Title: Old Friends, New Relationships

Chapter One

By: LizD

Spoilers: FanFiction Story By LizD "Old Friends"

Notes: Picks up after Harm and Mac and crew get back to the states from Afghanistan

Written: Late Summer/Fall 2004

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

Old Friends, New Relationships

Chapter One - Closing and Opening Doors

1015 EST – JAG Headquarters

Wednesday After the Bombing

"I was fired."

Mac looked up to see Gates in her door way.

"What?" Mac was confused on a number of levels. First and foremost, why was Gates in her office at 9:15 on a weekday?

"I was fired." Gates repeated coming in and flopping down in the guest chair.

"I don't understand."

"I was fired." She said for a third time. "Shit canned. Booted. Pink slipped. Downsized. Asked to vacate. Make like a tree and …"

"I know what it means." Mac finally stopped her. "Why?"

"Officially or unofficially?" She reached over, picked up Mac's coffee mug and took a sip.

"Officially." Mac stated.

Gates made a face. "That is ice cold." She put the mug back. "Layoffs, government cut backs, budget cuts … whatever."

"That is ridiculous." Mac shook her head and dismissed the notion with a wave of her hand.

"That is what it says on the exit paper work I just signed."

"What's the real reason?" Mac pressed.

"They finally decided to clean up after the Sadik Fahd mess."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that all that shit finally rose to the top … and the top flushed it."

"What does that have to do with you?"

"I have a big fat mouth … kept it shut for years … and when it got right down to it … an old friend's security ranked higher than national security on my need to tell scale … I have a big fat mouth … and I would do it again."

"You didn't tell us anything we didn't already know." Mac justified.

"Well you're welcome … so glad I lost my job for nothing."

"No … come on … you know what I am saying … it wasn't for nothing, you got the admiral involved."

"Yeah … and look at him now … home with a broken leg. Bet he is overjoyed to know me."

"This is wrong." Mac tossed her pen down on her desk. "I am calling Kershaw." She picked up the phone. "He was responsible for this whole mess, beginning to end."

Gates laughed. "You'll need to call him at home. He was the first one given his walking papers."

Mac hung up the phone. "Kershaw was fired?"

Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland

"Yes, Kershaw was fired." Webb repeated. "So was I."

Harm stood at the edge of Webb's bed. Webb had just been transported back to the states to finish his recovery. He was in surgery in Germany for many hours and he nearly didn't make it, but he was on the road to recovery. It would be at least a week before they released him and another two or three before he was able to even think about going back to work … any kind of work.

"Fired? Harm asked.

"Agency felt the need to purge … three other agents, that damn shrink and Kershaw were all fired outright." He stated defiantly. "At least I was given an out … work for 'another agency'."

"Who do you work for?"

"Department of Homeland Security, North West Division." Webb shook his head in disgust. "I will be working out of Portland, Oregon. If I want it."

"Portland? Oregon? … It rains in Oregon … A LOT."

Webb nodded.

Harm was still stuck on the fact that they fired a senior director. He knew the shrink was Gates and knew that Mac would be dealing with that sometime soon. But the firing of Kershaw was a big deal that he just couldn't wrap his mind around. "They fired Kershaw?"

Webb started running his mouth. "You probably don't know this Rabb, but Kershaw orchestrated everything from the initial contact with Fahd back in 2000 to my assignment in 2003. It was his idea to bring Mac in – funny he made me think it was mine. I guess he didn't want to go through agency channels, too many questions. It is amazing how few questions are asked in the military … that's why I use JAG so much … all that order taking has made your kind too trusting."

Harm was not about to debate Sailor vs. Spy with Webb, but he couldn't let it go completely. "All that order taking saved your ass a time or twelve."

Webb brushed off the reply, if he heard it at all. Something occurred to him. "In fact that bastard was the one that sent me to Syria when Fahd tried to get to Mac back in February." He looked up at Rabb. "He made sure I was out of the country so Mac would have to face him alone. Hell, I would check into who blew your car up – wouldn't put it past him to have set that up to get you out of the way." The anger was red hot on his face. "He was also the one that hatched this last possum plan and was giving me all the intel on Hatfield."

Harm thought back to all that Kershaw had been involved with in his experience. The pieces were all falling into place and all our heroes were pawns in Kershaw's game, but it finally caught up with him. And what game was he playing? No one would probably ever really know. And no one would know if he actually lost or won.

Webb continued. "The SecNav took it all the way up to the president and it rolled back down and landed on Kershaw's head."

"And yours too apparently." Harm stated.

"They should bring him up on charges." Webb stated.

"Kershaw will get his." Harm said confidently.

"What are you thinking Rabb?"

Harm shook off his thoughts. He wasn't planning anything for Kershaw personally, but believed that it would all come back around. "What about Gunny?"

Webb shrugged. "Going back to an active unit, I guess."

Chegwidden Residence, McLean Virginia

"So you are gainfully unemployed, eh Gunny?" AJ Chegwidden said as the Gunny walked up the porch steps. "Or are you going back to your unit?"

AJ was stretched out on the chaise with his casted leg elevated.

"No sir, I'm a free man." He smiled back at him. Of all the injuries suffered, the Gunny's healed the fastest. He had a minor concussion and a lot of aches and pains, but nothing was broken and he needed no stitches.

The experience in Naples and Afghanistan had changed the relationship between the Gunny and AJ. They were equals now. It could have been because they wore the same rank uniform for a week or more, it could have been because AJ had retired and the Gunny was no longer in AJ's chain of command, but more than likely it was because they had developed a great deal more respect for the other during that time. The old Navy vs. Marine – SEAL vs. Jarhead rivalry was gone.

"What's your plan, Vic?" AJ asked.

Gunny laughed. "Thought I would retire and take it easy like you."

"Yeah, cause It's been Mai Tais, women and dancing 'til dawn … should have done it years ago." AJ knocked the plaster of his cast.

They laughed.

Vic sat down in the chair next to him and looked out over the yard. "There is always gardening." Vic said playfully.

"Or stamp collecting." AJ rolled his eyes. He was too young …well if not young, vital to retire. That little trip to Afghanistan reminded him of that. He felt more alive on that operation than he had in years.

"Going back to touring the baseball parks, sir?" Gunny still dropped a 'sir' every now and again, more habit than anything else.

"Nah … Francesca has some 'fashion emergency' and won't make it back 'til the play offs." He knocked the cast again. "In six weeks from now when I get this damn thing off, I'll need something a little more exciting than sitting on the first base line."

Vic nodded. "I was thinking about going back to police work, or the law."

"Were you?" AJ nodded and looked out over the yard. "Ya know, I have been thinking the same thing."

"Hanging out a shingle, AJ?"

"In a manner of speaking … was thinking about Private Detective work."

"Really?" Vic pondered the idea.

AJ nodded. "A man can make his own hours in that line of work – take his own orders."

"Get the girls." He smiled slyly at his new friend and laughed. "Chegwidden P.I. … Magnum for the new millennium."

"Damn straight … never driven a Ferrari before." AJ seemed pleased with this new plan albeit twenty-four hours and a couple of fingers of scotch old.

Vic thought for a moment. "Need a partner?"

AJ studied him and nodded slowly. He pointed to the bottle that sat beside him. "Drink?"

Gunny reached for the bottle. "Thought you'd never ask."

Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland

"Is that a bottle in your pocket or are you just happy to see me." Webb finally asked.

Harm pulled out a bottle from his sling. It was … well what the hospital would consider 'contraband', but was the finest bottle of cognac that the wine shop by his apartment had in stock. It set Harm back a chunk of change. "Never that happy to see you, Webb." He said snidely putting the bottle down in front of him.

Webb was obviously impressed. "What is this for?"

"You saved my life." Harm stated casually.

"And you saved mine." Webb felt like he was being given a consolation prize for giving up Sarah.

"Just take it." Harm commanded. It probably was a consolation prize.

Webb recovered from the ego hit. "Oh, don't worry … not giving this baby back." He uncorked the top and inhaled the 'bouquet'. He looked around the room quickly for something. "Damn this place … nothing but plastic. And this needs the finest crystal snifter."

Harm pulled a snifter from inside the sling on his arm. "Not crystal, but at least it's glass."

Webb poured. He nodded up to Harm, "Salude!" and took a small savory sip from the glass. "Oh yeah … that's what I am talking about." He poured a little more, corked the bottle and handed the glass to Harm.

Harm took the glass and drank. He had to admit; it was good, smooth. He handed it back.

Webb took another drink. He looked like he was in heaven. Slowly he let the liquid slide down his throat. "Don't you miss it?" Webb asked.

"Miss it?"

"Don't you miss sharing a good bottle of wine with a woman."

Harm cocked his head; he didn't see where Webb was going.

"Sarah … she doesn't drink --."

"For good reason." Harm interrupted.

"True … but I missed not being able to share a good bottle of wine or -." He held up the glass before taking another sip.

Harm couldn't believe Webb was trying to discuss Sarah with him man-to-man. But now that he thought about it, he did miss sharing a fine bottle of wine with a woman. The little light headed feeling, senses being aroused, the disinhibition that comes with a couple glasses of vintage red wine, a gourmet dinner and stimulating conversation. Sarah could stand to loosen up like that, sometimes she was too controlled … but no. He would continue to miss it and not feel slighted.

Webb kept talking. "She has other qualities that more than enough to make up for --."

Harm cut him off. "Don't be confused Webb – we are not friends and this is not some twisted version of male bonding. And my relationship with Mac is not up for discussion."

Webb held up his hand. He knew … he just got confused, probably the combination of medications and drink.

"Allies … armed allies." Harm explained. "That is as close as we will ever get."

Webb looked sad. 'Closest thing I'll ever have to a friend.' He thought, but did not say it out loud.

Harm heard him anyway. Webb looked like a man lost, broken and alone. "Mac is still your friend, Webb." Harm added though he could not figure out why. Why Mac was Webb's friend or why Harm needed to articulate it.

"Sure … sure … I'll expect my invitation to the wedding and don't forget Christmas dinner … hell you can name your first kid after me."

Harm looked down. He didn't quite know how to respond. Webb had been so out of touch and disconnected from everything else that had been going on for the last seven weeks. Harm did not feel it was his place to tell Webb about the health issues that they were facing or what actually finally drew Harm and Mac together, and the very real fact that they – Harm and Mac – were working things out …daily. Nothing was written in stone and nothing was a lock.

Webb shook it off. "Been back to work yet?" He asked changing the subject.

"Next Monday." Harm answered. "Guess the new admiral reported two days ago morning."

JAG Headquarters

Mac looked over Gates' shoulder and snapped to attention.

Gates turned; every muscle in her body tensed. "Janet." She said coolly.

"Madden." The admiral replied.

Mac was more than a little confused. Did these women know each other?

Admiral Janet Schnarr reported to JAG Headquarters on Monday morning at 0830, by 0845 Captain Sebring had been relieved of his responsibilities and the new admiral was taking a roll call. When it was explained to her where Harm and Mac were, what they were doing, with whom and that Harm would not be cleared for duty until the following Monday and that Mac was due back the next day, she demanded a meeting with the SecNav. When she got back from the meeting, it was clear that she had read the SecNav the riot act about using her people. He of course pointed out that they were not her people at the time, but it didn't matter. Admiral Schnarr was not the kind of officer to allow her people to be used or abused in any way. She was by the book … hell she probably wrote the book. The other thing about the admiral, she was connected both personally and professionally all the way to the top. Without knowing the specifics, Kershaw et al probably owed their new employment status – rather UNemployment status to the new JAG.

That maybe a piece of good news for the JAG crew, however the bad news was that she was harder on her people than she was on the system. In the first day she made six reassignments. No longer would senior attorneys be working together. She would bring in Lt. JG's as apprentices to each attorney. They would report on Monday morning – when there was a full complement (i.e. when Rabb and MacKenzie were back). When it was pointed out that the offices would be cramped, it was made clear that she meant to reassign at least one of the seniors, possibly two. Bud was convinced it was he because he was not as senior as the others. Mac had another fear. In the brief meeting that the admiral and she had the day before about the cases she was working (rather just assigned), the results of the Naples trial and what happened in Afghanistan, Mac was thoroughly convinced that the admiral had knowledge of her relationship with Harm (which in an of itself would not get them reassigned unless the relationship progressed) but the fact that they played way outside the letter of the law more often than not would.

"Colonel MacKenzie does Dr. Madden have business with JAG?"

"Nothing you need concern yourself with Janet." Gates jumped in.

The admiral turned her withering glare on Gates who did not shrink from it as pretty close to everyone at JAG had when she turned it on them. "So your business is of a personal nature?"

"My business is not yours." Gates responded. "This time." Gates added with a little bit too much maliciousness.

The admiral turned back to Mac. "Colonel, I am sure you appreciate that we are conducting business – NAVY business - here. Any business that falls outside of that arena should be done on your personal time. That includes visitors, phone calls and the use of the office facilities. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, ma'am." Mac responded quickly still from her rigid attention.

"Please escort Dr. Madden to the gate. And report to my office in fifteen minutes."

"Aye Aye, Admiral."

The admiral scanned Gates up and down one more time. Gates did the same.

"Good to see you Janet?" Gates said as the admiral was about to turn and leave.

The admiral did not respond but did not take her eyes off of Gates.

"Send Glenn my love." Gates said nastily.

The admiral narrowed her eyes, looked over at Mac quickly and back at Gates and walked away.

Mac quickly grabbed her cover and took Gates by the arm and led her outside.

Gates was immediately sorry that her nasty side got the better of her at Mac's office. It was petty and mean and could potentially cause Mac more harm than good.

"I'm sorry Mac." Gates said on their way down the stairs.

"What the hell was that all about?" Mac demanded.

"Need to know, sweet pea."

"I need to know." Mac said pulling her out of the building. "You know her?" Mac asked when they were finally out of earshot.

"Yeah." Gates didn't want to say too much. She could be a bitch, but she was not a gossip. She gave up what little she could. "My second husband was Glenn Schnarr."

"You were married to her husband?"

"It is worse than that." Gates half smiled. "Glenn left her for me."

"You are a home wrecker?"

"The home was wrecked when I met Glenn." She defended.

"I suppose the admiral did not see it that way." Mac shook her head.

"Look MacKay – there is not a lot I can tell you – it would be inappropriate, she is now your boss."

"Gates."

"Glenn left her for me and me for her … full circle – no harm no foul. It is over."

"Looked like there was a lot of unfinished business to me."

"Maybe – but not for me. The woman is a ball buster and she had Glenn's balls in a jar long before I met him. We were married for all of three months – but if you were to ask me, it was more like a week. He left our honeymoon to go to her for …for … for … I am not going to tell you why. Suffice it to say – Glenn was not prepared to leave his wife and without his balls – he never will. So we divorced and they remarried and that is the end of the story."

"There is more."

"There is a ton more but you are not going to hear it from me." She stated.

Mac waited expecting more of an answer.

"I was in love with him … and I may have tried to hang on to him a little too tightly."

"Gates!"

"That is already too much … I wouldn't tell her that we are friends. Tell her I was here for some other reason."

1315 EST

Rabb Residence

North of Union Station

"What other reason?" Harm asked Mattie.

"What other reason what? I am on my way out to my class … that's all. Are you going to give me a ride, or should I take the bus? Oh yeah … you can't drive." She was in full snotty teenager mode as she had been since Harm got back.

"Mattie – can we talk for a minute?" Harm said gently.

"I am going to be late." She whined.

"I think this is important."

"Everything is important to you." She snapped back.

"You are on the top of the list there kid."

"Yeah, sure." She was getting angry.

"Of course you are, Mattie."

"Forget it, I will take the bus." She grabbed her backpack and was nearly out the door.

"Mattie." He called her back. "All I want to know is why you are avoiding me."

"I am not avoiding you, Harm." She looked away. She had been avoiding him since he got home on Sunday night. "Look you have a life and I have a life – and we are both busy people. I have friends and my father and … and … and summer school. And you have Mac and work and … "

"And you, Mattie. I have you." He stated. "Mattie, I love you. Please talk to me."

She shook her head and looked away.

Harm noticed that her eyes were tearing up. He stepped closer to her and reached for her with his good arm. "Mattie?"

She could no longer maintain the angry teenager front. She wrapped her arms around him and hung on for dear life as the tears flowed.

Harm held her, letting her cry it out.

After a minute or two she stopped and pulled herself back wiping the tears away. "What a big baby I am." She said in a tear stained voice.

"What is going on, honey?" He asked gently.

"I can't lose you Harm … I can't … I don't know what I would do." She said desperately.

He led her over to the couch and they sat down "Mattie, you are not going to lose me … not ever. Even after you go back to live with your Dad … you are not ever going to be able to get rid of me."

"Maybe … maybe not." She whined.

Harm was reminded of the promises he made to Mac on the plane to Germany. 'I promise to do whatever it takes to get back to you – back to us.' That was what he promised Mac after she asked him to make a promise he could keep. Did he just promise something to Mattie that he could not keep or was at least out of his control to keep? Could Mattie be feeling something similar to what Mac was feeling? Was she scared that he might die? Or was it something else entirely?

"What is this all about?" He asked, not wanting to presume anything. He was learning from these two women in his life.

"Harm you were nearly blown up five days ago … it is a miracle that you are still standing."

It was exactly that. "I know. I am sorry."

"What do you have to be sorry about?" She was getting edgy and mad again. "It wasn't your fault. You didn't make the bomb. You didn't set it off. You didn't --."

"I am sorry you were scared." He interrupted her.

She laughed. "Scared? Hell, I didn't know anything about it until it was all over … I didn't have time to be scared."

"Honey, I couldn't tell you."

"I hate this … I hate thinking that you could walk out the door and never come back." She pushed herself off the couch. "I can't go through that again Harm." She meant she could not go through a parent dying.

Harm knew exactly what she meant. "Mattie, come here and sit down."

"I have to go."

"No, we have to talk this through." He said sternly. "You can go horseback riding tomorrow."

She reluctantly came over and sat down.

"Mattie, I am sorry that you have to learn these life lessons so young. It is really not fair."

"It sucks."

"Yeah." He smiled at her. "When my father died, I was pretty young; too young to really understand. I convinced myself that he was still out there flying and that he would be coming home. I obsessed on that for most of my life ... you know about a lot of that: Viet Nam, Russia etc etc etc."

Mattie nodded.

"What took me forever to understand is that I can't control what happens in the world … I can't be scared. My obsession with my father led me to some some very wonderful discoveries. I have a brother." He smiled. "I never would have known that if I hadn't … well it doesn't matter. What I am trying to say is that my obsession closed me off to a lot more than I gained. It wasn't until you came into my life that I --."

"Yeah, Yeah, I know … " She dismissed the role she had played in his life. "You have to live each day like it is your last, and love the people you love with everything you've got." She said dripping with sarcasm.

"Where did that come from?" He asked.

"I read that some where."

He shook it away, he had to change his tactic – he could not use himself as an example. "Mattie, you are one of the strongest and bravest people I know. I admire you and I respect you. You will survive anything that is thrown at you – and survive with grace and poise. Life is going to throw a lot at you – a lot more. Don't worry about what you can't control, because you will be OK."

"Like you getting blown up?" She asked.

"You have to trust enough to know that I will do what I can to come back – even broken." He held up his casted arm. "Whether it be walking across the street or on assignment in another part of the world." He reached out and touched her face. "I am not reckless. I want to come back, I have too much to live for to not come back, Mattie."

"I know, I know." She looked away. "But can't I be scared?"

"I don't want you to be scared." He gently turned her face back toward him. "I want you to be happy."

"Are you going to lock yourself in a room?" She stated.

"No, nor am I going to be scared every time you step out the door."

"What could happen to me?" She defended.

He smiled. "Not wild about the horseback riding."

"I know how to ride, Harm." She defended.

"Yes you do … but you will be learning to drive soon."

"I know how to drive, Harm."

"Not legally."

"You are going to help me get my license?" Her eyes light up.

"When you turn sixteen … yes, I will … and sometimes it doesn't matter how good a driver you are, there are other people on the road."

"Nothing is going to happen."

"You don't know that, Mattie."

She thought for a moment. Her mother's accident did not enter her mind. It was safely tucked away. But there was a kid in class that was thrown and hurt his back pretty badly. She had thought he was a better rider. And two seniors in school were just in a car accident and wouldn't be able to graduate with their class. She saw Harm's point and nodded slightly in answer.

"I worry about you all the time and I am much happier when I can see you or know you are safely at home, but I know you have to live your life, and I trust that you will do everything you can to be safe."

Mattie nodded. "I do."

"I know you do. And so do I."

She nodded and shrugged. "Ok. OK fine."

He smiled at her and pulled her into a big hug. "Are we OK?"

"Yeah." She said over his shoulder. It was going to take her a little while to get behind this trust thing.

"Do you still want to go riding or do you want to hang out with me."

"And do what?"

"We could go to a movie."

"What movie?" She smiled at him.

"That new Matt Damon film is out."

"Now there is a guy who knows how to stay alive." Mattie laughed. "OK."

"Ok." He smiled and pulled her too him again quickly and squeezed her tightly. He got up to go find his shoes.

"Hey, Harm. Don't think I am trying to avoid you or anything, but Chloe asked me to come up to Vermont for a week or two."

"When?"

"Before school starts."

"You want to go?" He called back from the bedroom.

"Yeah, I do. She has got a new horse and says that there are a ton of trails we can explore."

"Have you asked your father?"

"Not yet, but he will be going for training next week for about fifteen days. So he won't care."

"He might have an opinion." Harm said stepping back into the living room.

"If you say it is OK, I will ask him."

Harm was secretly glad that she asked him first. "I was hoping we could spend some time together this summer, Mattie."

"You don't have to be back at work until next week."

Harm nodded. They could spend the next few days together, it would be enough for a little while. "I'll need to call Chloe's grandmother."

"I figured I could take the train up and you and Mac could come pick me up at the end. Mac would get to see Chloe and you two could have a little romantic getaway in the mountains of Vermont. You two need some time by yourselves."

"Are you playing match maker again?"

"The match is made … just helping it along."

"Thanks for your support."

"So what do you think?" Mattie asked again.

Chegwidden Residence, McLean Virginia

"So what do you think?" AJ's words were more slurred than they normally were, but after sharing a bottle with Vic it was understandable.

"I think it is an idea worth pursuing." The gunny was a little drunk too, but showed it less. Good thing neither one had anywhere to be.

A car drove up the driveway. Both watched it but made no move to get up or figure out who it was.

Gates emerged from of the car with two large bags of take out and a brown paper bag. "AJ?"

"DOC!" AJ waved. "Took your time getting here, lady."

Vic was on his feet in a second, swaying a little. He had not met Gates yet and only heard her referred to by AJ and Mac but he was still unclear on her relationship with AJ.

"AJ?" She smiled at Vic. "Who's your friend?"

AJ gave a sloppy nod toward the Gunny. "Gunnery Sergeant Victor Galindez … sorry … sorry … RETIRED Gunnery Sergeant Victor Galindez … meet Dr. Gates Madden."

"Ma'am." Was all the gunny could squeak out.

"It is nice to meet you, Vic." Her smile broadened and she reached her free hand to shake his. "If I may call you Vic?"

"Yes, ma'am." He took it carefully.

"Don't call me 'ma'am', Vic … makes me feel old." She squeezed his hand and let it go.

Vic nodded. He could not take his eyes off of her.

"Gates is another casualty of Kershaw, Gunny." AJ explained.

"We ought to form a club." Gates pushed the bags out for Vic to take. "Help me with these, would you doll?" She opened the screen door and was about to step through.

"Gates! Did you bring the scotch?" AJ asked.

"I did … but you need something to eat first."

"You running my life now, lady?" AJ said jokingly as Victor watched the interplay.

She exited into the house and called back out to him. "Not me, just don't want you to fall down and break your other leg."

Vic looked back at AJ. "Is she yours?" He asked a little too rudely but clearly off his game from the drink and from her smile.

"Nope … Gates belongs to no one."

"Hey, Vic … while it's hot!" Gates called from the house.

Vic snapped to attention and followed along after her.

AJ nodded. "She is not mine." He said quietly to himself. "But I damn sure not going to give her up to a Jarhead."

AJ tried to get up forgetting about the cast on his leg. He fell back down into the chaise. "Damn it!"

1735 EST

Rabb Residence

North of Union Station

"Damn it." Harm said pulling away from Mac's kiss struggling to get out of the sling.

"Not the reaction I was hoping to get." She smiled and leaned in for another kiss.

"Mac … it's this damn cast … I am going to cut it off." He tried to get up.

"Harm." She put her hand on him and guided him gently back down into the chair. "Harm … you don't need two arms to kiss me." She smiled and sat down on the edge of his chair wrapping her arm around him.

"Mac it has been a long time … it is going to be a long time." He complained. "And this isn't helping." He nudged her away from him.

It had been over two weeks since they had a chance to be alone … really alone … privately alone. And now that Harm's arm was in a cast, any time they could find would not really be conducive to being alone in that way.

"Harm." She cooed at him, letting her fingertips lightly outline his ear. "I missed you today." She whispered just before taking a little nibble.

He reached his good arm around her and pulled her down into his lap. And kissed her – kissed her well.

"Where is Mattie?" She murmured and he trailed a string of kisses down her throat.

"She'll be back any minute." He mumbled.

"Is she going out tonight?"

"No." He stopped and pulled back to look at her. "I'm sorry." He said earnestly. "She is still upset and I convinced her to have dinner with us and told her we'd play a game or watch a movie."

"OK." Mac said trying not to let her disappointment show. She leaned back away from him. "You said you talked to her."

"I did." He looked down. "She was scared."

"I can see why. You nearly got yourself killed." She stated. "I was scared."

"Don't make this about me, Mac. You were there. You could have been on the ground floor when the bomb went off." He tried to rein in his frustration. "You could have been killed too."

"I wasn't." She stated.

"I wasn't either … can we move on?" He had more to say on the subject, but it just would have been rehashing old stuff.

"One more thing." She said. "Mattie is a kid Harm who lost her mother not so long ago. I agree with her, she should be upset with you - scared."

"Thanks for the support." He pulled slightly away from her.

"NO, no … come on … hear me out."

"Mac, I understand all that … Mattie and I talked about it … she will deal with it in her own time and in her own way. I just have to be sensitive to that. Try to keep her in the know as much as possible."

Her eyes took on a lovely shine and smile.

"What?" He asked.

"Nothing, this is just a new you."

"Good or bad?"

"Very good." She kissed him quickly.

"Good."

"How was the movie?" She asked.

"It didn't help … in fact it made it worse."

"Worse?"

He laughed a little. "She says I am no Jason Bourne."

"Well, I see her point." Mac nodded and ran her fingers through his hair. "Matt Damon has more of that blonde youthful preppy look and you have more of that aging GQ Tog Gun thing going on." She smiled at him playfully.

"Oh really …" He pulled her close. "Aging, huh?"

"Bourne's not my type anyway." She consoled. "I like my man to remember who I am."

"I remember … all I can do these days."

She leaned in and got very close to his mouth. "Well let me refresh your memory." She laughed and leaned back. "Guess you are not as handicapped as you think you are."

"Guess not." He pulled her to him.

The kiss was cut short when they heard Mattie in the hall.

"Can you remember where we were?" She asked.

He groaned his answer and released her from his hold.

Mattie came blasting in like a whirlwind talking a mile a minute. She barely said hello to Mac. She dropped the groceries and said that she would be back in an hour to fix dinner. She needed to take a shower … she dropped a bottle of olive oil on herself at the store. Before Harm or Mac could respond, she was gone.

Mac started putting the groceries away. "So I talked to Gates today."

Harm got up and followed her to the kitchen. "Heard she got canned."

"Yeah … worse than that." Mac explained. "She and Admiral Schnarr share a past."

"Share a past?"

"Well … at least they shared a husband."

Harm was confused.

"Evidently Gates' second husband is the admiral's first and second husband."

"How do you know this?"

"Gates was at the office when the admiral stopped my mine."

"Little cat fight in the bull pen."

Mac smiled. "I am asking Gates to not meet me at the office any more."

"I got a message from the admiral today. She wants to debrief tomorrow about the assignment in Afghanistan and the case in Naples."

"'Debrief' is not the right word for it." This was the conversation she had been dreading since that morning. "She wants to rake you over the coals."

"What?"

"I got is this morning." Mac looked away.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I can take it. She is a tough woman." She smiled weakly. "I am tougher."

Harm wrapped his arm around her. "I know you are." He kissed her cheek.

Mac's face covered with concern.

"What is going on Mac?"

"She is going to split us up, Harm."

"Did she say that?" He was now also full of concern.

"Not specifically … but I think her friendship with the SecNav is going to be the end for us at JAG."

End Chapter One …