Part 3

Monday Mac's Apartment Georgetown 0930 Local

Harm finished up the breakfast dishes. He'd talked to the Admiral on Sunday and wrangled one more day of leave to keep an eye on Mac. Her readjustment to the twenty-first century was a lot rougher than he had expected. He thought she would have been... well, perhaps not deliriously happy, but at least glad to be home. Instead, Mac had been more moody than not. Part of it had been dealing with the pain. Once she was away from the doctors, she refused to take anything stronger than ibuprofen. Knowing her as he did, that decision hadn't really surprised him. He had been surprised that she had seemed so... well... depressed - like she'd lost her best friend. That definitely hit him the wrong way. How could she have gotten so close to these people in such a short amount of time? It rankled - it had taken him years to get past her defenses, a task that was still ongoing. He'd done his best to suppress the resentment he was feeling and, fortunately, she was too preoccupied to notice.

The situation was helped somewhat when he showed an interest in the people she had met and, although he had asked about Josiah Rabb more in desperation than anything else, he'd become interested in spite of himself. Mac had first-hand knowledge of not only his ancestor but a time in history that had previously been nothing more than dry dates. He'd been amazed to find that his several-times-great grandfather had known Sturgis' several-times-great grandfather. They hadn't gotten much further that evening. Once Mac had calmed down, exhaustion had swamped her. She hadn't even offered a token protest when he hustled her off to bed.

This morning, she seemed to be feeling better. Carefully, over breakfast, he had opened the discussion again about her experiences in the Shenandoah. Mac told him about Fitzgerald and Billy, Dr. Morton, Mott and Henry Hanrahan. Harm kept plying her with questions and eventually they had worked their way back to why she'd been crying.

Resentment had flared again, what had that crazy Annabel been thinking? As far as he was concerned, those tapes were just exacerbating Mac's problems. These people were dead, dammit! How the hell was she supposed to get on with her life when she let herself wallow in the past? With an effort, he swallowed his feelings. Mac obviously had no idea how this was beginning to eat at him and he wasn't about to tell her. Instead he decided to join her and they had listened to the rest of the cassettes, nestled together. The tapes, which began when Mac first showed up on Avis' doorstep, continued through the next five years. As he listened, Harm became a little more reconciled to the whole situation. If he was totally honest with himself, this glimpse into the past was fascinating. The young woman he had met so briefly had turned out to be an observant and interesting writer.

Harm felt Mac go still when Annabel reached Avis' account of the ball. It gave him a little bit of warning. She had told him and Walters about the attack by Mary Patrick but hadn't said much more about it other than the cut had become infected and it had taken several days longer to recover. He'd listened with growing horror as it became clear how close Mac had come to dying. He finally hit 'Pause' and they both sat there in silence. At last Mac shifted a little and said in a quiet voice, "Harm?"

He took a deep breath, "Why didn't you tell me how bad it was? I had no idea."

She shrugged a little. She couldn't tell from his voice if he was angry or not, "I survived. What difference does it make to know the details? It doesn't change anything."

Harm exhaled in exasperation, "For godsakes, Mac! I could have lost you! I think that's worth mentioning."

He grunted as she braced herself against him sit upright. Turning so she could face him, Mac also looked exasperated, "What would you have me say? I don't remember that much and Avis didn't tell me anything afterward." She glanced over at the speakers as she marshaled her thoughts. Her voice grew quiet again, "I thought I was going to die and I remember being angry that I had survived Ezra Caine only to be taken out by a flesh wound." She hesitated a moment, "I was angry at you, too."

"Me?" Harm eyebrows rose in surprise. "I wasn't even there."

Mac smiled wryly, "That's why I was angry. You were supposed to be there. Butch and Sundance, remember?" She sighed, looking down at floor, "I wasn't all that coherent at the time."

Harm watched her for a few seconds and then reached forward, gathering her into his arms once again. His voice grew lighter, "You're a Marine, you don't how to be coherent. That's why the Navy is in charge of taking you places." He gave a quiet 'oof' when she smacked his chest. Grinning at her muttered 'stupid Squid', he picked up the remote and hit 'Play'.

It took until halfway through the second tape to get to the night Mac returned to her own time. Harm held Mac a little more tightly when he felt her tense, listening to Avis' view of what had happened. He knew her recollections were hazy. Grateful once again to have her back with him, he listened to Annabel's calm voice:

'It's done and we're home. I pray that Sarah will be all right and that they returned safely to their own time. It is frustrating that there is no way to reassure myself. It will be a matter of faith, I suppose. I was surprised upon our own return to find Deacon and Chandra waiting in my home. They are true friends and neighbors. Chandra kept herself busy by taking over my kitchen. I had no idea how hungry I was until I walked in the door and smelled her heavenly cooking. I couldn't help thinking that Sarah would be sorry to miss this. Home will be quieter now; already I feel the emptiness.

After dinner, we told the Turners what had happened on the mountain, leaving out the exact method of Sarah's departure. As far as they're concerned, her people showed up in the nick of time and took her back North. Colonel Rabb excused himself early on, claiming his leg was bothering him. We respected his wish to be alone. This is now twice in his life that he's lost a woman he's loved. I hope he will recover - he had to know that Sarah belonged to another.

It's late now and I can hardly keep my eyes open as I write. The grief I feel is wearying. My head knows that Sarah is not truly gone but my heart feels the loss. Thank God I have my Avril, he will help me through this time.'

Harm hit 'Pause' again when he felt Mac's shoulders begin to shake. Keeping her wrapped in his embrace, he stayed silent, unsure of his own feelings at the moment and half afraid to ask her about hers. It was disconcerting to know that his ancestor had been in love with Mac. Annabel's words came back to him about how Mac might have also been falling in love with Josiah Rabb. A sharp stab of jealousy hit and he did his best to quash it. Mac had come home. She'd chosen him, not Josiah.

Harm called a break, they had been listening for several hours. He needed to stretch his legs and to put some space between him and Mac. The last thing he wanted was for her to pick up on his unsettled mood. Fortunately, he had a legitimate excuse to retreat. Moving to the kitchen, he took his time assembling lunch for them both. By the time he was finished, he was feeling more reasonable. Lunch was eaten quietly, Mac seemed pensive. When they were done, Harm overrode her protests and cleaned up. Finally, he moved back onto the couch and positioned himself so Mac could once again lean back against him. She gave him a look he couldn't quite decipher and then turned around and settled in. After a few moments, he asked quietly, "Ready?" He saw her nod and hit 'Play' on the remote.

'It has been two days and Avril and I have yet to talk fully about what happened. Men. He hates when I'm upset and assumes by not talking about it, these past events will not continue to torment me. He scurries away when I bring it up, finding chores that need doing at that very moment. Thank goodness for Corinna, I find I can talk to her about almost anything, including her lunkheaded son. I was beginning to think that Avril had sustained some sort of head injury and he was keeping it from me. She tells me that unmarried is synonymous with untrained. I, in common with the rest of my gender, will have to educate my man if I am to have any hope of not throttling him.'

Harm snorted at that and then grunted when Mac elbowed him in the ribs. They continued to listen.

'I believe Col. Rabb plans to leave soon to rejoin his army. I will try to get Avril to convince him to stay a bit longer. It is too soon for him to endure the rigors of Army life with his leg. Hopefully, that discussion will lead to more. He needs to talk to someone about Sarah's leaving. I cannot help him. While he is outwardly as polite as always, I'm afraid he's not particularly happy with me right now. After all, I was the instrument by which he lost someone he loved.

Sheridan is drawing nearer. There is a constant pall of smoke over the Valley now. I don't understand how men can so wantonly destroy a place as beautiful as the Shenandoah. It seems like a sin against God.

*****

Four days now since Sarah left and the rumors that are flying before the invader grow wilder all the time: 'They are burning everything to the ground and sowing the land with salt. Babies are being tossed into the fires. They're hanging old men and young boys and women are being abducted from their homes.' Deacon keeps us apprised of Sheridan's progress and most of the rumors. There are some he refuses to repeat in front of me.

Avril dismisses most of them but Col. Rabb becomes incensed when he hears these tales. I don't doubt part of his rage comes from shame. He is an honorable man and he's having a difficult time with such blatant and callous treatment of civilians. Would that all Yankees felt as he does. He fights to keep the nation together but he does not hate us. There has been loss suffered enough on both sides without adding such bitterness. The end of this war is coming, I can see it, as can anyone with clear vision. What I can't see is the aftermath but I fear it. There will be such pain and sorrow for our country. It will pass. Sarah has shown me that and it gives me hope. I will not become despondent.

The Colonel has decided to stay on a bit longer. He says he has no need to search for his army, they are coming to him. I believe he hopes to repay my hospitality and Avril's friendship by curtailing any excesses when the soldiers come. He, Avril and Deacon have had their heads together for the last two days. I am not privy to their plans. Avril tells me, repeatedly, that it will be better to be honestly ignorant of what they'll be doing than to try to lie to the Yankees. He looked surprised when I told him that I would try to think of his explanation as a compliment.

*****

They came today. That I still have a roof over my head is solely due to Col. Rabb. We had several hours' warning. Deacon had his sons out watching. When it became clear they were heading for our farms, Avril and the Turners gathered the best of the livestock and headed up the mountain. They hoped that the Yankees wouldn't notice the few that were missing.

Col. Rabb put on his uniform and met the troopers in the farmyard. They were soldiers in only the strictest sense of the word. Uniformed brigands would be closer to the truth. Immediately, they broke into small groups and spread out over my farm. I stayed on the porch and attempted to put up a brave front. It wasn't long before my fields were on fire and then the barn and silo.

Callous and hardened men, they laughed as the work of generations went up in flames. Then they advanced on the house, intent upon thievery and destruction. The Colonel stopped them. While he could not prevent them from carrying out their orders, he could and did keep them from exceeding their authority. I've seen Col. Rabb angry before, but never in such a towering rage. He blistered the hide off the arrogant young Lieutenant in charge of the detail.

It was then, in a day full of unpleasant surprises, that Col. Rabb delivered another. He commandeered a horse and left with them. Part of it, as I found out later, was to protect as much of Deacon's property and family as possible. I shall miss Josiah Rabb and I hope he finds it within himself to be happy once again. Life is too short.

It was several hours after the Yankees left that Avril and the Turner men came down off the mountain. Even though they had been expecting something like this, I think actually seeing the destruction was a shock. Deacon hurried to his own home while Avril joined me on the porch. I suppose I should be grateful there was no wind today. Col. Rabb's wrath notwithstanding, my house would have burned as well.'

*****

I know I said I would not become despondent but it is hard. The food I put up this summer and fall will have to last through the winter. With economy, it will be barely enough. Thank God, Colonel Rabb kept them from the house or I wouldn't even have this much. The smell of smoke permeates everything and I can hardly stand to go outside. Avril rigged a temporary corral for the horses and AnnieSue. We will need something more permanent to shelter them for the winter. The barn and outbuildings will have to be replaced as well but how? I can't afford it. What little money I have I will keep for emergencies. Avril isn't much better off, his pay (when he actually receives any) is in Confederate currency. It is worthless.

Still, we have been fortunate, so many are homeless and destitute. We are a conquered land and there is much bitterness and hate. I can hardly blame them. How did we ever achieve peace? Yet, we must have, for Sarah was proof. How I miss her, she would have found some way to raise my spirits. I still expect to see her walk into the kitchen at any moment.

Avril went into town to see how his mother fared. He came back, laughing. The town was virtually untouched except for whatever horses and livestock the troopers could gather. Apparently, the officer in charge also turned a somewhat blind eye to looting. One intrepid soul attempted to pilfer Corinna's home and was routed by the industrious use of a broom wielded with energy and efficiency by my future mother-in-law. She chased him out into the street, to the vast amusement of his comrades, all the while haranguing him about his manners, upbringing and probable eternal bachelorhood. Corinna and the Yankees then reached a warrior's agreement: they would leave her belongings alone and she would refrain from using her broom.

I can't help chuckling every time I think of Corinna knocking the stuffing out of that hapless soldier. I imagine he now has quite a different idea of genteel Southern womanhood. Heaven knows we could use any opportunity to smile. Speaking of which, I smile when I think of what Sarah would say if she knew that Mabel escaped the Yankees by hiding in my kitchen. Mabel came through safely but Roger may never recover. He was deeply offended by her presence and shows his displeasure by shunning me in the daylight hours. Nights are different, he creeps onto my bed when he thinks I'm asleep and then leaves before first light. I cannot speak to him when he's like this and will just have to wait until this little fit of pique runs its course. When I think about it, his expression when he looks at Mabel is much the same as Sarah's was.'

Harm hit the 'Pause' button. He could feel Mac's shoulders shaking again but he was pretty sure she wasn't crying. "Alright Colonel, who the heck are Mabel and Roger?"

Mac twisted around in his grasp so she could look at him. Harm was quietly relieved to see she was smiling, "Mabel was a chicken and Roger was Avis' cat."

Harm arched an eyebrow, "Roger's a cat? Shouldn't Mabel be the one who was offended?"

Mac arched an eyebrow back, "You never met Attila the Hen. That chicken could've taken on a SEAL team with one wing behind her back."

Harm chuckled as she turned back around and settled against him once again, "Don't tell the Admiral that, you'll find yourself stationed in the Aleutians." He hit 'Play' and they listened as Avis' life unfolded.

Avril finally rejoined General Gordon in time for the retreat from Petersburg and the subsequent flight of the Army of Northern Virginia. It ended with Lee's surrender to Grant in the McLean home at Appomattox. Avril was reunited with Josiah Rabb once again as the Southern army stacked its arms for the last time. Lincoln was assassinated the following week and all hope of a gentler reconciliation between the two regions died with him. Reconstruction took a hard line with many in the North clamoring for the execution of the treasonous Southern leaders, including Robert Lee. Reading such vitriolic hyperbole in Northern newspapers filled Avis with dread. Lee, already a legend among most Southerners, had been instrumental in preventing the type of guerilla warfare that had turned Missouri into a nightmare of murderous retribution. Hanging him would have been a disaster for she was certain that any number of men would have gladly sought revenge.

Fortunately, Grant (the hero of the hour) refused to deviate from the terms of surrender. All Confederate soldiers who had lain down their arms, returned to their homes and abided by the law would be unmolested by the government. If the Northerners were looking to punish Lee, they would have to settle for what had already been done. By turning Arlington into a national cemetery, they had guaranteed that he and his family would never be able to return home. They compounded that act by confiscating Lee's family possessions which included items handed down from George Washington. Nine days after Lincoln's death, Avril returned to the Shenandoah. He and Avis were married on June 1st, 1865. One year later, their first child, a son, was born. They named him Franklin Josiah Simpson in honor of Avril's father and Josiah Rabb. Avril and Josiah maintained their friendship and a regular correspondence. Colonel Rabb had resigned soon after the end of the war and returned home to Belleville, Pennsylvania. He tried his hand at farming for a short time and then ran for county circuit court judge. He won handily and soon developed a reputation for his integrity and no-nonsense approach to the law.

It was still a struggle for Avril and Avis, although they were better off than a number of others. With the Morgan team and Deacon's mules, the two men worked together on small freighting jobs. Avril hunted to put meat on the table while Avis maintained a small truck garden. Rebuilding the farm was a slow process. In the fall of 1867, their second child was born. This one was a girl whom they named Sarah Wilton Simpson after Sarah and Corinna, who was one of the Wiltons from Front Royal. Josiah Rabb came down for the christening, bringing his seventeen year-old daughter Molly. Both his sons had remained in the military. William was posted in Nevada and Alexander was at sea on his first deployment.

In 1868, Avis recorded the shocking murder of Axel McNair by Mary Patrick. The men of the town searched the mountain for several days but no one was able to find her. The uproar over the killing had just begun to die down when Avis set it all off again by contacting Sophie McNair Anderson to tell her what had happened to her parents. The Andersons promptly moved to back to the Valley where they were snubbed by everyone except Avis, Avril and, surprisingly, Corinna.

The formidable Mrs. Simpson continued to be a force to be reckoned with. Mindful of the lesson learned with Sarah, as well as Avril's friendship with Rabb, she followed her own path during the difficult Reconstruction. At a time when it was social suicide to having dealings with Yankees, both Avis and Corinna talked to whom they pleased. The only difference between the two was that Corinna had no qualms about taking someone to task, no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon line they were from. There were grumblings from the town at first but it died away as people reconciled themselves to the two women's behavior. Avis, it was remembered, had always talked to everyone and anyone, black or white, rich or poor. As for Corinna, when it became clear that she was scathingly impartial with practically everyone (fools were fools, as far as she was concerned), she found herself being approached by both sides to mediate disputes.

In 1869, Sophie and her husband, former Captain Peter Anderson, left for Stanardsville and were never seen again. Search parties scoured the mountains but neither the Andersons nor their buggy was found. Rumors began to crop up about Mary Patrick and old stories of similar disappearances resurfaced. Avis and Avril kept silent. The last tape ended in 1870. By then Avis had three children, two boys - Franklin and Matthew, and Sarah. The most momentous news was the death of Robert E. Lee. The South, still reeling from the devastation of war, plunged into mourning.

Avis noted that Josiah Rabb entered the world of politics, winning a seat in the House of Representatives. He had yet to remarry and seemed to have no inclination towards it even though (according to letters from Molly) he was vigorously pursued by sundry and assorted ladies. He was now a grandfather, his son William had married in 1869 and they had just had their first child, a boy. Alexander was also recently married, but had not yet had any children. Molly moved to DC to help her father. She ran his household and played hostess at countless dinners. Avril would make the trip to Washington, on occasion, to meet with his friend.

The last entry on the tape was Christmas Day, 1870. Avril surprised Avis with a pair of kittens, which made her cry. She had lost Jolly Roger earlier that month. The tom cat had reached the ripe old age of fourteen before dying quietly in his sleep. Josiah and Molly came up from Washington to visit. Deacon, Chandra and Erazmus came over as well. Avis, Corinna, Molly and Chandra repaired to the kitchen to put together a sumptuous feast, leaving the men to amuse themselves and the children. Avis fretted about her offspring in the hands of mere males, but both Chandra and Corinna overrode her concerns. Fortunately, for Avis' peace of mind, the men acquitted themselves admirably. Dinner was a convivial affair and Josiah Rabb offered the first toast to absent friends and family.

Anthony Wade read the last of Avis' entry: 'Another Christmas has come and gone. It was good to see Josiah again and Molly is now a beautiful woman. The Colonel (I can't help thinking of him that way) laughingly talked about fending off the hordes of suitors that swarm about her. Knowing Josiah and seeing Molly blush makes me think he's not joking. Poor Josiah, he still thinks of Sarah. I can see it in his eyes. It must be hard to come back here where the memories are strongest. Molly pulled me aside tonight to ask about Sarah. She has mixed feelings about her. She dotes on her father and resents the pain Sarah's departure caused. On the other hand, anyone her father could love had to be special. All I could tell her was that Josiah fell in love with Sarah knowing full well that she loved another. Rather than calming her, my statement seemed to fire her resentment all the more. Now Sarah was guilty of leading her father on and toying with his affection.

I probably should have left her to her ire; after all, there is no chance that she will ever meet Sarah MacKenzie. However, I felt the need to defend my dear friend. Somewhat forcefully, I told her that Sarah had been honest with Josiah from the very first and it had been his decision to pursue her. That seemed to deflate Molly and she suddenly appeared as a young girl rather than the grown woman that she is. Finally she asked how it was that her father could have tried something so dishonorable as to attempt to steal a woman who was spoken for. She looked so forlorn that I felt somewhat ashamed of myself for saying anything. I found myself explaining more of Sarah's situation than I would have under normal circumstances: That she had been far from her home and it had been a good possibility that she would be unable to return. From what I could tell, Sarah did have feelings for Josiah but suppressed them. I honestly believed, both then and now, that if Sarah had had to remain here, she would have married Josiah in a heartbeat. Hopefully, my vehemence convinced Molly for we were called back to kitchen duty moments later. We spoke no more on the subject.

It's a beautiful night tonight. After the children were put to bed and Corinna and the Turners had gone home, we sat out on the porch and watched the stars. It is cold and clear but Avril's embrace is warm. Is this how it was that blessed night in Bethlehem? How easy it is to believe in God when contemplating such vastness and beauty. I thought about Sarah. How I miss talking to her. Is she watching these stars as well? I hope she's happy and safe. Harmon Rabb seemed like a fine man.'

When the tape ended, Harm sat feeling somewhat bemused. It was disconcerting to hear his name mentioned in a diary from over one hundred years ago. He was caught by surprise when Mac struggled to her feet and asked him to give her some time alone. He tried not to feel hurt but it was hard. He would have thought she'd need someone to comfort her. Jealousy reared its head again, did she want to be alone to think about Josiah Rabb? He managed to get out of the apartment without saying anything. Harm found himself over at Sturgis', venting about how Mac had shut him out after all he'd gone through for her.

Turner sat silently, waiting for his friend to run out of steam. It had been a long day at JAG and finding an irate Rabb on his doorstep was the last thing he'd been expecting. At last, Harm turned to him with a scowl, "Aren't you going to say anything?"

Sturgis leaned back, eyeing the tall aviator, "What do you want me to say? She asked for some time alone. What's the big deal? She didn't tell you to never come back, did she?"

Harm's frown deepened, "No! Of course not... it's just that... dammit!" He turned around, running his hand through his hair. How the hell could he tell Sturgis what was eating at him without spilling everything? Turning back, Harm waved a hand, "Is it too much to ask that she let me in? I just don't want her to through this alone."

"Alone?" Sturgis snorted, "Harm, you've been with Mac constantly since you and Gunny found her. Give the woman a break. I can't even imagine what she went through. Give her a chance to deal with it without having to worry about your reactions."

"My reactions?!" Harm sputtered a little, "Why the hell would she worry about my reactions?"

Turner resisted rolling his eyes. Harm, on occasion, could be incredibly obtuse, "Man, you get angry if someone gives Mac a threatening look. These nuts came close to killing her. That must be hard enough to deal with, without having to handle you, too."

"Oh for pete's sake, Sturgis, I'm not getting angry at her. She doesn't have to handle anything." Harm stared at Sturgis.

The Commander leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, "Harm, it doesn't matter that you're not angry with her. If she's the only one there when you go off, then she's the one who is going to bear the brunt of it, whether you intend it or not. Frankly, I doubt Mac needs the stress. Her leg is still hurting, isn't it?"

Harm collapsed on couch, exasperated, "Yeah, she won't take anything stronger than aspirin." He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, "We're a couple. I thought we were supposed to go through this together. Isn't that the deal? Dammit, every other woman I've known couldn't wait to share every feeling she's had since she was ten."

Sturgis chuckled, "Good God, Harm, since when has Mac ever been like every other woman you've known?" He gave Harm an appraising look, "Besides, aren't you the one who leaped at the assignment with Admiral Boone? What was that all about?"

Harm shifted a little, "It was a great opportunity to work with Boone again, that's all." He glanced at Sturgis and shrugged, "Okay, so things were a little tense for a while and I thought the space would do us good. Who knew she'd get herself into so much trouble while I was gone?" When he saw Sturgis shaking his head, he added defensively, "What?"

Sturgis stared up at the ceiling for a moment and then looked at Harm, "Man, I'm going to assume you haven't been saying anything like that to Mac. Otherwise you'd probably be at Bethesda right now having a crutch removed. You make her sound like some dizzy female who's constantly in need of rescuing. She's a field grade officer in the Marine Corps, a damn good attorney and the JAG Headquarters Chief of Staff. At the least, I think she deserves your respect."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Harm glared at Sturgis, "She's always had my respect! That's not the issue... " He paused and took a deep breath, "Look, I didn't mean it the way it sounded. I'm just frustrated as hell. I hate it when she clams up like this."

Turner looked concerned, "Wait a minute, you mean she hasn't talked to you at all?" This was entirely different.

"No, no, no," Harm resisted the urge to kick something. He should have never started this conversation with Sturgis. It was impossible to say what was bothering him. How the hell did he explain feelings of jealousy over a man who'd been dead for close to a century? He climbed to his feet, "Look, I'm sorry I unloaded this on you. You're probably right about Mac needing a little space and I guess I'm overreacting. I'll see you tomorrow at JAG."

Sturgis stood up as well, "Don't worry about it. Tell Mac I was thinking about her." He walked Harm to the front door, "If she's feeling up to it, maybe Bobbie and I can drop in on the weekend and visit. We'll keep it short, maybe bring dinner or something over. What do you think?"

"Sounds like a plan," Harm smiled at his friend, "I'll talk to Mac and let you know." He gave Sturgis a friendly clout on the arm as he headed out, "Thanks, man."

"Not a problem," Turner leaned against the doorjamb and watched as Harm climbed into his SUV and drove off. Shaking his head, he went back inside. Would life get any easier once those two were married? Somehow, he doubted it.

*******

Mac found herself in the kitchen after Harm left. He'd gotten that closed look that told her she'd hurt him again. Wearily, she sat down at the table and rested her head in her hands. She probably could have handled it better but the fact was, she needed some time alone right then. Goddammit, once again she had managed to ruin another man's life. Josiah would have been a helluva lot happier if he'd never met her.

Her leg began throbbing again, it matched the pain she was feeling inside. This wasn't something she could talk to Harm about. She would have had to been blind not to see the flare-up of jealousy when he heard that Josiah had been in love with her. To his credit, he had throttled it back and moved on. Surely, he must have realized that it was foolish to be jealous of his own ancestor but Mac wasn't about to goad him by discussing the matter with him.

She glanced at her phone for a long moment and made a decision. It wasn't that late yet. Picking up the receiver, she punched in Annabel's number. After a couple of rings, she heard Annabel's voice say 'Hello?'

Mac took a deep breath, "Hello, Annabel? It's me, Sarah MacKenzie."

"Why Sarah, how good to hear your voice. How are you feeling, dear?"

"Ummm, I'm not quite sure at the moment," Mac's voice broke just a little. "I wanted to thank you and Anthony Wade for the tapes. That was a wonderfully thoughtful present."

"Mmm-hmm, you're quite welcome. You listened to them already, haven't you?" Annabel's voice sounded concerned. "What's wrong, dear?" She paused for a moment and when Mac didn't answer right away, said, "I hope you're not regretting what you did back then. If you hadn't been there, I might not have been born."

"What?"

Annabel smiled at the incredulous tone in Mac's voice, "Sarah, you were fulfilling a destiny and I'm quite grateful."

"But... but... you were already here before I wound up back then. I don't understand." Mac could feel that familiar ache start as she tried to decipher this latest paradox.

"Ahhh, but you had been there one hundred and thirty-nine years ago and you saved Avis Payne's life. When we first met, you just hadn't left yet." Mac didn't have an answer to that and after several seconds of silence, Annabel asked gently, "Does this have anything to do with Josiah Rabb?"

"How... ?"

"Dear, I've read Avis' journal. Although you didn't talk to her about it, she was a very perceptive woman."

"I ruined his life, Annabel. He never remarried." Mac bit her lip, waiting for Annabel's reaction.

"Oh nonsense, Sarah. That was his doing, not yours. Blaming yourself is incredibly self-centered. You don't have that kind of control over other people." Annabel paused and then, to take the sting out of her rebuke, asked in a lighter tone, "Would you like to hear of an interesting coincidence that I've discovered?"

"I... um... sure," Mac hadn't been expecting that reaction from Annabel. Anger flared at first and it took her a moment to catch up when Annabel switched gears on her.

"Wonderful, now bear with me for just a moment." There was a pause while it sounded like Annabel was shuffling papers, "Okay, you remember that Avis' oldest daughter was your namesake?"

"Yes, wait - did Avis have more children?"

"She had eight altogether, six of whom survived to adulthood. Now Sarah Wilton Simpson married a Thomas Culver from Hagerstown in 1890. She had five children who survived. Her middle son, Randolph Culver moved to York, Pennsylvania and married Ruth Ponder in 1912. In 1938, their youngest daughter, Sarah, married a John Rabb of Belleville, Pennsylvania." Annabel stopped and waited expectantly. Sarah didn't disappoint her.

"What?!" Mac's jaw dropped. "Harm's grandmother is Avis' great-granddaughter? Oh my god, and Harm is... "

"Avis' great-great-great grandson. So you see, dear, you saved his life as well."

Following Sunday Mac's Apartment Georgetown 1930 Local

Harm stuck his head out of the kitchen when he heard the knocking. They were expecting Bud, Harriet, Sturgis and Bobbie. Their friends had been patiently waiting for the chance to welcome Mac back in person. Harm had been keeping them updated on her recovery. Fixing Mac with a glare, he hurriedly dried his hands on a dishtowel, "Stay put. I'll get it." He'd helped her to the couch earlier and had made dire threats about the consequences if he found her moving around while he was busy in the kitchen. Well, they had started out as dire threats. Unfortunately, Mac had started grinning at him and now the consequences were something he was looking forward to. Things were finally getting back on an even keel for which he was eternally grateful.

"Harm?" He looked over to see Mac eyeing him with concern, "Do you want me to get the door?"

He flushed a little, shaking his head and grinning sheepishly, "No, no. Sorry, I just lost track for a minute." He strode over to the door, aware that her questioning gaze was still on him. She'd been doing that a bit more lately. Apparently, he hadn't been as successful as he could have wished at hiding his bouts of resentment. She hadn't gotten to the point of questioning him about it and he had no intention of saying anything.

Opening the door, he welcomed the Roberts family in. He picked up little AJ, in part to keep the child from throwing 40-some exuberant pounds into Mac's lap and onto her still-healing leg. It also gave Bud and Harriet a chance to get in their own embrace with their friend. Sturgis and Bobbie showed up five minutes later, laden with bags from a local restaurant. The evening went by quickly. Their friends kept their questions about what had happened to Mac to a minimum. Her vagueness with her answers to the few they did ask confirmed the story that Harm had spread - that she remembered very little of what had happened during that week. Fortunately, there was more than enough to talk about. Mac was quite clear about everything up to the accident. She, Sturgis and Harm had the others laughing as they compared notes on dealing with the infamous and incredibly garrulous Master Chief. Then Bud and Harriet happily caught Mac up on the comings and goings over at JAG.

Later in the evening, they broke up into groups. Bobbie, Harriet and Mac had their heads together. Harm figured from the occasional looks and outbursts of laughter, that the men were their topic of conversation. He turned back when Sturgis touched his sleeve. Bud had taken AJ to Mac's spare bedroom after the little boy had fallen asleep in a chair. Sturgis glanced over at the women, "Everything okay, Harm?"

"Yeah, it's fine," Harm sipped on his beer. "Mac's got an appointment at Bethesda on Monday. If all goes well, she'll be cleared for light duty. I talked to the Admiral, she can be back at JAG by Wednesday. Hopefully then, everything will get back to normal. She's starting to get a little crazy with the inactivity."

Sturgis eyed his friend, "Well, that's good to hear but not what I meant. Are you two okay?"

Harm shrugged, "Yeah, sure. We're good." He glanced over towards Mac and then looked back at Sturgis with a rueful grin, "With a little luck, maybe we can have another uneventful six months."

Sturgis raised his glass, "Amen to that."

~ Finis ~