Disclaimer: I don't own JAG. But if you're thinking about selling, I could offer you a pretty fair price…
A/N: This occurs directly before 'Goodbyes' and after 'Second Sight'. Harm doesn't change his designator. 'Yeah, Baby' didn't happen, as much as I love the H/M scene at the end. I started writing this story smack dab in the middle (What can I say? I like the mushy stuff, not the intro and the exposition and all that actual important stuff), so the beginning is painfully contrived. Hang in there, though: the H/M comes through strong and clear eventually.
As I post this the story is over sixty pages long, and I'm making it up as I go, so for all of you who wanted me to write something longer than five pages, here it is. I am putting it up in installments, though, because I'm not sure the 500-word poster in me can handle putting that much up at once.
This story achieves one of my ultimate goals: the angst of a character death with none of that messy actual death stuff to get in the way. Comments, constructive criticism and suggestions for plot points and mental institutions that are currently taking patients and have ethernet access are more than welcome. Don't bother pointing out that Andie is one huge plot contrivance rolled up into an original character; that's how I wrote her and that's how I like her. :-) Enjoy!
Judge Advocate General Headquarters
I sink into my chair, certain that my life can't get any worse. It's been almost three weeks since my Admiral's Mast, and I can't handle the environment in this office anymore. The admiral spends his time giving me busy work and shaking his head at me, and Harm and I have barely talked. The rest of the office is steering clear of me, not that I blame them, and I'm seriously considering putting in for a transfer. I don't like the idea of running away from my problems yet again, but I'm not getting anything useful done here anymore.
The phone ringing is a welcome distraction from my thoughts. "Mackenzie."
"Hello, Sarah. It's Andrea Monroe."
"Andie! How have you been? We haven't talked since..."
"Since right after you transferred to the JAG corps. How's that going?"
I glance out my window into the bullpen. "Don't ask. I hope you're calling for help on a mission, hopefully one that will get me out of here for a few weeks."
She laughs. "I have to hand it to you, Sarah, your sense of timing is impeccable."
"Isn't that why they call me Cleo?"
"I guess it is. Can you be ready for a pre-briefing by tomorrow evening?"
"Not that much has changed."
"You promised me a trip to the Caribbean after last time."
"We can make a stop after the mission. You, me, and a beach full of hot college boys on spring break."
"Works for me. Anyone else coming back from the old days?"
Andie sighs. "Nah. I could only justify bringing in one senior op."
"And you thought of me first?"
"Of course." She sounds mildly offended. "You're my favorite."
Boy, it's nice to be somebody's favorite right now. "I'll be there. Would you mind clearing it with my CO?"
"Trouble in paradise?"
"I screwed up." I sigh. "Look, I know it's my responsibility..."
"I'll do you one better and clear it with the SecNav. Your CO won't be able to question it. The orders will be there within the hour. It'll come down as a sealed order for reassignment to the DSD; I'll get you reassigned back to Falls Church when we're done." She hesitates for a moment. "I know I don't know what's wrong over there, Cleo, but just remember, it may be screwed up-"
"But if you can do it, you can undo it too. I know, Meph. I just want out of here for a little while."
"I can handle that.
"I forgot how much I liked you."
She laughs. "Hang in there another two days and we can have some real fun, just like old times."
We hang up, and I think about what I've just done. I've had offers from I-Force to return on missions since I transferred out after Bosnia three years ago, but until now Andie has never been the one to ask me. She and I spent a whole year together, as part of a joint services team in Bosnia, and back then we were as tight as two friends can get. Andie was an unholy terror if someone was stupid enough to cross her – that was how she ended up being coined as Mephistopheles, if I remember correctly – and she was fiercely dedicated to the job, but she was also dedicated to our team.
I've really missed her unfailing support over the last few weeks, but I know better than to try and contact her myself. She's impossible to reach most of the time. During my trial I seriously considered having Webb look for her, but then I would have had to explain to Webb what was going on, and I wasn't sure I could handle it if Andie stopped trusting me like everyone else did.
This mission is a godsend, though. I can get out of here for a little while and catch up with Andie at the same time. I may keep my mouth shut about the last few weeks; it'll be nice to be around someone who doesn't know what a screw-up I've been.
Judge Advocate General Headquarters
I can hear the shouting before I reach the admiral's office. When I get to Tiner's desk, Mac is already standing there listening to the muffled exclamations coming from behind his door.
"Any idea what we did this time?" I joke, but she's tight-lipped and nervous. Maybe we did do something wrong.
"I was kidding," I tell her, and she gives me an apologetic look.
"Sorry, Harm. I'm just not looking forward to this."
"So you know what we did?"
She sighs despondently and I have to resist the urge to hug her. She looks so sad. "You didn't do anything. It's me."
Tiner's intercom buzzes, and the admiral demands to have us sent in. I gesture for Mac to precede me, holding the door for her and shutting it behind us as we stand at attention in front of Chegwidden's desk.
"Lieutenant Commander Rabb and Major Mackenzie reporting as ordered, sir."
He gets out of his chair and stalks toward us. Mac's face is paling quickly, and I'm suddenly afraid this has something to do with that mess three weeks ago or her Article 32. He stops in front of Mac, and it seems like my fears are about to be realized.
"Major, did you request a transfer out of my command?"
I turn to blink at her, not caring that I'm no longer at attention. She did what?
He extends a sheaf of papers to her. "Then explain this, if you would be so kind."
She takes the papers, scanning the one on top. "It's a reassignment to the DSD, sir."
"How astute, Major. I'm interested in how exactly this came to pass. Did you request this transfer?"
"But you knew about it."
I suck in a sharp breath, betrayed. How could she know about something like that and not tell me? I'm supposed to be her partner. She's supposed to be my best friend.
The admiral leans back against his desk, folding his arms across his chest. "Why?"
She keeps her eyes firmly on the papers in her hand. "They need me over there, sir."
His voice softens for a moment. "And we need you here, Mac."
She finally looks up, meeting his gaze. "I'm sorry, sir."
He sighs. "So be it," he says, looking over at me. "Commander, this is going to affect you the most, since the two of you work together so often. Have the major show you the cases she's been working on, and make sure you've got a grip on them before she leaves. Dismissed."
Interdepartmental Task Force Headquarters
I'm standing at what passes for attention in my department, doing my best to look as though I'm not the least bit interested in how my superiors react to the op plan they're currently reviewing. Actually, I think I might scream from the tension. If they don't approve the plan I've got thirty-two hours to come up with a completely different one, and there are only so many ways to move twelve valuable hostages and three deactivated nuclear warheads out of an enemy encampment without getting caught.
Command looks up, raising an eyebrow at me. "I thought Mackenzie was a JAG lawyer now," she says, tone as cool and even as ever.
"She is," I reply, unconsciously emulating her calm speech. "I requested her temporarily and she agreed. The orders went through this morning."
"Eager, are we?" That's Control, always questioning the motives of operatives who start to get ahead of themselves.
"No, sir," I say, wishing they'd just approve or disapprove and be done with it. "Just ready to do my job."
He leans back in his chair but doesn't say anything further. It's Command who finally nods at me, gesturing toward the door. "Then go do it, Andrea."
Judge Advocate General Headquarters
We make it three steps out of the admiral's office before I grab her arm, nearly blind with anger.
"What the hell was that, Mac?" I demand, furious. "You're transferring to the DSD? Since when?"
She sighs, rubbing her forehead as though she's trying to stave off a headache. "Since yesterday," she replies. "Look, Harm, can we do this later? I need to get my cases together."
"No, we can do this now," I snap, aware on some level that I'm being unreasonable about this, but I'm too upset to care. "You didn't think this might be something I might like to know about before the admiral called us in over it? Damn it, Mac, I don't know what's been going on with you lately –"
"Stop." She takes a step backwards, away from me. "Stop it, Harm. You know full well what's been going on, this whole damn office knows, and I am so sick of it."
"What, so you're going to run away?" I taunt, ignoring the little voice in my head telling me that taking this tack with her isn't a good idea. "That's your MO, right? Don't bother sticking around to try and fix your mistakes, just walk away and pretend they never happened. That's how you ended up with an Article 32 in the first place!"
We both freeze when those words come out of my mouth. I'd do anything to take them back, but they're already out there, hanging in the air between us.
"Mac, I'm sorry," I begin, knowing any apology I can produce isn't going to make this right but needing to try. She cuts me off.
"No, you're not." She shakes her head. "You meant every word."
"I didn't –"
"Then you should have." Her voice is quiet and full of self-recrimination. "It was all true."
"Mac, no, I didn't mean –"
"I'll leave those cases with Harriet," she says, her outward demeanor returning to normal. Only someone who knows her as well as I do could tell that she's still upset. "I need to go. Excuse me."
I bite back another apology, knowing it won't do any good now. I'll have to call her in a few days, once she's cooled down. Heaving a gusty sigh, I head for my office feeling like the world's biggest jerk.