Time, Not Eternity
By Laura BF

Disclaimer: If you think they're mine, you're sadly mistaken. I borrowed them, hugged them, squeezed them, and called them George and then gave them back like a good girl. Seriously, Harm, Mac, and the TV series JAG belong to Donald P. Bellisario, Belisaurius Productions, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Broadcasting Service Entertainment.

Author's Note: Okay, so maybe I'm crazy. But the law in North Carolina really does exist, and I wanted to throw a monkey wrench in the context of Season Ten at Harm and Mac. So far, this takes into account all episodes up to season ten's One Big Boat, but may or may not contain spoilers except for the facts that Mattie isn't living with Harm anymore and General Cresswell is the new CO. Bonus points to whoever can spot where the title of Chapter 1 came from.

Chapter 1:
What Bwings Us Togewer
"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be."
-Douglas Adams
Three years ago…

0235 ZULU
18 DECEMBER 2001

Harm and Mac came in the door with a blur of snow flurries. They'd left Washington earlier that day to investigate charges of misconduct at Camp Lajeune, but had been stopped by a freak snowstorm. So far, it looked like they'd be trapped overnight.

Harm hit the bell on the counter, which brought out the night clerk. "Two rooms, please?" He requested with a smile.

"I'd like to do that, sir, but we've only got one room left," the clerk said, checking the register.

Mac shivered. "We'll take it," she said, handing over her credit card. Harm looked at her, surprised. "Harm, all the other hotels and motels in town are filled up; we shared in Russia, and we can share here."

"Didn't they think that we were a couple in Russia?" Harm asked, giving her a taste of his flyboy grin.

Mac nodded, smiling. "Guess we can't completely start over..." She grabbed the register and signed them in.

"We've got a lot of history," Harm agreed.

"You're my best friend, Harm; sharing quarters with you isn't really a hardship." Mac turned towards him and smiled softly.

Harm reached out and caught her hand. "I'll always be your friend, Mac." He clasped it loosely, enjoying the way her small fingers felt in his. "After all this time, I'm not sure what I'd do without you."

Mac gave him one of her blinding smiles. "Ditto, sailor."

The night clerk interrupted them. "Room 501," he said, handing Harm the key.

Harm accepted it and turned to walk towards the stairs, tugging Mac with him. "I guess we're stuck here for the night. I'll call the Admiral as soon as we get upstairs; I think that the regular phones are more likely to work than my cell is right now."

"Harm?" Mac asked.


"Did we just have a Hallmark moment?"

"As close as we ever get," Harm said with a laugh.

"I thought so." Mac stopped for a minute, and then pulled him down to place a soft kiss on his cheek. They started going again and headed for their room, hoping that the snowstorm would clear up in the morning.

The night clerk turned the register around, fingered the wad of cash in his pocket and smiled. He was being paid well to do this by an old friend. It only took a few minutes to make the changes, and who did it hurt, anyway? They looked like a good couple, they looked like they were in love, and they were sharing a room, after all.

Present Day…

1415 ZULU
15 NOVEMBER 2004

General Cresswell slit open the envelope that had been delivered by courier a few minutes earlier and pulled out the papers. It only took a few moments to scan them and find out what they were about. He picked up the envelope, intending to slide them back inside before he sent his yeomen after the offending officers, but it was still heavy, and something was sliding around inside. He upended it and photographs of his chief of staff slid out. One eyebrow rose as he looked over the pictures. He hit the intercom button. "Petty Officer Coates, please tell Lt. Colonel Mackenzie and Commander Rabb to come and see me."

"Yes, sir!" was the response.

Minutes later, there was a knock on his door. "Come in," he called, trying to remain calm.

The two senior attorneys came to attention in front of his desk. "Commander Rabb and Lt. Colonel Mackenzie reporting as ordered, sir," Rabb said.

"Stand at ease," Cresswell said in a deceptively calm voice. He held out the paperwork he'd pulled out first, which included a North Carolina Marriage Certificate, dated almost three years back. "Explain this, please. Permission to speak freely."

Mac reached out and took the paperwork. Her eyes widened when she saw the names on it. "Sir, I-I-I don't know how this happened…"

Harm took the paperwork and looked it over. "General Cresswell, I don't know what kind of prank this is, but I am not now, nor have I ever been married to Colonel Mackenzie; I've never found a woman who'd put up with me long enough to marry me." Rabb sounded slightly bitter.

Briefly, Cresswell wondered what had happened to put that tone in the Commander's voice. It sounded as if the man had gotten his heart broken one too many times. He dismissed it; unless it was specifically against the UCMJ, as this case was, the Commander's personal relationships weren't really his business. "So both of you are denying it?" he asked.

"Yes, we are!" Mac exclaimed. "There's no way I ever married him, nor would I! I think I'd remember it if I did!"

Rabb winced, and Cresswell felt a brief flash of sympathy for him. "Sir, three years ago we were just getting to be friends again," he said softly. "Friends is all I've ever been with the Colonel, and our friendship has been rocky for the majority of the last three years."

"I see. What about these?" Cresswell asked, producing the pictures.

Mac looked at them and swallowed visibly. "That's Clayton Webb… he was my last relationship. We broke it off a month or so ago."

Rabb placed the paperwork down on the desk. Cresswell looked at it for a few minutes, weighing his options. Perhaps he should talk to their previous commanding officer and find out if the paperwork was real before he took action. "You do realize that if this is legal, you might both be facing disciplinary action? And Colonel Mackenzie, you also might be facing a court martial for adultery?"

Both officers paled at his words. "Yes, SIR," they answered in unison.

"I'll assign someone to find out if the paperwork is real or an elaborate fake. Dismissed."

"Aye, aye, sir," they said, then turned and walked out the door. Cresswell stared at his latest challenge and briefly wondered why he'd accepted the position of JAG.

1500 ZULU
15 NOVEMBER 2004

Mac grabbed Harm's arm, yanked him into her office, and shut the door. "You have done a lot of underhanded things in you life, Harmon Rabb, but this takes the cake!"

"Me?" Harm looked surprised. "I didn't do anything! I'm just as shocked as you are!"

"You are the lowest life form ever to crawl the earth. Slime is higher on the evolutionary scale than you are! If you think that faking a marriage between us is going to fix the wreck you made of our relationship, then you've got another thing coming!" Mac walked behind her desk, leaned forward on it, and glared at him.

Harm looked at her, his face blank. "This isn't my fault, Mac," he said quietly.

"And I'm supposed to believe that the great Harmon Rabb doesn't go to great lengths to get what he wants? Do I look like I fell off the turnip truck yesterday?" Mac crossed her arms over her chest. "You, Harmon, are the slimiest, smarmiest, most pathetic creature I've ever seen. I will find out how you did this and why, and then I will cut your body into tiny pieces just so I can feed it to the sharks the next time the General sends me TAD to a ship!"

Harm opened the door and gave her a sad look. "When you're ready to be rational about this, Marine, you know where to find me." He strode across the bullpen to his new office and shut the door behind him. He sighed as he flipped the lock closed, walked to his desk and slumped down in his chair. He supposed he should be grateful that Sturgis had given him his office back, but it had been easier to hide in the tiny one, because it was so far away from the bullpen.

Harm allowed himself a few minutes to sit and think about the new development before reaching for the nearest case file and opening it. He didn't remember what they'd been doing on December 18, 2001, which was the date listed on the Marriage Certificate, but he'd look it up soon. In the meantime, he had a case to prepare for--that is, if the General let him continue with his duty.

Harm's jaw tightened imperceptibly. Mattie was gone and there was no way in hell he'd let some sort of bureaucratic error take away what was left of his career, too. He'd just have to investigate and find out what had happened. He'd always seen himself married to Mac, just not without his consent. He wanted to actually ask her, dammit! He'd be the first to admit that he had problems expressing his feelings in words, but Mattie had helped him with it, and he'd been considering asking Mac out in the near future. Not anymore. Mac had, once again, proven to him exactly how she felt, and it wasn't a pretty picture.

At best, he was an acquaintance to be tolerated. At worst, an enemy to be annihilated. Maybe it was time he gave up. Maybe it was time for him to make a change and request a transfer. Mac's current behavior was a far cry from what she had said the previous week. Perhaps he should just give her what she claimed not to want and separate himself from her. At least then he wouldn't be subject to the constant assault that left his heart more bruised and sore after each confrontation.

Harm shook off his reverie and forced himself to concentrate on the case in front of him. There would be time to figure it out later. Besides, he couldn't leave. He had promised Mac that he'd always be there for her, and he couldn't break that promise. He didn't have much left in his life; Mattie was gone, his career would be completely over in a few years, and his time flying fighter jets was even more limited than that. The way he saw it, the only things he had left were his honor and his good name. To break his promise now would destroy them, and would take his self-respect as well.

Six months, he promised himself. He'd give her six months to get straightened out; then he'd request a transfer to the San Diego office. He'd like to spend some time with his mom and stepdad before it was too late; both of them were getting older and wouldn't be around forever. If there was one thing that Mattie had taught him, it was to seize every moment you could with the people you loved because they wouldn't always be there.