Title: Anagnorisis

Author: Shannon/Raindrops on Roses

Rating: PG-13
Category: Angst, Romance (AJ/Mac)

Spoilers: Through season nine.

Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.

Anagnorisis: the point in the plot, especially of a tragedy, at which the protagonist recognizes his or her or some other character's true identity or discovers the true nature of his or her own situation; recognition, particularly through pain and delay.

"Are you certain you don't want to call anyone, Colonel?" the doctor asked gently. Mac nodded silently and stared at the wall. The doctor shook his head and sighed. He left the room, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

It wasn't fair. She had wanted nothing more than to be a mother. For years, she had felt her biological clock winding down.

When she had discovered she was pregnant with Clay's baby, she had been overjoyed. Clay, however, had been less than thrilled. He had told her flat out that he did not want to be a father. She could understand his reasons behind it. He knew what it was like to grow up not knowing what had happened to his father. He didn't want to inflict that on a child.

But Mac wanted to be a mother, and Clay did not want to be a father, and they finally realized that their life plans didn't match. Their breakup, a little over a month ago, had been an amicable one.

Clay, of course, would have supported his child in any way he could. Would have. Mac swallowed and clenched her fists.

It wasn't fair. She wanted to lash out at something, someone. She wanted someone to take away the pain.

Sadik Fahd, may he rot in hell, had said she had a barren life. Mac laughed bitterly. Perhaps he was right.

Her lover left her, her friends left her... and now, even her baby had left her.

She had been at home when it happened. It was late Friday night, and she was up working on a case. She hadn't told anyone at JAG about her pregnancy. She wanted to keep her precious secret for a little while longer.

She had been trying to take care of herself. She had bought all the requisite baby books. She had even gone grocery shopping, buying all healthy foods, not frozen dinners.

And then on Friday night, she had felt a sharp pain in her abdomen, and started to bleed. Heavily. She called an ambulance and tried to stay calm, but it was hard. It was so hard, knowing that she was losing her baby, and that she was absolutely helpless to stop it.

They had taken her to Bethesda. She had been utterly silent the entire ride, only giving the EMTs the information they absolutely needed. She knew that had she actually tried to converse, she would have burst into tears.

Now she stared at the wall, completely empty. She couldn't cry. She couldn't scream. She couldn't feel. She refused to feel. If she did, she might just lose control. And that, after everything else, would be worst of all.

No. It wasn't worst of all. Not being able to have her own children... ever... that was worst of all.

It wasn't fair.

"Chegwidden!" AJ barked into the telephone.

"Admiral Chegwidden?" a man's voice asked.

"Speaking." AJ frowned.

"Admiral, this is Commander Nesbitt from Bethesda Medical Center. I'm calling on behalf of Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie."

AJ's brow furrowed. "Mac? Is she all right?" he asked in concern.

"No, sir. She refuses to call anyone, and I couldn't find her information on her next-of-kin."

"What's happened to the colonel, Commander?" AJ asked, a feeling of dread forming in the pit of his stomach.

"She's suffered a miscarriage, Admiral."

AJ sighed and closed his eyes. "Good God." Shaking his head, he said, "You said you couldn't find her next-of-kin contact information?"

"No, sir. I believe she was in the process of getting it changed. I didn't know who else to call, and I don't wish to release her unless I know someone will be looking after her."

"Careful, Commander," AJ smiled half-heartedly, "she hears you, she's liable to take you down."

"I don't know about that, Admiral," the doctor replied. AJ didn't know what to make of the restraint in his voice.

Instead, he simply replied, "I'll be there as soon as possible."

"Colonel, I'm not releasing you until I know you won't be alone," Doctor Nesbitt said. The Marine didn't even acknowledge his presence.

The doctor shook his head and left the room. He saw a tall man in a Naval uniform stride up the corridor. The man had admiral's stars on his shoulder boards. "Admiral Chegwidden?" Nesbitt asked with no little relief.

"Yes." The man turned fiery brown eyes on him. "Where's the colonel?"

"Right in here, sir. She hasn't spoken since she got here." The commander shook his head. "I was hoping that having someone she knows here would help her."

The admiral's lips tightened. He opened the door to the room. "Colonel MacKenzie?"

Mac blinked. She turned cold, empty eyes on the man. "Admiral." Her voice was flat.

The admiral took a seat next to the bed. "Why didn't you call anyone?" Nesbitt could hear the concern in the older man's voice.

The colonel turned her gaze back to the wall. "I didn't want their pity."

"You think we would pity you?" Admiral Chegwidden asked incredulously. "Mac, we're your friends. We want--no, we need to know when you need our help."

"I'm fine, sir." The non-answer obviously infuriated the JAG. He glared at his chief of staff.

"You're not fine, Mac. You're so far from fine you're approaching it from the other side! And if you would quit being a damn stubborn jarhead, you would realize that!"

"What do you want me to say, Admiral?" The flat tone hadn't left her voice. "That I lost something I had wanted for years? That I needed to prove that I could handle it by myself? That it hurts so much, I can't even cry about it?"

"That's a start."

"Well, now you know."

The uniformed man stood and walked to the window. He crossed his arms and scowled. "You can't stay home by yourself, you know."

"I can take care of myself, Admiral." In a whisper, she said, "I have for a long time now."

He ignored her comment. "Commander!"

The doctor snapped to attention. "Admiral?"

"I will arrange for someone to stay with the colonel." He glared the woman in the bed into submission. "Now, what kind of paperwork needs to be done?"

Mac stared out the window of the Escalade in silence. The bright sunshine seemed to mock her pain. Her lips twisted into a parody of a smile.

"You mock my pain!"

"Life is pain, Princess. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something."

Chloe loved that movie, she thought absently.

She could feel the heat of the Admiral's stare on her, but refused to meet his eyes. She preferred the silence, anyway.

"Colonel." Obviously, he didn't care. "Do you have anyone to stay with you?"

She shook her head and watched the trees fly by.

"I could call Lieutenant Sims, if you'd like."

"No, sir. Not Harriet." Her voice nearly broke. She couldn't stay with Bud and Harriet. She just couldn't.

AJ seemed to realize that being around Jimmy and AJ would hurt her more than help her. He nodded. "What about Harm?"

Mac snorted. "Harm's the last person I want to see right now." AJ raised an eyebrow, but didn't respond.

"Petty Officer Coates?"

Mac shook her head. "Helping Harm with his custody battle for Mattie."

"Commander Turner?" He was becoming visibly frustrated.

"Spending the weekend with his girlfriend."

AJ sighed and turned the vehicle toward McLean. Mac finally looked at him. "Where are we going?"

He gave her a piercing look. "Since you've shot down everyone I've listed, I suppose you're coming home with me."

"But--Admiral--what about regulations?" she sputtered in shock.

He waved off her concern. "I'll call Sheffield and let him know what's going on." She opened her mouth. "No arguments, Colonel, or I'll turn this car around and bring you right back to Bethesda."

She subsided.

"Attention on deck!"

"As you were." AJ took his seat at the head of the conference room table. The officers seated all looked to the empty chair at his right. Furrowed brows appeared around the table.

"Colonel MacKenzie will be on medical leave for the next two weeks. Her cases will need to be redistributed." The unexpected announcement sent a ripple of shock through the room. AJ suppressed a snort. It had been an... experience... to get the headstrong woman to agree to even that much.

"What happened, sir?" Harmon Rabb asked, concerned.

AJ sighed and removed his reading glasses. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, frowned, and looked down at the table. When he looked back up, he saw every face at the table turned toward him expectantly.

"She had a miscarriage Friday night." A collective gasp rose from the group. "She is recuperating at my house. Secretary Sheffield knows about it," he added, giving Rabb a significant look. The man's blue eyes cleared.

"Poor Colonel MacKenzie," a feminine voice murmured. AJ gave Lieutenant Sims a half-smile.

"Yes, well, we can talk about it later." He didn't want to sound callous, but they did need to get work done--no matter how much they were all hurting for their friend. He prepared to drop the next bombshell.

"I have decided to retire at the end of the month."

Jaws dropped and eyes opened wide. The room went completely silent.

"I see." Mac stared at the man seated across from her at the dining room table. She met his gaze calmly, wiped her mouth with her napkin, and placed it back in her lap.

"That's all?" He seemed confused by her reaction.

The corners of her lips turned up slightly. "Admiral, I find that I'm surprised by very little these days." Particularly the fact that he was leaving them. Why should he be any different than anyone else in her life?

She turned her attention back to her plate. She pushed her pasta around with her fork, having lost what little appetite she had.

A warm, rough hand covered hers, stopping her fidgety movements. "Mac." He waited until she met his eyes, then said, "I'm not leaving you."

She swallowed. How could this man read her so well?

"I have a reason for wanting to retire. I have many reasons." He smiled slightly. "But I promise you that I am not leaving you."

She nodded in understanding. She slid her hand out from beneath his.

"What's wrong, Mac?"

She took a deep breath. She blurted, "It just won't be the same." Everything was changing so fast.

"My life is an earthquake."


"I know." AJ didn't smile. He looked at her seriously and said, "But different doesn't necessarily mean worse."

The clink of silverware on plates and the low hum of murmured conversation echoed through the room. AJ looked around in satisfaction, with only a tinge of sadness. His retirement party was going well. He smiled.

He looked around the table at the people who had been his responsibility for nearly a decade. He had seen them through high times and low times--through weddings and births, deaths and major injuries. They had all grown during their time as a team. Grown up in ways that many would never be able to imagine.

His gaze landed on Lieutenant Sims, and he smiled bemusedly. "Is there something you'd like to tell us, Harriet?" he asked, looking at the concoction on her plate. He did not want to know what it was.

The blonde woman looked up at him and blushed. She swallowed her mouthful of food and put her fork down. "Well..." she hesitated.

"Out with it, Harriet," AJ's trouble child, Harmon Rabb, grinned.

She smiled shyly and reached for her husband's hand. "I really wanted to tell Buddy first, but since I've apparently been caught..."

Newly promoted Lieutenant Commander Bud Roberts looked at his wife in shock. "Harriet, are you...?" She nodded. Bud smiled widely. He leaned in and kissed his wife.

"I'm back," Sturgis Turner's baritone voice broke in. He handed his date a glass and said, "What's going on?"

"Harriet's pregnant," Bud said, smiling from ear to ear.

The table broke into a chorus of congratulations for the couple. The group was delighted for their friends. Everyone but one person.

"Where did the colonel go?" Harriet asked once it quieted a bit.

AJ looked around. He saw a flash of red hurrying toward the door and frowned.

Harriet craned her head around and saw the same thing. "Oh, no," she whispered. "I didn't mean to..." She stood. The men at the table stood with her. She started for the door, but AJ stopped her.

"Let me go." He gave her a kind look. She nodded, a pained, guilty look on her face, and sat once more. AJ hurried after the retreating colonel.

Mac stood in front of the mirror. Her hands were splayed across her abdomen. She took a slow, deep breath, trying to calm herself.

Harriet hadn't meant anything by it. It wasn't fair to be angry with her.

It wasn't fair. No, it wasn't. But since when had her life been fair?

Mac felt the jealousy bubble and seethe in her gut. She forced it down. It wasn't right. She should be happy for her friend.

She wanted to be happy. Truly, she did. She felt the numbness begin to thaw from the onslaught of emotion.

She wouldn't cry.

A tear trickled down her cheek.

She would not cry.

She stifled a sob, clapping a hand to her mouth. Her knees gave out, and she sank to the cold, hard tile.

Not fair. Not fair, not fair, not fair not fair notfairnotfairnotfair...

Through the fog in her mind, she heard footsteps approach her. She felt strong arms embrace her. She was enveloped in his now familiar scent.

She shoved his shoulder. He didn't let her go. She smacked him with her open palm. He tightened his hold.

Pain blossomed in her chest. She welcomed it--welcomed anything that could overcome the overwhelming numbness.

"It's not fair," she voiced her thoughts. "It's not FAIR!" The whisper became a cry of agony. She pounded his chest and shoulders. He caught her fists in his large hands and pulled her tighter to him.

Finally, she cried. The tears poured from her, washing away the anger, and pain, and sense of injustice. She sobbed into his shoulder, letting the feeling of safety wrap around her like a warm blanket.

Her tears eventually stopped, but neither moved. Mac, breathing raggedly, looked into the face of the man trying to comfort her.

AJ looked back at her. He lifted his hands to her face.

Mac swallowed. She recalled a conversation they had had one night when she couldn't sleep.

"I wanted that baby, Admiral," she said, staring out into the darkness. "God, I wanted that baby."

He watched her silently. She continued. "I just want someone to love me... unconditionally. I don't want to have to be perfect. I don't want to conform to anyone else's view of what a woman should be. I just want to be loved for myself." Her voice trailed off into a whisper.

AJ finally spoke. "Mac, love is unconditional. That's what makes it love. It's easy to be in love, but to love someone is so much more difficult. Once you love someone, it is forever. You may not like them much, but even if you're not in love with them... you still want them to be happy."

He wiped her tears from her cheeks and smiled gently.

As she looked into his deep brown eyes, Mac realized that she didn't need to go looking for unconditional love.

It was right here in front of her.