Perchance to Dream (1/1)
Category: Supernatural; AJ/Mac
Spoilers: "Ghosts", "The Stalker", "Going After Francesca", "Exculpatory Evidence", "Second Acts"
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. They belong DPB and the good folk over at CBS, Paramount, Viacom, etc.
Author's Note: For the purposes of this story, the events of "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" have not occurred. If you do not like supernatural elements, do not read. My apologies to Messrs. Dickens and Shakespeare for the mangling of their wonderful works.
"To die--to sleep,
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause."
Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1
"Ah, Admiral Chegwidden, so glad you could join us this evening," a voice came from the end of the deserted pier.
"Where is he, Palmer?" AJ Chegwidden growled.
"Oh, Admiral, wherever are your manners? Officer and a gentleman? I think not," Clark Palmer shook his head in mock disappointment. AJ held his gun up and pointed it at Palmer's chest. "Ah, ah, ah, AJ. You wouldn't want to shoot me. You'd never find the Commander, not in a million years." He cocked his head to the side. "That sounds so cliché, doesn't it?"
"I'm sure there are plenty of people willing to search for the Commander. But I think I'll leave the pleasure of shooting you to him."
"Oh, but there are just as many who want him dead. Probably more. What makes you think you'll find him before they get to him?"
"Because I still have to kick his ass for ditching me again," Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie muttered under her breath. She was crouched in the shadows beside Clayton Webb. Agent Webb was recently returned from a stint in Paramaribo. He had been called in when Clark Palmer, ex-DSD agent, master of disguise, and archenemy of Commander Harmon Rabb, once again broke out of Leavenworth.
Clay grinned. He was sure that Rabb would be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, as it were. When Mac got her hands on him... Clay had seen what the Marine colonel could do, and he wouldn't want to be on the receiving end.
They remained in the alley, watching the scene before them from behind a dumpster. Finally, Webb's cell phone vibrated.
"Webb," he whispered tersely. "You got him? ... Yeah. Okay. Good." He hung up and said quietly, "Commander Turner found Rabb. He's on his way to the hospital to get checked, and Turner's almost here with the cavalry."
"Marines," Mac corrected. "At least, I hope. How did they find him so quickly?"
"I believe that they brought in an FBI profiler to help with the hunt. Apparently, he's one of the best, and his boss owed your boss a favor."
"Oh, good. Well, now all we have to do is make sure the Admiral gets away from that sociopath without getting hurt, and taking said sociopath out."
"Piece of cake," Webb said flippantly, trying to ease the tension.
"Yeah, right--whenever you say that, something's bound to go wrong."
Suddenly, there was movement in the shadows. Mac couldn't see much detail through the fog, but she could see the figure was a man of medium height and build. She shifted in place, and Webb held a restraining hand on her arm.
He was about to give her a warning about pulling a Rabb stunt, charging out there with guns blazing, when the figure lifted an object and swung it with savage force. It struck the back of the Admiral's head.
"AJ!" Mac leapt up and ran for the dock.
AJ winced, shaking his head. He felt slightly groggy, like his head had been stuffed full of cotton. He heard voices. They sounded familiar, although one had a different inflection than he was used to. He opened his eyes, blinking at the soft glow. He focused on the voices behind him.
"You know, I really don't want to do this for the rest of my afterlife. Don't you ever have any fun?"
"Since being paired with you, no. And if you had been nice to people during your life, you wouldn't be doing this now."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Look, I have class in an hour. Can we just get this over with?"
"Whatever you want, doll. Just stop whining and check the list."
AJ heard the shuffling of papers. "Champigny... Charles... Chef... Chegwidden. Chegwidden?" the disembodied voice asked incredulously. "I thought the old man would outlive them all!"
"And he'll have the chance, if you do your job correctly."
AJ craned his head around. His eyebrows shot up. He rubbed his eyes and stared again, squinting. "What the hell is going on?" he muttered.
"Go ahead, make your speech," the image of Harmon Rabb said, nudging the woman. AJ stared, until he realized that it was the original, not the copy. Lieutenant Harmon Rabb, Sr. looked back at him with an amused gaze. AJ turned his attention to the woman, and he shook his head in disbelief.
"Admiral AJ Chegwidden, I am, for lack of a better phrase, your 'guardian angel'. You have unfinished business to attend to, and it is my duty to show you what mistakes you have made, knock some sense into you, and return you to your physical body," the voice of the late Lieutenant Loren Singer said crisply.
"Not exactly what I would've said, but whatever floats your boat," her partner commented.
"Wonderful. I'm hallucinating," AJ grumbled.
"Afraid not, Admiral," Lieutenant Rabb chuckled. "I believe it's what's called an 'out-of-body experience'."
'Oh, for the love of... how in the world did she become...?' AJ thought.
"Watch it, Admiral," Singer snapped. "I don't want to be here, either, but it's better than the alternative."
AJ looked at her in bewilderment. "Yes, I can hear your thoughts," she said impatiently. "Can we start now? I have somewhere to be."
"What, exactly, are we supposed to do?" AJ asked. 'Might as well go with it.'
"Yeah, you might as well, seeing that neither of us are going anywhere until I basically hit you with the mental equivalent of a two-by-four. Did you know that you are an extremely stubborn man? All right, let's begin. What's your biggest regret?"
"If you can read my mind, why don't you tell me?" AJ asked belligerently.
Singer looked at her partner, who simply nodded. "Fine; I will," she replied, smiling smugly. She snapped her fingers and the light brightened, then dimmed.
As the surroundings reformed themselves, AJ looked around. He blinked at the image of his younger self. He knew this place. It was his and Marcella's first--and only--house. He scowled and asked, "Why are we here?"
Singer gestured to the table in front of the sofa. There was a crumpled piece of paper next to a half-empty bottle of beer. Empty bottles littered the floor around the sofa.
AJ remembered this weekend. He had just come home from another mission, and was looking forward to a quiet night with his wife and baby daughter. He had entered the house in anticipation. He hadn't expected it to be empty. There was no sign that a family had ever lived there. Marcella had taken her and Francesca's belongings, and returned to Italy. The note was the only thing she had left. He had spent the rest of the weekend in a drunken stupor.
AJ closed his eyes. "Fine, you've proven your point."
"Oh, wait. Remember this?"
He opened his eyes again. It was night, and he was in a garden. He admired the flowers, and the way the stars shone in the Italian countryside. 'Italy?' He wondered where they were, when they were, until he heard the voices. He looked over the bush... at himself and his ex-wife.
"I don't know why, when I left you, you didn't come after me." The words, spoken years ago, still had an impact.
"I didn't know, darlin'," now-AJ whispered. His memory image said, "You wanted that?"
"I don't know what I wanted," Marcella replied.
Memory-AJ said, his voice full of emotion, "I never stopped loving you."
"But that's not true, is it, Admiral?" Singer said as the memory dissolved.
"What do you mean?" he snapped. His mind was still reeling. The memories had been so... real, so tangible. He could actually reach out and touch his surroundings.
"You fell in love with someone else... and you lost her, as well."
AJ paled as he watched the image of a smiling Laura Delaney walking down his front steps. He shuddered, seeing the mine go off, his past self running to her, taking her in his arms... "Enough! Why are you showing this to me?"
"Because, Admiral, these women, and two others, hurt you so much that you won't allow anyone else into your heart. And that is a foolish thing to do. Although you don't know it, there is one that loves you," Rabb said quietly.
"Too bad you aren't around now," AJ muttered. "You could teach your son a thing or two about relationships."
"Oh, but I am, Admiral. I watch my son every day. It's all I can do to keep him from making the mistake of falling in love with her."
AJ looked sharply at the spirit, who laughed. "Yes, it's my fault that he hasn't made a move on Sarah MacKenzie." He sobered. "My son may be a good officer, and a great lawyer, but he isn't... stable, sensitive, sensible... enough for the Marine. Besides, she isn't in love with him... well, not anymore."
"Yeah? So why is she alone? A woman like her could have any man she wanted," AJ said.
"Not any man," Lieutenant Rabb replied.
The two spirits watched as the realization dawned on AJ. "That's right, Admiral. You. She wants you, but of course," Singer shrugged, "She's not stupid enough, or brave enough, to break regs. She sees your integrity as more important than her happiness. Stupid woman," she sneered.
"I don't think so. She's always been in love with Rabb. Don't know what she sees in him," AJ muttered. He looked up. "Oh. No offense, Lieutenant."
"None taken," the spirit waved his hand.
"You don't believe us? Here, take a look," Singer said. Without waiting for permission this time, she snapped her fingers.
AJ watched as the two figures nearly collided at the bathroom door. "Oh, no..." he whispered.
"Major." The image of Mac turned and looked at him curiously. "Mac. You think it's your fault. You think, 'Boy, if I were just a little faster, or a little stronger, or braver...'" Then-AJ looked at then-Mac intently. "But it's not your fault."
"I know, sir," Mac whispered, looking down.
He gazed at her. Now-AJ mouthed the words with his memory counterpart. "Go easy on yourself."
"Yes, sir." Memory-Mac offered a weak smile. "I think I will have some of that aspirin."
AJ watched as the memory played itself out. He remembered how he felt when she stood so close to him... as he took her hands in his... as he slowly bent his head to kiss those full, luscious lips...
The memory froze. "Why did it stop?" AJ asked.
Singer said, "Do you want to know what she was thinking?"
"I can do that?"
"Sure. Touch her."
AJ moved toward the frozen image hesitantly. He put his hand on Mac's shoulder. The shock of her tumbling thoughts hit him like a tidal wave. 'Is he going to...? Oh, please, please, please, kiss me. Just kiss me once, and I'll never ask again. Please, AJ...'
AJ jerked his hand away, and the thoughts cut off. The memory resumed, through his whispered, "This is a mistake."
"Well?" Singer smirked. "What do you think now?"
"That was five years ago. People change. She asked me to give her away at her wedding, for god's sake."
"Why do you think that was?"
AJ shrugged to hide his growing level of discomfort. "I guess I thought she was only thought of me as a father figure."
Singer stared at AJ. "Okay. Let's see, she thinks you're sexy, she almost kisses you, and you think she thinks of you as a 'father figure'? Are you insane? Don't you think that maybe, just maybe, she wanted you to say something?"
"How do you...? Never mind."
"And why do you think she was going to marry that irritating Australian, anyway?"
"I always assumed it had something to do with Rabb."
"Yes, it was partially because of him," the father of the man in question agreed. He shook his head at Singer's questioning look. "No; that's a private memory. Let her keep that to herself," he murmured.
"How about..." Singer said, looking into the distance.
"Fine; he's in that one. Show him."
Singer didn't bother snapping her fingers this time. The setting abruptly changed into that of JAG Ops. AJ winced. "Oh, joy," he muttered. "The psychotic Shakespearean professor." Rabb snorted with laughter.
"So, why didn't you notice when the Colonel snuck away?" Singer asked conversationally.
"I noticed; I just..." AJ started. "I don't know, I guess I thought that Meredith and I had clicked."
"And instead, you grated," Harm Senior said.
"Oh, yeah," AJ said regretfully, rubbing his hand over his head.
"Well?" Singer said brusquely as the action stopped. "Go ahead."
AJ reached out... and was hit with a tumble of emotions. There were no thoughts to read, just a maelstrom of pain, anguish, and torment. He snatched his hands back and looked at Singer in anger. "So? She knows nothing can happen. She's resigned herself to that fact. What can I do?"
"Talk to her, genius. Seriously, you're this big lawyer, an admiral in the navy; you're supposed to be smart. She's always reaching out to you, telling you how she feels, however subtly. Do the same."
A scene from a few months earlier came to AJ's mind. Singer's lips twisted into a smirk. "Yes, that was one of the times. Want to see it?" She gestured toward his office door. He walked over and opened the door, unable to stop himself. He stepped inside and saw himself standing by the fireplace. He was staring into the fire thoughtfully.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the doorframe. Both AJs looked up. "Sir? Do you have a minute?"
"Sure, why not," he sighed.
"I finished the report for you, sir."
"Good work. I'll pass it along to the SecNav," he said dismissively, sitting in his big leather desk chair.
"Sir, I think you need to hear what I have to say," Mac insisted.
"Have a seat," he said, gesturing to the chairs in front of his desk.
"I saw Meredith before she left. She said you made up the whole marriage idea."
"Guilty as charged," AJ said ruefully.
"Sir, you have done nothing to warrant your resignation. The integrity of this office under your watch has been the highest ever. Commander Lindsey told Harm before he left that he want to scatter the JAG office 'to the four winds', so you see, sir, your retirement would do nothing to help us. It's not in your character to cave in, and I refuse to accept that from you for any reason."
"Are you done?"
"No, sir. You are offering to sacrifice your career, and with all due respect, that offer is not accepted."
"I hope that will that be all."
"Yes, sir," Mac acquiesced. She stood to leave, but he stopped her.
"Mac." She turned to look at him. "Thanks."
She smiled at him and left.
The scene dissolved, and they were back where they started, in empty space.
"Now what? I can't do anything. She's still off-limits... and she's made it perfectly clear that I can't retire while she's still around," he smiled fondly.
"Oh, I think that you'll find that she's been offered a transfer. She received the call a few days ago, actually. I believe that the SecNav wants her has his new legal counsel, seeing that Commander Lindsey isn't coming back anytime soon."
Singer scowled at Rabb. "Thank you so much for reminding me of that," she said sarcastically. She turned her attention to AJ. "So, what'll it be? Come with us, or go back? Your choice."
AJ's gaze swung between the two ghosts. "Wait--why didn't she tell me? And how do you know about it?"
"She doesn't want to leave you, of course." Singer rolled her eyes. "Now, any normal person would've jumped at the chance. After all, it's not every day that the Secretary of the Navy asks you to be his legal counsel. And how do you think we know? We can read thoughts, after all."
"All right, all right." He looked down. The scene below was shocking. Turner barking out orders, Webb on his ever-present cell phone, gesticulating wildly, Marines securing the perimeter... and at the edge of the chaos, two figures: one prone on the dock, the other bent over, administering CPR. His eyes widened as he realized who they were.
"Jesus," he whispered. He looked at his two companions. "Am I..."
"You have five minutes left to make the decision."
"Hold on. I have a few questions."
Singer sighed. "Hurry up."
"What happened to the ghosts of the present and future?" AJ asked with a touch of sarcasm.
"You've been reading too much Dickens, Admiral. Besides, I haven't had that kind of training yet."
"Wait... training? You're a 'guardian angel-in-training'?"
The spirit snorted. "Of course. You don't just suddenly say, 'I think I'm going to go check out the future today.' It takes years to learn. Well, human years, anyway."
She huffed. "Well, it's easy enough to go back to the past, isn't it? Everything's already happened. It's all only memories, albeit vivid ones. No one can see you, because you're not really there. The present's a bit different. We can't show ourselves in our physical forms. Even you would freak out if I suddenly showed up on the street. We have to learn how to alter our appearances. After we master that, we move on to changing species, so that we can go places humans usually don't."
"If this is true, how come I can see you now?"
"You almost died, Admiral. In fact, you're still dying. At births and deaths, the boundaries between the physical and spiritual worlds are weakened. You'll notice that there's something like a glass floor beneath us. Unless you decide to go back, I can't get through. All I can do is watch. So, are you staying or going?" she asked abruptly.
"Can I ask one more question?"
"Hurry up--the clock is ticking. Literally."
"What about the future?"
"That's where Dickens used a bit of literary license," Rabb cut in. "It's difficult, even for the experts, to show the future. There are an infinite number of possibilities. The best we can show is the worst-case scenario--well, kind of like he did."
"So why don't you show me?"
"It's not my mission, Admiral. I'm just a supervisor; I can't interfere directly."
"Oh." AJ looked back at the scene below. He took a deep breath, then said, "I'm going back."
"Good, because my caseload's big enough. I don't need to add her to it."
Before AJ could ask what she meant, the two spirits before him began to dissolve.
Sarah MacKenzie steadily continued the pattern of breaths and compressions. Her entire world became focused on the man whose life she was trying to save. She tuned out the sounds of people yelling over each other, and strained to hear the slightest breath, the smallest pulse.
When the man had crept up behind AJ and knocked him out, Mac had felt two things: fear and anger. Anger that Webb hadn't expected this, which was irrational; after all, Palmer's usual M.O. was to work alone. Fear that AJ would drown before she could get to him. Webb hadn't been able to hold her back as she ran out of the shadow of the building. Fortunately, Sturgis had arrived with a Marine unit then, and they had apprehended the second man. Unfortunately, Palmer had, yet again, gotten away. Mac didn't care about any of this, though--she was worried about a more immediate task: getting AJ to breathe.
"Come on, Admiral! Breathe, dammit!" She checked his airway again, and, assured that it was clear, lowered her mouth to his. After two breaths, she knelt up again and continued the chest compressions. "Breathe, Admiral! That's a goddamn order!" she snapped. When she became frightened, it showed in anger, and right now, she was terrified.
She watched as his eyelids fluttered and he coughed convulsively. She quickly rolled him onto his side, and held him as he vomited what seemed like gallons of water. She murmured a quick prayer of thanks and tried to calm her breathing.
AJ whispered something, and Mac leaned down to hear him better. "Giving orders to your commanding officer, Colonel?" he said hoarsely.
Mac smiled in relief. "Shhh, sir. Don't try to talk," she said, placing a finger on his lips. She heard the sounds of an EMT unit unloading a stretcher. She looked into his eyes as the technicians rushed toward the end of the dock. He reached up and squeezed her hand.
They got him settled on the stretcher, and he gestured Mac closer. She leaned over, and he whispered something Mac never expected. "Mac. Take the transfer."