Author: Haruo Chikamori
Summary: Animal and the CIA do not play well together. Webb requires air support for a mission to go after Sadik Fahd and his Al Qaeda cohorts. Catherine and Harm have opted to continue the façade of marriage for her mother's sake. Catherine Gale/Harm Rabb R. This is after Paraguay post-Back In The Saddle; Mac and Harm have had a complete and utter falling out; their relationship is in tatters. This bears NO relation to Byrhthelm's story "Giving It A Try" though I do blame him for making Catherine Gale absolutely appealing as a character in his own stories that it made me rewatch Pas De Deux several times.
DISCLAIMER: The characters Harm Rabb, Jr., Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie, Meg Austin, AJ Chegwidden, Bud Roberts, Harriet Sims-Roberts et al. belong (in concept if not name) to CBS/Bellisarius. Animal and all OC characters are the property of Heather and Hugo Chikamori. No profit is being made from this story, nor is any infringement intended.
Author's Note: DAMNED MUSES DON'T WANT TO COOPERATE!
JAG Headquarters, Falls Church, VA Antechamber, RADM AJ Chegwidden's office.
RADM Toshio "Animal" Nakamura grumbled as he walked through the swinging doors of the JAG office. Considering a phone-call from RADM Chegwidden, Animal growled ominously as he approached the antechamber of Chegwidden's command office. Looking over at Legalman 2 Coates who had braced to attention, he said. "Legalman…RADM Nakamura here to see RADM Chegwidden."
"Yes, sir!" she hastily got on the phone to the Admiral inside his office.
"Send him in, Coates…everyone else is already here."
"Thanks, Jen." Animal said firmly with an affable grin as he locked gazes with the young Legalman who looked startled that the admiral had used her first name.
Her gaze fastened on the admiral's uniform as he swivelled to walk towards the door of the Judge Advocate General's office. Who was he and where did she know him from? He had aviator's wings – Harm, that was it. He was Harm's friend from the aviation community and she'd seen him attend services at Captain (Padre) Turner's church. The door had closed behind the admiral as he went into Chegwidden's inner sanctum. If he was Harm's friend, then he'd have to be a solid, upstanding officer and a gentleman.
"He's three years older than Harm. Legalman Coates." A deep-timbred voice standing right beside her nearly caused her to jump three feet in the air.
"Sir…I didn't even know you were there." Coates turned to see a stern-faced Commander Sturgis Turner standing beside her.
"Coates…don't get involved." Sturgis cautioned her. "He's a flag officer and a highly decorated one at that." Coates felt a flash of annoyance at the un-needed reminder. She already knew that he wasn't someone who she could have any sort of relationship with, even if the fraternization regs weren't in place. But why did all the good men have to be officers in this Navy? Approaching mid-20s in a girl's life with no viable relationship in sight was somewhat of a downer to Jen Coates. Damn the Navy and their regulations – all the viable guys that met regs seemed to be lechers and all the due to the frat-reg verboten guys seemed to be walking around with sleeve rings on their dress blues. Dammit! What would she have to do to land a guy that she felt was worthwhile? She smirked at the unbidden thought. Well…if I can't beat 'em…join 'em. With a renewed sense of purpose, Legalman Two Jennifer A. Coates sat down at her desk and resolved that she would ask the admiral for a recommendation to ROTC once she completed her degree in psychology. Then ROTC would be able to pay for her post-graduate Masters once she completed her requirement as an Ensign.
JAG Headquarters, Falls Church, VA RADM AJ Chegwidden's office
Animal stepped into AJ's office and looked around to see Harm and Mac standing on one side of the room; a blonde female and an unwelcome face on the other as well as SECNAV Sheffield. The spook who had risked the life of his buddy from RAG as backup for an ill-fated spook mission in Paraguay deserved a choku-zuki (karate straight punch) to the throat. The rest of the occupants of that room could feel the temperature descend as Animal shot a look at Clayton Webb that spoke ill of any chances that Webb could survive a confrontation with the admiral. A suspicious look at the other two occupants he didn't know and a raised eyebrow at AJ notified AJ that he'd better cut to the point quickly.
"Tosh, good to see you." AJ said.
"OK…AJ, cut the formalities, what are those spooks doing here?" Animal growled.
"Well…they're here because they need our help." AJ didn't look impressed, when he ran his gaze across the two who had consistently insisted that they were with the State Department when he knew just exactly who the hell they worked for.
"Not enough fuck-ups at Langley?" Animal remarked acidly as he shot a lethal look at Clayton Webb. The blonde female looked kind of annoyed at that remark. Tough. "They usually take people from your office whenever there's a possibility of the operation going south. What the hell do they want with my air wing?"
"Admiral, we're chasing after Sadik Fahd. After the mess-up with the Stinger missiles in Paraguay, he has gone underground and we're having a tough time trying to locate him." SECNAV Sheffield said. "Your air wing has the combat experience to deal with Sadik's attempts to get more Stinger missiles."
"…in other words, if they lob one up, my guys have the best chance of evading fired missiles? Is that it?" Animal shot an even colder look at Webb who seemed too pleased with himself that he had come up with the stupidest idea known to man. "…and who compensates me for the loss of crew if they can't evade the Stingers."
"We want Fahd dead. Your aircrews have the best possible chance of coordinating with our guys on the ground to make sure of that. You have JDAMs and JSOWs capable of taking out Fahd from a long way away." SECNAV Sheffield insisted.
"My guys say they can't get a DECS feed off Company satellites. How the fuck are we supposed to coordinate? And laser guided range-finders to drop a LGB is going to make my guys have to drop in closer than comfort dictates – making them prime targets for the Stingers that my guys are trying to avoid." Animal snarled venomously "Who the fuck came up with this bright idea?" Oh, Animal knew all too well who came up with it and that person deserved another high-impact to the nasal ridge.
The blonde and Clayton Webb looked at each other – this wasn't going the way they were expecting it to. SECNAV Sheffield looked over at RADM Chegwidden to see if he was going to do anything about the outspokenness of the other flag officer. AJ peered back at the SECNAV without emotion and shrugged his shoulders, then uttered. "RADM Nakamura has a point. If your satellites can't coordinate with his men's electronics on their aircraft, you're sending them up blind."
"We'll figure something out." Clay insisted. "Mission parameters are subject to change."
"Not on my watch they aren't." Animal coldly replied. "And if my guys aren't safe up there, nothing doing." There was a vociferous objection from Clayton Webb, SECNAV Sheffield and the blonde, but Animal shut them down. "I'm not sending my guys up blind, secondly we go after Fahd and you want my help, we do it my way…"
"You don't know how we operate, with all due respect, admiral." Clayton Webb said.
"Webb, I've seen more of your piddly-ass missions go south than a migration of penguins. You wouldn't know how to plan a proper mission even if your rear-end was lit on fire with an acetylene torch." Animal shut the spook down with an impatient snarl. Walking over to the spook, Animal pointed at him with a threatening snarl. "That fuck-up down in Paraguay was a prime example."
"How the hell did you find that out? That mission was classified." Webb sputtered.
"Seen my rack? There's a security clearance that goes with that." Webb's eyes fastened on the admiral's rack. "Considering I'm an aviator that has to deal with black ops on occasion, you don't think my clearance allows me access to details not normally in the purview of standard military operations. And most of my contacts have told me to steer clear of your ops because nine point five times out of ten, they result in fuck-ups of the highest degree." Animal's eyes were cold as he locked them on Webb's. "You do it my way or there's the door. Walk out it! Your choice."
Harm was seriously resisting the urge to sneer in contempt at Webb. How many times he'd wanted to upbraid Webb on his stupid operations that had risked both his and Mac's lives, but he didn't have the rank to do so. Animal, his buddy, on the other hand had both rank and influence. The blonde CIA attorney with whom Harm had worked on the Angelshark investigation on the other hand was looking at Harm as if to ask who is he? - referring to the admiral who was giving Clayton Webb the third degree.
AJ was grinning in satisfaction as Animal was saying all the things that he had wanted to say to Clayton Webb.
"We can't…" Webb objected vociferously. "We have to take out Fahd before he somehow gets his hands on yet another bomb. He's going after an ex-Ukrainian nuclear warhead that somehow missed the count when they were returned to the Russian Federation."
"Oh, for FUCK SAKES!" Animal swore, shaking his head. "My guys aren't doing the mission." Animal snarled at Webb.
"Then who will?" Webb asked.
Animal looked over at Harm. "As of now you're TDY with me." AJ's eyes opened in shock. "Look, AJ, you've let the spooks run roughshod over you guys for years. Harm's flying with me. That way he can't be used as one of the ground guys. I'll find a RIO for you." Animal stated. "How soon were you wanting to get this operation off the ground, dumbass!?" He swivelled around to fix a warning glare at Webb who stammered…
"But what if Sadik moves?"
"Then you track him down; that's what your intelligence group is supposed to do, not be sitting on their damned computers playing pinochle and sipping Starbucks frappuchinos." Animal snapped. "If you're on a mission, your backup had better not be playing computer games…"
AJ uttered. "What about Rabb's commitment to completing the reviews of those Imes cases that are under judicial review?"
"Well, you have attorneys who can cover that, right? AJ? Besides if I'm correct on this Sadik Fahd…he poses a greater threat to national security than a law-school liar." Animal raised an eyebrow.
"You have a point there." AJ said reluctantly as he shot a look over at Mac. "Make sure you bring Rabb back in one piece. Colonel Mackenzie? You take over Rabb's files and apportion them out to the staff. I'm going to see if I can get in a temporary lawyer to help with the cases under review." Mac didn't seem too pleased with the turnabout of events, but she knew that Animal had hoodwinked Harm into flying for him and damned that squid would jump at the chance to fly even if it was in a Hornet.
JAG HQ, Falls Church, VA, Bullpen
"Who's that?" Harm turned around to see a rather curious set of blue eyes looking at him as the CIA Lawyer pointed at the rapidly retreating navy blues clad back of RADM Nakamura. After chewing the ear off Clayton Webb and his stupidity, he'd rounded on the SECNAV and told him that the utilization of Navy assets should have come to a halt with the fiasco in Paraguay. SECNAV Sheffield nodded that he was tendering a bill for ratification to make it illegal for the CIA to utilize any Navy assets in the field unless it was a matter of life or death. And RADM Nakamura had swore up and down that if anything went wrong with this particular mission that he would be shoving Clayton Webb's teeth down his throat. "He sure didn't seem to like us Company-types much…" she said quietly to Harm.
"That…Catherine, is my former Reserve Air Group instructor and flight leader with me on the Howlers and former commanding officer of the VF-41 Black Aces. He's now the COMNAVAIRLANT." Harm grinned at Catherine Gale who twisted her lips into a rather bemused smile. "…and yes, he's normally that grouchy. Of course, I think most of it was the fact that Clay was here."
"I see…" Catherine replied. "I think Clay's going to be smarting for a while after that…" she smirked at him. "So…I'll see you at Kresge tonight?" When she had said with a rather appealing. "Why not…" and a smile to his insane request to be a family after he'd just got fired from the CIA, he'd been absolutely surprised at Catherine's willingness to go along with this smokescreen for her mother's behalf. Of course the marriage may have been a sham and he was albeit reluctant at first though with Andrew Gale's insistence on Catherine and Harm doing this for Esther's peace of mind at what they had thought was her last moments on earth, it had turned out for the better as Esther made a remarkable recovery from critical to serious condition. Esther was a sharp-tongued, but loving mother to Catherine and Harm found himself slowly falling for his erst-while mother-in-law who'd welcomed him into the family after that health-scare of hers. She still was not entirely out of the woods, yet but well, if her continued health improvements kept Catherine happy, that's what was most important to Harm. And just as Mac was approaching the office, Catherine leaned up and gave him a kiss on the lips that made the jarhead look as though she was about to blow steam out both ears. It really helped that Harm was helping her through the pregnancy, when she had realized that the guy who had knocked her up had fled the coop. Yet Harm through his magnanimous nature had decided to take on the role of instant-father. 'I'm sure that's pissing that Marine off a lot' Catherine thought to herself, but the absolute satisfaction of seeing the degrees of red-shaded pissed off that Marine was going through made her lean into Harm's arms a little longer than was officially called for.
"Of course, I'll be there. Think I'd pass up a chance to chat with your mother?" Harm had his devastating grin turned on her full-bore.
"Should I tell her to get her own sailor?" Catherine grinned at him.
"Maybe you should, since I only have eyes for you." Harm grinned – he was sure that Mac heard that comment and probably was breaking something in her office from the sounds of it, and leaned in to plant another kiss on Catherine's lips.
"oooh…that sounds nice." Catherine teased him. "that almost sounds like was the truth." A part of her wanted it to be, since her mother was reacting so well to the thought of the tall, handsome attorney being Catherine's husband, but the other part of her was telling her that she was living a lie. If only…he knew how much that overwhelming smile of his was doing dangerous things to her equilibrium.
"I am…Catherine…" His eyes darkened for a moment. "If you only knew…" he said softly; almost to the point of inaudibility.
"I gotta go…Harm. Clay's probably blowing up like a pufferfish downstairs waiting for me. I got a ride from him over here." Catherine stated as she made to head for the door. "I'll see you tonight…" she said huskily. "sweetheart."
"Can't wait, Cath…" Harm grinned at her as she groaned softly. Every damned time, that smile worked – her legs turned to jello.
Harm knew that he would have to work like a dog to hand the files over as Animal expected him to be at Oceana to make plans for the mission to come at 0500hrs tomorrow morning. It was going to be a late night with the trip to Kresge and then to NAS Oceana.
JAG HQ, Falls Church, VA, Mac's Office, 1500 hrs.
"Mac, here's the files that I have to hand over." Harm stated as he walked into the office laden down with a foot-high stack of files. Mac looked up at him with no small degree of animosity. "I'm at Oceana starting tomorrow for however long that this mission entails."
"So how long are you going to be playing pilot?" Mac waspishly asked. Harm looked at her with a degree of concern. She'd been snappish with him ever since he'd come back to JAG from his stint with the CIA. And then finding out, while traumatized from Sadik's tender ministrations in Paraguay, that he was married to the CIA attorney who was opposing them on the Angelshark investigation – that really made her want to explode in anger. But she was in uniform and decorum was the order of the day. "Skipping out early or couldn't this wait till secure?"
"I have to go see my mother-in-law; she's in the hospital." Harm said shortly. "Heart ailment; she almost died before I came down to Paraguay."
"Some husband you are…leave your wife to deal with her mother being ill like that."
"Yeah…" Harm bit off a stinging retort. "Yeah, I shouldn't have left her like that…" and turned on his heel, exiting her office after he left the files on the corner of her desk.
Kresge Medical Centre, Pimmitt Hills, VA, 1835 hrs
"Commander, what a surprise…" Esther Gale's surprised look of amusement caused Harm to grin at the white-haired lady sitting in the hospital bed. "Come on in…take a load off your feet." Harm looked around the room in question, "If you're wondering, Catherine is running a little late from the office." she smiled mischievously. "Commander Rabb, so when…exactly are you going to tell me that you and Catherine are just faking it for my benefit?" She raised an eyebrow. She laughed as Catherine stepped into the room just as she was asking the question and gasped.
"Why do you think we're faking it?" Harm asked curiously.
"C'mon Commander, you two don't have anything in common. While I've been recovering, I've noticed how tentative you two are around each other…as if not wanting to step on each other's toes. Or do you think that my eyes are so old that they don't see these things?" she smirked at Catherine. "…and you're probably not Catherine's baby's dad, are you?" her look turned back at Harm.
Catherine paled. "I think…I'm going to be sick…" she gasped as she got up and rushed out of the room.
"Catherine…" Harm made as if to get up out of his chair to go after Catherine, but Catherine had motioned for Harm to stay in his chair as she bolted to find a washroom.
"So…which is it. Are you planning on making a bolt for the hills…" Esther stated, as well as she could with the oxygen cannula in her nose, "or…are you planning on making an actual honest woman out of her?" She said with a mischievous grin so much like Catherine's, that it made Harm double-take at her for a moment.
Esther must have taken that the wrong way since she frowned at Harm for a long period of time. "Catherine and I are actually talking about that." He said.
"Oh?" Esther asked, the disbelief in her voice noticeable.
"We've talked about making the marriage legitimate…" he obfuscated his way through the personal minefield, however Esther was too sharp for that ploy. "…after all…she does need someone to give her a hand with the baby once she comes. Washington is a rather difficult place for a single mother no matter how much she makes."
"…no matter how much who makes?" came an arch question from the door. Catherine was back and from the look on her face, it seemed like she had heard the last part of Harm's answer to her mother's query. "Just exactly what are you talking about?"
"Well…" Harm tried to give her a damn, I'm busted grin which only succeeded in getting Catherine's hackles up even more.
"Harm…" Catherine said sharply. "Can I talk to you outside for moment?"
When they were well-clear of Esther's room, she said sharply. "What the hell is going on?"
"Catherine…" Harm tried to calm her down.
"Don't Catherine me, Harm." She fumed, her eyes flashing angrily at Harm. "We were just playing this cover-up so that she would feel better. She's right, we don't have much in common; other than we're both lawyers. I work for a company I can't disclose, and you're working for the Navy. We don't have anything in common. Do you really think we have a chance at happily ever after?" her tone had gone from irate to almost pleading by the end of it.
Harm looked at her calmly weathering her outburst. "We won't know if we don't try…" he looked at Catherine. "…and goodness knows, I want to try…" There had been something in the way she had looked at him after their first kiss during the sham wedding that made him look at her in a completely different way. There was an surprise that Catherine would feel the way that she did for him.
"So if we're really going to give this an honest to god try…" She said as she leaned in to kiss him softly. "Harm…after this…we have a lot to talk about." She said implying that the talk would be after the mission that he was supposed to be going on to go after Sadik Fahd. "…and at the end of it, there may be one pissed-off Marine."
"She had her chance…" Harm grinned as he looked into Catherine's eyes and gave her a slow grin.
Damn that squid…he doesn't know what he does to me when he grins like that… Catherine groaned inaudibly.
"I'll call you when I'm done the mission, but I'm going to be incommunicado…for the duration." Harm said. "I have to head out if I'm going to get down to Oceana in the morning."
"OK…Harm…" Catherine said. "I'm gonna have to go back and see my mom…a little longer. I'll tell her that you had to run so...she won't think that you bailed on me…oh…" she gasped as Harm took that moment to lean in and kiss her gently, then even more passionately as he drew her close trying to show her the depth of feeling that he had for her. She had to draw in a deep breath after he released her, jauntily tossing a salute her direction and headed out. "Fly safe…Harm…" She knew just exactly what was going down and it wasn't good and the fact that Kershaw had given Webb a full-hand in this operation was going to make it even more so. The mission was dangerous and they had no backup. She crossed her arms over her heart and softly said… "Come back to me…Harm…" her eyes began to brim with tears - she hadn't the strength to admit it out loud directly to Harm yet.. "I love you…"
To be continued.