Title: In A Garden

Epilogue

By: LizD

Written: March 2004

Disclaimers: No disrespect to JAG's cast, crew or creators. With love and thanks.

In A Garden – Epilogue

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

The sun was casting long shadows across the yard on a perfect late spring evening. The flowerbeds were stocked and blooming and the trees had been pruned back. A warm breeze carried the scent of honeysuckle and fresh cut grass. Harm stepped out the back door, cracked open his well-earned beer and surveyed the work he had accomplished that day. He made mental notes of what was left to do. The backyard had been turned into a lovely garden in preparation for the wedding. Harm had been working on it for weeks.

"It looks great, Dad," David said coming from the driveway still dressed in his uniform. "Not bad for an old man," he clapped his father on the shoulder and continued on into the house.

Harm had to agree; it did look great and he was an old man. He pushed a hand through his more salt than pepper hair and said a silent 'thank you' for still having enough hair to put his hand in. He would be turning seventy that year. It was hard to believe with all the living he had done that he made it to seventy. He didn't feel a day over thirty-five – at least in his mind, but his body was another story. It took a few more grunts and groans to get out of bed in the morning and he didn't move as easily as he did in his youth. He had not fully retired from his practice but he had a lot more time on his hands to -- to garden? He laughed at himself; he was an old man.

A roar of laughter came from the kitchen. His children were home and together for the first time in a long time filling the normally quiet house with love and laughter. They all had grown up smart, accomplished, happy and remained very close in spite of everything. Harm admired their play, their banter, their competition, their youth. It reminded him of the way he and Sarah had been – in the beginning.

Sarah. His eyes went to the rose garden he planted for her. Everything was for her. He wished she were there.

"Hey Dad," Zander called from the kitchen door. "You making dinner or are we calling for pizza?"

"Pizza," he called back without looking over his shoulder.

He wandered off to the edge of the yard to futz with the roses. This was his favorite time of the day, time to reflect, remember and plan.

"Dad?" Hailey's voice came from next to him. He hadn't realized he has been seated on the bench staring into space for several minutes. "Dad, are you OK?"

He looked up at her – his daughter – technically his stepdaughter, but that technicality had been overlooked by both of them for years. Alan was never much of a father and was not part of Hailey's life. Harm flashed her that flyboy smile that he still had, "Of course, why wouldn't I be?"

"You looked – I don't know - pensive."

"Pensive? I guess," he slid over to let her sit with him. "Is that a bad thing?

She sat down next to him and covered his hand with hers. "The boys ordered pizza. It should be here in an hour."

He got up to go snip a couple of dead leaves.

"You've created a lovely space here," she called after him still concerned by his mood.

He nodded.

"It didn't look this nice when I got married," she added playfully.

"You gave me a week's notice," he laughed at her. It had been a running banter they had had for years.

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:: :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

Hailey had always been mature for her age. All she wanted to do since she was a little girl was to be grown up. She had taken on more than an oldest child should, she maintained the order in the family in the dark years and she studied. She studied very hard, graduated from High School at 17 and completed her undergrad at 20 and was well on her way to completing her masters in political science when she met Kyle Sullivan. She was completely swept off her feet. He was seven years older, a writer, a poet, an artist, a classical musician and a dreamer. He was working on his third attempt at a doctorate. They had known each other for less than six weeks when Hailey came home to announce their engagement … which was actually more like an invitation to the wedding the following weekend except that there was no where, no when, no who and no how. All she knew for sure was that it would be the next Saturday. Mac was of course not home; she was overseas and would not be back until the day of.

Harm had never met Kyle, but from what he heard, he assumed that he never would. According to the rest of the family he was a flake, a loser, and not Hailey's type at all. Kyle was a perpetual student, a free spirit, a child of hippy parents and his stated goal in life was to never work to earn a living. His 'art' would never amount to enough to keep the lights on so his prospects were a nonexistent. He was anti-government, anti-military, left of left's left, so he had little to discuss with Rabb/MacKenzie clan. To his credit, probably his only credit, he had charisma and he used his power for good. While he was not capable of following through on any project, he was able to bring people together, get them motivated and moving in a good direction. He was an instigator and was able to start many organizations that did a lot of good charity work including the Virginia Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, Food for Foreign Lands, Kids for Kid's Sake and numerous others. Harm still didn't like him at least he didn't like him for Hailey.

"Come on Dad," Hailey prodded. "You must have something to say."

"I think 20 is a little young to make that kind of commitment." He swallowed hard. "I can't believe I am going to suggest this, but why don't you two live together, and in a couple of years …"

"I am 21," she corrected.

"At 21 I couldn't commit to a pair of socks."

"Dad, I want you to be happy for me … I want you and mom to stand up with me."

"Stand up with you?"

"Well … it's not like we will be getting married in a church or anything …. We were thinking sunset on a beach or sunrise in the mountains or by a lake at midnight … it will be a full moon this weekend … anyway, you two are my best friends and I want you to stand up with me."

Harm just shook his head. This was not his daughter. She was nothing if not by the book, like her mom.

"You won't?"

"Sit down, Hailey," he directed. "I have never seen you like this," he added.

"Happy?"

He shrugged. "If that is what you want to call it." He studied her for a moment. "May I at least meet this person before he marries my daughter?"

Hailey's smile faded and she got a very serious look on her face. She never forgot to give thanks that Harm was in her life and that he wanted to be her father. "I don't know what I would have done if not for you, Dad."

He wrapped his arm around her. "That's a very sweet thing to say."

"It is true. You have been so good to me. Your trust and faith and guidance … you taught me to believe in myself … I don't know what would have happened …" She started to tear up.

"Hey, sweetheart … you were an amazing person when I met you, I was just lucky enough to be there to see you grow up."

She shook her head, she wasn't about to let him brush his contribution to her life away so easily again. "Alan let me down in so many ways before I was 5 that I expect there was never any hope for a relationship with him."

"Your father was a troubled man."

"Alan was a loser," she declared. "Thank God he was out of my life."

"Come, come, Hails … you should speak like that about him."

"You have!"

"There was a time when I was very disappointed about how your father --."

"You are my father," she interrupted.

"How he treated you."

"Disappointed? You ripped him a new one!"

"I did no such thing … and how did you know?"

"I was listening in the other room … it was my thirteenth birthday and he had promised to take me to dinner and a play."

Harm nodded, he remembered the day vividly. It was a difficult time for Hailey. She was becoming a teenager and she was confused about where she belonged in the world. She was the only Shea in the house. Though Mac had not taken the name of Rabb, she was Mrs. Rabb to all her children's friends including Hailey's. Harm didn't want to overstep his bounds, and it was clear that Alan was between he and Hailey and that was OK. He couldn't love her any more.

On the day of Hailey's birthday (another pancake breakfast – it had become a tradition), Alan called and got Mac. He didn't have the guts to speak to Hailey himself and tell her that he was not going to follow through with his promise nor had he planned to (no tickets were bought). It was going to break the little girl's heart. She had been looking forward to it for weeks, had gotten a new dress and told all her girlfriends. Mac told Harm privately and waited until after breakfast to break the news to Hailey. Other plans were quickly made – a party with the family and to include whomever Hailey wanted, but it was clear that Hailey was more than disappointed.

Harm hatched a plan of his own without telling Mac or anyone. It took a little doing, but within an hour a flora truck arrived. The driver delivered a corsage for Hailey with a note that asked her to dinner, just the two of them. It was signed: with all my love, your other father. It was a perfect night and a bonding experience that neither ever forgot. It was her first date and it set a standard that no man could ever meet or exceed. At the end of the night she hugged him hard, and whispered in his ear, "You are not my OTHER father, you are my only father. I love you, Daddy."

The following day Alan called to try to make it up to Hailey, Harm blasted him for being insensitive and cruel among other things. He had no idea that Hailey was listening.

"So about this wedding," Harm brought them back to the topic at hand. "I think both your mother and I expected to have had a bit more of a traditional wedding for you … at least one with more than a week to prepare and maybe a chance to get to know the man you have chosen to spend your life with, but speaking only for myself … I support your decision."

"Thank you Dad."

"Once you have your mother's blessing – which I am sure that I can facilitate if need be; I suggest that you have it here, in the garden – it would make your mother happy … and me." He took her hand, "You can pick everything else – sunrise, sunset, when the moon is high."

It hadn't occurred to her, but she did want to get married from home. "Not much of a garden, Dad."

"Give me a week and it will be beautiful."

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"It was beautiful," she acknowledged.

They fell back into a comfortable silence. Harm kept futzing with vines and plants.

"I remember the day you and Mom got married," she said, hoping to draw him out.

"You can't possible remember that day – you were three years old," he knew what she was trying to do. She was baiting him into telling her the story again, like she had a million times growing up.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," she laughed. "It was the hottest day of the summer."

"It was the coldest day of winter," he sat back down. "There was a blizzard."

"Mom wore a sleeveless cotton summer dress with big blue flowers."

"She wore a white winter coat, gloves and we all nearly got frost bite."

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:: :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

Harm's memory was closer to the truth but it wasn't that cold, and the 'blizzard' was lightly falling snow, only enough to set a mood.

It was New Year's Eve morning. Sarah got the wild hair idea of getting married that day. Harm agreed. So they told no one what they were doing, bundled the kids into the car and drove in search of a justice of the peace in a romantic setting – outside. Harm nearly choked when she said she wanted to get married outside.

"Mac, it's snowing out," he protested.

"It's beautiful," she cooed to woo him to her side.

He loved how happy she was and relented quickly. "Mountains or the water, milady?"

Without hesitation – "The mountains."

Harm headed west. They drove for hours – close to four - and the kids were getting antsy. She was about to give up on the whole idea, when – as if by magic – a gorgeous bed and breakfast appeared. The sign read "Lady Rockingham – The Garden Gate Inn". It was perfect. Harm sweet-talked the innkeeper, Ms. Pitts, to helping him find a justice of the peace that would come out. It turned out it wasn't that hard to do, the justice of the peace was her husband and he was home for lunch, and they were both a bit on the romantic side.

The inn had only two guests, Mr. and Mrs. Brandon. They were an older couple from Florida who had come up for the Christmas holidays. They readily agreed to act as witnesses. Mrs. Pitts had suggested they use the wedding garden in the back of the house – designed to be used in the warm weather but it was still a lovely setting. The hedges, benches, grass and trees were completely covered with fresh snow. It looked like a fairy tale. Mr. Pitts asked about rings. Neither Harm nor Mac had thought of them. Sarah suggested that he use her engagement ring, and they would get wedding bands later. Then there were the vows, Sarah had wanted to write hers, but now she was too excited. They agreed to the 'standard' wedding. The kids were being good, but all they were interested in was playing in the snow.

Mrs. Brandon pulled Sarah upstairs for some quick girl talk and to give her a chance to get ready in private.

Mrs. Pitts came out of the kitchen with a large bag full of rose petals. Her husband had given her roses on their 47th anniversary (Christmas Eve) and the roses had since died. She gave the bag to the kids and told them to go outside and spread the petals all around the garden. Harm watched her instruct the children. She looked up at him after the kids were gone, "For color," she stated simply and followed after them.

Sarah came down the stairs with her hair freshly fluffed and her make up redone. She was the more beautiful than Harm had ever seen her before. She was lit from within. She had on off-white wool pants, an off-white wool sweater that hugged her in all the right ways, a winter white wool coat that came to her ankles, a deep burgundy wool scarf and matching beret. On her lapel was an enamel pin of blue Larkspur with some very tiny diamonds that shone brightly that Mrs. Brandon had loaned her. It was her something borrowed and something blue. She told herself that the new was her boots (she had never worn them before) and the old - well that was her love for the man she was marrying.

She stepped down the stairs and crossed to meet him. He could not take his eyes from her.

"Hi," she said tentatively.

"Nervous?" he asked.

"Nah. You?"

He smiled. "Nah – my knees always knock when it is cold."

"Or when you get married?" She touched his arm.

"Well then too," he covered her hand with his.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"You sure you don't want a big wedding with all the trimmings? Your friends? Lots of flowers? Heat?" He added playfully.

"All I need is you and the kids … this is perfect," she said seriously. "Thank you for doing this."

"Thank me? For allowing me share your life? Sarah, I am the one who will forever be in your debt."

"We'll call it even."

He held out his arm to her. "Shall we?"

She smiled and took his arm. Just before they crossed the threshold she turned to him and said, "I love you."

He turned her so they were facing each other. "Sarah, I have loved you as my friend, my partner, my adversary and my lover. You have been ahead of me, behind me, beside me and apart from me, in laughter and tears, in conflict and harmony and every step between for as long as I can remember. I promise you today to be your devoted husband, your trusted partner, father to your children, but a friend to you first - always. I will be a better man just for having you by my side."

"Harm, I ask of you what I ask of me – to be none other than ourselves, loving what we know of each other, trusting what we do not yet know, in all the ways that life may find us. Today I give my self over to us – an us that will be better, stronger and bigger than the sum of our parts. I will be a better woman just for having you by my side."

Harm was about to kiss her, when Mrs. Brandon cleared her throat. She had tears in her eyes and could barely speak. "Save it for the ceremony, kids," she said and hustled them out the door.

Mac's breath nearly caught in her throat at the site of the snow white covered garden sprinkled with red rose petals. It was lovely. The kids waited not so patiently with Mrs. Pitts and Mr. Brandon.

Mr. Pitts cleared his throat and began. "We are gathered here on the eve of a New Year to join Harmon Rabb and Sarah MacKenzie in the bonds of holy matrimony. If any one here present can show legal cause why they may not be joined, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."

Mr. Brandon cleared his throat and rubbed his arms. "How about reason to speed this thing up?" he grumbled.

"Billy!" his wife scolded.

They all laughed and Harm nodded to Mr. Pitts to continue and speed it up – a little.

"Harmon, will you have Sarah as your lawful wedded wife, to live together in the state of matrimony? Will you love her, honor her, comfort and keep her in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, be true to her as long as you both shall live?"

Harm looked at Sarah. "I will."

"Sarah, will you have Harm as your lawful wedded husband, to live together in the state of matrimony? Will you love him, honor him, comfort and keep him in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, be true to him as long as you both shall live?"

"I will."

"The ring," Mr. Pitts helped.

Harm pulled out the ring and Sarah pulled off her glove.

"I, Harm Rabb take Sarah MacKenzie as my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better of for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death parts us." He slipped the ring on her finger.

Sarah held his hand in hers. "I, Sarah MacKenzie, take Harmon Rabb, as my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better of for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death parts us."

They smiled brightly at each other and turned back to Mr. Pitts.

"For as much as Harmon and Sarah have consented together in wedlock and have witnessed the same before this company of their children and new friends, and have given and pledged their promises to each other. By the authority vested in me by the state of Virginia, I pronounce this couple to be husband and wife."

Harm stood motionless for a moment, at a loss for what to do.

"Kiss her you fool before we all freeze to death," Mr. Brandon barked.

Harm did as he was told and all the company clapped and tossed fresh snow on the couple.

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"And then we all made a snowman and drank hot chocolate," David finished.

Harm and Hailey looked up to see his other children standing a few feet away.

Zander chimed in. "Jeez Dad, if I had known you were gonna go all moody on us like this, I would have brought down the photo albums."

"Yeah … go get them," Hailey encouraged. "I haven't looked at them in years."

"Hails – you need to call your old man." David told her. "He said he can't find the can opener … probably used it in some damned Object d' Art."

Hailey excused herself and went up to the house muttering about how useless her husband was.

"So you are in a story telling mood, eh Pappi?" Zander asked.

"No, she baited me into it," he said.

"Why don't you tell the one about the time you pushed the tomcat with your windscreen by its tail hook."

"Or when you shot holes in the JAG courtroom."

"Or when you landed the C130 on the deck of a carrier."

"Or the time you resigned your commission and flew down to Paraguay to rescue Mom from certain death," Zander couldn't stop himself.

Harm looked at his son quickly, the hurt and pain clearly on his face. It was not the events in Paraguay that hurt Harm anymore; it was the retribution that Sadik Fahd had finally reaped that was still so close to the surface it hurt.

"Tell about the night I was born," Maya's voice came from behind.

They all turned to look at her. She was a lovely young woman whose appearance and voice were identical to Mac's with one exception. Maya Rose Rabb had piercing blue eyes, just like her father. She came over and sat down.

"Tell the whole story, pappi," she encouraged.

That story started long before the night she was born, but there were certain family histories that even the kids don't need to know about.

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:: :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

Harm and Mac were married on New Year's Eve December 2008, three days shy of the eleventh anniversary of the day they met in the Rose Garden of the White House, four and a half years after they parted in the backyard of the Roberts ending their silly baby deal and a friendship that appeared irreparable and eight months after they found each other again. The marriage started out like most marriages do – that's why they call it a honeymoon period.

Harm struggled with what to do for work. He had interviewed and had been made some very generous offers, but he could not bring himself to work in the private sector again – it didn't seem rewarding enough. His lovely wife was making an enormous impact on the war on terrorism – well she would be, once she got going. He needed to do something rewarding too. They talked through every scenario and discussed it from every angle, and it was decided that Harm would either have to go back to the Navy as a lawyer, try to recreate the child advocacy agency EAST or he could spend more time with the kids and do his own business repairing and restoring furniture, houses, cars or aircraft (pretty much anything that needed to be restored). After much back and forth, agreements were made; they decided to try the business. If it didn't work out in six or eight months, then he could go back to practicing law. Mac was behind him 115%.

Because Harm's schedule was so much more flexible than Mac's, he took on the primary duties of shuttling the kids back and forth to day care. That was one of the major selling points of the business; he could make his own hours and spend time with the kids. He tried working at home, but that lasted one day. He found an old barn on a neighbor's property that he was able to rent for a song – but he had to fix it up. That was his first project. The first couple of months, business was far from booming, but it was enough to keep him working and bringing in some income. Mac never thought of herself as a primary breadwinner. Of course that lasted for a short time, Harm was not the kind of man to let his wife take care of him. With a little hustle he was bringing in a sizable amout of money, if he could keep up the pace it would be just slightly more than Mac's at the end of the year. Harm was still very competitive.

Mac's job was fantastic. General Weston sung her praises loud and long and she was allowed to make a major impact on the division. She hadn't remembered ever being so thoroughly challenged.

Things were clicking along as they often do when parents of small children are involved. Days and weeks and months went by with the big news items ranging from the twins dressing them selves, Hailey reading a whole book or the constant struggle to find a baby sitter one night a week so the parents could get out and talk (the average was closer to once every two weeks).

The good news was that there were no murders to solve, mysteries to unravel, lives to save. It was – dare it be said – normal - boring. They were not happy 100% of the time, there were still the adjustments to make for all five of them: some times Harm would work until three or four in the morning out in the garage, Mac had more meetings at 6AM then anyone should ever have, the twins were becoming very competitive and often needed to be separated, and Hailey was getting bossy with her new "little brothers. But in general it was a pretty happy family and the couple that headed the family was making conscious efforts to keep their vows and be a true and devoted partner.

Along about the fourth or fifth month of the 'wedded bliss' Mac was feeling something. She really didn't know what. At times she felt that things were too good and at others that something was missing. Harm would have had to agree, but it hadn't gotten to be a talking point between them.

They also had developed quite a little community of friends both old and new. The group from JAG (the Chegwiddens, the Roberts, Turner, and Coates) were still very close and usually there was something go on with one of them that would cause a gathering of some kind.

One of those events that stood out in memory from the rest was AJ's 10th birthday. It was a completely different type of celebration than the others. In fact, he wanted to go sailing with ten of his friends. Reluctantly mother gave up her plans and allowed the 'men folk' to take the boys sailing. So on Saturday morning Bud, Big AJ, Harm, Sturgis, and four of the other boys' fathers took Little AJ and ten of his friends, David, Zander and Jimmy sailing around the Chesapeake and out into the ocean.

It was a boys only trip, which made Hailey and Cassia whine, but they honestly didn't know what they were missing, they were just mad that they were left out cause they were girls. Mac, Harriet, Meredith and Jennifer were also a little teed off. Actually they weren't; they were thrilled to death to have the men out of their hair for a day and night. It was decided to have AJ's party without him. Some of the mothers were invited to.

That afternoon the women were sitting outside in the warm spring sun dishing on everything from movies stars to their husband's worst faults. It was actually fun. All of the women held very high-powered jobs in the military – with the exception of Harriet who had remained part-time administrative on purpose to spend more time with her kids. It was nice to chat like young silly girls for a change.

The conversation turned to children. Of course someone asked about AJ's birth – since it was the 10th anniversary. Harriet told the whole story from start to finish not leaving out a detail, including Bud getting stuck in the elevator and the admiral delivering her baby in his office.

"It was an amazing experience," Harriet laughed. "Here I was, lying on the floor of the admiral's office, military officers lining the halls and no one new what to do. They were all useless. Then my CO – a man I feared more than I respected – comes stumbling in on the whole scene and just takes over, like it was the most natural thing in the world."

"That's why he is the admiral," Jennifer added.

Harriet continued. "I remember Harm looking terrified. I held his hand so tight before Bud got there I thought I was going to break his fingers."

Mac was quietly watching the whole scene. She was smiling and remembering what happened after AJ was born. She asked anyone if they wanted refreshments on their drinks. All of them said yes, so Harriet helped and followed her to the kitchen.

"Mac, what were you thinking about?"

"Me? When?"

"Just now. You had this far away look on your face like you were remembering a nice memory."

Mac laughed. "I am not sure if it is a nice memory – but it is funny – and kind of interesting – in a strange way."

"What was it?"

Mac was unsure if she wanted to share this little piece of ancient history, but she thought that it was all moot now, so she dove in. "It was the day AJ was born. After I saw you and Bud drive away in the ambulance I got a little moody and misty and wondered if I would have a child of my own."

"That is normal – but not funny," Harriet coaxed.

"Well, Harm was standing next to me and noticed. He asked me what was wrong – so I told him."

"Go on."

"He offered to make a deal with me – these were his words – 'if neither one of us were in a relationship in five years, we would go halves on a kid.'"

Harriet was appalled. "I hope you slapped him in the face."

"What? Why would I do that?" Mac was shocked.

"After all that man put you through – that was the best he could come up with?"

"Harriet, you have to remember this was at the beginning of our relationship – before Mic and Renee, before Paraguay. We were friends, just friends – good friends."

"You two were never 'just friends' and a 'friend' would never have made such an offer. He was in love with you and that was his piss poor attempt at telling you that."

"I never saw it that way," Mac said in defense of Harm.

"So what happened?" She asked.

"We made the deal – well we shook on it."

"But that would have been five years ago – neither of you --."

"Harriet, five years ago so much damage had been done to our relationship it is a wonder that we even want to be in the same room with each other now."

"You seem to have figured it out."

Mac smiled. "Yeah, we are doing fairly well," her smiled broadened at her obvious attempt to play down how truly happy, content and complete she felt with Harm.

"Fairly well? Bud has never looked at me the way Harm looks at you."

"Harriet, Bud loves you."

"Yes, yes he does. But not like that."

Mac pictured Harm's face in any number of settings and she had to admit he almost always was looking at her with genuine love and honest to goodness lust. For a man his age, she had expected him to slow down – but she wasn't complaining.

"So what about now?" Harriet asked. "When are you two going to follow through on the deal?"

"Oh, Harriet – I am over forty."

"You are going to be forty-one in a couple of months. You are strong and healthy and -," Harriet stopped remembering her own fear at having another child after her Sarah had died. "Look at me Mac. It won't be like that again," she got teary eyed. "Look at me – I had two more after --," she couldn't finish her sentence.

Mac wrapped an arm around her and gave her a hug. "Oh, come on now."

"I'm OK," Harriet said. "Tears are OK. Cleanses the soul," she smiled and wiped them away. "So?"

Mac didn't know how to answer, so she lied. "I am not sure if Harm wants to have any more children – we have a full house as it is."

"You are kidding me. You mean you haven't discussed it?" Harriet didn't believe her for a moment.

"We talked about it – we tabled it."

"How long ago?"

"Last September."

"That was before you got married,"

Mac nodded.

"You haven't discussed since then?"

"Nope."

"Colonel, Mac, Sarah – do us both a favor – do more than talk about it."

Just then the men came back. They weren't due back until the next day, but there was no wind and the boys started complaining that they were gypped and wanted to go home to play video games. The party had moved home.

Late in the afternoon Harriet came up to Mac and told her to take her husband and go home. The kids were going to spend the night. AJ's friends were staying over, the twins needed to stay for Jimmy and Cassia needed Hailey. Mac offered to stay and help or to at least take the girls – Harriet sent her home with instructions.

Harm accepted the offer quickly – he was done with that many kids for one night. They arrived home and he stayed out in the garage puttering. It was still very early. They talked about going out to dinner, but Mac said that a night home alone in their house was just what the doctor ordered. Harm agreed. An hour went by and Mac was still turning over Harriet's words in her head and Harm showed no signs of coming in. The mountain had to go to Mohammad. She brought him a beer.

"Thanks, babe," he said taking a long hit.

"Haven't I told you a million times that I hate those 'terms of endearment.'"

"Should I call you 'colonel'? Or just 'ma'am' when we are alone like this," he smiled and continued what he was doing.

She didn't answer and let a couple of moments go by as she formulated her question. "Harm?"

"Yah Huh?"

"We were talking today about the day AJ was born," she started tentatively.

"Who?"

"The ladies and I?"

"I hope you didn't tell anyone about our deal," he laughed knowing for sure she hadn't.

"Why not?" she got defensive.

"You told – oh my god – who did you tell?" He was not angry as much as surprised and embarrassed.

"Harriet," she answered weakly.

"Now she'll tell Bud and Bud will tell Sturgis who will take out an ad in the Navy Times."

"Is it that big a deal?"

"Being made fun of for something stupid you did ten years ago? Not a big deal, but worth enough razzing to make a friendly game of basketball uncomfortable."

She looked sad. "So our deal was something 'stupid'?"

He realized she was actually serious about the conversation. "It was a stupid thing to say; it was a silly thing to agree on."

"Why?"

"It just was," he thought for a moment. "Kids should be conceived in love – not because of a deal."

Mac paused for a moment. "Harriet thinks it was your inadequate attempt at telling me that you loved me – even back then," she looked like a little girl trying to be strong.

"Is that what she thinks?" He leaned back to give Mac his full attention. "I'll bet she didn't use the word 'inadequate'."

"'Piss poor' were her words."

"That sounds like Harriet," he came over to her and wrapped his arms around her. "Come on, why the long face? This is ancient history."

"Is it?"

"You know I love you and we both know that I screwed up A LOT – but I am making up for it."

"I don't want you to make up for it," she pouted.

"So what is going on?"

"I want us to make good on that deal – five years late," she said in a very tiny voice.

"What?" He bent down to look directly into her face.

"I am asking you to go halves on a kid with me."

"Sarah, I am sorry – we leaped from ancient history to the rest of our lives in a pretty quick jump. Are you seriously saying you want to have a baby with me?"

"I always have," she said earnestly. "Ever since we made that stupid deal," she grinned.

His face broke into a broad grin. "Are you sure?" He tried to contain himself. "I mean we haven't talked about it since that first time we talked about it."

"Are you having second thoughts?" She asked.

"Not at all, but we do already have three kids, are you sure you want a fourth one?"

"Yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes. Harm, you are a wonderful father and a better husband I could never hope for. I want to have your baby and I want you there with me every step of the way – from conception until they day he or she gets married and beyond."

His smile was uncontainable. "Well, with your looks and my brains – he'll be perfect."

"What if SHE has your looks and my brains?"

"Nothing says we can't try for two," he swept her up in his arms and spun her around. By time her feet hit the ground again he was kissing her and her knees were too weak to stand.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Several weeks later Harm was struggling to get the kids dressed to go over to the Chegwiddens' for BBQ. They were not cooperating with the game plan. He was frustrated not just at them but Mac was taking forever getting ready. Eventually, after the third time Hailey changed, and the boys refused to find matching sneakers, he was done. He needed to shower and chill out. THE MOTHER – would handle the rest of it. He came blasting into the bedroom and slammed the door. It was meant to let the kids know he had reached the end of his rope; all it really did was skew some of the pictures on the wall. Mac came in from the bathroom as Harm was stripping down. Her hair was still wet, but she was otherwise dressed. She was lovely. Harm walked past her, slapping her on the behind to let her know he saw how beautiful she looked.

"Get the lead our marine – you got the troops to dress."

"A trio of three year olds too much for you commander?" she tossed after him.

"I'd like to see you do better," he called from the shower.

She sat on the bed and waited. He was done in minutes – still showering like he was on board ship. She heard the water start running for the shave; it wouldn't be long now. She waited. Moments later he came out of the bathroom half shaved with a towel wrapped around his waist with something in his hand. He looked confused.

"I left that for you," she smiled. "Should I show you how to read it?"

It was the stick from a home pregnancy test. "Does this mean what I think it means?" he asked slowly.

"It means that if you are planning on kissing me, you better wipe your face off," she beamed.

A smile slowly crept over his face. "You're pregnant?" There was a secret part of Harm that was worried that he couldn't have children. He had never been 'caught short' before and in the course of their relationship, he and Mac were cautious but not overly so. He had honestly assumed that she would have gotten pregnant by accident in the first seven months they were living together. Since their decision to try to have a baby, he harbored the fear that it would not happen for him.

"You're pregnant?" He repeated.

"I prefer to think of it as 'we are pregnant', but yeah," she couldn't wait any longer. In two quick strides she was in his arms and they were kissing – shaving cream be damned. "Can you handle one more, Harm?" She asked knowing what his answer would be.

"With you, I could handle a dozen."

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

It would be very improbable to think that Maya was conceived the night of AJ's tenth birthday. However, exactly nine months from that night was Valentine's Day, Maya's birthday. The pregnancy was a piece of cake – rather soufflé. Mac felt great through every trimester. The morning sickness was minimal, her energy level never waned and she worked until the last day of January. Harm was good to his word. He was with her every step of the way from doctor's appointments, Lamaze classes (which was actually making another major comeback in 2010), and monitoring her diet and nutrition. He was not over the top; he was just very prepared and very willing to make her life comfortable. One thing he was surprised at was his libido. If he was within ten yards of her – not even in the same room – he had to be near her, to touch her, to hold her hand, comb through her hair, rest his hand on her swelling abdomen and yes – reenact the conception. Good thing for Mac, this time her libido was high too.

He made plans to build on another room – actually two. One was supposed to be for the twins and the other would be their office. He kept it a secret from her (as much as he could). The one room was for the baby, the other was a master suite on the second floor. It was a very large space that could accommodate all her closet needs and his, their desks and all the other essentials of a bedroom including an adjacent bath. It also had a bank of windows that looked south over the back yard (later to become a garden) and the ten acres of federally preserved wooded land. It was ready on Christmas.

Hailey, David and Zander were very excited about the changes in the house, the changes in their mother and the expected arrival of a baby sister. Interestingly enough, pretty close to everyone in the house wanted the baby to be a girl. Harm had two boys; and he looked on Hailey as his own – but he still wanted a daughter, maybe just for the symmetry. Mac too wanted a daughter and she had no explanation for why. None of them were disappointed.

The night Maya was born; Harm had taken Mac out to her favorite restaurant. It was the best place in town to get a chocolate soufflé, which was all she really wanted. They had thought that she was at least another week away. It was a nice evening. Harm gave her a diamond choker (she would not allow him to replace the engagement ring) and she had given him a new watch. Dinner was over and they were waiting for the soufflé; that was when Mac felt the first contraction. She was unconcerned. The dessert arrived and she felt the next one. She was able to maintain her composure for the first one but the second one got Harm's attention.

"Sarah?"

"It's nothing," she took a bite of her soufflé. "Very good," she smiled.

"Honey, something is up."

"I just felt a little contraction, that's all."

Harm leapt into action: got the car brought around, paid for the meal, called the hospital, called the doctor, called the baby sitter. The whole time Mac sat eating her soufflé.

He got her to the car – they brought the Vette that night which hadn't been driven in four months. Before they could make it to the car, it had sputtered and died. Harm remained calm until Mac let out a yelp.

"Uh, Harm? I think that was a big one. My water just broke."

Whatever was wrong with the Vette would have to wait. A couple drove up in a limo. They noticed the commotion and offered their limo to take them to the hospital. Harm readily accepted. He pulled the driver out, tossed him in the back and put Mac in the front seat next to him. He drove like a bat out of hell because now the contractions were getting closer and his normally stoic marine was screaming in pain. He drove them to the wrong hospital. He got her in, registered and to a room with minimal amount of interference from the staff. Her doctor arrived a little later than he expected. Sarah was fine. It was going smoothly, but she was in pain too.

At 2356 Maya Rose Rabb made her first appearance into the waiting loving arms of her father. Harm had stayed with Mac the whole time, but when the doctor asked if he would like to delivery the baby – he welcomed the opportunity. It was the most amazing experience they had ever had as a couple. She watched his eyes as they darted back and forth between her and their child. She saw everything – their past and their future – reflect there.

"We have a daughter," he smiled up at her as the nurse helped with the baby. He immediately slipped her on to Mac's stomach. With a great deal of instruction, Harm took care of the cord, cleaning the baby's mouth, all that birth stuff and then the three were allowed a moment to breath in the new life.

"She is absolutely stunning," Mac said.

"Just like her mother," he kissed her temple.

:: :: :: :: E :: N :: D :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

"And then someone switched the babies at the hospital and we wound up with this imposter instead," Zander taunted his sister.

She dove off the bench and pinned him on the ground in seconds. "Uncle," she demanded.

"Oh Mia Oh Maya – I think you're on FIR-YAH --."

She pulled his hand up behind his shoulder blades. "Uncle."

"Cousin Grace on my aunt's side, who is twice removed from my brother's mother's sister's, daughter's, father's --."

She tweaked his ears.

"UNCLE."

She let him go. The pizza guy arrived and she told Zander that he had to pay for it.

The four children trotted off leaving Harm to remember the rest of the story, the part of the story he never told anyone. He sat up with his newborn daughter sleeping in his arms all night. He studied every thing about her. He was inches away from his wife, who for the first time in months was able to rest comfortably. She woke often, reached her hand out to him and drifted back to sleep. Some time during the night something clicked in Harm, something very powerful. He had known his responsibilities to his sons. He accepted them readily when he thought they were his, and willingly and selfishly when he found out they weren't. When he and Mac were married he also understood and welcomed the responsibilities he had to her and Hailey. But there was something different about the obligation he had to the little child that he helped to create. The duty, the commitment, the debt he owed to this small human was not something he knew or accepted, rather he felt it deep in is soul. She was the Rabb that would carry on after he was gone. He made her promises to provide for her, protect her and never let anyone hurt her for as long as he lived.

They were promises he could not keep.

"Hey Dad, come on. We order a Vegi one just for you," David called from the kitchen.

Harm got up slowly and made his way to the house. He took one last look at the yard in the dying light of the day. He again longed for her to be there.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Harm joined his kids for pizza.

"Hey Dad, another beer?" David called from the fridge as he was grabbing drinks for everyone else.

"Snapple," Harm said. He rarely drank anymore – one beer at most – there was a time when he was using it to dull the pain, but he recovered from that a long time ago.

The children were shining stars in his life. Hailey had grown up strong and beautiful. She married poorly but was really trying to make it work. She worked as an analyst for a little known division of the government known as The White House. She was very young for landing that job, but she was good. She had yet to have children, but they were in the works.

David and Zander had continued to be inseparable. They had gone to Annapolis and graduated with identical GPAs – highest in the class, which was pretty amazing since their performance in high school was less than average. It took a whole lot of strings being pulled to get them in the first year. They of course went on to be aviators like their father. Another first for the Rabb sons was to be placed as Pilot and RIO on a carrier. Both were accomplished pilots, Zander was better (but only slightly). Both could manage the back seat, David was better (but only slightly). As a team they were unbeatable. They out flew every other pilot they went up against by a mile. Again strings were pulled, brothers were not normally placed together but that rule was not enforced as much as the one about husbands and wives. Neither one of them had found the woman of their dreams, but they kept looking.

"Dad," David said handing him his Snapple. "Did I tell you we got a letter from Linda today?"

"No," he was only half interested. "How is she?"

"Fine. Wants us to bake her a cake with a file in it," the boys laughed.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

:: :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

Linda had come back to the states about eight years ago. The boys were in their first year of college. Apparently, Sean had finally blown through all her money, and his and got caught up with some bad people. He was killed in a drug deal that went south. Linda came back and was immediately put in jail. When Harm found out, he contacted the boys to tell them the whole story. It was time. Well at least before their mother did.

Harm met his sons for lunch the day after he got the call from Linda. There was a lot of chatting about school and how hard it was etc. etc. etc. Harm was not hard on his boys so much as he just expected a lot, a lot more than he ever expected of himself. They would follow his "advice" but still found ways to bend the "rules" and have fun. Like him their quality was so high that people forgave them the boundaries that they pushed. On this day, Harm was not doing his typical fatherly counsel session.

"What is going on, Dad?" David asked.

"Boys, your mother is back," he said flatly.

"Didn't know she left," said Zander.

"No, I don't mean Sarah, I mean Linda – your mother."

"Oh," David answered for both of them. "Well she was bound to come back sometime."

Zander looked away and watched the beautiful women walking by.

"You know that the charges against her are still pending," Harm continued.

"So she should be locked up, right?" Again David spoke for the brothers.

"She has been arrested. And will go on trial," Harm took a deep breath. "She wants to see you."

At that Zander spoke, but never took his eyes off the women. "It's good to want, builds character," he turned and glared at his father. "Or that is what our mother would say – our REAL mother," he turned back.

"Zander, I understand that you are angry with Linda."

Zander turned back in utter amazement. "Angry? I am not angry with her? I don't feel anything for her at all. Hell the only thing I should feel for her is gratitude. She gave us to Mom, a woman who loved us unconditionally and unselfishly," he looked at his brother. "Can you imagine if she had taken us the day she left? Damn, we would have wound up like O'Dea. Dead in some back alley of a third world country."

Harm was lost. It seemed that his sons had a lot more information than he had given them. "How do you know about O'Dea? And how do you know what happened to him."

"We can read, Dad," David said coolly. "The internet is an amazing invention, should have gotten on the band wagon back in the 90's.

"We read all kinds of things," Zander added. "Even stuff that is hidden."

"What does that mean?" Harm asked.

Zander and David shared a long look, Zander nodded to David to 'go on.' David cleared his throat and took a deep breath and began slowly. "Dad, I don't know how to tell you this, but we have known about Linda and O'Dae since we were what?" He looked at his brother.

"Twelve?" Zander offered.

"Eleven?" David asked.

"Somewhere around there," Zander shook it off. "Doesn't matter – we know."

"What do you know? How?" Harm was still confused.

"Dad, please, just cause you have a safe in your room doesn't mean that we don't know how to get into it," Zander laughed.

"The safe?"

David tried to explain. "Dad we were kids and you are so predictable. We knew the combination was either mom's birthday, your wedding day or the day you met," he took a quick look at his brother.

"Third time was the charm," Zander grinned and the brothers clapped hands.

"Why?" Harm was still amazed. This was a side to his sons that he never knew.

"Why? Are you kidding? That's what kids do," David looked a little more shamed than his brother.

"Didn't you ever miss those ATM withdrawls? Should change your pin too."

Harm was floored. "You took money from my account with my ATM card."

"We paid you back," David defended.

"Those twenties didn't just magically appear in your wallet," Zander was cockier about their youthful larceny.

Harm shook his head. This was history. "So what do you think you found in the safe?"

"Your weapon for one."

Harm's eyes flared red.

"We didn't touch it. I swear," David said.

Zander backed him up. "We didn't.

"So what did you touch?" Harm continued.

"We found the DNA reports," David said quickly. "We know that – well we know what you never told us," he was strangely not bitter but could still not say the words.

"What you should never have had to tell us," Zander continued. "Dad – it's no big deal."

"It isn't," David assured.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I meant to, but it just got harder and harder."

"Dad, really, don't beat yourself up over this. We don't care what those papers say. You're our father."

"And Linda can bark all she wants, but Mom is our mom."

"I can't believe you lived with this all this time," Harm was proud of his boys.

"You lived with it for longer," David added.

"Did you tell your sisters?"

"No. We told no one. In fact, I don't think we ever talked about it after that day, did we?" David looked at his brother.

"I never thought about it," Zander laughed. "But I have to tell you it made me understand why curiosity could kill a cat. We nearly got caught and almost killed ourselves climbing down the back trellis."

Harm laughed. "You are both coming to the house this weekend and fixing that. It has never been the same."

"Yes, sir," they said in unison.

Harm didn't know how to proceed. "So Linda."

"Should we see her?" David asked. "Is that what you want?"

"You are adults now and can make your own decisions. Do what you think is best."

Zander and David exchanged a look. David spoke first. "What about mom?"

"You mother understands."

"OK," Zander said.

And that was the end of it. They never spoke about Sean O'Dae again nor did they discuss their communication with Linda other than to say it happened. Harm was proud of his boys for recognizing what is important in life. He was able to breath a sigh of relief that the dirty little secret he kept for nineteen years would no longer be a wedge between them even it if were only in his mind.

That night Harm got home and his wife had left a message:

Dinner date with two gorgeous men; couldn't turn it down, don't wait up.

It wasn't the first time she had gotten such a message.

She got home near 1AM escorted by her sons. They were all singing and laughing. Harm came down the stairs in time to see them each kiss Mac goodnight and hug her hard.

"I love you, Mom," David said.

"I have always loved you more," Zander countered.

"I love you both too, now go to bed!" she ordered and pointed up the stairs.

"Nah, we have class in the morning," one of them explained.

"Besides, I think you have a little explaining to do of your own."

Mac looked toward the stairs; her husband was waiting for her. "You should be in bed."

"As should you," Harm stated.

"That's our cue … gotta go Mom." They kissed her cheeks and quickly left.

Mac watched them go. "You have very special children," she said barely loud enough for him to hear.

"Yes we do," he agreed.

:: :: :: :: E :: N :: D :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Dinner was over and Maya started cleaning up, Hailey and the boys took over and sent her to put on some music and get the game. She was a sensitive woman and full of life in spite of what she had gone through. It was generally understood that Mac was the head of the family, Harm was its backbone and strength, Hailey and the boys were its limbs but it was Maya who was the heart. Maya held the family together like glue in the rough times as well as the good times.

Harm followed her into the living room.

"What should we listen to Dad?" she asked.

"Your choice, I am going to bed."

"So early?" she cajoled. "Don't you want to play just one game. I will be your partner."

"I am a little whipped tonight. I worked pretty hard today and I am not as young as I used to be."

"You are as young as you feel," she smiled.

"Then I am close to ninety-six." He took a long look at her. Harm saw Sarah in all Maya's features, yet she was her own woman.

"Dad? You getting moody again."

"Old man's prerogative," he stated.

"Dad, everything will be fine."

"I know," he pulled her into a tight embrace. "I love you, sweetheart."

"I love you too, Dad," she said squeezing him back.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

:: :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

After Maya was born there were a lot of changes in the Rabb/MacKenzie household. Harm when back to lawyering full time. He wanted Sarah to have the opportunity to stay home with her daughter and the rest of the children - if she wanted to – for as long as she wanted to. It was not that he didn't want to stay home, but he honestly felt that children that small should have their mother around. He felt guilty that his sons never had that. So he joined a very high profile firm that had been courting him the entire time he was back in the Washington area. His salary quadrupled what the two have them had been earning. His refinishing business was now a hobby. He was not happy in his work, which put a strain on him and on the marriage, but he was bringing in money and providing for his family.

After an extended maternity leave (Mac actually worked part time from home), she went back to the Pentagon. Mac needed to work. That also put a strain on the marriage as it would any marriage. There were peaks and valleys, and a lot more days in between. In the end, nothing was able to blot the commitment they had to each other. It was not as bad as it sounded, there was always love if not companionship. But they had time for that – or so they thought.

For nearly nine years, Harm and Mac had been lulled into a false sense of security. Yes, Mac was working on preventing terrorism but that was all so far away. Harm's clients were all corporate hogs who's only really crimes were white collar or environmental; death, destruction and events that were out of their control seemed like things that happened to other people. They believed their days of playing action hero were over. That was until the day Clayton Webb showed up in Harm's office.

"Mr. Rabb, there is a Clayton Webb here to see you. He doesn't have an appointment," Harm's secretary was very protective of his time.

"Clayton Webb? The man does not know how to make appointments," he said gruffly. "Show him in."

The man who entered was a mere shell of his former self. He was older, as was Harm, but the years had not been so kind to him. Harm was shocked at the sight of him and his annoyance at the man showing up out of the blue over a decade and a half later was gone.

"Rabb, looking good," he said with a thin dead voice that was struggling to find its youthful swagger.

"Webb, you look like hell," he motioned for the man to sit down. "What happened to you?"

"Sadik Fahd," Webb sat down.

"You have been chasing him all this time?"

"On and off," Webb noticed the pictures on Harm's desk. "You are a lucky man Rabb, you have always been a lucky man." Clearly Webb still had feelings for Mac. "I went to see your wife today."

"She is out of town," Mac was presenting a study to the international anti-terrorism group meeting at The Hague.

"That is where I came from," Webb said cockily. He still loved to show that he had all the intelligence that he needed as his fingertips. "She was in a meeting and I couldn't wait, so here I am."

"What is going on?"

"Fahd has resurfaced. He is a key member in organizing attacks on several American, European and Russian targets."

"You are telling me this because?"

"When we were interviewing one of his people, he told us that there were smaller targets – personal targets – paybacks."

"Paybacks for what?"

"Paraguay."

Harm was on his feet. "That was over fifteen years ago."

"The man does not forget; he has lived in exile and obscurity for that long plotting his revenge on me, on Sarah and on you."

"When?" Harm was at a loss as to how to feel.

"Soon, very soon."

"And you are telling me this now?"

"This is the first I have heard of it," Webb defended.

"Excuse me Mr. Rabb?" His secretary looked panicked and confused. "Sir you need to turn on your TV. There has been an explosion at The Hague."

The set was turned on, but there was utter confusion on the site. Three bombs had gone off in various parts of the building. The reporters were reporting nothing that was news other than the target seemed to have been the Anti-Terrorism Conference. How ironic. Harm turned to Webb who was already on the phone with his people at the scene.

"I've got to go," Harm declared.

"Rabb, where are you going?"

"I have got to get to my kids and then I am going to Sarah."

"Rabb there is nothing -."

Harm was gone.

Harm got to Hailey first. If the news were going to travel fast, it would get to her. He pulled her out of class and as gently as he could he told her what he knew. It was not much. Hailey took it very well. She asked a lot of questions and accepted that he didn't know much. Then he pulled the boys out of class. David and Zander were a bit harder. They were both asking questions and not understanding why their father didn't know more. He got them to understand enough to let them go get Maya. Maya was at a different school and traffic was bad so it took him a while to get there. When they got there the principal met them at the door.

"I have been trying to reach you or your wife Mr. Rabb. Someone took Maya." The principal blathered on about some man she had never seen before coming on school grounds and taking Harm's daughter. She kept talking about calling the police and giving descriptions of the man and the car – a purple Taurus. Harm could barely make sense of it. "I don't know how, but they knew right where she would be." The principal was near tears herself.

His phone rang, force of habit made him answer. It was Webb telling him that Sarah was not in the conference room at the time of the explosion but she had still not been located.

"He took Maya," Harm stated.

"What?"

"The bastard took my daughter."

"Rabb he won't hurt her."

"You don't know that. I want everything you have on this --- ."

"Our intelligence says that he is not in the county."

"Then your intelligence is wrong. He is here. He did this himself. This is personal."

Harm clicked the phone off. He knew that Webb would do what he had to do get Harm the information to find Maya. Harm didn't stay to talk to the police. He directed them to call the CIA. He gathered his kids in the car and rushed them over to the admiral's house. AJ was waiting. He had of course seen the news about the bombing at The Hague. The news about Maya shocked him.

Harm needed a safe place to leave the kids while he went after her.

"Rabb!" AJ followed him out to the car. "You can't do this. You are going to get yourself killed."

"AJ, I will not sit by and do nothing while that man has my daughter."

"You don't even know where to start?"

"I'll find him."

"Rabb, think. Think for one minute. Webb is on it."

"Webb is the reason we are in this mess in the first place."

"Harm you have three other children that you need to think about as well. They may have just lost their mother, their sister is missing and now they are in danger of losing you. You need to think about what is best."

Harm looked up to the porch; the admiral's porch. His children were standing there being very brave. Hailey was nearly thirteen and the boys were twelve. He looked back at the admiral. For once he was going to take that man's advice.

The next hours were horrific. There was no news coming out of Europe other than 57 people were dead (so far), over 100 injured and still over half the building was in rubble. They were pulling bodies and survivors out at an excruciatingly slow pace. The news from Webb was not much more. They had a lead on who might have taken Maya. It was not Fahd himself, but a very close lieutenant and it was believed that they were going to take her out of the country.

Meredith came home. Harriet and Bud came over. Sturgis agreed to act as liaison between Harm and the CIA. Harm was a wreck and the kids rarely life his side. He needed to be strong for them but it was killing him not to be doing something.

Finally Webb came through with some real information – nearly twenty hours later. They believed that they had a line on where the lieutenant was holding Maya before they were to leave the country. Harm looked at his kids. There was still no word on Mac. The kids told him he had to go get Maya and bring her back home.

That was exactly what he did. He met up with Webb and the team that was going in – he was told to stay back. Harm 'stayed back' back enough to notice the house across the street. He recognized the man in the window. The team had the wrong house, off by one. It was Fahd. Harm called to the CIA team – it was too late, the house exploded. Harm was blown off his feet, but was up in moments. As if he were twenty-four not fifty-four, he dove through the front window of the other house, catching Fahd off guard. Threw him to the ground and demanded to know where his daughter was. Fahd nodded to the house across the way, which was completely engulfed in flames. Without a moment's hesitation, Harm put a bullet in Fahd's head.

The information had not registered to him yet. It appeared that Fahd was working this one alone. Two of the team from the CIA were alive (they had been blown away from the house), the other four and Webb were dead but the proof on that would take days, if then. Harm stood and watched the fire. Would he ever really know if Maya were in there? It would be just like Fahd to say she was when she wasn't to get him to stop looking. Killing him was the wrong move.

He was dazed and confused, but some how miraculously over the din and craziness of all that was going on, Harm heard Maya or Mac' voice – he could not be sure. He heard the voice in his head. She told him was OK but had better hurry – she was scared and hurt. Panic went through him. Was that Mac or Maya? Could either of them still be alive? He had nothing to go on, nothing to work from. Fahd was dead. Webb was dead. The voice persisted. Harm was unable to move from his position watching the house burn. The voice continued to drone in his head.

Something caught his eye. It was up the street –a man standing by a car, a purple car. The man ran as soon he saw that Harm had spotted him. Harm ran after him. He didn't know why, but he ran. By time he got to the where the man had been standing the voice in his head was so loud he could not hear himself think. The man was gone. There would be no way to catch him. Harm crumpled to the sidewalk. He refused to believe that he had lost both his wife and daughter in one day. The voice continued, it was begging him to find her. He pulled himself to standing and noticed the color of the car: purple. What was it about a purple car that seemed wrong or familiar to him?

"It was a purple car … a Taruas or Toyota," the principal's voice echoed in his head.

Harm looked in the window for something to let him know that this was the car. He saw Maya's shoe on the floor of the backseat. Something went off in him. He broke the window and found the trunk release. Maya was unconscious and had been bound and gagged. No one would have found her for days. He pulled her out of the car and untied her. She came around slowly and clung to her father for safety. She had been beaten and had several cuts and bruises, but it didn't appear that she had any broken bones. Who knows what Fahd's plan for her was, but clearly he wanted her alive and for the most part unharmed.

Fahd's plan for Mac was much worse, much more fatal.

:: :: :: :: E :: N :: D :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

The kids had gone to bed late after several games of Trivial Pursuit and lots of laughing. Harm listened to them from upstairs. It reminded him of years ago, his kids laughing and playing games. Harm couldn't sleep again, a problem he was having on and off. He sat in her chair by the window and let his mind do what it had to do. That night the past was weighing heavily on his mind, the past, his mistakes and the promises he could not keep. He pulled out the photo album and flipped through the pictures, articles, report cards, whatever. It was more like a scrapbook, a history of the lives of the people he loved in good times and in bad.

He looked out to the garden that was now washed in moonlight. He thought about the wedding. How could any two people promise to love, honor and cherish until death when there was no way of knowing what the future held. There was no way of knowing the impact life would have on the individuals in a couple. Was it incredibly naive to make those promises or was it courageous? Did people really believe what they were saying when they said those vows? He did, but …. Could anyone really know how bad the future could be, and if they did could they really – in good conscience – make those vows? Harm thought he knew at the time, but their life together constantly took him by surprise and in directions he never expected them to go.

"Still having a problem sleeping," a soft familiar voice called to him.

"Never got used to sleeping alone," he said through the darkness.

"Should never have had to," she cooed back.

The light by the bed flicked on and there she was shrouded in the soft glow – his extraordinary wife.

"I'm sorry you missed your plane," he said gently looking at her and remembering how she looked the day they got married. "You would have had fun tonight."

"Pizza and Trivial Pursuit?" She smiled and crossed over to him.

Her limp was hardly noticeable anymore except on days that were very cold or wet. When the light crossed her face, the scar was all too noticeable, but only he could see the toll the invisible scars took. She was still the most beautiful woman he had ever known.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

:: :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

On that fateful day when Sadik Fahd took his revenge, Mac was caught in the rubble for over twenty-nine hours. She had been pinned under a beam that broke her pelvis. She had also been hit with flying glass in her arm and her face. She had lost a lot of blood. When they found her, no one expected her to make it – no one that is, except Harm. He had made it to the hospital after her surgery and before she woke up. It was Maya that told him to go. She said that their mother needed him. He left the kids with the admiral. They wanted to come, but he did not know what he would find when he got there. Maya convinced them remaining home was best.

What he found he would never forget. The fear and the pain were terrible to see in her eyes. She had nightmares and daymares – he never left her side. They had to restrain her because of her injuries, but the restraints reminded her of being trapped in the building. So they drugged her and the drugs caused more nightmares. It was the worst experience of both of their lives. He could do nothing but watch and she could do nothing but endure.

He didn't tell her about Maya for the first couple of days. She was already under so much strain. He did tell her that Fahd was dead and sadly so was Webb. When she was strong enough he had to tell her everything about the kidnapping, Webb's role and his own. Some how Mac already knew. She had said that in her nightmares she remembered being trapped and unable to get to the kids. The nightmares stopped over time. After five days, she was flown home to Bethesda to finish her recovery and rehabilitation, a rehabilitation that took a very long time. It took even longer for them to find each other again.

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x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

"How long can they stay?" She asked kneeling down next to him.

"They are here for the wedding," he reached his hand out and touched her face. "Do you know how beautiful you are?"

"In your eyes," she said. "But they are they only ones that count."

He motioned for her to sit with him – rather ON his lap, the chair was not that big. She did. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. She was still very thin. They kissed.

"We weren't expecting you until tomorrow," he said closing his eyes and resting his head on her shoulder.

"I needed to be here, I got the earliest plane I could get," she sighed and waited for a moment. "Harm, I quit."

"Quit?"

"I quit my job – resigned my commission … position – took terminal leave – whatever you want to call it – I am done."

"For me?" He asked carefully knowing that he had asked her to retire many times but not wanting to push.

"For us. We will never have to sleep alone again."

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

:: :: :: :: F :: L :: A :: S :: H :: B :: A :: C :: K :: :: :: ::

When Mac was fully recovered physically from the bombing, she was not mentally. She went back to work and went back hard. It was as if she had a personal vendetta – a score to settle. Not so much for herself, although that was part of it, but because she had nearly lost her daughter and she did lose everyone she worked with that day. The deaths were unnecessary and unproductive. The world would come back at these extremists with a renewed fire and vengeance. Mac was part of that. She threw herself back into work.

Harm let her go at first. He understood the need to be proactive. Harm wound up pulling back from his job. He made a home office and did much of his work out of the house. The kids were old enough to look after themselves for the most part, but they still needed a parent around to supervise.

For many years Harm and Mac were mere roommates, ships passing in the night. Sharing the same bed was a matter of habit rather than a desire. She was away a lot and any home time she did have she spent with the kids. Harm was second – well actually third – a distant third. Obviously he was unhappy. He tried to talk to her about it on several occasions and they would always end up fighting. That was when Harm turned to alcohol to dull the voices in his head that told him he had failed and to help him live with the coldness of his bed without her there. It was a morning she was home just before running off to another conference that she finally noticed and noticed it as a problem.

"You're hung over," she accused when he came out of the bathroom.

"You are supposed to be gone," he snapped back at her.

"How much are you drinking?" She demanded.

"What difference does it make to you?"

She shook her head. "Don't do this to yourself, Harm."

"Again I ask; what difference does it make to you?"

"You are my husband," she stated as if that were enough of a reason.

"Is that what we are? I wondered. I have been wondering for quite some time."

"I can't talk to you when you are like this," she declared.

"Then you better run along."

"Fine," she picked up her briefcase and blasted out of the bedroom.

He heard the front door slam and the car door open and slam, but the car did not start. He waited.

A few minutes later she was back in the door of the bedroom. "What is going on, Harm?"

"Nothing."

"Something is going on."

"Not for us. Not for a long time. For you. For the kids. But you are never there for me. You are never there for us."

"Harm, I am right here."

"Sarah, you get up before I do, you come home after I am in bed – if on the off chance you are home you are running around with the kids. Did you know that I just landed a multi-million dollar account for the firm? Did you know that I was up for partner – again – and again turned it down? When was the last time we actually talked about anything other than the kids or your work? When was that last time you actually wanted me to touch you?"

At that Mac turned away. Since the bombing she felt damaged and undesirable. Nothing could have been further from the truth as far as Harm was concerned. He was afraid to be with her when she first got home, he didn't want to hurt her. Mac took that as disgust – she didn't see it in his eyes; she saw it through her own. As time passed, it got harder and harder to break that wall.

"That's right, Sarah, turn away. That's what you are good at."

She snapped back. "Go to hell."

"I'm living it sweetheart – hell ain't got nothing on sleeping next to the woman you love knowing that she doesn't want you to touch her."

"That is not true."

"It is true. You dress in the bathroom, you sleep in pajamas, you shrink away from me when I want to kiss you."

She was shaking her head trying to hold the tears back.

"I know I let you down. I know I promised to keep you all safe and protected -," he shed some tears of his own. "I couldn't do it. I'm sorry."

She stepped closer to him. "You think I hold you responsible for Fahd? You think that?"

"I swore to her that I would protect her and never let any one hurt her."

"Harm."

"I made those same promises to you."

"Harm, you can't make those promises; you're not God." She laughed a little. "I know that is hard for you to hear."

He looked away.

"Honey, you have never let any of us down," she came closer to him. "If anyone should have been able to stop him, it was me – it is my job," she touched his arm and he looked down into her eyes. "Do you hold me responsible?"

"No, no, don't be ridiculous," he turned completely to her and put his hand on her face. "I need you, Sarah. I miss you."

She trembled at his touch. It felt so right to have his hand on her. She took his hand to her lips. They were just about to kiss when her phone rang. He thought she looked relieved so he stepped away. She reluctantly answered the phone.

"MacKenzie … Jenna, good morning … Yes, I know. … I won't be there … I am going to need to cancel my appointments today and for the rest of the week. I have a family emergency. … No, no, nothing like that. … Everything will be fine, it just needs my undivided attention."

Harm turned back to her.

"No, I won't be available my cell. I am turning it off now. Leave messages and I will check in with you once a day. … I am sorry to drop this in your lap. … You are the best, Jenna. … Thank you," she was good to her word; she turned off her phone. "Ok," she asserted. "I have made the first step. You need to make the next one."

He looked confused.

"You need to get help for your drinking."

"I'll quit – I don't need help."

"Harm, please – for yourself. We can find a marriage counselor that can deal with both."

"Marriage counselor?"

"Yes. We are not going to fix this with one conversation and --," she wanted to say 'sex' but the idea of being exposed in the most intimate of ways with him was still frightening to her. She didn't know what she would do if she saw horror or disgust at her scars.

"Ok." He said gently. They stood looking at each other for a moment unsure of what to do next. "May I kiss you?" He asked like a teenager on a first date.

She nodded slowly and averted her eyes. If she were any other woman he would have thought that she was flirting with him, but she was truly scared.

He stepped up to her and very gently leaned down and kissed her tenderly on the lips. He pulled back enough to see her eyes. She had relaxed a little. They had passed one hurdle. He ran his fingers over her unscarred cheek and kissed her temple. He put his other hand to the other side and her hand was quickly there to stop him. He tilted her head back so she would be forced to look into his eyes. He let his fingers rest on hers and then directed them to outline the scar. Tears dripped from her eyes. He would not let her look away from him. Her hand dropped and for the first time since the bombing, he touched the mark left on her eternally beautiful face. Her eyes shut. He let his lips brush the mark that she wore like a shield since that fateful day. He felt her again relax just a little. He again kissed her lips but this time let his arm wrap around her and pull her to him.

Her resolve was weakening.

"I love you," he whispered. He would have told her that he found her beautiful, but somehow he knew she was not ready to hear that.

She wrapped her arms around his waist and held onto him tightly. "I love you," she said into his chest. "Make love to me," she said weakly.

He looked down at her. "When you are ready."

She looked up at him. "I am," she started unbuttoning her uniform blouse.

He stopped her with his hands. "We don't have to rush this."

His gentleness was a gift to her. "I won't tell you that I am not scared," she said.

"Of me?"

"Of what you will see and know about me."

"Sarah, everything I see and know about you is in your eyes."

She had finished unbuttoning her blouse and let it fall to the floor. She had only a camisole on, through it he could see the scar from the operation, he could see the other scars caused by explosion. Yes, he could see them and he had seen them before – his heart wrenched for the pain she endured.

He looked back into her eyes. Tears were streaming down her face. He wrapped her up in his arms and carried her to the bed. In ways more profound than words, he reassured her of his unyielding, unfaltering, undying love and for the first time in years, she allowed herself to be reassured.

They had found each other again.

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x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

The day of the wedding arrived. People were hustling and bustling everywhere. Sarah was getting dressed when Maya knocked and came in.

"Mom, are you nervous?" she asked.

"Me? Shouldn't you be the one who is nervous?"

"I'm not the one renewing my wedding vows today," Maya pulled some lint off of Mac's dress.

"Honey, that is the great thing about renewing vows – you already know the ending – so you can enjoy every moment," she hugged her daughter.

Maya's experience with Fahd did leave a lasting effect, negatively on the rest of the family, but for Maya she was resolved to be a pacifist (in spite of her treatment of her brothers) and work for peace. She studied theology, joined the Peace Corps, and had become – the week prior – an ordained minister. Since she was raised in a military family, she understood the condition of war, but she was not an advocate. She worked for peace through understanding of different cultures.

As was said, Maya was the heart of the family and her voice was what was in their hearts. They boys did not want to go to war, they chose to look at what they did as a game, but they had yet to aim at live targets. They would rather have it a game. Hailey was also working for better foreign policy through her work at the White House.

When Harm and Sarah had decided to renew their wedding vows, it was Hailey who came up with the idea of Maya presiding over the ceremony.

The garden was perfect. The weather could not have been ordered better. All their friends and family were there as Sarah and Harm stepped up to pledge themselves, this time with a lot more witnesses.

Maya stepped up and addressed them. "Mom and Dad, in presenting yourselves here today to be rejoined in marriage, you are a testament to your enduring love for each other, your children and your friends. As you both well know, a lasting and growing love is not guaranteed by any ritual, but through living and surviving the good times as well as the bad."

Sarah turned to face Harm and spoke earnestly, "I offer you now not the summer of my life but the autumn, brisk and vibrant. I promise to be a companion worthy of your precious friendship. I pledge you compassion in good times and bad; encouragement in sickness and health. We'll cherish the memories of our past; and create new ones as we go from here together. I take you to be my partner to have and to hold from this day forward. I give to you my unending love and devotion. I promise to be true to you, to cherish you, and to share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you. I will love you forever my lover, my partner, my best friend, my husband."

Harm cleared his throat. "I married you with my eyes wide open not knowing the depth of the meaning of the vows that we took. Our path has not always been easy, but you never faltered and your love has kept me true. You have helped me let go of the past and I embrace our future. Because of you, I laugh, I smile, I remember with fondness, I dare to dream. I will continue to cherish and respect you all the days of our life together. Starting anew once again today. I give thanks that I have found you. I look forward with great joy to see what else life has in store for us for I know we will meet it together. I have loved you more each day since the day we met, my lover, my partner, my friend, my wife."

They pressed each other's hands and looked back at their daughter.

Maya continued, "If you would have the foundation of your marriage be the devotion you have for one another, not just at this moment, but for all the days that have passed, then treasure the hopes, the dreams and the memories that you bring here today. In your first twenty-five years you established that your love would never be blotted out by the common nor obscured by the ordinary in life. Nor would it be shaken by the extraordinarily difficult times you have faced."

Hailey, David and Alexander stepped up behind Maya. "I speak now for the children you have raised in your marriage. We have benefited from your wisdom, guidance and unconditional love. You have been an example of what it means to be truly friends and companions. As you two face this next phase of your lives, we offer our love and support."

"And we promise to call before we come over," Zander added.

Everyone laughed.

She looked out upon the guests. "The years shall bring Harm and Sarah into greater age and wisdom, we hope that their love shall be ever young; that they shall be able to always rejoice in their happiness and recover from moments of despair. Inasmuch as Harm and Sarah have declared their love to each other before family and friends; let us now again greet them as husband and wife."

The company of friends clapped and cheered.

"Dad, you may kiss your bride."

So there this saga has ended, as it began, in a garden, this time with a kiss.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

The End

Author's Note on 3/2009

I wrote this five years ago (2/2004). I still can't believe the number of hits this story gets each month.

I have gone through and done a quick edit (probably still needs a professional), added a couple of bits, but for the most part left the story as it was.

If you are reading again, please drop a little note to say that it was a reread, if your first time, please let me know how you came to this story.

Thanks again.