Doth Protest Too Much (2/2)

Author: kitty72885

Rating: PG
Classification: Vignette, Mac POV; AJ/Mac by proxy

Spoilers: Second Acts

Disclaimer: All of these characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al.

Summary: Companion to "Doth Protest Too Much" Part 1; Mac's take on the episode.

I'm elbow-deep in a pile of papers when I look up and see Meredith walking through the bullpen. She stops to greet Harriet, who has a big smile on her face. I chuckle. Harriet's probably more excited about the engagement than Meredith is. No... that's not possible.

A few minutes later, I see Meredith stalk out of the Admiral's office. Uh-oh... she looks ticked. I stand and follow her.

"Meredith?" She stops and turns around. She is really upset. "Mer, are you all right?"

"Just peachy," she snaps sarcastically. Wow, I don't think I've ever heard her be sarcastic before. She automatically apologizes. "I'm sorry, Mac. I'm afraid I'm not in the best of moods right now."

It takes all of my self-control not to let my jaw drop in shock. I'm surprised that my voice doesn't crack when I say, "Why? I would think that you would be floating right about now." I know that I damn sure would be. My feet would be five inches off the ground.

She raises an eyebrow. "Oh, so you've heard the gossip, too."

Well, of course, Meredith. I am the Chief of Staff. The only person who hears more than me is your... fiancé. Aloud, I say, "Of course; scuttlebutt travels fast, you know." I gesture her into my office and shut the door.

"Well, I have a scoop to make the rounds: it isn't true." I look at her, surprised and... I'm ashamed to admit... relieved. What a wonderful friend I am. I'm relieved that my friend is not marrying the man I... oh, no, Mac; don't go there. You won't be able to finish this conversation otherwise.

"It's not? You and the Admiral aren't... No, never mind. It's none of my business." And it's not. It's none of my business who my commanding officer decides to marry. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to know...

Meredith laughs a bit, and says, "Of course it's your business, Mac; you introduced us, after all. You have the right to see if your matchmaking worked."

I look at her sharply. "I wasn't matchmaking." Whoa, MacKenzie--that was just a bit too forceful. But really, I was not matchmaking. If I had been, I would've paired two people who were much more compatible. Like myself and--stop! Thinking like this will get you nothing but heartache and a court-martial!

We conclude the conversation, Meredith telling me that she hadn't known Francesca's name until now. That's odd. Meredith isn't usually one to hold back from asking questions, and if the Admiral mentioned he had a daughter, I'd think she'd ask what her name was.

Anyway, I have to decline dinner with Meredith. I really need to get this rebuttal done for the Admiral.

I can't believe he's decided to just give up the fight. This is not like him at all. But then again, maybe it is. He's always seen the integrity of his position as more important than his own personal desires. He considered retiring last year, after that mess with the spitting incident and his flag mast. Fortunately, he didn't. God, I hope this doesn't go that far...

An hour later, I finally finish. This should convince the SecNav that the Admiral did nothing wrong. It's Lindsey that should be investigated, for abusing the power of his position. Secretary Sheffield seems like a reasonable man. Hopefully, he'll prove it.

I pick up the completed file, stand, and walk to the Admiral's office. He's standing by his fireplace, staring into the flames with a contemplative look on his face. I look my fill for a moment, enjoying the way the light dances across his features, enhancing the intensity of his eyes.

He doesn't look up, so I knock lightly on the doorframe and ask, "Sir? Do you have a minute?"

Finally, he does look up. He looks so lost and confused, and my heart goes out to him. "Yes, why not," he sighs.

I walk into the office, and he sits in his big leather desk chair. I hand him the report that I've been working on. "I've finished the report for you, Admiral."

He takes it and flips it open. "Good work. I'll pass it along to the SecNav."

"Sir, I think you need to hear what I have to say," I insist. Oh, no, AJ Chegwidden, you are not giving up that easily. Not while I still have a breath in my body.

"Have a seat," he says curtly. I do, and continue.

"I saw Meredith before she left. She said that you made up the marriage idea." I'm skating on thin ice here, but I'll be damned if I let him go through with this.

"Guilty as charged," he says, looking a bit bemused, as well as angry. I know that he is an intensely private man; I need to be careful.

I take a deep breath. "Sir, you have done nothing to warrant your resignation. The integrity of this office under your watch has been the highest ever. I think that you're sacrificing yourself to save the rest of our careers: mine, Harm's, Bud's... 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."

"Are you done?" he asks.

"No, sir, I'm not. You're offering to put your career on the line to save ours; well, Admiral, with all due respect, that offer is not accepted."

"Will that be all?" His eyes are starting to get that closed-off, shuttered look that I hate. I decide to quit while I'm ahead--while he's still listening to me.

"Yes, sir." I rise and turn to leave.

"Mac." I turn around to face him. He smiles slightly. "Thanks." The softness in his eyes nearly has me in tears. I smile at him and leave the office.

Anytime, AJ. Anytime.