Overworked Guardian Angel
Summary: Harm and Mac get help from an unexpected source.
Note: Please make one assumption. The case involving Master Chief Sullivan did happen, but Dalton did not look at Mac's notes. This act of unethical treachery ended their relationship. For the sake of this story, they need to stay together (for a while anyway). Please forgive any errors in geography. It wasn't (and still isn't) my strong suit.
Disclaimers: They're not mine, and I'm not making any money off them. And we all know who owns Egg McMuffins.
Sarah Mackenzie's Office, JAG HQ . . .
"Come on, Sarah," Dalton said in his best convince-the-jury voice. "Come with me. It'll be great. You can get away to relax a little, and after my depositions are over, we can spend some time together."
"I don't know, Dalton. What am I supposed to do while you're taking depositions all day?" Mac protested.
"You can enjoy the beautiful Charleston sunshine," Dalton answered with a smile. He'd invited Mac to accompany him on a business trip to Charleston, West Virginia, where he was scheduled for several depositions, which would consume the entire day. The plan, as he laid it out for her, was that once his depositions concluded, he'd take her out for dinner, they'd spend the night in Charleston, and then fly home the following day.
He'd invited her on the spur of the moment and in the heat of agitation after he'd been forced to endure yet another story about Harmon Rabb's pilot prowess. He was getting a little tired of that particular Lieutenant Commander, who always seemed to be with them, if not physically, then at least in Sarah's mind. Harmon Rabb wasn't the only person who knew how to fly, Dalton thought. He'd show Sarah what flying was like in his world -- first class all the way, with the firm's private jet and pilot at their command. Though he'd invited her on a whim, it now seemed terribly important that she go with him, almost as though he was asking her to make a choice between him and Rabb. Dalton wasn't used to playing second fiddle to anyone. It wasn't his fault he'd never been in the service or been in a position to save people's lives, thereby making him a "hero" in other's eyes. On his own turf (the courtroom), he could beat anyone -- wait a minute, he'd lost that battle to Rabb, too. Damn the man!
"Please, Sarah. This means a lot to me," he nearly begged.
"I can see that, Dalton. I guess I've got some leave time coming. I could take a couple of days . . ."
"Great!" Dalton interrupted, jumping up from his chair, a boyish grin of victory on his face. "We leave first thing Monday morning! Bring something really nice to wear to dinner! We'll hit the best restaurant Charleston has to offer! I've gotta go now! I'll talk to you tonight!" Dalton blew her a kiss and practically danced out of her office.
"Guess I'd better bring a book to read," Mac said to her empty office. "Or two."
Harm stepped into her office doorway. "The Boy Wonder looked happy," he said.
Mac smiled. "He's actually very nice. You should give him a chance."
Harm's eyes widened in innocence. "Did I say he wasn't nice?"
"You didn't have to," she responded. "Did you want something in particular?"
"Two things, actually. Lunch is one. The other is, can you handle a witness interview for me on Monday?"
"Yes and no," Mac answered.
"Yes, I'd like lunch. No, I can't handle a witness interview for you on Monday."
"Oh," Harm said with some surprise. He wasn't used to her turning him down.
Mac smiled at his reaction. "I was just going to ask the Admiral for a couple of days off."
"Dalton's invited me to go with him on a trip to Charleston, West Virginia."
"Business or pleasure?"
"A little of both," Mac said with a slight blush. "He's taking depositions."
"Doesn't sound very entertaining for you," Harm noted.
"He'll only be tied up during the day. We'll have the night together." Her blush deepened, and she felt the need to continue babbling, aware that he was enjoying her discomfort. "We're flying out on the firm's jet Monday morning, and we'll return on Tuesday."
Harm raised his eyebrows, pretending to be impressed. "The firm has their own jet?"
"They do a lot of traveling," she said with a shrug. "Probably makes more sense than commercial."
"My company has a whole fleet of planes," Harm said.
"This isn't about *you*, is it, Fly Boy? Maybe you're just jealous."
"Of Lowne?" Harm said, his disdain obvious. "Doubtful. Are you ready for lunch?"
"Yeah. Just give me a couple of minutes. I want to talk to the Admiral about next week."
"Take all the time you need. It may take a while to convince the old man."
Despite Harm's warning, the Admiral okayed her requested without hesitation.
Monday Morning, Ronald Reagan Airport . . .
The small jet took off smoothly, and once they were airborne, the pilot told them they were free to take their seatbelts off and move around.
Mac was impressed by the interior of the plane: a well-stocked bar, a large collection of law books, plush carpeting, comfortable chairs, and desks for working on. Dalton immediately hit the books in preparation for his depositions. Mac sat back with a sigh, preparing herself for a long, boring day. Dinner had better be good, she thought.
The sky over West Virginia . . .
They'd been flying for twenty minutes. Dalton had his nose buried in several books, taking notes furiously. He'd apologized twice already for neglecting Mac, but she'd smiled understandably. She *did* understand. Obviously, her own job was similar to his, and she knew well the preparation time involved. What she didn't understand, however, was why he'd been so insistent that she come along. Oh well, she sighed to herself, might as well resign myself. I agreed to come along knowing this would probably be one of the most boring days of my life.
Shortly after she'd completed that thought, she became aware of just how wrong she was.
"Excuse me, Mr. Lowne," the pilot said over the intercom. "I just wanted to make you aware of a situation here. One of our engines is smoking." Mac looked at Dalton with alarm, then looked out the window. She could see smoke trailing from the engine beneath the right wing. "We can fly with one engine. We're not in any immediate danger. We're about halfway to our destination. We can turn around or keep going. The choice is yours." After he finished, they heard the troubled engine shut down.
"Don't worry, Sarah," Dalton said, placing a hand comfortingly on her knee. "Don's the best. We'll be fine. Don, if we're halfway there, we may as well keep going."
"My thoughts exactly, sir," the pilot said. "Don't worry, folks. We'll be there before you know it."
"Dalton, maybe we should stow this stuff away, just in case," Mac suggested, referring the books littered around them. If they went down, the fewer projectiles the better, she figured.
"In a few minutes, Sarah. Let me just finish this."
Suddenly, the remaining engine made a high-pitched grinding sound, and the plane pitched violently, as though they'd hit serious turbulence.
"Don, what's going on?!" Dalton said, panic evident in his voice.
"We just flew into a flock of birds! They came out of nowhere! Some of them got sucked into the engine! We're going to have to put her down! I'm looking for a good spot now! Better buckle up!"
"My God, Dalton! We're going to crash!" Mac gasped, buckling her seatbelt, her eyes wide.
Dalton buckled his seatbelt as well. "Don't worry, Sarah. Don will get us down."
He didn't sound very convinced. Mac gripped the arms of her chair and squeezed her eyes shut. It was eerily quiet now with both engines shut down. The plane bucked and tossed against the pilot's efforts to control it. They descended quickly. The last thing Mac remembered was the sound of the plane hitting the trees.
Admiral Chegwidden's Office, JAG HQ . . .
"You wanted to see me, sir," Harm said as he stood before the Admiral's desk.
"At ease," the Admiral said. "We're waiting for Lieutenant Roberts. He'll be along momentarily. Tiner's tracking him down."
Harm was perplexed. The Admiral seemed to be babbling. That and the fact that he'd pulled Harm out of a meeting with counsel and Admiral Morris had convinced him that something was going on, and it must be pretty serious.
"I saw him heading to the library earlier," Harm said helpfully.
"I'm sure Tiner will check there."
"Is something wrong, sir?" Harm asked.
"Yes. Something is wrong. But I'd rather not say this twice. So we'll wait for Lieutenant Roberts."
The door opened, and Bud reported to the Admiral.
"Sit down, gentlemen," the Admiral said. He came around to the front of his desk and perched on the edge. "I just got a call from the West Virginia State Police. Two hours ago, they received a request for assistance to search for a downed plane. The plane was last known to be flying over the mountains when it issued a distress call. The plane disappeared from radar a short time later and apparently went down in the mountains. Crews are out searching for the wreckage and any survivors."
"How many were on the plane, sir?" Bud asked, not sure why JAG would be involved with a downed civilian aircraft.
"The pilot and two passengers," the Admiral said, wishing he didn't have to say what had to come next.
Harm saved him, finally registering that the plane had gone down in West Virginia. "Major Mackenzie, sir?" he asked, trying to keep his voice under control as his every impulse was to jump to his feet and run to find her.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. I've been assured the authorities are doing everything they can to locate the wreckage," the Admiral told them.
"Sir, I'd like permission to go out there," Harm said.
AJ had known this was coming. "What do you think you can accomplish that the authorities can't, Commander?"
"I don't know, sir. But I can't just sit here. I need to . . ."
"Permission granted, Commander. Take the Lieutenant with you. Keep in touch."
"Aye aye, sir."
The hills of West Virginia . . .
Dalton slowly regained consciousness, and it took a few moments before he remembered what had happened. He tried to get up, then remembered his seatbelt. He unbuckled and got to his feet. He took inventory of his body. Nothing seemed injured. Sarah!
"Sarah!" he called. "Are you all right?!"
He looked around at the mess of the cabin. Books and other paraphernalia was strewn everywhere. Mac was nowhere to be seen. "Sarah! Where are you?!"
For the first time, Dalton noticed the door was open. He went to it and peered into the cloudy afternoon. "Sarah! Where are you?!" He could see and hear nothing.
Dalton went back inside and made his way over the debris to the front of the plane. He pried the cabin door open and stepped inside. It was obvious even to Dalton's untrained eye that Don was dead. A tree had smashed through the windscreen, crushing Don in his seat. Dalton gasped in horror and backed away.
He went back outside the plane and sat down, trying to figure out what to do next. The pilot was dead. Sarah was missing. What should he do? Should he stay here and hope someone found him? Should he go looking for someone? Should he look for Sarah? Weighing his options carefully, he finally decided his best shot was to wait by the plane for help.
Harm and Bud arrived at search headquarters eighty minutes after they'd been given the news about the plane's disappearance. They'd been brought up to speed on developments to that point. They were thrilled to learn that the wreckage had been spotted and that the helo with the passengers was due back in five minutes. They waited anxiously for it to land. When it did, they saw Dalton Lowne step out of the helicopter. They both looked for Mac, but what they saw next caused them both to gasp. Two men bore a stretcher between them. The figure on the stretcher was covered completely with a blanket.
"Oh no, sir," Bud groaned.
They approached the small group standing by the helicopter. Dalton was visibly surprised to see them there.
"Rabb! What are you doing here?"
"We heard about the crash. We can to help find the Major," Bud said when Harm didn't speak.
"Apparently we're too late," Harm said in a tortured whisper.
"What? No. That's the pilot," Dalton explained.
Harm's knees went weak with relief. "Where's Mac?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean, you don't know?!" Harm demanded.
"When I woke up after the crash, she was gone."
"Did you look for her?"
"It seemed wiser to stay with the plane," Dalton explained.
Harm couldn't hide the disgust he felt for this man for leaving Mac out there without even trying to find her. "Bud, tell the helo pilot we're going back up. Get the coordinates of where the wreckage was found and give them to our pilot. I want you to stay here. I'll keep in touch with you, and you can keep me up to date on the State Police effort. I'm gonna gather a few supplies. I'll be ready to go in twenty minutes."
"Aye aye, sir."
Mac stumbled forward, only vaguely aware that she was moving. She tripped on a twig and fell to the ground. It felt good to lay down, and she made no effort to get up. She rolled to her back and stared at the gray clouds above her. Where was she and what had happened? She concentrated, trying to remember. She remembered leaving the airport with Dalton. She remembered the engine shutting down. She tried to remember more, but her head hurt too much.
"Need a little nap," she murmured.
"That's not such a good idea, Major," she heard a voice say.
Had she not been so disoriented, she probably would have jumped with surprise at the voice that came out of nowhere. As it was, she merely turned her head to the sound, not really interested in her companion.
What she saw caused her to squeeze her eyes shut and then open them again. What was Harm doing here? And how did he grow that mustache so quickly? "Harm?" she said. "I'm a little tired right now, so if you don't mind . . ." She closed her eyes.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Major." The voice was closer this time.
"Leave me alone, Harm. Twenty minutes. That's all I need. Let me sleep for twenty minutes."
"Open your eyes, Major! That's an order!"
Mac opened her eyes. "You can't order me around. We're the same rank . . ." She stopped, aware that the man before her wore Lieutenant's bars. "Get busted?" she joked feebly.
"Sit up, please, Major, and I'll explain."
With a great deal of difficulty, Mac rolled onto her side and then sat up. The world swam before her for a moment before everything settled back to where it belonged. She looked closely at her new friend, and with a burst of understanding that actually hurt, she said, "You're Harm's father."
He smiled at her. "That's my Marine. Think you can stand?"
"No," she said, without trying.
"Try," he urged.
"Why?" she complained.
"Because you've hit your head. You need to keep moving. You've wandered far from the wreckage, and they'll never think to look for you here. I'm going to take you to safety."
"I'm too tired. I'll just wait here. They'll find me." She closed her eyes and lay back down.
She heard him sigh. "I knew it was a mistake when they let women into the Marines. They're too weak. You can't count on 'em when the chips are down. I expected better from a Marine, but hell, you're just a woman."
Mac opened one eye. "Your son got his charm from you, didn't he?" She struggled to sit up again. "Can you give me a hand here?"
"I wish I could. But you've got to do this on your own."
Using a nearby tree for support, Mac was able to drag herself to a standing position. "Now what?"
"Now you walk."
"Which way? The only way I want to go is down." Her knees started to buckle, and she grabbed the tree again. Before she could stop it, the contents of her stomach came up, and she spit up onto the ground.
"You're doing fine, Major. You see that ridge over there?" He pointed to the east.
Mac squinted in the direction he indicated. She saw it. "Yes, I see it."
"You aim for that ridge, Sweetheart. Whatever happens, aim for that ridge."
"But it looks so far," she whispered.
"I know, Darlin'. But you won't have to go that far. Just head in that direction. Can you do that?"
"Will you walk with me?"
He smiled at her, and she realized Harm had inherited more than his father's personality. "I'd be honored, ma'am."
"Okay, but we gotta make a deal. You gotta call me Mac."
"Mac is a man's name. You're far too purty a gal for that. Perhaps I'll call you Sarah, if that's all right."
"That would be fine."
"Shall we get started then, Sarah?" Mac staggered in the direction he'd indicated before. "Maybe we should get to know each other better. Why don't you tell me about yourself. Might make the time go faster."
"You know, I don't feel up to walking and talking right now. Maybe you could tell me about some of your missions."
"Oh, Honey! Never ask a Navy pilot to tell you a story! You'll never hear the end of 'em!"
Mac chuckled, but only once. It hurt too much.
They'd been walking for what seemed to Mac like hours. She couldn't think straight enough to figure out what time it was, and that scared her. Her guardian angel had kept her going, not allowing her to stop for more than a few minutes at a time. He kept up a constant stream of interesting anecdotes, and she hoped she'd be able to remember them so she could share them with Harm when she saw him. IF she saw him.
It was getting dark now, and Mac desperately wanted to lay down and never get back up again. Dad (he'd asked her to call him that hours ago) stopped in mid-story, his head cocked as though he were listening for something.
He turned to her. "Darlin', I'm gonna have to go for awhile. Now I want you to promise me something. You've got to keep going. Sarah, do you hear me?"
Mac nodded. "You're leaving?"
"I have to, but I won't be gone long. Do you promise to keep moving?"
"I don't think I can."
"Will you do it for me then, Sarah? Do it for Harm."
She looked up at him. Her vision was blurry, but she nodded. "Yes, sir. I'll try."
"That's my girl! Now you just keep on this trail here." Mac hadn't even realized she'd been walking on a trail, but she saw it now. "I'll be back before it gets really dark, and we'll do this together. Been a long time since I spent the night with a pretty woman," he said with a leer.
Mac laughed. "You are your son's father, that's for sure!"
"So is it all right if I go for a little while?"
"Sure. I'll be fine."
"Don't let me down, Sarah."
"I won't, Dad."
"Semper fi, Marine."
A helo landed in a clearing prepared by rescue crews beside the wreckage. Harm stepped out and walked over to survey the plane.
"Commander Rabb," he heard a voice say.
He turned to see a man in a State Police uniform walking toward him. "Yes."
"I'm Sargent Chris Luce. I'm in charge of the search and rescue mission."
They shook hands. "Any sign of Major Mackenzie?"
"Not yet. It's a large area to search, as I'm sure you noticed. The terrain is hilly and covered with trees, making it next to impossible to spot anyone from the air. Even with those odds, we've got two birds up now. Biggest problem is we have no idea what direction to look in. Sure would have been easier if she'd just stayed with the plane."
"Gotta be a reason she didn't," Harm said. "She's smarter than that."
"That's what I figured. My guess is she sustained some kind of head injury and just wandered away. What are your plans, Commander?"
"I don't really have any," Harm confessed. "I just wanted to see things for myself. Get the lay of the land. Then . . . I don't know what."
"Hope for inspiration to strike?"
"Something like that."
"Well, look. Don't you go getting yourself lost. I don't want to have to look for you, too."
"Don't worry about me. I've got my GPS, my compass, a cell phone, a two-way radio, and supplies. You just do your thing and forget all about me."
"All right, Commander. I've got to get back now."
"Thanks for the update."
After he left, Harm began to poke around in the trees beside the wreckage, looking for some sign of the direction Mac may have taken. A movement from the corner of his eye made him turn his head quickly. He saw a figure standing in the trees, and he at first assumed it was one of the rescue crew. He quickly realized that his first impression was wrong.
"Dad?" he asked, shocked.
Harm, Sr., beckoned him to follow. Without hesitation, Harm, Jr., did.
Mac lay on the ground, staring up at the sky. She'd slipped on a small cliff and slid to the bottom, seriously spraining her ankle in the process. Tears fell from her eyes as the frustration set in.
"Leave a Marine alone for a minute and look what happens."
"Dad?" she asked, relief washing over her. She'd convinced herself she'd hallucinated him, and she was glad that if he was only a hallucination, he at least had come back. "I'm sorry, Dad. I know I said I'd keep going, but . . ."
"Hush now, Darlin'. What happened?"
"I slipped. I think I sprained my ankle."
"Can you walk?"
"I can try." Now that he was back, she could do anything. She got to her hands and knees, fighting the dizziness that washed over her. She got to her feet, careful to keep all her weight on her good left foot.
"That's great, Sarah!" Harm said encouragingly.
Unfortunately, her injured ankle couldn't take her weight, and she collapsed to the ground with her first step. "Damn!" she cursed.
"It's all right," Harm said soothingly. "Staying still isn't such a bad thing. No sleeping, though. Not yet. Shouldn't be long now, Sarah, darlin'. Tell me a little about yourself."
Speaking in a monotone, wanting only to give in to the exhaustion, Mac began to tell him about her life, beginning with her earliest memories at age four. From time to time, he disappeared, only to return again moments later. She stopped panicking when he left, sure that he'd be back again.
Harm had been walking most of the night. He'd searched the gloom constantly with his flashlight, looking for Mac or his father. Every time he neared panic, wondering if he was going to the right way, his father would appear, correcting his course, urging him to move faster.
With the dawn came a steady, soaking drizzle. Mac sat shuddering with cold, no longer able to move at all. Her protector was now popping back and forth frequently.
"Can I sleep now?" she asked.
"I think you can, Sarah. It won't be long now."
"I wish you'd been my father," she said as she closed her eyes.
"And if I'd had a daughter, I think she would have been just like you. Except for joining the Marines, of course."
Mac smiled before drifting off into the sweet oblivion of sleep.
"Sleep tight, Sarah, darlin'. Help will be here soon."
Harm wiped the rain from his eyes, searching for his father. He hadn't seen him for a few minutes, but suddenly he spotted him between two trees about fifty yards away.
Harm walked toward where his father was standing, but the image disappeared before he got to the trees. He stepped between them and immediately spotted Mac laying on the ground.
"Mac!" he called, running to her side. Her stillness scared him and, praying he wasn't too late, he dropped to his knees beside her. "Mac!" He touched her face gently, then patted her cheek. He was tremendously relieved when he saw she was breathing. "Mac! Wake up!"
Mac groaned but didn't open her eyes. "But you said I could sleep for a while. Go 'way, Dad."
"Mac, I need you to wake up." Harm smacked her cheek a little more soundly.
"Damn you Rabbs!" she said and opened her eyes. It took a moment for her vision to clear, and when it did, she realized immediately that something was different, but she couldn't place what it was.
"Mac, are you all right?"
"I thought you weren't gonna call me Mac?"
"Mac, we've got to get you out of here."
Finally, Mac realized three things all at once: this Harm didn't have a mustache, he wasn't wearing a uniform, and he had touched her. "It's you!" she whispered. "You found me!"
"Yeah, well, it wasn't easy. You could have stayed with the plane!" he chided, fighting the urge to take her into his arms and cry with relief.
"Plane? Oh my God! The plane! Dalton!" She tried to sit up.
"Easy now. Dalton's okay." He'd tell her about the pilot later "I need to know if you're injured, Mac."
"My head hurts, and I sprained my ankle, I think. I can't walk on it. Harm, there's something I need to tell you."
"In a minute. There are a lot of people waiting for word on you. I'm gonna radio Bud where we are so he can send in a helo."
After he'd done that, they settled back to wait. Harm wrapped his rainsuit around her to contain what little body heat she had left. He gave her a drink of wonderfully cool water and let her nibble on a chocolate bar. She sat propped up against him, his arm around her.
"If only I could take a shower, life would be good," she mused.
Harm sniffed delicately. "You do remind me of some goats I saw once in a petting zoo."
Mac jabbed him in the ribs with an elbow, and they both laughed.
"Harm, I never would have made it without . . ." She hesitated, not sure if she should confess what she thought she'd seen.
"I know. I saw him, too."
"He told me some great stories. Wanna hear 'em?"
"I've got nothing better to do right now," he said.
"Thanks for coming to get me, by the way."
He pulled her into a quick hug and kissed the top of her head. "Don't mention it. Now about those stories."
Mac lay in a hospital bed, warm, clean, dry and hungry. Dalton stuck his head into the room. "Hi," he said. "How are you?"
"I'm fine," she said with a smile.
Dalton sat on the edge of the bed and kissed her. She winced with pain. "Sorry," he said.
"It's okay," she assured him.
"Look, Sarah. I'm really sorry about leaving you out there."
"Don't be, Dalton. You did the right thing staying with the plane. If I hadn't gotten knocked on the head by one of those damn books, I would have known better, too."
"I'm sorry about that, too." He sure seemed to be apologizing a lot.
"Don't be. I'm not blaming you, Dalton. It was an accident. You don't by chance have anything to eat, do you?"
"No. I'm sorry. I don't." There he went, apologizing again.
They looked at each other awkwardly for a moment. Both were glad when they heard a knock on the door -- at least until Dalton saw who it was and how Sarah's eyes lit up at his presence. It was that look on her face that finally convinced him. No matter what he ever did, he'd never measure up to Harmon Rabb in Sarah's eyes.
"Am I interrupting?" Harm asked before stepping into the room.
"No, come on in," Mac said with a big smile.
"Sarah, I've got to go." Now was not the time to tell her it was over between them. He'd wait until she'd recovered from the effects of the accident. He kissed her hand this time, nodded curtly to Harm, and left.
"Was it something I said?" Harm joked.
"Never mind that," she said. "What's in the bag?"
"What bag?" he asked, playfully hiding the white paper sac behind his back.
"If there's food in that bag, mister, you'd better hand it over. I am one starving Marine."
Harm handed her the bag. "I should know better than to get between you and food."
Mac dove into the bag. She pulled out an Egg McMuffin and two hashbrowns. She unwrapped the sandwich and took a large bite. "Mmmm," she said, closing her eyes in bliss. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"
Harm chuckled. "You're still delirious, I see."
"Oh, I'm much better now," she said, stuffing one-quarter of a hashbrown into her mouth.
"Nothing like the curative powers of grease and cholesterol."
She ignored him and finished her breakfast. "Thanks," she said when she'd finished. "I needed that."
He smiled at her, took her garbage and threw it away. He sat down on the edge of her bed, and she took his hand in hers. "Thank you for rescuing me."
He squeezed her hand, then kissed it. "Don't thank me. I couldn't have done it alone."
"Dad," she said. "Do you mind if I call him that?"
"No. Not at all. I wish you two could have met. I think you'd have hit it off."
"I feel like we have met. If it weren't for him, I'd be dead now. He kept me alive until you could find me."
"I think he was leading you to a forest ranger's cabin near where the helo set down to pick us up. He probably figured it was closer than taking you back to the plane."
"He told me his new assignment."
"Oh, yeah? What is it?"
"He's a guardian angel," Mac said.
Harm raised his eyebrows. "Yours?"
"Ours. I think he's got his hands full!"