Title: Old Friends, New Relationships
Written: Late Summer/Fall 2004
Disclaimers: No disrespect to JAG's cast, crew or creators. With love and thanks.Old Friends, New Relationships
Chapter Sixteen - The Last One Out
1156 EST – Saturday, October 30, 2004
Property For Sale at Swink's Mill and Georgetown Pike
Harm and Mac pulled up to a house set back off the main road. Mac got out of the car and was clearly not impressed with the sight before her.
"This is a great location, isn't it?" He hadn't told her where they were going.
"Harm?" She called over to him. "Why are we here?"
"Can you smell that fresh air?"
"You said you were taking me out for lunch."
"Right … lunch." He took a quick scan of the territory. "Not another house in sight."
"Harm … why are we here?"
"Just look at all the trees … the land … the lot is three acres … The Dranesville District Park is across the way there … that means no neighbors or subdivisions."
"Fantastic property … view of the water … have always wanted to have a little stretch of land that was all mine … reminds me of my grandmother's place … Have I ever taken you up there? … in Pennsylvania?"
"It is great … enough room give a person a chance to breath … maybe you can plant a garden."
"Nothing fancy … just an herb garden, maybe a few tomato plants."
She shook her head and put a stop to it. "Enough, Rabb. Why are we here?"
"Come on inside … let me show you around."
She knew why they were there. He wanted to buy this firetrap. "No, Harm … no … this is not happening."
"You haven't even seen the view from upstairs."
"I don't care if this over looks the -."
Harm scooped her up into his arms and proceeded to carry her over the threshold of the house. He kissed her and put her down.
"No." She stated gently but firmly.
"You haven't even looked."
"I don't need to look …" Although she was looking around and there were some very charming aspects of this house. She wouldn't admit to it though. "This place is a dump."
"It is historic and needs to be respected and restored."
"No." She pointed out the door to the down stairs falling off its hinges.
"I can do this Mac … I can make this place everything you want it to be."
"Harm … no."
"Gourmet kitchen …"
"I don't cook."
"Master suite upstairs with a private bath."
She looked up the narrow stairwell and was unconvinced that anything MASTER could live up there.
"Enlarge the bathroom down here for Mattie … take out the wall over there and make a huge … living room … family room … whatever."
"The nursery could go in this room."
She shook her head.
"Or upstairs … there is room enough."
She looked out to the back and noticed the detached barn/garage.
He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. "Thought we could turn that into our offices … in case … you know … we need a home office for something."
She shook her head. Yeah his vision was grand, but it was too much. The best thing to do would be to gut the house … rather bull doze the house and park a trailer on it.
Mac's assessment was a little harsh. The house was actually livable, but it really did need some work.
"Just look around … they don't build them like this any more."
"For good reason, Harm … please … this is silly."
"Actually it is not." He got serious. "It is not silly at all."
"Harm." She was not being convinced.
He took her hands and led her over to the window seat in the living room with a lovely view of the un-manicured acreage. He sat her down (the wood creaked under her slight weight). "Would you at least hear me out?"
She wanted to say 'no', there was nothing that was going to change her mind, but in the end she nodded for him to continue.
Harm proceeded to lay out his plan. The house was a STEAL for the asking price – which they could bargain down further since it had been on the market for over a year. The three acres alone would be worth it. The house was a four bedroom, one and a half bath, single family home. It was a colonial style house originally built in 1878 with wide plank hard wood floors throughout, a fireplace and many other charms including window seats and the hand blown window-panes. It had not been updated or remodeled since the early sixties and was in great need of both. It needed new plumbing, new wiring, water and sewer hook ups (it was running on a well and septic tank), the floors and walls needed refinishing, the insulation needed to be replaced and thickened and the bathrooms … well lets just say the bathrooms – though in working order – would not fit the needs of this neo-nuclear family. However there was a fantastic claw foot tub on the second floor that Harm knew Mac would fall in love with. The floor plan of the house was very open considering it was a colonial … big open kitchen but the rest of the rooms were smallish. It was easy to see that the bedrooms could be enlarged without losing the integrity of the house. Harm's plan was simple. They would buy the house. He would take the most amount of time off that he could – unpaid if he had to – and renovate the house. He felt that working fulltime on the renovations, he could be done by the first of January – at least done enough for them to move into … if it took a little longer … it took a little longer. Finally they would get married and move in, finish the remodel … happily ever after. Simple.
Mac was unconvinced of the simplicity of his plan. "That is a lot of work for one man … in less than 60 days."
"I'll hire help. You can help … Mattie."
"Where are we going to get the money for the renovations?"
"I'll get a loan … use your rainy day money … we will refinance when we are done … put it all back … in case it rains."
"And the roof leaks."
"The house is sound, Mac." He implored pulling out an inspectors report to prove his assertion. "It doesn't NEED the renovations, it just needs a little refresher and a remodel will make it ours. It won't cost much with me as the architect, contractor and chief laborer … sweat equity and all."
Mac shook her head. It didn't sound feasible in any way, shape or form. But it was true that with renovation they would be getting a hell of a house. More house than they could afford but at a price that wouldn't limit their dining to hot dogs and beans.
The only house they had seen that they even thought was some place they could live was a $1.3 million dollar 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath on two acres also in McLean. It was a brick colonial-esque (1968) on two acres that had recently been renovated to include a gourmet kitchen with cherry wood cabinets and stainless appliances. It had four good-sized bedrooms, three bathrooms, three fireplaces a separate home office and an attached two-car garage with a mother-in-law suite over it (Mattie had already claimed that – like that was actually going to happen). The landscaping was mature and done professionally. There was a covered porch and a built in gas grill. It was nice. It was really nice. Sadly the owners that were vacating had decided to paint the walls red – a rich burgundy red, but red none-the-less. That could easily be changed. There were a lot of other touches that the owners had put in that just were not Harm/Mac/Mattie (i.e. wine room, finished lower level with bar, the kitchen was all electric – Harm would not cook with anything other than gas).
Harm, Mac and Mattie had all thought that that house was good – good enough. It was better than good, but it really wasn't any one of their styles. The fancy renovation done gave the place a very yuppy feel and the asking price was a little steep – it was A LOT steep. The twenty percent down would pretty much zap all of Mac's cash and still the payments would be a stretch to make. All the houses in their price range were not right either – too small, bad location, too close to the neighbors. They tried to picture themselves in several of them, but it was like fitting a round peg into a square hole – rather three round pegs into one square hole. This house hunting was not as easy as it had sounded.
Harm had found this 'fixer upper' by accident and something about it got to him. It occurred to him, that they would never find the house of their dreams; they had to create it.
Harm got down on one knee.
"Harm what are you doing?" She cried. "You are not going to beg." She laughed until she saw what was in his hand.
Harm pulled a diamond solitaire out of his pocket.
"Sarah MacKenzie … will you marry me?"
"Harm … if I say yes to that, it has no bearing on this house." She warned.
He nodded, averted his eyes for a moment and then presented his case. "Sarah we have worked so hard to get to this place … this place in our lives … this place where we are open and honest with each other … where we work things out rather than run away … I have never loved and respected anyone the way I love and respect you. I want to grow old with you, I want to raise children with you and I want to wake up next to you every day for the rest of my life. There will be tough times ahead and I don't think that we will ever walk into the sunset happily ever after … but I wouldn't want that … not with you. You make me work harder. We are building a life together … we have been building a life together even before we knew it … let part of that construction be creating a home together … literally and figuratively."
She was moved by his sincerity.
"This house … this home … has survived more than a century of weather, people and God knows what all … it has history and it wants to have more … it is a little worse for the wear by it is still standing and still strong … that is us, Mac. We have history … we survived. A year ago our relationship was in ruins … no one would ever have believed that we would or could make it to this point … have the same faith in this house that you have in us."
She took a deep breath and looked around the living room. She was beginning to see what he was seeing.
He pressed her hands to get her to look back at him. "Say yes, Sarah … Say you'll marry me and share your life with me."
With tears in her eyes she said, "Yes."
He slipped the ring on her finger. It was beautiful – simple and beautiful. Not the biggest rock on the planet, but it could easily be seen with the naked eye from twenty feet away.
She leaned down and kissed him. He joined her on the window seat. "About the house?"
"Harm … I am not sure about that part."
"I know you aren't … but I have been doing a lot of thinking and I have some plans. Are you at least not dead set against it enough to hear the plans?"
She looked down at her at the ring on her finger. She didn't expect a diamond ring from Harm. For some reason she thought that it wouldn't be something he would do. She couldn't imagine him shopping for a ring, but then again she never imagined him shopping for a house. She never pictured him offering to create a home for her. Hell she never pictured him down on one knee asking her to marry him. Maybe her perspective did need changing.
"That's the ring my father gave my mother the night I was born." The words caught in his throat.
Mac looked back at him.
"They couldn't afford a ring when they got married. You know Mom has money and dad never did. He wouldn't take her money to buy her a ring. So when she told him she was pregnant, he saved up – actually did some work on the side just to give her something a beautiful as she was. At least that is the story Mom told me."
"Thank you." She was clearly touched that she was now part of the Rabb legacy, but was this something that he had just lying around in a drawer?
"Mom told me that when I was ready that she would have it for me. I called her a few weeks ago … after you asked me to marry you." He laughed.
"I never actually did." She played back.
"Hence the reason I had to ask you today … anyway … She had forgotten where she put it. She thought she had lost it or something. She even said she would replace it."
"She lost it?"
"Frank had it in the safety deposit box with my name on it." He smiled at her. "Should have had your name on it. It belongs with you, Sarah."
She looked back at her hand. The stone was perfect and it was the perfect size for her hand. It did belong with her. "It is beautiful Harm."
"Yeah. It is."
She leaned into him and put her head on his shoulder. "So you have plans for this rat trap?"
He wrapped his arm around her. "You know me … the man with the plan."
"Well, you didn't plan very well … I need to eat. You promised me lunch."
"Oh ho … you think I would for get your stomach. Come with me, my love."
Harm led her up the stairs. They creaked loudly and Mac was again unconvinced that this place could be made livable. The view from the master bedroom was fantastic. Harm produced a picnic basket that clearly he had put there before he picked her up that morning. He laid out the blanket, settled her down on the corner and proceeded to pull out all her favorites.
"Pulling out the big guys, eh Rabb." She smiled taking a bite of the sushi.
"The way to a woman's heart --- well my woman anyway."
"You think you can convince me by feeding me well?"
"You always think more clearly when you have been well fed."
"Doesn't mean I will agree with you. It may mean that I will prove how wrong your ideas are."
"I know … nothing like a good spirited debate with my lover." He leaned over and kissed her … not just a little kiss; this was a kiss that was expected to lead to something.
She laughed and pulled away from him. "You're out of order counselor."
"Don't you find it a little exciting?" He pulled her palm to his lips. "In an empty house that could be ours …"
She shook her head 'no' but clearly she did find it very exciting.
"I'll bet you do, Mrs. Rabb." He tried to kiss her again.
She laughed playfully but got serious quickly. "Two things … we have to nip the MRS RABB business in the bud … I am a MacKenzie and always will be. Ok by you?"
"I don't care how you sign your checks or what name you use at Blockbuster video."
"Really? This is not some major ego blow to you?"
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. Honestly … he didn't care. Once he got her to say 'I do" she would be 'honey', 'baby', 'sweetheart', 'lamb chop' and 'MRS RABB' to him and that was all that mattered. He waved her off. "What is the other thing?"
"Mattie … you have a chance in HELL of getting her to see the 'potential' of this house."
"We'll just see about that." He kissed her again; she didn't protest as much as she had the last time.
Late that afternoon the family Rabb, drove back out to the house. Mac was only slightly more convinced that it was not a bad plan and might actually be – dare she admit it – a good plan. Harm had worked his magic on her and was actually able to get her as interested – not as much as he was, but interested. She had a few ideas of her own that he quickly incorporated.
Mattie's first reaction was 'yeah, fine whatever.' But they pressed her. She started looking around, did a little exploring by herself and came up with a few ideas that neither Harm nor Mac had thought of. In the end, she said – 'yeah, cool.' She was also very willing to help with the renovations. She could sand and paint with the best of them. Of course one of her ideas that was nixed quickly was that she wanted the barn/garage turned into her bedroom, rather than offices. That was not going to happen.
Mattie's only real concern was her school. By moving out of Washington to McLean, Virginia she would no longer be in her school district and she did not want to change schools for her junior and senior year. Harm and Mac both felt that they could figure out a way for her to stay at the school she was in, transportation would be a little tricky. That's when Mattie hit them with her idea.
"Well, I will be turning 16 in a couple of weeks … if I had my license, I could drive myself."
Harm and Mac shared a look.
"That is certainly something to consider." Harm said. "Thank you, Mattie."
"It would solve the problem." She pressed.
"Driving is not a right, you understand Mattie?" Mac said gently. "It is a privilege and a responsibility."
"I know … and I know I will need to get a job to pay for gas and insurance … and the car."
"We'll need to talk about this some more." Father Rabb tabled this part of the discussion. It would need a conversation with Mac and then a more serious one with Mattie, but for all intents and purposes it was resolved. They would make an offer on the house, and start the whole process. They were on their way and it felt good. It felt good for all three of them.X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X
1130 EST – Monday, November 1, 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
"You wanted to see me admiral." Harm knocked on Admiral Schnarr's open doorframe.
"Yes, commander. Enter."
Harm came in and waited.
After a moment she looked up and realized he was still standing. She rose. "I understand you won the Bell courts-martial. Well done."
"Yes, ma'am. Thank you ma'am."
"I have also received your request for your 45 days."
"Yes, ma'am … I believe that I still have 45 days on the books."
"You actually have 60 days."
Harm shrugged. Somehow he thought that was a mistake, but the Navy so rarely made mistakes in that area.
She paused for a moment. "However … your orders have come through."
Harm stiffened. It has been over four weeks since he had requested a reassignment. He knew that the orders would come though eventually, but in the back of his mind was a sliver of hope that the rules would change and he and Mac would be allowed to work together.
"Yes ma'am." This was going to blow the plan he had for the house.
"I will be sorry to lose you, commander."
Harm found that an interesting statement. Why would she consider Harm's transfer as 'losing him'? Hadn't the admiral also requested reassignment? "You will be remaining at JAG then, ma'am?"
"You could say I bartered for it."
She smiled at him. "Commander, while the Navy will lose a fine litigator with your transfer from JAG, the country will gain a thorough and accomplished investigator and zealous advocate, someone who speaks his mind and stands up for what is right – not selfishly but for the greater good."
He was confused.
"That is my expectation." She looked down on her desk and picked up the paper with his orders on it. "Upon the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission an interagency … agency has been formed. Three members from every agency – while working closely with their own - will work together to prevent terrorism at home and abroad."
"Including the military?" He was under the impression it would be an intelligence type group – FBI, CIA, NSA.
"Yes, Mr. Rabb. The intelligence community, the military, local law enforcement – as well as a number of others will all be involved. You have been assigned to that group. You will be based out of the Pentagon until suitable offices are found and will be one of the Navy's liaisons – along with Captain Hallow of Fleet Command and Captain Thurmond of Navy Intelligence. Trust me this will not be some paper-pushing, red-tape position." She smiled. "At least I know with you on it, it won't be."
"You will be working with some pretty high profile people – some of these people have pretty big egos and clearly defined agendas. Some of these people you know and have dealt with in the past. Your group will also be under an intense microscope from the media and from congress. You will have no problem with that, I am sure."
"Know that your agenda will be to keep the Navy's interests upper most in your mind, but you will not forget that the safety of innocents … Americans, American Allies or anyone not directly associated – at home and abroad is your primary goal."
"Yes, ma'am." He hesitated. "Who will I report to, ma'am?"
"That would be me." Came Secretary Sheffield's voice from the open door way.
Harm turned and his high hopes for this new position were dashed. "Yes, sir."
"Commander Rabb, you were not my first choice for this task force … hell you didn't even make the top ten."
"But the admiral and I came to an understanding."
Harm looked back over at the admiral. What had happened? Had Sheffield agreed to the transfer for Harm with the proviso that Schnarr remain at JAG?
"You report January 17th …0700. Will you be back from you honeymoon by then?" The secretary said with a dry snide tone.
"Yes sir … January 17th … 0700."
"Good." The secretary added. "I will be watching you commander … very closely."
Sheffield turned back to Schnarr. "Admiral … we have a meeting."
"It is in the conference room, sir." She nodded. "I will be right there."
The secretary left.
"Don't let him phase you commander."
"No, ma'am." He paused. "Ma'am…?" Harm was going to ask if she had agreed to remain JAG in order to get him this assignment.
"Let him think what he likes … I had already made my decision to stay before this opportunity for you came up."
Harm was unconvinced.
"When can I make the announcement?"
"If you please … may I have an hour?"
"Certainly." She nodded. "You will have the rest of the week to transfer your cases, you can start your leave on November 8, at 1800."
"Again … thank you."
"Make us proud, commander."
X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X1400 EST – Monday, November 1, 2004
JAG HeadquartersFalls Church, Virginia
Harm told Mac all that he was told at lunch. They were tentatively encouraged. Things were happening quickly for them now. They were actually becoming a little unnerved, but there was also a little excitement and anticipation that they were starting this next phase of their lives together. The fun part for them was that now they no longer needed to hide their relationship. So Mac put her ring back on. Harm loved seeing her happy and was delighted to have had something to do with it.
Harm and Mac stepped into the bullpen and noticed right away that most of the staff was there waiting for something. Bud stepped over to them.
"Sir, Ma'am." He said. "Do you know what is going on?"
Harm and Mac exchanged a look. Harm clapped Bud on the shoulder. "Looks like I will be leaving you, Bud."
"When?" Bud was shocked and surprised. Shocked that it was so soon and a little surprised that it had taken too long.
"Are congratulations in order?" He asked tentatively.
Mac nodded and raised her hand up for him to see. Bud's face lit up. He couldn't have been happier if it was his own engagement. He couldn't stop himself; he pulled Mac into a quick hug. Mac took the hug well. It only seemed right that Bud be the first to officially know. He had been through so much with them.
"Congratulations." He was so happy. "Harriet will want to see you, you know. She will demand it."
"We were planning on dropping by sometime this week."
"Great." Bud shook Harm's hand.
"One more thing Bud." Harm's bright smile was radiating. "Gonna need a best man one day soon, would you do me the honor?"
Bud was clearly touched. "It would be MY honor, sir."
"Stop calling me 'sir', Bud."
"Yes sir." He shook his hand again. Bud looked back over the bullpen and his face washed with concern.
"What is it?" Mac asked.
"Well, you leaving is certainly part of the reason we were all asked to be here, but that doesn't explain them." Bud nodded over to two female officers standing in the Admiral's doorway.
Harm and Mac followed his eye. Commander Caitland Pike and Commander Lillian Boxer (known only by reputation as La Barracuda) were talking with the admiral. Kate turned and made eye contact with Harm. She had a 'shit eating grin' on her face and nodded her 'hello.'
Harm was stunned and felt his stomach tighten.
Mac leaned in and whispered to him. "Did you know she would be here?"
"No." He croaked. And tried to avert his eyes, but the whole thing was odd.
The admiral stepped to the middle of the room. "I think everyone is here. I have a several announcements to make so please keep your questions and comments until the end. First – Commander Rabb will be leaving JAG. His last day is Friday. The commander will be one of the navy's representatives to the InterAgency Anti-Terrorism Task Force. I am confident that the navy could not have found a better representative." She talked though the murmuring. "Second – Commander Mattoni will also be leaving us. I have granted his request for transfer back to San Diego. His last day is also Friday. Commander, I hope you find the weather out there more to your liking."
The admiral and Mattoni smiled weakly at each other. She never liked him; he never liked her. It was a good thing that there would be 3000 miles between them.
"Finally, to replace the two commanders, I have transferred Commander Pike and Commander Boxer back to JAG HQ. Commander Pike is trading places with Commander Mattoni and Commander Boxer has just finished her third tour in Naples. Please welcome them both. There will be a wetting down at McMurphy's on Friday. That is all." She looked to Harm who in turn looked to Mac.
Mac was a little unprepared for these new developments, but nodded.
"I have one announcement to add, admiral." Harm said.
"Go ahead, commander." She stepped back.
"I am happy to tell you all that Colonel MacKenzie has consented to be …" He tripped over his words. He hadn't really planned on what he would say, but he knew for sure that she would not like to hear that she has consented to be "his wife." That was way too possessive … macho … misogynistic for Mac, but it was too late, he had started the sentence and he didn't know how to get out of it. "What I mean to say is …"
"We are getting married." Mac helped him.
There was a great cheer and a sigh of relief felt though the whole group. All of a sudden Harm's departure didn't feel like it was a bad thing. Nearly everyone approached and wished them well.
After the commotion died down, Harm noticed that Bud looked a little forlorn. "What's the matter Bud?"
"This is a nightmare."
"This whole thing … it is like some surreal episode of Star Trek." Bud was shaking his head.
"What are you talking about?"
"I am surrounded by women." Bud cried.
"Bud?" Harm was still confused.
"The admiral, commanders Pike, Boxer, Manetti and the colonel … not to mention all the JGs and the Petty officers."
"Not all are female, Bud."
"I am left here all by myself." Bud ignored him. "Don't leave me here all alone." He cried.
"Well I don't think they are going to paint the walls pink or anything Bud." Harm joked.
"You don't know that sir … you have no idea how this will change things."
Mac stepped up. "What's going on?"
"Our boy Bud here is feeling a little out numbered." Harm stated.
Mac didn't understand.
"Chromosomally challenged." Harm added. "Y linked."
"I am working with a bunch of girls." Bud blurted out.
Both Harm and Mac laughed.
"No disrespect ma'am."
"None taken Bud."
Harm leaned in and whispered, but was loud enough for Mac to hear. "I envy you Bud … I have always liked serving with women."
Mac rolled her eyes.
Kate joined them. "Commander, Commander, Colonel." She smiled at them. "It is nice to see you all again."
"Kate – could have told me." Harm scolded.
"And miss the look on your face … I am only sorry that we won't be working together again." She looked to Mac. "Congrats Colonel … you finally bagged the elusive Harmon Rabb."
The hair on the back of Mac's neck went up. She was reminded about how much she didn't like Kate Pike.
"Interesting isn't it?" Kate said. "The last time I was here you had announced your engagement too … I hope it works out better for you this time."
"Kate." Harm interrupted before Mac had a chance to respond. "Bud here is a little concerned about working with women … all women."
"Don't worry, Bud." She smiled seductively at him and dropped her voice and octave. "We'll be gentle."
Bud's fears were not calmed. "Thank you, ma'am." He nodded and walked away.
"So, Rabb … looks like your case load and your office will be turned over to me." She smiled. "The admiral would like to see us in fifteen."
Harm nodded. "I'll be right there."
Kate's smile broadened as she looked between Harm and Mac.
"You do make a lovely couple." She sauntered away.
"Mac?" Harm asked.
"I am with Bud." She stated.
"This doesn't feel like a good thing."
"What do you mean?"
"Kate Pike is back in town?"
He leaned toward her. "You look so beautiful when your eyes turn green."
"Harm … don't even try to play this game with me."
"Not that game, darling … when there are so many other games to play with you."
"Rabb!" Kate called from across the office.
"Right away." He looked back at Mac. "Should I invite her to dinner?"
"If you want to sleep alone." She warned.
"Dinner for two." He pressed her hand and left.
Mac was not pleased. Harm was enjoying this too much. Now Kate would be in her face. She was going to have to shut her down - again - and wipe that smile off her face. Good thing Mac was up to the challenge.X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X
1645 EST – Tuesday, November 2, 2004
Washington High School
Harm followed Susan Smithfield into the computer lab.
"She's right over there." Susan pointed to the corner.
Mattie's back was to the door. Harm approached her and noticed that it looked like she had a chat window was open. Clearly she was having a conversation with someone.
Mattie flipped around at the sound of his voice. "Harm, what are you doing here?"
"That was my question to you." He took a seat next to her.
"I was just chatting with Chloe." She said quickly closing the window.
Harm nodded slowly. "You know what Mattie, you shouldn't lie – you don't do it very well."
"You have been grounded from the internet … that means home and school."
"I didn't think it did." She said quickly.
He was disappointed with her answer. "Try again Mattie."
"This is my study hall. I am not missing class."
"Shouldn't you be studying then?"
She logged out of the computer, grabbed her books and moved away. "Did you just come here to check up on me?"
"No, in fact I came here to get information about driver's education … but I am not sure that is such a good idea now."
"What … cause I was on the Internet you won't let me get my license … this blows."
Mattie's cell phone rang. She looked nervous.
"You better answer that it might be important." He said evenly.
Mattie pulled the phone out of her pocket. Harm reached for it. She rolled her eyes and handed it to him. He checked the caller ID – "JOSH". He nodded and handed her back the phone. "I'll give you two minutes." He got up and walked out.
Shortly Mattie came out and found him leaning against his car.
"Talk to me Mattie."
"We were just chatting. There was nothing bad. We weren't doing anything wrong."
"Mattie, I think you know that I don't want you talking to him."
"Yeah, well … you can't tell me who my friends should be." She defended.
"Mattie, we talked about this."
"You never said that I couldn't talk to him … you never said that."
"I didn't know you wanted to." Harm had thought that that whole thing was over. "You had a fight … you took a bus home. You said NO." This was the first time Harm had acknowledged that Mac had told him what she and Mattie had talked about.
It made Mattie embarrassed. "And you and Mac have never had a fight." She screamed back at him.
"Ok." He said forcing himself to remain calm. "OK … clearly we need to talk about this … and we need to talk rationally … and be very clear."
"Are you going to give me that whole 'not while you're living under my roof' ultimatum?" She could be such a brat when she wanted to be.
"Have I ever?"
"I don't know … you could … before when you wanted me to stay you wouldn't have … but since my Dad … now that Josh and I … now that you are stuck with me."
Harm shook his head. "And you are stuck with me."
"I don't see it that way."
"Neither do I." Harm confirmed.
She looked away.
"Mattie, all the rules that you have to follow are for your own good … and we came up with them together. You were the one that suggested that you should not be allowed to use the Internet."
"You don't have any rules … you do whatever you want … you are gone most of them time … or with Mac."
"Mattie … stop … just stop … OK … just tell me what is going on."
"There is nothing going on." She protested.
"Really?" He said. "Cause the way you are acting makes me think that there is something going on."
"How do you THINK I acting?"
"Nervous, you won't look me in the eye … saying things that you know will get me mad … or make me feel guilty." He shrugged. "You are trying to provoke me."
"That's how you see it."
Harm had enough. "Mattie, I have only one question to ask you."
"I am not sleeping with Josh." Mattie blurted out. "I haven't even seen him. He is on such a short leash because of you, he may never be able to leave the state of Maryland and his chances of getting into the academy are gone."
Harm wrung his hands together and waited until that little piece of information had a chance to settle. He wanted to take up the Josh argument and Harm's role in Josh's lost future, but that was not the point of this discussion.
"My one question is this. The custody hearing is next week. Would you rather not live with me and Mac? Would you rather have someone else named as guardian?"
If Mattie were a balloon – she would have burst. That question shook her down to her toes and got her to lose that chip on her shoulder.
It killed him to have to ask her this, but he had to know. If he was going to spend the next three years chasing her around and forcing her to stay, then they needed to make a change. That would not be good for anyone.
"I love you Mattie … and I want you – I think of you as my daughter – even though I don't have a right."
"Harm – you do -."
"I want to be the one to teach you to drive … teach you to fly … pack you off to college … to see you blossom into the magnificent woman that I know you are going to be. I want to be the one that walks you down the aisle … and the one you bring your kids to visit on weekends and holidays. I have a lifetime of hopes and dreams for you and with you. But if you have other plans … if living with me is not what you want then …"
"I do. I want to stay with you." Her voice was thin and strained. "I came back." She protested. "I came back on my own."
Harm was very grateful that she did. He had not known what he would have done if they had found her with Josh in California and had to drag her home.
He continued. "It comes with rules, Mattie … and it comes with a commitment on all our parts. I am willing to commit to you for the rest of my life … Mac is too … are you ready to be part of a family? Do you want to be part of this family?"
"Yes." She was nearly in tears. "But you have to …"
"Have to what?"
"You have to respect my decisions too."
Harm nodded. She was correct; she was not a child. She was a young adult able to make her own choices in life … like her choice of boyfriend and how she was going to conduct herself – he meant conduct herself sexually, but he could not articulate that even in his own head.
"Mattie, you are right … I do … and I will … but you have to give me the courtesy of including me in those decisions. If you wanted to continue a … relationship with Josh, why didn't you tell me?"
"You hate Josh."
"No, no I don't."
"You don't like him very much."
"Mattie, Josh did something that was very reckless … taking you away in the dark of night was just plain wrong."
"That was my decision … you can't blame Josh for that … he didn't kidnap me … I wanted to go."
"Do you want to go now?" Harm asked.
"No. I want to finish high school and go to college. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to speak to Josh ever again."
Harm nodded. "Ok."
"Yeah, you are right … you can pick your friends, and I have to trust that you will do what you are telling me that you will do … and not doing what you are telling me you aren't. The fact that I catch you breaking the rules is hard to accept."
"The fact that you lied to my face when you were caught, is hard to accept."
"I didn't … I didn't want you to get upset."
"You can see that I am more upset that you were lying."
"I won't do it again."
Harm nodded. They could do no more discussion in the parking lot at the school. This was a longer topic. "Let's go home … we need to talk about this some more."
He smiled weakly at her and wrapped her up in a big hug. "I just worry about you and worry that I am not doing right by you … I love you Mattie … I want to do it right."
"You are doing fine, Harm." She was crying. She knew she had screwed up again and was worried about how many more times she could screw up and be forgiven. Poor Mattie, the stakes were higher for her. She was actually acting like a normal teenager, but because so much of her life was abnormal, this stuff got out of control. She was forced to grow up too fast – weren't a lot of us?X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X
1136 EST – Wednesday, November 3, 2004
Dr. Gates Madden's Office
"Thanks for seeing me, Gates." Harm said taking a seat.
"I was free." She said suspiciously.
"Thank you anyway." He was a little lost as to how to begin. He hadn't really planned on seeing or talking to Gates about this, but he found in himself in the neighborhood of NCIS and decided to 'drop by.'
Gates cut him off at the pass. "Rabb, if you are here to talk about Mattie, you need to understand a few things … things that you were told before … but clearly need a reminder of."
Harm wasn't prepared for that. He should have been, he knew Gates well enough to know that she was not going to pull her punches.
"I will not break a confidence with Mattie … Mattie is my client … anything you say can and will be repeated to her the next time I see her … do you understand the rights as I have said them to you?" She laughed.
"Gates … come on … this is serious stuff."
"Yes, yes it is. Mattie needs to have my confidentiality … she needs to know that I am PAID to be her psychiatrist and I have her interest upper most in my mind. I am not her father, her mother or her friend. I have no other agenda then to help Mattie."
"You are Mac's friend."
"I am and that is why I didn't want to take Mattie on … it is not like I hung out my shingle and she showed up at my door soliciting my services … this was a special case."
"Why did you then … why is this a special case?"
"Cause I believe that Mattie is in crisis … and once this crisis is over then we can all go back to the way we were."
"Did you just tell me something you shouldn't have?"
Gates smiled. "Rabb, I will never tell you something I shouldn't have."
He shook his head. "Jesus, you make everything a challenge."
"You are not without your gauntlets, Harmy-boy."
"Granted." He leaned back. "So you won't help me."
"Depends, what you think you need help with?"
"How to keep Mattie away from Josh."
"Can't help you." She said quickly.
"Thanks a lot."
Gates took a different tact. "Rabb, you knew this kid … I have never met him … you knew his mother and his father."
"That was a long time ago … he is not the same kid he used to be."
Gates shrugged. "You used to like him."
Harm nodded. "There was a time that I thought I would have taken an active part in raising him."
"But Annie got in the way."
"How sad that the mother got in the way of raising her son." She said snidely.
"Look, Annie has a right to do what she wants … if she wanted me out of her life, then so be it … She broke it off with me because I was not … following her rules … keeping Josh from pursuing his interest in the Navy and flying."
"You took him out on a boat when you knew that she didn't want you to – in fact you lied to her and nearly got her son killed."
Harm felt that that last part of that statement was a little harsh. It was not like he was reckless or careless with Josh. Sometimes in life events happen and it is the luck of the draw as to whether or not someone is present for them. "I see the confidence thing doesn't prevent you from using the information against me."
"Mattie is my client." She repeated. "And Mac told me about the Tiger cruise."
Harm shook his head. He felt like he was in a no win situation. "Yes, I lied to Annie. Yes, I took Josh on a cruise because I knew how much he wanted to be on a boat … what the Navy meant to him … that it was in his blood … but that was not my influence … from before I knew him he wanted to be a pilot just like his father."
"You saw yourself in Josh … he was another boy who had lost his father … and a boy who desperately wanted to hang on to any piece of his father that he could … a boy that wanted to grow up to be just like him. … You wanted Josh to have what you didn't have … a man in his life that would facilitate that goal … and to hell with what the mother wanted."
"Am I paying you for this little analysis?"
"Just trying to cut to the chase Rabb."
"Well if you look at the situation now … I was more right than Annie was."
"What will being RIGHT accomplish?"
"All I am saying is that a good dose of discipline like the kind the Navy teaches you is just what that boy needs."
"So what … he needs a military school … the Navy will never take him with the record he has … at least they won't consider him for flight school … hell, he may not even graduate from high school. And were will that leave him?"
"What about the mother?"
"Annie would have to admit that she has failed with him … she has to."
"I see. So you think a military school could help him?"
"I think if he screws up one more time, the juvenile court is going to insist on it."
"It is too bad then that he doesn't have an advocate to help him with his mother and with the authorities to get him into school before he screws up again." Gates offered gently.
Harm finally felt the ring in his nose. She had led him exactly where he needed to go. She could have been a lawyer. "Military schools teach honor and discipline -- respect – and most of them are boarding schools." He smiled. "Some are even as far away as California."
"I have heard that too." She looked unphased.
Harm thought for a moment. "It would be good for Josh … it would be good for Mattie … they could still maintain contact … see each other on holiday breaks … it would give them both a little time to grow up."
"A little time constructively used is not a bad thing." She agreed. "In people so young it will either solidify the relationship or allow each person to move on without too much blame being place on one or the other."
He smiled and nodded. "You know Gates … you might want to consider a career in litigation."
"If I thought more highly of you Rabb," she smiled broadly. "I would take that as a compliment."
Harm's face washed with disappointment.
"Hey … come on … we are too good at being adversaries … we can't be friends now."
"I am marrying your best friend." He stated.
"I thought you were her best friend."
At that Harm smiled. He was Mac's best friend … along with everything else and Gates knew it. "Even still … we are not going to be able to get rid of each other." He warned. "And I don't want to put Mac in the middle."
"So that is a reason to get all touchy feely? … Are you going to suggest that we hold hand and sing Kumbaya?"
"Gates, you are a piece of work."
She laughed. He was too easy. "Go, Rabb …if you stay any longer you might say something nice to me that you'll regret."
Harm stood and walked to the door. "I just have one question … are you going to be happy for Mac?"
Gates lost her standard look of superior amusement. "I am happy for Mac. She is finally getting everything she has ever wanted in life ... she has earned it and she is ready to accept it … and I think the man she chose will do everything in his power to hold up his end of the bargain."
Harm nodded. "I will."
"See that you do … or I'll kick your ass." She broke into a bright smile one that she had never used with Harm before.
"Message received Doc."
"So we understand each other. Now go."
Harm exited and was nearly knock over by AJ Chegwidden (donning a 2004 World Champion RED SOX ball cap) in the hallway.
"Rabb!" He was surprised to see him there.
"Sir." Harm smiled. AJ looked so different. He was … happy. He was smiling, and his eyes looked brighter. "Congratulations sir. It was a great series and well deserved."
"The best." AJ grinned he was almost giddy. "My daughter got back in time to see that last game in New York and the first two in Boston. I think I have converted another fan."
"I hear congratulations are in order for you too, son." He reached out his hand to him. "You will do well on that task force … you might actually be the one to make sure that it is not just another bureaucratic circle jerk."
"I will do my best, sir."
"I wasn't going to tell you this Rabb, but Secretary Sheffield called me about this appointment."
"Yeah … he didn't want you for the job … but … well you have got it now."
Harm realized that AJ had not only given him a good recommendation, but had actually been instrumental in convincing the secretary to change his mind. Harm hadn't thought much of the new position, had thought it was little more than a congressional sponsored subcommittee, a bunch of people with their own agendas not getting anything done. Now it occurred to him that it didn't need to be that way. He could make a difference. This agency was new and no one knew what to expect, he could work to make it something very successful. "Thank you sir."
"Hell, I did it just so Sheffield would learn what it was like to deal with you and your antics." He clapped him on the shoulder. "Paybacks are a bitch, eh commander. Give 'em hell."
"You will be working with Webb again … that ought to be worth the price of admission."
"You didn't know? Yes, Clayton Webb was appointed to this committee too. Try to play nice."
Harm just nodded. He had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Need to talk with Gates here, Harm."
"On my way out." Harm turned away, but then turned back. "Got your bill in the mail the other day. Seems like this work is very profitable for you."
AJ nodded. "You think the rates were too high?" He used his 'admiral' tone.
"Not at all, sir." Clearly Harm was totally taken back by the cost of two private investigators. "Can I make it in a couple of payments."
AJ smiled. "Tear it up, commander. Call it a … wedding present."
"Not necessary sir." Harm smiled. "Will I see you Friday night?"
"I'll be there."
They exchange another handshake and Harm walked away.
AJ knocked on Gates' door.
"Yah Huh … door opens in." She called.
AJ smiled. She is so UN-NAVY. "Gates."
"AJ … darling." She got up and came around the desk and kissed him quickly. "Good to see you."
There was an ease and a comfort level between them that was not there before. "Just got back in town."
"Where did you go this time?"
"Did you get your man?"
"Actually this time it was a woman … but yeah, we got her."
Gates smiled. "I'll just bet you did."
"I never mix business with pleasure." He informed. "So, how about dinner … my place … say 1930? … I am cooking."
"Are you? Hmm … Just the two of us?"
"Dinner for two."
Her smiled took on a very seductive quality. "Can't turn that offer down."
"Good." He smiled and moved back to the door. "I'll see you then."
"That is all you came by for?" She looked a little disappointed.
"You could have called." She taunted.
"And miss the opportunity to see you … not likely."
Gates smiled and nodded for him to go. "I'll see you tonight."
"Yes you will." AJ left. He looked so much younger and happier now that he was out of the Navy. It was like he has lost 15 years. The weight of the JAG office had been weighing him down, now he was free and making the most of it.
Gates phone rang. "Madden … Victor, so good to hear from you." They had not spoken in a while but Gates was trying to pretend like it was no big deal. "… It has been a little while … sure I would like that … I would … I am busy tonight, but I have no plans for tomorrow night … oh … Sunday brunch then … horseback riding! I'd love to … great … I'll see you then. … right, bye."
Gates shook her head and set the phone back in the cradle. Two dates inside of two minutes. Wow, the Gods must be smiling on her. The fact that the two men in question were business partners was something to give her pause … but they were all adults and these were just dates … although … maybe that would change soon enough.
"What are you grinning about there Gates." Gibbs called from her door.
"Just loving life at the moment."
She looked down at the mess that was on her desk. "Yeah."
She joined Gibbs at the door. He was eying her in a way that he never really had before. "What?"
"Nothing, you just look very … nice today." He said.
"What gives … JETHRO?"
"Have you ever thought of dying your hair red?" He wrapped his arm around her and led her out. "Not a bright Lucille Ball red … but like a rich auburn or mahogany."
Gates' laugh could be heard through the halls.X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X
2146 EST – Wednesday, November 3, 2004
Georgetown, Washington DC
Harm let himself into her apartment – he looked wrung out. They had taken Mattie home, but Mac's car was still at JAG. He was just supposed to drop her off and head home, but they needed a little bit more time to process the evening. He said he would follow her home, but somehow he got stuck at some lights and was about five minutes behind her.
Mac passed him on the way out of her bedroom toward the kitchen. She had change and handed him a pair of sweats too. "Tea?"
"Yeah." He slumped down into the chair. "Something with caffeine or I won't make it home."
"You got it."
He sat for a minute with the sweats in his lap too tired to move.
Mac called from the kitchen. "Harm – CHANGE … and throw some water on your face … you'll feel better."
"Aye, Aye." He pulled himself up on her orders and disappeared into the bathroom. Moments later he was back, his uniform over his arm and dressed in sweats. His hair was wet. Leaving his uniform neatly folded for him to take with, he flopped down onto the couch.
"Got any of those cookies left?" He called to her.
"You don't need any more of those." She called back.
"Are you calling me fat?"
She came back in with the tea and a plate of cookies. "You could skip a carb or two and it wouldn't kill you."
"Ouch." He said taking the tea and pushing the plate out of reach.
"I still love you." She sat down at the other end of the couch and dropped her feet into his lap.
He spied her suspiciously. "If I has said that to you, I'd be a hurting unit right now."
"I don't need to lose any weight." She smiled and rubbed her bare foot on his thigh. "I am a perfect specimen of woman and marine."
"Perfect … right." He agreed but clearly he wasn't listening anymore. Absentmindedly, he started rubbing her one foot with his free hand, his mind wandered back to the evening's discussion. "You were … in the ZONE tonight, counselor."
She grinned. She was pretty proud of herself too. "I was, wasn't I?"
"It was pretty to watch." He grinned. "And an honor to be sitting second chair."
The evening had been spent in Maryland with Annie and Josh. The Rabb family had gone up there to discuss the 'situation'. Harm spent the first part of the night talking with Josh by himself. The next phase was about Annie. By time he had gotten done with Josh, Mac had primed Annie. When it was suggested that Josh go to military school, Annie honestly felt like she was being ganged up on. Mac was the one who was able to peal her off the ceiling and show her the benefits of this course of action. Harm had information from various schools, some boarding schools and some not. Josh had already picked one out. It was the Army & Navy Academy in Carlsbad, CA. Annie did not want to send him that far away. Third or fourth on the list was Hargave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia. The good thing about that school was that they had a summer school program (Josh needed to catch up), and they went one year past high school. So if he got good grades and kept his nose clean, there was no reason why he couldn't get into the Naval Academy.
"What did you say to Josh?" She asked leaning her head back on the couch and enjoying the foot rub.
"You would have been proud … too."
She smiled. She was always proud of Harm but made an effort not to tell him, he didn't need his ego boosted anymore than it already was. "You had THE TALK with him?"
"Yes, I did and I have to tell you … he was pretty penitent before I started but afterward … I think he is going to think long and hard before he disrespects a woman again."
"You told him that taking Mattie away was disrespectful?"
"Among other things." Harm shook his head. "I told him things that no one ever told me … and wished they had."
"I would have liked to have heard that." She smiled and nudged him again. "How do you think Mattie took all this?"
"Well … very well … honestly Josh is getting what he said he always wanted. Whether or not he can live by the consequences of this choice is a whole other matter. She is happy that I am helping him. Of course she did accuse me of just trying to get rid of him."
"What did you say?"
"I said that there was nothing wrong with a WIN-WIN situation." Harm got a little quiet. "He really is basically a good kid – Josh I mean – it is just that Annie has got him so worked up, and she has reined him in so tightly …"
"You can't blame it all on Annie." Mac said evenly.
"No, but … she has had the most influence. Do you know that she has brought home over seven men since she …"
"Since she broke up with you?" She offered a little harshly. Something went off in Mac that made her think that Harm was jealous of Annie's other men.
Harm gave her a look. "Do you have a problem with Annie?"
"Not tonight I didn't." She said quickly attempting to pull her foot away.
"You know what I mean Mac – do you have a problem with me and ..."
"You mean because she was the first woman you ever admitting to loving … the first woman you even thought of marrying … a woman who broke up with you and broke your heart … apparently was able to move on past her relationship with you … and it looks as though we might be having her over for dinner on Thanksgiving and Christmas."
"I never said she broke my heart … but yeah … that's the gist of it."
"No." She said softly again trying to pull her foot away.
"Do you want me to be jealous of all your women, Harm? … There are enough of them … Kate is back with that smug superior smile plastered on her face … and didn't you spend sometime in Naples a few years back … you must have met Lillian Boxer before … how well do you know her? Does she have information that I don't know?"
"And isn't Bobbie Latham still around … and who knows -- Renee could come back into the picture at a moments notice and want you to take over the raising of her two kids."
He looked shamed. "I am sorry I brought it up."
"Why did you?"
"I don't know, I guess I wanted to know if you were stewing about something."
"When I start stewing about something - you will know." She said sharply. "And direct questions always work better with me."
"Are you going to be able to work with Kate?"
"Are you going to be able to work with Webb?" She asked.
"Webb and I will be fine … so I ask again … are you going to be able to work with Kate?"
"Is Kate going to be able to work with me?" She tossed back at him.
"I am not interested in how Kate gets through a day."
He turned to face her on the couch and brought both her feet into his lap. His absentminded caressing became concentrated foot rubbing all the way up to the knees. Mac was in heaven but maintaining a cool exterior. This was not the first time Harm has used this method to … to turn her to putty in his hands.
'Damn, he has great hands.' She thought.
"I am only interested in you, Sarah."
"Good answer." She leaned back and enjoyed the attention. "Do me a favor though, huh?"
She looked up at him; he was concentrating on the muscles in her calves. "Don't make me question my trust in you."
He snapped his attention back to her face. "Mac … never … I would never."
"Never say 'never', Rabb." She said quickly trying to draw her feet away. "Don't make promises you can't keep."
"I haven't yet." He echoed his statement from years before and did not let her get away. In fact her held her legs still until she responded.
After a moment, she did. "I believe you."
She smiled softly at him. "I do."
He really looked at her to see if she did believe him or if she was just trying to get out of the discussion. He was satisfied that she had been – not teasing – not upset – rather acknowledging a talking point about his past loves coming back into their lives. They were ready to move on until the next time it came up.
"Do you believe me?" She asked.
"I do." He repeated. "Which leads us to another question." He jerked her legs toward him, which slid her down on the couch. He sat up and started to crawl up until he was looming over her. "You – my beautiful Sarah - need to pick a date." He kissed her lightly on the lips.
"A date?" She laughed and tickled him. "A date for what?"
He moved off on to the floor next to her. He really hated being tickled. "You know very well what for." He snapped off a piece of a cookie and popped it into his mouth.
"Why do I get to pick the date … it needs to be good for you too?"
"You're the GIRL." He said playfully taking another little piece of cookie.
"I don't know …New Year's Eve." She blurted out.
"Really? New Year's Eve? This New Year's eve?"
"Will we be able to get everything together by then?" He asked.
"Don't you want a big fancy wedding … and all that stuff?"
"I don't have to … but I thought you did?" He pressed.
"You mean something like Bud and Harriet's? No, nothing like that … personally I would prefer if you and I drove to some justice of the peace in Virginia and did it by ourselves … had a nice dinner … maybe stayed over night in a bed and breakfast and … came home."
"You're kidding me."
"Nope." She turned on her side to face him and started rubbing his neck. "First of all – I think the sooner the better – there is no reason to wait and if you expect me to move into the house with you when it is ready, we should be married – protocol and all."
He laughed. "No one has been brought up on an Article 134 – Wrongful Cohabitation in decades."
"Always a next time … I think I could get the 'wrongful' part thrown out, but why risk it." She smiled. "Anyway we have a lot going on in the next two months, getting that house in order is going to be time consuming and expensive … VERY EXPENSIVE. We don't want to waste our money on a big fancy wedding that neither one of us really want."
"I don't know … seeing you walk down the isle of a church with lots of flowers, a dress with one of those … what are they called? … trains? … dragging ten feet behind you and a string quartet … I could get behind that."
"You are serious." She was shocked.
"I never thought I would be … but there is something to be said for tradition and ceremony."
"Will you feel more married?"
"I already feel married, Sarah … this is about something else."
"Something else what?"
"Tradition … ceremony … honoring the event – the commitment - with the proper amount of respect."
"I never knew how old fashion you were."
"I am not …well I guess I am … about some things."
She laughed. "When you got down on one knee at the house the other day … I almost died." She looked down at her ring … her beautiful, beautiful ring. "If anyone had asked me, I would said that you never would have … not with the ring in your pocket … on one knee … none of that."
"I told you I wanted to ask you to marry me in some old fashion way."
"And you did, Gordon." She leaned in and kissed him.
"Gordon Summner? … Sting? … never mind."
"So what do you say?" He asked again.
"Harm if you are asking me … I mean really asking me and not just looking for me to agree with you, then my answer is … No, I don't want a big fancy wedding. But if you do, then we should discuss it."
"What about our friends, shouldn't we want to celebrate with them?"
"That is a reception and that can be anywhere at any time … we can combine that with the open house."
"Are you really sure?" He asked again.
"If you want to have a big wedding, speak up, but if you are leaving it to me … I say no."
"I have already asked Bud to be my best man." He whined.
"Can we split the difference?" He asked sweetly.
"What does that mean?"
"Can we have a small wedding … with our friends ... in a garden or on the shore … you don't even have to wear white."
She slapped him playfully. "What the hell are you trying to say, sailor?"
He laughed. "Nothing … just that the fancy wedding dress is optional." He took another bite of cookie.
"You wanna get married naked?" She smiled.
The next bite of cookie was close to his mouth. He stopped in mid-motion.
"You might want to rethink that cookie if you are going to be dropping trou, Hammer."
He dropped the cookie on the plate. "Message received, colonel. I am outta here." He hoisted himself up with a grunt and a groan.
"You don't have to go."
"I do … you are in a mood."
"What kind of mood."
"Not sure, but you are in a mood." He changed the subject. "Are we running in the morning?"
"I am having breakfast with Gates."
"Ok." He grabbed his uniform and headed for the door.
"Are you OK?" She followed him realizing that she had been a bit of a bitch to him since they got back. Maybe she wasn't as unconcerned as she said she was about the Kates and the Annies apparently taking up residence in her life.
"Yeah, I am great – just a tired – and fat apparently."
"I love your love handles." She grabbed him around the waist. "Gives me something to hang on to."
"MacKenzie … you are like this close to …"
"To what?" She leaned up hoping to kiss him, but he pulled away.
"Good night, Sarah … you were great with Annie and Josh." He kissed her quickly. "Thank you."
"I am glad I could help." She didn't want him to go. "What about the wedding?"
"I would prefer some kind of ceremony with our friends than just the two of us and a justice of the peace."
"Ok … outside might be too cold in December – so a garden or on the shore might be out."
"Wherever you think."
"I'll do some research and give you a couple of options."
"I can help."
"You will be … but let me do this, you are going to be dealing with contractors and the like for a while, no reason to add this to the list. We'll have a beautiful wedding."
"As long as you are the bride, how could it not be?" He kissed her again and walked down the hall.
She watched him. Just when he was about to turn the corner and disappear she let out a wolf whistle the likes of which would have woken the dead. "You got a great six there, sailor."
He shook his head, smiled and waved her off.
"I love watching you walk away." She laughed after him before retreating in to her apartment.X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X 0815 EST – Thursday, November 4, 2004
Victoria and Maxwell's
Gates rushed up to the table, she was late … as usual.
"I'm late … get over it …"
"I'm over it." Mac smiled at her friend. "Why are you late? Hmmm … late dinner with a certain former JAG … and you were the dessert?"
Gates laughed but did not deny it. "I had dinner with AJ last night … he asked me to go to the wetting down on Friday."
"You think I should go? I mean isn't this Janet's party?"
"No … not at all … you should go."
"Well, I don't know … Vic will be there too … so it might be awkward."
"You and Vic too?"
"Well, he called me … we are doing brunch and horseback riding on Sunday."
"So … AJ and I had a very nice time last night." She said cryptically.
"How nice?" Mac pushed.
"The kind of nice that makes a woman want to shave her legs every morning, just in case."
"No … not ah ha … but maybe soon."
"Is that what you want?"
"I don't know … AJ is wonderful. The fact that he is older and not looking for the whole wife and kids thing is comforting. He is looking for a companion … someone to play with."
"But, Vic called me out of the blue and …"
"It was nice to hear from him again … I thought I had ruined that relationship."
"Is that the only reason?"
"Well, Gibbs is acting funny."
"Gibbs? Special Agent Gibbs?"
"Yeah, I get the feeling he is looking for the next EX-Mrs. Gibbs."
Mac laughed. "Gates Gibbs? … there is the answer to that."
"I thought about that too."
"When it rains it pours, eh Gates."
"Doll, you don't know the half of it … so what should I do."
"Don't care about Gibbs … but you be careful with AJ and Gunny. I wouldn't want to kick your ass."
"Yeah … you and who's army."
"I have friends in low places, G."
"I'll just bet you do." Gates laughed. "How long before you have to leave." She said motioning for the waiter to bring more coffee.
"It is fine … I have a doctor's appointment, they are not expecting me until at least 1130."
"Is this a real doctor's appointment … or are you using me as an excuse."
"No, it is real … it is definitely real … it is the six month follow up – a few weeks early."
"I see … so what do you expect the doctor to say?"
"I expect her to say that it appears that the symptoms have not come back, that the endometriosis is held at bay for the moment but that the only way to know for sure is another laparoscopy."
"And I won't go through that again … not with out good reason."
"So then what?"
"Then she is going to tell me that if I really want to have a baby, then I need to think about going off the hormone treatment and … try to get pregnant."
"And." Gates prodded.
"And I didn't refill my prescription." She looked a little sheepish. "I stopped on Sunday."
"Well, speaking for entire licensed physicians community – when the hell did you graduate and hang out your shingle?"
"Don't do that Mac … doctor's aren't extra … they know shit. Don't pretend like you know what she is going to say."
"I know … I got this information from her the first time I was there."
"Fine." She wiped her hands over her face. "Did you ask her about going off the pill? Do you know what the side effects might be? Are you having unprotected sex?"
"Gates." She looked around.
"Come on, Mac … you aren't sixteen."
"It will be fine." She said. "It has only been a week … Harm and I haven't … we have other things on our mind this week."
"Well, that is just great." She was not pleased with Mac. "What does the Rabb-Meister think?"
"Haven't told him."
"Oh … just gonna spring it on him? Or wait until you need him to drive you to the hospital."
"He wants a baby, Gates."
"I am sure he does, in fact I am sure he would like to know each time could be THE time."
"Mac … do you really want to get pregnant now? You aren't even married yet."
"Speaking of … New Year's Eve … be my maid of honor?" Mac asked rhetorically.
"Yeah, sure … whatever … as long as I don't have to wear anything made of Tulle." Gates waved the notion away. "Baby … you need to think about this."
"I have it covered Gates."
"Tell me how."
"Harm and I are going to abstain until after the wedding."X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X
2018 EST – Thursday, November 4, 2004
North of Union Station, Washington DC
"You want to what?" Harm pulled himself away from Mac's embrace. This was their night … their last night … they had been planning this all week – well Harm had. Harm cooked some fantastic fish … a grouper or some kind of flaky white fish with a sauce to kill for and a dessert … OMG … it was better than soufflé.
Mattie was at Susan Smithfield's studying and had come home after dinner and was in her room … doing it whatever … but she was home safe and sound. The food had been put away and dishes done. They had briefly discussed Mac's appointment with the doctor but not really about anything specifically – there was no mention of her stopping taking the pill. Honestly, Harm was a little distracted. The next day would be his last day at JAG. He wanted one more night of having dinner with Mac and talking about common cases. He was so sentimental, he brought up all kinds of old cases that either had brought them together or had firmly planted them on opposite sides. Harm had plans for that night … he wanted it to last for as long as it could … he went out of his way … home early, shopping done, Mattie taken care of … then dinner … then dessert … and then uninterrupted Harm/Mac time until reveille call at 0545. He wanted Mac to himself … all to himself … the last night before he left JAG. This abstaining idea was not in his plans.
"You want to do what?" He asked her again.
"Well … I just think it would be a good idea."
"A good idea for whom?" He pressed.
"Harm … please … it is not going to kill you for a couple of weeks."
"For the record it would be … eight weeks … two months … but no … no it won't kill me … and one could argue that that which does not kill me makes me stronger … but in this case … I would be willing to risk the increased strength."
"This is just silly, Mac … it is not going to prove anything."
"I was just thinking that it would be romantic, it would make the wedding night that much more special."
"I can say without doubt … that that night will be special and it has nothing to do with abstaining until then."
"Where are you getting these ideas? Honey … we have the holidays to get through … our first Christmas as a couple. We are closing on the house on Wednesday, all kinds of life altering events will be taking place … I don't want to be casually dating through all of that. Aren't we too old for this?"
Mac had to tell him. Now was the problem that she should have told him already. "I stopped taking the pill."
"Last week. … well Sunday."
He leaned back. "You stopped taking the pill … didn't tell me … and decided for us … that we would … go on a diet until the wedding … Why?"
"I don't want to get pregnant yet … I mean if I can … I would prefer it to be in January … or at least after we are married."
It all of a sudden occurred to Harm that Mac was acting out. The night before and all the crap she was giving him, her attitude about the wedding, and his old girlfriends. "Something else is going on with you." He stated. "Tell me what it is."
"You are acting … weird … what is going on?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"Mac, you don't do this kind of stuff."
"What kind of stuff?"
"You don't make decisions for us … that is not me telling you, that is me reporting information that I have gathered over the last few months … it is not like you. So what is going on?"
"I don't know what you mean." She pulled away. "I can't believe you are going to pick a fight with me about this."
"I'm not picking a fight … and it isn't about the sex … although that is certain evidence to prove my point." He took her hand. "Talk to me, Mac."
"I don't know what to say."
"Are you nervous about getting pregnant?"
"No, … I mean I am concerned, but I have a good feeling about it … in fact I am convinced that it won't take us that long … don't ask me why."
"Is it all too much, too soon? Changing jobs, changing homes, changing lifestyles. You have been living alone for a long time moving in with me and Mattie is going to be a big change."
"I am looking forward to that … I mean I guess I am … don't go looking for trouble Harm."
"I don't have to go look for it … it gets dropped in my lap."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that things are moving forward for us and you are doing everything in your power to push us back … not just a little bit … a lot bit."
"Because I suggested that we not DO IT for a little while?"
"It is not just that Mac … your idea of a wedding … do you not want to get up in front of our friends … would you rather not have a ceremony at all … just pretend like it never happened."
"Harm … you are starting to make me mad."
"Good … it would be an improvement over the nothing I am getting right now."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Mac, since we agreed to buy that house … since I asked you to marry me … hell it wasn't even a week ago … you have done nothing but push me away."
"That is not true."
"Think about it."
"Harm there is so much going on."
"Exactly … this is what we talked about, asked for … We are in control of everything that is happening."
"Not everything!" She shouted. "Not everything … How the hell am I supposed to go to work on Monday without you there!" She hadn't realized it but tears were streaming down her face.
Harm pulled her too him. It wasn't easy but quickly she allowed him to comfort her. After a moment, he said softly. "It is going to be hard … that part is going to be the hardest part."
"We have been together … nearly constantly for nine years … almost ten."
"I don't want to go by your office and know you aren't there … it killed me last year … I hated it when you went back to flying."
"I know." He held onto her very tightly.
"I hate this." She cried. "This was the part I never wanted to lose."
"Yeah … it kept me getting up everyday … knowing that I was going to see you … and maybe even pick a fight with you … God it was so much fun trying to trip you up."
"You were such a jerk … baiting me, sandbagging me, trying to psyche me … it was a constant struggle … a constant battle of wits."
"That old fight for the top."
She smiled sadly. "It very nearly killed us."
"It made us stronger." He kissed her. "It brought us here … tonight … and for the rest of our lives."
Mac nodded sadly. She still didn't want them to give up JAG.
"Sarah … we won't have the days … at least not like they used to be … but give us the nights and the future."
She leaned into him.
"I love you Sarah … I remember …you asked me once, what I would give up for you … well, here we have it … and we have to answer this part together … are we willing to give up JAG for us?"
A few more tears slipped from her eyes and he brushed them away. Her answer was in the form of a kiss. The thoughts of abstaining were forgotten. The worries of what Monday would bring – were very real – and she needed him to convince her that life at JAG without him would be OK. It was his duty that night – a duty that he didn't mind doing. He needed to show her what they were gaining more than they were losing from their sacrifice.X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X X-X
1836 EST – Friday, November 12, 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
"Commander?" Said a weak voice from Harm's open door.
Harm looked over into the face of a Petty Office Logan …or was it Lonnigan? … or Lofton? … he never remembered her name. "Yes, Petty Officer?"
"Sir, I just wanted to wish you luck and to tell you that it has been in honor serving with you."
"I am sure you will find great success in your new assignment."
Harm let loose his bright smile. She was young, not more than 23 and clearly she was smitten with him. "Thank you again."
"And finally congratulations on your engagement sir, I hope you and the colonel will be very happy."
"Won't you be joining us for the wetting down, Petty Officer?" Damned if he could not remember her name.
"No sir." She looked nervous. "I have a paper due for school, sir. I'm sorry."
He shook his head dismissing her apology. "No apology needed, Petty Officer. Your education has to come first."
"You are studying to be a lawyer I imagine."
"Yes sir. My assignment here has inspired me."
"Well, good luck to you."
"You are not giving up the law, sir, are you?"
"No. I won't be litigating much any more … but you never know … maybe we will face each other in court some day."
She burst out a nervous laugh. "I hope not sir, I could never beat you."
"It is all smoke and mirrors, they will teach you that in law school." Again his smile disarmed her. "You will be a pro in no time."
"Thank you, sir."
"Well, good night."
She nodded and stepped back.
Harm nodded and followed her out with his eyes. He was sorry to leave this place that he had given so much of his time and energy to – the people he had come to know, and the people he would never get to know. Yes, he had come and gone there in the past, but this time he knew he would not be back.
A quick scan of his office confirmed that everything personal was packed into his one box. Nearly ten years all contained in one box. To be fair he never really did bring much back that last time.
The bullpen was dark. Everyone had gone. Most were probably at McMurphy's waiting to toast him onto his next assignment and of course the engagement. The room suddenly filled with memories – some good, some bad – and voices of the people he knew and the people he had come to love and rely on.
"Hey you." Came the one voice that he knew like his own.
He looked over at Mac – Colonel Sarah 'Mac' MacKenzie – colleague, sometime adversary, partner, friend, lover … soon to be his wife. She was the reason he was giving that life up, giving up his home away from home. Did he resent it? Would he have it any other way? No. Sarah was more than a place to spend 40 hours a week and she was so much more than a way to define him self. Sarah was his future. JAG was just a job, but Sarah … well with Sarah they would find their adventure – if history counts for anything.
"Hey. Are you through?" He asked. Mac had a late deposition.
"Yeah, I thought you would be at the party." She stepped up to him and put the folders she was carrying down on the file cabinet.
"Finishing up a couple of reports and packing up my stuff." He flashed her a little smile.
She looked down into his box. On top, as it was every other time he had packed his office, was SARAH. She smiled sadly and spun the little wooden propeller. "It will be so odd not to see this here … It is so …YOU."
"Do you want to keep her?"
"Yeah … I don't think I will bring her to my new office."
"Of course you will … why wouldn't you?"
He put the box down and pulled the model plane out. "Cause I will have my new Sarah on my desk at my new office."
She was confused for a moment until she realized that he meant to put a picture of her on his desk. Aw … how sweet is that?
"Come on, I want you to keep her." He pushed the model toward her.
"Really?" She smiled at him. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, as long as I get the real one coming home to me at night."
"The real plane?" She smiled coyly.
"The real Sarah." He corrected.
"I'd like that." She took the plane form him and moved to her office. She placed it in a position of honor on the corner of her desk.
"You are going to dump her over if you leave her there."
"Yeah, I guess you are right." She moved over the credenza next to her desk and placed it in her direct line of sight. "Better?"
"Better." He sighed and moved back into the bullpen to see the past. "We spent a lot of years here."
"Yes we did." She wrapped her arm around his waist.
"It will be strange not coming here everyday."
"You've been gone before."
"Yeah, I know … but ..." His voice trailed off. "It was nice seeing you everyday."
"You'll see me every night." She tried to soothe him the way he had soothed her the night before.
"I will." He nodded. That would be enough.
She was surveying the darkened room too, feeling the bitter sweetness of his departure.
He turned to face her. "There is something I have always wanted to do." He said with a bright smile.
"What?" She asked.
"Come with me." He took her by the hand and led her to one of the courtrooms. They stood face to face in front of the vacant judge's bench. He looked over to the empty seats usually occupied by the members and out into the cleared gallery.
"What?" She asked again. "What are we doing here?"
He looked to the bench. "You honor." He looked to the members box. "Members." He looked to the gallery. "If it please the court." He turned back to her. "I love you Sarah MacKenzie … in front of God and … nobody." He smiled. "I love you and I am going to marry you." He leaned down and kissed her.
It was hard to maintain the kiss. Mac was caught between laughing and tears of joy. He won her over quickly and the folded into a warm embrace.
"I love you too." She whispered. She tilted her head back and pulled him to her for another kiss. "You always wanted to do that?" She asked.
"To kiss you in open court … yeah … well I wanted to do if after some very impassioned opening or closing statement or after you have just ripped one my witnesses to shreds … but I restrained myself."
He pulled her back to him.
Bud cleared his throat … twice … before he spoke. "Um … Commander … Colonel … excuse me."
Harm and Mac looked over at him – there was absolutely no embarrassment. "Yes, Bud." Harm said with a lilt of joy in his voice.
"I am sorry to disturb you two, but the admiral sent me to find you."
"We are coming right now." Mac said pulling away from Harm but not letting go of his hand.
They walked up to Bud and Harm clapped him on the shoulder. "The three musketeers … we were a hell of a team."
"Yes, we were." Bud confirmed. "It is too bad we can't go back and do it all again."
Harm and Mac shared a looked and then looked back at Bud. "Not on a bet." They said in unison.
"I suppose not." Bud agreed. "But it is too bad we can't stay together … always." He added sadly.
"Bud, you know that your duties as Best Man end at the ceremony, right? I mean you aren't planning on coming along on the honeymoon with us."
Bud laughed. Years ago that would have embarrassed him; now it was just a good joke between good friends. "No Harm … I don't want any part of that."
"Good, good … now how about you buy me a drink."
"That I can do."
The three headed toward the elevator. Mac remembered that she needed to lock up her office. She left Harm and Bud by the elevator and went back into the darkened bullpen. Now it was her turn to have nine years of memories of her and Harm flood her. It would never be the same. He would never come back to work there. This wasn't like him returning to flying or even getting fired … they would never be able to work together again … at least not in uniform. She felt the tears welling up in her eyes. She tried to brush them away, but she couldn't stop them. She looked into his office … his ex-office. There as nothing left in there of him – only her images. She looked up and saw that his nameplate was still on the door. She reached up and pulled it down: CMDR HARMON RABB JR. She clutched it to her chest tightly.
"Hey, Mac … let's go … they are waiting for us – the happy couple."
She brushed the tears away quickly without turning around. She picked up the files she left and went to her office to lock them up. She saw the nameplate in her hand and tucked it into her middle desk drawer. She would see it every time she opened it. Did she need one more reminder of him? At that moment, there would never be enough.
"Hey." He called to her.
She looked up at him framed in the door, with his bright blue eyes and his flyboy grin. How many times had he stood just like that she wondered? A thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand times? This would be the last time. She smiled weakly at him and moved to the door, retrieving her cover and her briefcase on the way. She paused briefly in front of him to touch his cheek and then moved past him without saying a word.
She stopped and shook her head. "It is just a little real to me right now. I'll be fine."
He picked up his box, and with his free arm he wrapped it around her shoulder. "This isn't the end you know." He said brightly leading her out of the bullpen.
"No, not at all … this is just the beginning."
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T H E E N D O F T H E B E G I N N I N G
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