Sunday
2338 Zulu
Harm and Mac's Home
Falls Church, Virginia

It was nearly dinnertime when Mattie let herself into the house, dropping her backpack by the door. The unfamiliar SUV in the driveway meant that Harm or Mac must have invited someone over for supper, but try as she might Mattie couldn't figure out whom. Hanging her jacket in the closet, she carefully made her way down the hall towards the voices echoing from the family room.

As she approached, three distinct tones emerged from beyond the doorway: Mac's, Harm's, and a deeper male voice that filled the teenager's heart with trepidation. The first time she'd met her guardian's commanding officer she'd called him a 'bald jerk' practically to his face. In retrospect, insulting a two-star Admiral probably hadn't been a very good idea, especially for a young woman who had since set her sights on entering the U.S. Naval Academy. What was done was done, however, so Mattie braced herself for an awkward evening and stepped into the room.

"Well, aren't you just a precious little sweetheart!" Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden was sitting on the couch murmuring softly to the tiny baby in his arms, while Mac perched nearby on a chair. To Mattie's astonishment, the Admiral's normally rather stern expression was twisted into the goofy, sentimental grin worn by adults in the presence of the very young. Weren't admirals and former Navy SEALs supposed to be, well, tough?

"Hey, kiddo! You're back early."

Started out of her thoughts, Mattie glanced towards where Harm was standing in the kitchen to her right. Suddenly realizing that all three adults were looking at her expectantly, she felt the heat of embarrassment flush her cheeks.

"Yeah, it didn't take us as long as we thought so Michelle's mom gave me a ride home."

"Do you feel ready for the test tomorrow?"

Mattie shrugged. "I guess so."

"Well, I'm sure you'll do fine," Harm assured her as he wiped his hands on a dishtowel. "Why don't you go add another place setting to the table? Dinner's almost ready."

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A short time later everyone moved into the dining room. Sitting across from Mattie with Allie at her side, Mac passed the salad to Mattie while the Admiral reached for the vegetable lasagna.

"This looks terrific, Commander," he complemented, helping himself to a generous portion of pasta. "It's not often these days that I get a home-cooked meal. Wow, you even made it with green noodles. I'm impressed."

Harm smiled. "Thank you, sir."

"They're made with spinach – only Harm would make sure even the pasta's vegetarian," Mac teased. Taking a sip of water, she asked, "So how have things been around the office with me on leave, sir? Has Harm been behaving himself?"

"There's never a dull moment at JAG, although it's always quieter around the bullpen without the two of you arguing day in and day out. Hand me the salt, would you please?"

As Mac passed the requested condiment, she shot a sidelong glance over at Harm. They had mutually agreed to tell the Admiral about their impending nuptials before making the announcement to the rest of JAG, which was the main reason they'd invited him over for dinner. However, despite the special dispensation the SecNav had already granted them for just this event, Harm still found himself hesitating. Returning Mac's tentative smile, he took a deep breath and plunged ahead.

"About that, sir... There's something we wanted to tell you before we go public—"

"Let me guess," Chegwidden cut him short. "You finally decided to tie the knot."

His gaze darted between his senior attorneys, inwardly chuckling at the abruptly anxious looks in their eyes. He knew they hadn't been expecting him to figure it out as soon as he had, but the ring on Mac's finger was a dead giveaway. Keeping his laughter firmly in check, he shrugged. "Most of us figured that it would happen sooner or later. Just keep it out of my office."

"You're okay with this?" Harm asked with uncharacteristic uncertainty.

Amused at the reaction he'd elicited, A.J. decided to let them off the hook. An enormous grin spread across his face. "Hell, son, I'm surprised it took you this long!"

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Monday
1645 Zulu
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

Maneuvering the awkward bulk of the baby carrier through the glass doors leading into the bullpen, Mac supposed it would only be a matter of minutes before someone noticed her arrival. This was the first time she'd been back to JAG Ops since Allie's birth and the ever-present bustle of phones ringing and people talking welcomed her back into the familiar environment. Looking around she spotted Harriet chatting pleasantly with Kate Pike near the file cabinets in front of Mac's own office, which Kate had been using in her absence. Sure enough, the two women spotted Mac at roughly the same time. Harriet's face lit up as they hurried over to greet her.

"Colonel, I didn't know you were coming in today. And you brought the baby!" she exclaimed, coming to a halt at her friend's side. Standing at Mac's other shoulder, Kate peered over into the carrier to look at the sleeping infant.

"She's adorable, Mac."

"I can't believe she's three weeks old already," the new mother beamed, exchanging a knowing smile with Harriet.

"The time goes by fast, doesn't it, ma'am?"

"You can say that again, Harriet." Chuckling, Mac gazed down at her daughter.

"Are you here to see Harm?" asked Kate.

Mac nodded. "As soon as he's done with his hearing we're going out to lunch. I tried calling his cell from the parking lot but his voicemail picked up."

"Well, I'm glad you stopped by. Why don't we head into my office so you can set her down while we wait?" Kate suggested. Silently agreeing, the three women together began to move slowly along the side of the bullpen. "Are you enjoying your time off?" Kate asked.

"It's been wonderful, although I'll admit that it's nice to get out of the house." Hitching the diaper bag higher up on her arm, Mac shifted the weight of the carrier to her right hand. As she reached up with her left to adjust the baby's blanket, Allie's godmother caught sight of the jewels adorning Mac's finger.

"What a lovely ring, ma'am. Is it new?" Harriet inquired.

"Harm gave it to me Saturday night." Mac couldn't help the smugly satisfied tone that crept into her voice. Her internal clock had been silently counting out the seconds until her friend's eagle eyes spotted the engagement ring. Never one to disappoint, Harriet came to a stop just outside the office door and reached for Mac's hand, lifting it to better inspect the object in question.

"Really? How sweet," she commented casually, tilting Mac's fingers so that the stones sparkled brightly. "What was the occasion?"

The blasé reaction was so unlike Harriet that Mac found herself momentarily taken aback. It took an instant before she realized that Harriet didn't understand the implication behind the gift. After all, most men gave diamonds instead of emeralds when asking for a woman's hand in marriage! Harm was not most men, however, and Mac thought the ring he had given her was perfect – she'd seen enough diamonds to last a lifetime as a result of her experiences in Paraguay. Opening her mouth to reply, she hesitated when a well-known presence drew up behind her.

"Hello, ladies," Harm greeted cheerfully as he joined the group, briefcase in hand. Peering over Mac's shoulder, he took in the sight of Harriet and Kate both admiring his fiancée's ring. "What, no congratulations for the groom?"

"Groom?" Kate asked, fleetingly confused.

The Commander's words registering, Harriet's eyes widened. Her reaction was immediate. "Oh my God, YOU'RE ENGAGED?!!!"

Heads all over the bullpen shot up as her squeal echoed through the room, an expression of stunned excitement creeping over her features. Mac nodded gleefully as Harm put an affectionate arm around her.

"I asked her Saturday evening," he confirmed with a broad grin. "Fortunately for me she didn't insist on wearing it on her right hand first."

"Harm!" Mac admonished, pulling her hand free from Harriet's grasp and giving him a solid thwack across the chest. "Be nice!"

"I am nice. That's why you're marrying me." Laughing softly, he leaned down and gave her a quick kiss. "Let me go drop this stuff in my office before we go – I'll only be a few minutes."

"'Kay," she murmured, smiling as he turned away and headed towards the hallway.

"I am so happy for you, ma'am! How did he propose?!" Harriet begged once Harm had disappeared from sight. "I want details!"

"And don't leave out the good parts," added Kate.

Instantly aware that they were standing in the middle of the bullpen and had the attention of everyone around them, Mac smiled. "Harm won't be back for a few minutes so I'll tell you what I can," she said, stepping into the office. "I'm sure he'll know where to find us."

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Seven Weeks Later
Saturday
1510 Zulu
Roberts' Family Residence

For the second year in a row the day of Little A.J.'s birthday party proved clear and bright. Carrying a plate of raw beef patties in one hand and a package of American cheese in the other, Harm allowed the screen door to swing shut behind him as he stepped out onto the porch and down the stairs into the back yard. On the far side of the enclosure a handful of soon-to-be first graders were playing noisily with the tire swing, their cheerful voices and happy laughter echoing merrily throughout the yard. Weaving his way around the piles of toys littering the grassy lawn, Harm chuckled at the children's antics and approached where his friend was standing at the grill.

"Thank you, sir." Taking the plate, Bud methodically began placing the meat over the flames.

"I brought some Boca burgers, too," Harm said, turning to scan the backyard. "Harriet said she'd bring them out in a few minutes. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I think we've got it under control, sir." Grinning, Bud picked up the bottle of barbeque sauce he'd set to one side and began basting the burgers. "Do either you or the Colonel want cheese?"

"None for me, but I can't speak for Mac. Let me go check."

Giving the younger man a pat on the shoulder, Harm spotted Mac sitting quietly at the picnic table, gently rocking their baby daughter back and forth. As he neared, the contentment radiating from her countenance and the sound of her soft singing caused a wave of tenderness to wash over his heart and his chest to fill with love's warmth. In less than a month she would become Mrs. Harmon Rabb, Jr., and then their lives would at long last be united forever both emotionally and legally. The corners of his lips played upwards in a secret smile.

Harm stopped a few paces away, just watching his fiancée as she cradled baby Allison in her arms. Standing idly lost in his own thoughts, he started when Mac finally looked up and saw him.

"Hi," she said quietly, eyes sparkling in welcome as he crossed the last few steps to take a seat beside her. "Everything all right?"

"Merely enjoying the view." His arm snaked around her waist and they leaned in together for a light kiss. "How are my two favorite ladies?"

"We're fine, thank you," Mac smiled.

"Is she getting ready for her bottle?" Reaching over with his free hand, Harm ran the backs of his knuckles along Allie's smooth cheek.

"In a few minutes. Any idea when lunch will be ready?"

The eager look on Mac's face had him laughing openly. "How like my Marine, always thinking with her stomach," Harm teased. "The food will probably be a little while yet. Bud wants to know if you'd prefer a hamburger or cheeseburger."

"Cheeseburger, definitely!" After seven months of pregnancy-induced vegetarianism, Mac had regained her stomach for 'dead cow' and was now speedily making up for lost time. Any response Harm might have made, however, was cut short by the clomping of feet as six-year-old A.J. rushed up to them.

"Hey Aunt Mac!" the youngster said breathlessly, his face flushed with the exuberance of a child who was clearly enjoying himself. "Want to come play Pin the Tail on the Donkey?"

"I'd love to, sweetie!" Rising, Mac passed Allie to her father and put her hand on her oldest godson's shoulder. "C'mon, tough guy, you lead the way."

Settling the tiny infant into the crook of his elbow, Harm watched as Mac and A.J. crossed the yard and joined the rest of the children. Not for the first time he marveled at how natural Mac was with Bud and Harriet's boys, and how that comfort was already evident in her interactions with their own little girl. Looking down at their daughter, Harm was surprised to find her tiny eyes, so similar to his own, staring up at him contemplatively. The expression in her gaze suggested wisdom beyond her years, and it was with sudden clarity that Harm realized his spur-of-the-moment promise to Mac on that fateful day six years earlier had turned out to be nothing short of prophetic: a little girl whose looks matched her father's and whose intellect would no doubt equal her mother's. Who would've thought? he wondered happily. Life can't get any more perfect than this.

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FIN

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A/N: Well, folks, I'm a little sad to say that this is the last chapter! Thank you once again, everyone, for sticking with me the whole way. I hope you've enjoyed reading the story as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

A/N #2: As Admiral Chegwidden said so eloquently in 'Hail and Farewell', "I am not leaving anything. I am completing one experience and starting another." Along that same vein, I will shortly be starting another story to be posted in parts once it's complete (so that you won't be left hanging for a week at a time waiting for the next chapter, lol). I'm not sure when it will be ready for posting, but I'll try to have it done as soon as I possibly can. Thanks again for all the wonderful feedback!