Conclusion

Lexington General
Lexington, Kentucky
2010 Local

Mac slowly opened her eyes and then blinked a few times trying to clear her vision. The room was semi-dark. There was indirect lighting around the walls near the ceiling, providing just enough light without being harsh. Someone really knew their lighting, Mac thought sleepily. She let her eyes drift across the room, trying to determine exactly where 'here' was. There was something that needed attending to, something urgent, otherwise her subconscious wouldn't have kicked her awake. What the hell was it? She shook her head trying to clear the cobwebs and gave a soft moan, squeezing her eyes shut, that had been a mistake.

"Colonel?"

The deep, rumbling voice was definitely familiar. She was sure she could put a name to the foghorn, if she could just figure out where it was coming from. An immense shape loomed up by the side of the bed blocking the light. Mac tried to bring everything into focus but it was a losing battle. "Colonel?" The foghorn sounded wistful. Her last coherent thought was that foghorns weren't supposed to do that.

Tink looked down at Colonel MacKenzie and then glanced over at Maggie, "She's out again."

Maggie stood up and moved beside Tink, "Well, the doctor did say the best thing for her would be sleep." She wasn't quite sure how she felt about the Marine Colonel. She had had only a few encounters with MacKenzie in her guise as royalty at Windswept. The Colonel had been unfailingly polite and incredibly intimidating. Of course, Maggie was honest enough to admit that there was also a little jealousy involved. Tom spoke about MacKenzie with practically a sense of awe, as well as a sort of proprietary interest. It hadn't helped that the woman was so damn attractive. ... Maggie gave herself a mental shake - she was being stupid. She put a hand on Tink's arm, "She's going to be fine. Do you want to check on the others?"

Tink thought about it and then nodded. The Colonel was probably going to be out for hours. That would actually be for the best. Both the King and Commander Rabb were still in surgery. Rabb's injury was less severe, his operation was probably just about over - barring complications. Gheorghe was another story. He had been critical enough that they had airlifted him from Windswept. He would be in surgery for hours, providing he survived. Tink moved to the door and held it open for Maggie. Together, they walked down the corridor. There were Feds and local cops everywhere. For security reasons, they had taken over a wing of the hospital. Bell shook his head, with the number of casualties at Windswept, they had needed a wing.

He saw Pick in his robe, talking with Don and veered towards the two men. The Commander had been right that Tyler would be more than ready to escape. His doctor didn't concur and Pick was stuck for the duration. The two men smiled as Tink and Maggie walked up. "I was just going to join you two," Pick said, "How's the Colonel?"

"Still out of it. Have you heard anything about the others?"

Tyler nodded, "They just moved the Commander to Recovery. The surgeon said he repaired the damage and that Commander Rabb would make a full recovery. They'll watch him for a couple of hours and then move him to a room. Gheorghe is still in surgery, no word on how he's doing." He paused for a moment and then said, "I called Admiral Chegwidden, too. He'll be here tomorrow."

Tink raised an eyebrow, "How'd he take the news?" He looked down at Maggie, "The Admiral is the Colonel and Commander's CO... and a retired SEAL. He can be pretty impressive when he's ticked."

Pick snorted and rolled his eyes, "He's pretty impressive when he's not ticked. I can't say he was happy but I think, most of all, he was relieved that they hadn't managed to kill themselves." He grinned at Maggie and then looked back at Tink, "I thought I heard him mutter something about 'trouble-magnets' as he hung up."

Tink chuckled while Don and Maggie exchanged looks. "You mean this type of thing is normal for them? I thought they were lawyers," Don inquired mildly. The expression on Maggie's face said she was wondering the same thing.

Tyler smiled, looking at Maggie. It tickled him to no end to that she had set her sights on his friend. The jarhead had met his match. He jerked a thumb at Bell, "Tinker hasn't told you about how we met the Colonel and Commander?"

When Maggie shook her head, he grinned more broadly and waved his good arm expansively, "I think this calls for some coffee and comfortable chairs. It's a long story."

Lexington General
Lexington, Kentucky
2330 Local

Mac drifted up through layers of consciousness. With an effort, she dragged herself into wakefulness and then laid there for a moment, taking stock. She pried one eye open and saw the IV. A hospital... well, that made sense. Her body felt heavy and unresponsive... so they were pumping in drugs of some sort - that would have to stop. The pain in her shoulder was down to a dull roar and on further inspection, she discovered that they had immobilized her left arm as well. With an effort, she pulled her right hand up to the side of her face.

"Colonel MacKenzie?"

Mac turned her head and squinted at the unfamiliar woman standing by her bedside. "Who... ?" she didn't get much further, her mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton.

"Just a second, ma'am," the figure disappeared for a little bit and then returned with a glass of water and a straw.

Mac sipped gratefully at the cool liquid, "Thank you... "

"Maggie," the woman supplied with a small smile.

"Maggie." Mac repeated and let her eyes drift shut for a moment. She needed to get off whatever it was they were giving into her. She couldn't think...

Maggie watched the Colonel's eyes close and turned to put the water back on the nightstand. Tom had gone to see if there was any word on Gheorghe. She'd let him know that the Colonel had been awake again for a little bit. She turned back to the bed in time to see Mac's eyes fly open. "Harm!"

Maggie stood staring in surprise as Mac struggled to get herself upright. Then she leapt forward with her hands out. If what Tyler had said about the two JAG officers was true, then the Colonel had no intention at stopping there. She heard the door open behind her and said, somewhat breathlessly, "Tom, help. She's about to track down the Commander!" Bell wasted no time moving to the other side of the bed, gently forcing the Colonel back against the pillows.

"Ma'am! Ma'am, it's okay! I just came from Commander Rabb's room. He's asleep, he's going to be fine." Bell watched the tension flow out of her, leaving her breathing heavily, slumped against the pillows.

"He's okay?"

Tink nodded, "The surgery went off without a hitch and they just moved him out of Recovery and into a room. He shouldn't wake up until morning." While he was talking, Bell fumbled around with the bed control and starting raising the head of the bed up. He had hated having to talk to people while flat on his back and he suspected the Colonel felt the same. He kept puttering, giving her a moment to compose herself. Now that he'd met Maggie, he had an inkling of how she felt about Rabb. He glanced up in time to see the almost visible persona of Marine officer drop over her.

Mac looked at him steadily, "Tell me what's happened, Mr. Bell."

"Yes ma'am," Tink said calmly. He took a breath and plunged in, "The King is still in surgery, they're estimating it will probably be 8 to 10 hours total. They're keeping Mrs. Dzurick overnight and the kids and the Montgomerys are sacked out in her room with her. Liz Parker is expected to make a full recovery, they'll let her out of bed for a little while in the next day or two. Marius Zali has a mild concussion. He planted himself in Liz's room and they can't get him out. The state troopers had one man killed during the rescue. Jackson Montgomery stayed at Windswept to keep an eye on things." He paused for a moment, "Of the bad guys, nine dead and eight captured, three of whom were wounded."

"Lucian Valter?"

"In custody, ma'am."

"I saw the barns on fire." It was an oblique way of asking how many of the Montgomerys' horses had died. It wasn't just a livelihood for the family, they cared about their horses.

"Yes ma'am. The small barn, equipment shed and part of the main barn were destroyed." Bell refrained from smiling, this would be a pleasant surprise, "... All the horses are safe."

Mac stared at him, "They're safe? ... but how?"

"It was T and the rest of the gang, ma'am," Maggie chimed in. "They were still on Windswept when they saw the smoke. They turned around and headed back to the barns."

Tink continued with a grin, "While everything was going on in front at the house, T and the others were taking horses out the back."

"I'll be damned," Mac couldn't believe that they had pulled it off without anyone realizing it. She smiled back at Tink and Maggie, "If they were mine, I think I'd promote them." Bell nodded in agreement. Mac took a deep breath, that damn medication - or whatever it was - was dragging her down again. She wasn't ready yet. Letting her head drop back into the pillows, she struggled to remain focused. "Lieutenant Tyler?"

"He's fine, ma'am. They'll discharge him tomorrow. I think he's asleep right now." Tink and Maggie exchanged a quick glance. It was obvious that the Colonel was fading fast.

"And you?"

"Ma'am?"

Mac gave a slight smile, "How are you, Corporal Bell? This fiasco was not part of your recovery process."

"He ought to be in bed," Maggie folded her arms and fixed Tink with a glare.

Tink stared at Maggie open-mouthed and then closed it with a snap when Mac said wryly, "I believe I'd consider that an order, Mr. Bell. Go to bed." She sank deeper into the pillows, it was becoming impossible to keep her eyes open. First thing in the morning, she'd have a word or two with the doctors.

Maggie and Tink watched the Colonel's eyes close and then Maggie looked over at Bell, "You heard her. Go."

"But I ... ," Tink lowered his voice to a whisper when Maggie shushed him, pointing at the Colonel, "... don't need to be in bed. I'm fine."

Maggie advanced on him, "No, you're not. There's another bed in Tyler's room - go use it." She softened her voice, "There's nothing else to do right now but wait. You might as well get some rest."

Tink suppressed a sigh, his ass was dragging, and then grumbled for form's sake, "What about you? Do you need a ride home?" He let her turn him around and push him out the door.

She shook her head, "And miss all this? I'll stay here. I'm sure I can find a bed to crash in. Let's go." She looped an arm through his and they headed down the corridor.

Lexington General
Lexington, Kentucky
0815 Local

Harm slowly opened his eyes and stared at the unfamiliar ceiling... another hospital. There was a dull ache in his side and he could feel the bandages around his midsection. It was daylight in the room. How long had he'd been here? Mac's time sense would come in handy right about now. His eyes opened a little wider as that thought sank in. Where was Mac? Was she all right?

"Harm?"

He managed to get his head turned, amazed at how much effort it took. There was Mac, sitting by his bedside. Somewhere along the line, she had appropriated hospital scrubs. He smiled at the sight of her. "Hey," it came out in a raspy croak.

"Hold that thought, mister." He watched her get up, pour water into a glass and add a straw before turning towards him again.

Gratefully he sipped at the water and then realized she'd done everything one-handed. The left sleeve of the scrub top was empty. "Mac? Your arm?"

"Not a big deal, Harm," Mac said, sitting back down again. "I didn't re-break the collarbone but I did manage to bruise the hell out of my shoulder. For form's sake, they're calling it a sprain. They taped it up and my arm along with it. It's just for a couple of days and then I'm in a sling for a week or two. How are you feeling?"

"Hazy. What happened? How long have I been out?" He vaguely remembered the man he had jumped pulling a gun... and Carol... she'd had a gun, too.

Mac smiled slightly, "The short version is that the good guys won. The bad guys are dead or in custody. You've been out of it for 14 hours and 37 minutes - including surgery." She stopped there, her smile fading.

"Awww, Mac," he concentrated and moved his hand towards her. It felt like it weighed forty pounds. He smiled as she covered his hand with her own. "Mac," he repeated, "It'll be okay."

She stared at him, her eyes dark, "Will it? It took them 12 hours to put Gheorghe back together again. They still don't know if he'll survive the next 24 hours. Carol shot and killed a man yesterday, one of the state troopers was killed, a good deal of Windswept burned down and you were nearly stabbed to death."

"None of which is your fault," Harm said firmly. He wasn't about to let this eat away at her.

She gripped his hand a little tighter, "My head knows that, but the rest of me... " there was a pause and then she continued in a softer tone, "I didn't get there in time, Harm. If Carol hadn't shot that guy, you wouldn't be here right now. I wasn't there."

She ducked her head but not before Harm saw fatigue and pain chase across her features. Dammit, she probably wasn't supposed to be out of bed yet. Well, this was one little bundle of guilt he would force her to relinquish. He lightened his tone, "So where were you? Taking a break to file your nails? Sipping tea with the Princess?" Inwardly, he braced himself, knowing nothing short of a life or death struggle would have detained her.

Mac managed a wry half-chuckle, "Tea would have been more pleasant. The woman and I had a disagreement about remaining in custody."

"You convinced her in the end?" Harm found it a little more difficult to keep his voice light.

Mac shook her head, looking down at their hands, "Mo did with the stock of an AK-47. Woman never knew what hit her."

Dear God. "Remind me to buy Mo a car when I get out of here," he breathed weakly. He waited until she glanced up and then caught and held her gaze, "Listen to me, Marine. Everything worked out. Carol was there and I'm going to be fine. You can't blame yourself for not being in ten places at once." He grinned suddenly, "Unless, of course, you've got a superhero costume under those scrubs that I don't know about."

Mac gave a short bark of laughter, letting go of his hand to take a swipe at her eyes. She gave him a smile, "When we get back to DC, you'll just have to find out, won't you?"

"And, God willing, that will be sooner, rather than later." The sound of Admiral Chegwidden's voice made them both jump. "As you were," he ordered as Mac started to climb to her feet. He moved to the foot of the bed and looked over at her, "There's an irate nurse trying to find you, Colonel." He glanced at Harm, "Apparently, people are busily sending her everywhere but here." He folded his arms and raised an eyebrow, "Has she done something to merit this conspiracy? Because it seems that everyone else on this floor knows you're in this room." What he didn't mention was that a surprising number of people tried the same thing with him. Obviously, they thought either he didn't know or wouldn't approve of his two senior officers' involvement. Meredith was going to enjoy the story of all the wanna-be Cupids.

Mac was looking defensive, "I took out the IV. The doctor kept insisting that I stay on the pain meds through today and into tomorrow. I can't do that and I won't... sir."

"Didn't you tell him?" Harm ventured. He understood about the meds but he could have wished that she had rested more.

She shook her head in disgust, "I tried. He was in God-mode and I wasn't qualified to make that decision." Her voice deepened, " 'I'm sure you're a fine Marine, Ms. MacKenzie, but I'm the doctor and I know what's best.' Pompous jackass."

Harm started to chuckle, "So you're on the lam? I've been harboring a fugitive?"

Mac arched an eyebrow at him, "I'm not hiding, I just re-located my CP to a more defensible position." She looked over at the Admiral, ignoring Harm's snort, "Sir, has anyone briefed you on the last couple of days?"

AJ shook his head, "I haven't been here that long." He looked over at Harm, "If the Commander's up to it, I think I'll have everyone assemble in here. It will save time." Chegwidden waved a hand as Mac started to rise, "Stay put, Colonel. Lt. Tyler's hovering outside, I'll let him gather all the pertinent people." In a short enough time that AJ suspected Tyler wasn't the only one hovering, the room was crowded with personnel. The only ones not present, understandably, were the Dzuricks. He would talk to them later. Sweeping his gaze around the room, he settled on Harm and Mac, "Start with your arrival at Windswept... "

Lexington General
Lexington, Kentucky
1047 Local

AJ strode down the corridor towards Carol Dzurick's room. He'd just left Mac asleep in her room and had had a few pointed words with her doctor. No one would be sticking her with IVs while she slept. The briefing had taken several hours and had taken its toll on both his officers. It had been a remarkable story and he wasn't the only one to hear the entire sequence for the first time. He was profoundly glad it was over. So many things could have gone wrong and hadn't because individuals had stepped up and persevered against the odds. Now if they could just get Gheorghe to pull through...

He nodded to the policeman on duty and rapped on the door. Hearing 'enter', he opened the door and stepped inside. The room seemed fairly crowded. From Harm and Mac's descriptions, he was pretty sure he could identify everyone there correctly, with the exception of the twins. The dark-haired woman sitting on the bed had to be Carol Dzurick and the young girl leaning against her would be Elena. He didn't see Nicolas or Mrs. Montgomery. Focusing on Carol, he nodded his head, "Your Majesty, I'm Admiral AJ Chegwidden, the Navy Judge Advocate General. I know this is a difficult time but do you have a few minutes to talk?"

Lexington General
Lexington, Kentucky
1403 Local

Mac slowly opened her eyes and then groaned softly when she realized how long she'd been sleeping. The pain meds had finally worn off completely. Her shoulder was throbbing like a son of a bitch, but at least her head was clear. She laid there contemplating the far wall while the rest of her body woke up.

"Mac?"

Mac's head swiveled to the left in surprise. Carol Dzurick sat comfortably in a chair and looked back at her, "Are you all-the-way awake yet?"

Mac nodded somewhat numbly. She didn't think she was quite ready to face the Queen. She had failed in her promise to keep the family safe. It was actually rather ironic. Both she and Harm owed their lives to the Dzuricks. "Your Majesty... "

"Carol," Carol interrupted, looking at Mac a little more closely. Talking to AJ Chegwidden had been rather illuminating. He'd come to get their contributions to the story and answer any questions that they might have had. It was the first time that she'd heard the complete stories from her daughters and Nicky. Worry over Geordie had kept them all pretty much in the present.

"Carol," Mac repeated dutifully, "How's Gheorghe?" Finding Carol in her room had to mean that the King had taken a turn, one way or the other. She didn't think the Queen would be so calm if the news were bad... unless, of course, the woman was just numb. Her hand tightened its grip on the light blanket as she waited for Carol's reply.

The Queen gave a tired smile, "He's still with us. Every hour improves his chances."

"Wouldn't you rather be with him? I mean, I appreciate you're coming to see me but... " Mac trailed off as Carol waved a hand at her.

"We're taking shifts. The hospital won't let all of us in at one time and the children need to see him too." She tilted her head to one side, "I needed to talk to you."

"Yes ma'am... Carol," she amended, seeing the raised eyebrow. She took a deep breath, "I have some things I need to say as well."

Carol grinned, "Me first. I outrank you." She sobered a little, "First, I wanted to apologize for dragging you into this mess and then I wanted to thank you for all you've done."

Mac looked at her in surprise, "Thank me? For what? Your daughters wound up rescuing me. I was too late to keep them from shooting your husband and if you hadn't been there, Harm would have died."

The Queen snorted in disbelief, "I don't know if you could call what Cat did, a rescue. She damn near killed you. And Mo wouldn't have been able to 'rescue' you if you hadn't gotten her away from that woman in the first place." Her expression hardened, "I would have killed that bastard even if he hadn't been about to shoot Harm. He shot my husband, in front of me and my children, in cold blood. If you're thinking you need to apologize for that, forget it. God knows what would have happened if you and the Commander hadn't been here at all." Carol paused and studied Mac's face, "You don't see it, do you?"

"See what?" Mac stared at her in confusion.

"The effect you have on the people around you," Carol looked somewhat exasperated. "My kids know that their father is a good king and a fine leader but it's been an abstract. Now they've watched you put leadership skills to use in difficult and trying circumstances. You inspire them. Good grief, Colonel, they'd follow you straight into Hell... no, strike that; they'd go into Hell for you - if it meant you'd be there when they got back. And it's because they know it's what you'd do for them. Why do you think Corporal Bell showed up on your doorstep?"

"He's Pick's best friend... "

Carol shook her head, "I doubt that he shows up on any of the Lieutenant's other assignments. He came because of you." She gave Mac a wry grin, "You realize that all my kids now want to become Marines? Even Cat, although she knows it's just wishful thinking." Carol sat silently for a little bit, letting the Colonel digest what she'd said and then climbed to her feet, "Come along, my dear, I'll walk with you down to Harm's room. I'd like to talk to him as well."

Three Days Later
Lexington International Airport
Lexington, Kentucky
1210 Local

Harm shook hands with Gus Montgomery and glanced over to where Mac and Carol were talking together. Gus followed his gaze and smiled, "Women, nothing but chatterboxes."

"I heard that, Daddy. What do you call it when it's you and your cronies jabbering away?" Carol and Mac were now facing the men with identical raised eyebrows. Harm stood behind Gus and grinned, catching the slight twitch at the corner of Mac's mouth before she resumed her serious expression. It was good to see her relaxed. The Admiral had returned to Washington two days ago after informing them that they were both on sick leave for the next two weeks. They were under strict orders to avoid trouble of any kind. 'I don't care if it's a kitten up a tree. Call the fire department and then get the hell away.' had been his exact words.

They had said their goodbyes at Windswept this morning. Rebuilding had already begun, with the Montgomerys' neighbors offering to help out with the broodmares and stallions. Tyler and Bell had left for Memphis this morning as well. Maggie O'Toole went with them. Jackson Montgomery had contacted a trainer in the area and secured a job for her. T and the other Windswept employees who had rescued the horses had each received a gratifying bonus, courtesy of Carol's trust fund. She considered the cost worth it when she saw the look on El's face at the news that Henri was safe.

They stopped by the hospital to see Gheorghe on their way to the airport. He was making progress although his recovery would be slow. Hopefully, he would be out in time to see Mo off when she began Plebe Summer at the Academy. Not surprisingly, she had opted for the Marines. Marius Zali had been there, too. He let them know that an anonymous caller had led the Bacovian military to the capture of a camp of Chenchen rebels in the mountains near their western border. Lucian Valter, who was going to be in prison for a very long time, had implicated Victor and Katrina in the attempted kidnapping of the Bacovian heir. Marius had no doubts that the Grand Duke and Duchess would also be in prison before too long.

Gus looked indignant, "A free exchange of ideas, young lady." He hmphed at Carol's amused snort and turned to Mac. "You'd better get going, Colonel, before that one's impertinent attitude rubs off on you," he jerked a thumb in his daughter's direction, "I don't think your Admiral would approve."

"Probably not," Mac agreed with a smile.

He stepped forward and carefully hugged her and then glanced over at Harm, "You two are welcome to visit anytime, you know."

"Thanks Gus, if we ever find ourselves in Lexington, we'll be sure to stop by," Harm smiled and then paused, listening to the loudspeakers. He looked down at Mac, "That's us, we'd better get going."

Exchanging hugs once more, the two made their way to the boarding gate. Fifteen minutes later, they were stretched out in first class. Mac smiled at Harm, "Very nice, Mr. Rabb. Is this how you usually travel when you're off to visit your parents?"

Harm snorted as he investigated the magazines and then grinned, "No, this is how I travel when my parents find out you're coming to meet them. Frank upgraded us." When she didn't reply, he glanced over and raised his eyebrows, "You're not worried, are you? My parents like you already."

Mac leaned back and ran her hand through her hair, a nervous gesture, "How can that be? We've never met." She looked over at him a little sheepishly, "I'm sorry. I just don't have much experience in 'meeting the parents'. Do they realize we're both a little worse for wear?"

He answered her last question first, "They know all about it. My mother's in full Mom-mode. We'll be lucky if they let us walk on our own." Harm reached across to grab her right hand and managed to look a little sheepish himself, "Mom and Frank know more about you than you'd think. I've... umm... been talking about you for years." He chuckled, "The only one who might be in trouble is me. My mother can't believe how long it took me to get to off the dime."

Mac grinned as she gave him a quick kiss, "Then we'll just have to make up for lost time, won't we?"

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FINIS