looked back at Carolyn and smiled while everyone looked from one to the other puzzled. Noticing everyone's scrutiny, Carolyn decided to offer a brief explanation. "I went to McMurphy's last night after the dress fitting," she explained, her eyes never leaving Jack's. "Jack and I sat next to each other at the bar and got to talking. We didn't realize, though, that we have friends in common."
"As fascinating as this is," AJ said, "let's get back to work. Some people have until seventeen hundred hours on Thursday to clear their desks or they will be spending their honeymoon right here."
He was answered with a chorus of "Yes, Sir". He turned and headed back for his office, Bud headed for his and Harriet went to her desk in the bullpen.
"Boy, you move fast," Harm teased Jack. "Just got here and already have a girl in port."
"What can I say," he shot back, winking at Carolyn. "She knew a good thing when she saw it."
"Word of warning," Mac said to Carolyn, throwing a glance at the men. "Watch out for the flyboy ego."
"Hey, you know what they say about dress whites and gold wings," Jack teased.
Mac shrugged, pretending disinterest. "Highly overrated," she said indifferently.
"Then I suppose you won't mind if we skip the military ceremony and go with plain tuxedos," Harm suggested with a shrug.
"Don't you dare!" Mac exclaimed, laughing.
Carolyn looked at Jack speculatively, imagining him in his dress whites and gold wings. "I agree," she added. "I think you should stick with the dress whites."
"Someone's got it bad," Mac whispered, leaning towards Carolyn.
"Like Jack said," she whispered back. "I knew a good thing when I saw it."
"Harm, what's wrong?" Mac asked as they changed out of their uniforms, looking at the folder in his hand. "You've been very quiet most of the day."
Harm, sitting on their bed, patted the comforter next to him. "Sit down for a minute," he said. "There's something I'd like to talk to you about."
Mystified, she did as he asked, looking at him expectantly. After a moment, Harm sighed and handed her the folder he had carried upstairs with him. "A few weeks ago, I asked Gunny to get some information for me. This is what he found." He watched her, waiting patiently while she perused the information Gunny had given him.
"Why?" she asked, afraid that if she said any more that she would end up blowing up at him.
Harm sensed the anger behind the question and wondered for not the first time if he'd done the right thing. After a moment's hesitation, he replied, "I thought you might want to invite her to the wedding."
"Have you already contacted her?" she continued, her voice tight.
"No," he replied, keeping his voice steady. "I wanted to leave the decision up to you. I just asked Gunny to find out where she is."
"Why would I want to contact her?"
"Sarah, she is your mother," he reminded her. "I thought... "
"She gave up the right to be called my mother when she walked out on my fifteenth birthday," she retorted, her voice rising in anger.
"Weren't you the one who said running into her at your father's deathbed was a 'growing experience'?" he asked, keeping his voice level in the face of her anger.
"That doesn't mean it's an experience that I'd like to repeat," she cried. "She didn't even care enough about me to keep track of me all those years. She didn't even know that her own brother was in Leavenworth. Anyway, if she wanted to be a part of my life, she's had a year and a half since my father died to contact me, but she hasn't. Doesn't that tell you anything?"
"Maybe she's afraid that you wouldn't want anything to do with her," Harm said quietly. "Maybe she didn't think she'd be able to take it if she contacted you and you rejected her."
"Why shouldn't I reject her?" she demanded. "She rejected me first when she walked out."
"Sarah," he said, deciding to try a different tack, "maybe she'd like the chance to get to know her grandchildren. They could bring you two together."
Mac was quiet for a long moment. The question of what to tell the twins about her parents had bothered her on and off since she had found out she was pregnant. Her father was the easy one - all she would have to say is that he was dead, which was the truth. Her mother was trickier. She could lie and say she was dead also, but what if the truth eventually came out? She didn't like the idea of lying to her own children. But how do you explain to young children that their Mommy's mother didn't care enough to be a part of her family's lives?
"Look, I said before that this was your decision," Harm assured her. "And I meant that."
"But you want me to contact her," she said quietly, staring down at the folder laying open in her hands without really seeing it through the tears forming in her eyes.
"I won't think any less of you if you don't," he said, putting his arm around her shoulder to pull her closer. But instead of leaning into his embrace as she normally would, she sat there still and unyielding. "Sarah ... "
"Harm, don't," she said, her voice breaking. She pulled away from him and stood. "I don't need this right now." She turned and fled from the room, dropping the folder on the bed before she left.
Damn, he thought. He had hoped that this would be a good thing, trying to bring mother and daughter together. Instead, all he had done was get Mac mad at him with less than five days to go before the wedding. Just great.
"Do you want to talk about it?" a voice asked from the doorway. Harm looked up from studying the floor to find Frank standing there.
"How did you know?" Harm asked.
Frank walked into the room and sat down a few feet from Harm on the bed. "Your mother was walking by and heard you two," he explained. "She's talking to Mac downstairs right now."
"I thought I was doing the right thing," Harm said, frustrated. "Mac has been talking about this being a new beginning. I just thought ... I don't know, that maybe becoming a mother herself would make her want to open up the lines of communication with her own mother. I thought that our children should have the chance to get to know their other grandmother."
"I don't pretend to know everything about Mac's relationship with her mother," Frank said. "But from her point of view, she thinks she has valid reasons for not wanting to see or talk to her mother. Whether those reasons are right or wrong is not the point and it's not up to you to get her to do something she's not ready for."
"And I wasn't trying to make her contact her mother," Harm said quietly. "I just had Gunny find out where she is and then I turned the information over to Mac. I wanted to leave the decision up to her."
"But did it occur to you that even though you said the decision was up to her," Frank suggested, "that she unconsciously took the fact that you had gone to the trouble of getting the information as a sign that you did want her to contact her mother?"
Harm was quiet for a moment, finally admitting, "I never thought of it like that."
"One of the hardest things in a relationship is to make yourself see things from the other person's point of view," Frank pointed out. "Now, you told me what you were thinking when you did this. Before you started this, did you stop to think about what she might think about it? I know that you would like to see Mac reconcile with her mother and for everyone to be one big, happy family. But if Mac feels that she's been forced into it, is everyone really going to be better off?"
"I don't know," Harm admitted, sighing. "When her father was dying, I talked her into going out to California to see him. Later, when she thanked me, I said that I couldn't have talked her into it if she didn't really want to be talked into it. I guess I was hoping the same thing would apply here. So I guess in a way, I was unconsciously putting pressure on her to contact her mother."
"It's good that you realize that," Frank said, patting Harm's shoulder, "but I'm not the one you need to tell it to."
Harm turned his head and smiled at Frank. "Thanks, Frank."
"Come on," Frank suggested, standing. "Let's go find your mother and Mac."
"Darling, do you want to talk about it?" Trish asked as Mac entered the living room.
Mac sat down on the couch next to Trish and sighed. "How did you know?" she asked.
"I was upstairs getting something," she explained. "When I was getting ready to head back downstairs, I passed by your room and heard most of what was said."
"I can't believe he did this," Mac exclaimed. "He knows how I feel about my mother. Why would he think that I would even want to contact her?"
"I don't know," Trish said, patting Mac's hand comfortingly. "Maybe now that he's accepted Frank's presence in my life, in his life, he wants to see you make peace with your mother. Maybe he wants your children to have a chance to know their other grandmother."
"My relationship with my mother is not the same as his with Frank," Mac pointed out. "Even when he wouldn't admit it, Harm always knew that Frank was there for him. My mother walked out on me when I was fifteen and has never bothered to contact me in all that time. Even after she saw me when my father died, she still didn't try to keep in touch with me. As for the other, if she doesn't care for me, why should I expect that she would care about my children?"
"I don't pretend to understand why she has done the things she has. But let me ask you this. If she was to reach out on her own and contact you, would you want to talk to her?" Trish asked.
Mac was thoughtful for a moment, then softly replied, "Honestly, I don't know."
"Maybe she's afraid that you wouldn't want anything to do with her," Trish suggested. "And is it possible that the reverse is true, that you're afraid that if you do contact her, she won't want anything to do with you?"
"I suppose," Mac admitted.
"But if you do contact her and she doesn't want anything to do with you, would you be any worse off than you are now?" Trish asked.
"I suppose not."
"But if you contact her and she does want a relationship with you, then you'll probably be better off, correct?" she continued.
"Now, I'm not trying to influence you one way or the other," Trish assured her. "As a mother, I can't imagine anything that would make me abandon my child the way she did. On the other hand, I haven't lived the life that she has and can't honestly say that I wouldn't have done the same thing under the same circumstances.
"Now, my point with all this is that maybe that's what Harm was thinking. If you and your mother do reconcile, then that's wonderful for everyone. If you don't contact her, then you're really no worse off. Maybe he just wanted you to have the option."
"I don't know," Mac said sadly. "It just felt like he was trying to influence me to contact her, otherwise, why go through all the trouble of tracking her down? After all, he's the one who talked me into going to California when my father was dying."
"And do you feel that you are better off for having seen him one last time?"
"I was able to forgive him and let go of my anger towards him," she admitted.
"Maybe Harm just wanted you to have that same chance with your mother," Trish suggested gently. "After all, he did say that it was your decision."
"I know," she said softly.
"I'm not taking sides here," Trish said. "To be honest, I think in a way you're both right and you're both wrong. But you need to sit down and talk about it. Tell each other what you're thinking and feeling."
"That sounds like our cue," Harm said as he and Frank entered the living room. Harm sat down on Mac's other side on the couch. Trish got up and motioned to Frank.
"Why don't we leave these two alone?" she suggested, leading him out of the living room. "They have some things to talk about."
"I'm sorry," they both began, breaking off with shaky laughs.
"Please let me," Harm insisted, picking up her left hand and studying the diamond on her third finger, "since I probably owe you the bigger apology."
"An apology from Harmon Rabb," Mac said flatly, trying to smile.
"I've been working on myself," he said, his own smile equally lifeless. "I should have talked to you before I asked Gunny to locate your mother. I know what you went through during your childhood and I should have known better than to spring this on you without thinking this through more."
"I probably shouldn't have reacted as badly as I did," she admitted. "I know that you had only the best intentions and would never intentionally do anything to hurt me."
"But I seem to be unable to help myself when it comes to unintentionally hurting you," he pointed out.
Mac was silent for a moment, studying their hands. "I guess we're doing better if we can talk about it instead of pushing each other away," she said.
"Harm, I don't know if I'm going to contact her," she said, lifting her eyes to meet his. "I don't even know if I want to contact her. It may be too late, but I know you meant well and I do thank you for that."
"I won't push the issue," he said, pulling her into his arms. "The last thing I want to do is make you uncomfortable by forcing you to do something you don't want to do."
"I love you," she said softly, tears filling her eyes.
Just outside the living room, Trish breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn't wanted to eavesdrop, but she was concerned. From what little she had heard about Mac's mother, she knew that was a sore spot for Mac and Trish was determined to be there for her future daughter-in-law.
"I can't believe anyone could treat their child as badly as Mac was apparently treated," she said sadly as she let Frank lead her to the kitchen.
"I know," Frank replied. "You have to admire her, though, for being able to rise above that to become the strong person that she is."
"But even the strongest person needs someone to take care of them sometimes," she pointed out. She smiled at him. "I know I did and I had you."
"And she has Harm," he said.
Copyright © 2005 Legacies Archive - Site owner Pixie