A Ghost Story
Disclaimers: I don't own any of the JAG characters. All rights to the story and movie "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" are owned by Twentieth Century Fox Incorporated. I don't own any product or label mentioned for the purposes of telling this story. Any similarities to situations or persons living or dead are purely coincidental.
Spoilers: Anything from Season One through Season Ten. Also this is very loosely based on the story told in the movie "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."
A/N: All aboard the Starship Enterprise...because this one is definitely AU. I have been pondering the concept of true love and 'meant to be.' The question came to me, what if Mac and Harm had just missed each other? Would love have found a way in spite of it all? Being the romantic that I am…I decided to try and find out.
A/N: I will also play with the dates here. Season two aired in January 97 but we will begin in May of that same year. The story begins at the start of Season two.
May 3rd 1997
North of Union Station
Major Sarah Mackenzie stepped into the building that looked more like a warehouse than a potential home. She had heard that the place was available through Lieutenant j.g. Bud Roberts, whom she had met just this morning. She just had attended an awards ceremony at the White House Rose Garden with her new commanding officer, Admiral AJ Chegwidden and the lieutenant. The Distinguished Flying Cross had been awarded posthumously to Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb Jr.
As she stepped off of the elevator she smiled, thinking that she liked the sound of his name. 'Too bad you didn't stick around, Commander,' she thought.
The real estate agent droned on and on, but she hadn't really been listening to him. He seemed a bit too pretentious to her and not a little condescending. He had tried to discourage her from the moment she mentioned that she wanted to see this property, warning her that this was no place for a woman alone. She had thought of reminding him that she was a Marine, but somehow as she looked at him, with every hair in place and his buttoned up exterior, she didn't think he would understand the concept.
They walked into the apartment, and the room Mac took in was a real work in progress. A ladder sat just to her left with a paint bucket still sitting on the floor beside it. A brush rested atop the paint can as though the person painting had merely taken a break and would be back at any moment. The kitchen island was covered in plastic, as were some of the windows.
"Has the owner hired painters to finish the job?" Mac wondered aloud as she walked through the apartment.
"Yes, some were hired but they didn't finish, as you can see. You understand that the original owner, Commander Rabb, died before the project was finished. His mother, Mrs. Burnett, hired painters, electricians, everyone necessary to finish this job. The painters, however, refused to finish. They insisted that the building was haunted."
David Parker looked at his client, hoping to finally discourage her from taking on this dilapidated building in a neighborhood entirely too crime ridden for her. He had a nice brownstone in Georgetown that was just what she needed. He would never understand women, especially headstrong women like she appeared to be; they were their own worst enemies, in his opinion.
Mac stopped where she stood in the apartment and turned to look at the real estate agent. She had finally had enough of his patronizing attitude. She was not a child and she was perfectly capable of finishing this apartment and making it work well for her. Besides, this was much less expensive, and given the state of her social life she much preferred making this apartment a home than looking for love in all the wrong places… which was a habit she intended to break immediately.
"Mr. Parker, my decision will be based on what works best for me and my lifestyle. I am single, I have a very demanding job that takes me away much of the time, and I think this may very well be the place that suits me best. I don't appreciate your efforts to scare me away from this property. I am perfectly capable of making this my place my own without any help from anyone. Do you really think a ghost story will keep me from choosing this property instead of the brownstone in Georgetown?"
"No, ma'am, of course not. I only meant to…." His voice died in his throat as she turned away from him.
Mac walked up two steps into what had to have been the bedroom. The bed had been left where the previous owner had placed it. She looked just above it and what she saw nearly took her breath away. It was a portrait of a man in uniform, in khakis with his cover low over his eyes. She recognized the collar devices as those of a lieutenant commander and the wings that rested above his ribbons on his chest. He was leaning against what looked to be the rail of a ship. The sky was blue above and the sea was gray, blue and green behind him. It was a casual pose, his arms folded across his chest, and he was smiling. His hair was dark and his eyes very similar in color to the sea painted in the portrait behind him. He was strikingly handsome; his penetrating gaze seemed to see her as she moved around the room.
Mr. Parker walked up behind her.
"That is a portrait of the original owner, Commander Rabb. Mrs. Burnett, his mother put it up and never had the heart to take it down."
Mr. Parker's voice had startled her, but she recovered quickly, hoping that he hadn't noticed.
Mac looked around the room, studying the custom closets, the glass blocked shower, the light in the front room she could see through the louvered glass divider between the bedroom and the rest of the apartment. She liked it here.
She turned to walk out of the bedroom back into the kitchen. It was a gourmet kitchen with windows to the ceiling – not that she was much of a cook, but hey, she could certainly learn. The longer she was there the more she knew this place was for her for reasons she could not explain. She looked toward the bedroom, her eyes drawn again to the portrait of the commander.
Mr. Parker followed her gaze and commented, "You know, Major Mackenzie, it is said that the commander committed suicide here. He was apparently despondent over the death of an old flame from his Academy days. There is no proof, of course, just gossip."
The lights in the kitchen flickered and what sounded like an electrical circuit sizzled.
Mr. Parker appeared to break out in sweat and looked around the room warily.
Mac smiled in amusement. "What's the matter, Mr. Parker, do you think your comment angered the ghost?"
"Not at all." Mr. Parker walked slowly toward the open door, continuing to look around the room. "It's just that…. well, there was some question about the gas line to the apartment. The commander had insisted on doing all the work himself, so there is no way of really knowing if it was an accident or if he just couldn't go on with out his former lover."
Mr. Parker had nearly reached the door when it suddenly slammed shut and barely missed him as he approached it. He jumped back from the door for a moment and then grabbed the handle, flinging it back open as he nearly ran for the elevators.
"I'll meet you downstairs!" he called over his shoulder as he opened the elevator doors.
Mac began to laugh; she couldn't help herself. She didn't believe in ghosts, and she certainly wasn't going to be scared away by the possibility of one. Her laughter echoed off of the walls in the nearly empty apartment. It was though someone was laughing along with her. She looked at the portrait again and made her way out of the apartment and into the elevator.
Mr. Parker waited beside his Mercedes Benz, wiping his brow and thanking God that whatever inhabited that apartment had shown itself. There would be no way the major would take this apartment now.
"I'll take it, Mr. Parker." Mac smiled at him, as calm as she had been when they entered the building.
"But Major, you saw…you heard. Do you mean to tell me you're still going to take this building with whatever is inside it and in this God-forsaken neighborhood?"
Mac looked up at the row of windows that let the light into the kitchen of what would soon be her home. "Yes, I am."
Mr. Parker merely shook his head and got into his vehicle.
Mac turned to join him, and for a moment she could have sworn she saw someone in the window looking down on them.
"Ridiculous," she said quietly under her breath. Mr. Parker's ghost story had made her think she was seeing things.
Inside the apartment…
Harm looked down at the woman getting into the car. Who was she? She looked like Diane, so much so that when she walked into the apartment he thought he had finally found her. He had been looking for her since he finally understood that he was dead. He had fallen asleep and had never woken up.
He still felt a rage at the unfairness of it all. Diane murdered and now this, his life over with before it had even begun. Now it seemed, as in life, he could not reach her. Diane was always just out of reach. To top it all off people were actually saying he committed suicide. Surely no one who really knew him would believe that.
Now this person, this Major Sarah Mackenzie, was going to come into his place, the place he couldn't seem to leave, and make it her own. He could not fathom it.
She didn't appear to scare easily, but time would tell. Before he was finished he intended to be sure that the major believed in ghost stories, without a doubt.
Spoilers: Any JAG episode and the movie "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." The version released in 1947 will be my frame of reference, although, I will not follow the story exactly as filmed. Once again, ah…the beauty of fanfic.
May 16, 1997
Falls Church, Virginia
Major Sarah Mackenzie made her way out of the conference room after staff call and started toward what would be her new office. This was her first staff call since returning from Arizona. Admiral Chegwidden had informed her that she would be occupying Commander Rabb's office. He had asked her if she would have a problem with that and she had not. Personally, she didn't understand why everyone was making such a big deal about her taking his apartment and now occupying his office. It hadn't been so much what they said but the looks on the faces of the staff when they learned she had taken it.
She walked toward the office, already thinking about how she would make it her own, just as she had dreams of making the apartment her own as well. She was to sign the final paperwork on the property this afternoon at 1600. She couldn't wait to begin her new life, and the apartment was just the first step.
As she neared the office she noticed a petty officer standing on a step ladder, removing Commander Rabb's name plate and replacing it with hers. She smiled, thinking, 'Headquarters JAG.' Being stationed here was definitely a step up.
When she had been summoned here to assist in the investigation into the theft of the Declaration of Independence, she had known that there was more to the story than she had initially been led to believe. She assumed that once the investigation was over she would be returning to San Diego. She'd never dreamed she would have a permanent position here.
"Ma'am?" Lieutenant j.g. Roberts's voice pulled her from her thoughts.
"Yes, Lieutenant, I'm sorry."
She was suddenly aware that she was still smiling and that she was surrounded by some members of the JAG staff who were not smiling at all. In fact, some of them had tears in their eyes. Her expression returned to one that was more serious and appropriate for the moment. She felt slightly ashamed of her thoughts just now. Commander Rabb had been dead for over a month, but no one on staff had had the heart to take down his name plate until now. She made a mental note to tread carefully for a while.
'Sorry, Commander,' she thought. Her thoughts had turned to the commander quite often of late. Since she had decided to take the apartment she had become curious about every part of his life. She also occasionally found herself talking to him in her thoughts as she did now, as though she had known him as well as anyone else at JAG.
The small group of people that congregated at the office door turned and acknowledged the major with a 'ma'am,' then quietly returned to their duties.
Mac stepped into her new office, and Lieutenant Roberts stood just outside the door. "Ma'am?"
"Yes, Lieutenant?" She refocused on the lieutenant as she turned toward him.
"If I may, ma'am, are you all right?" The lieutenant's expression was sincere.
He had accompanied her to Red Rock Mesa and had helped handle the 'special assistant to the Undersecretary of State' Clayton Webb very well. It had been difficult, and there were moments when she'd thought she and her uncle were going to lose more than their careers, but somehow she had been able to convince her uncle to turn himself in. He would be serving time in Leavenworth, but his sentence had been only eight years as compared to the 25 years that the prosecution had asked for.
"I'm fine, Lieutenant. Thank you for your concern."
She had a very good feeling about this particular naval officer. He seemed a bit too eager at times, but she believed that in time he would make a great officer and attorney. She sat down at her desk and began absentmindedly opening and closing drawers.
"Is there anything I can help you with, ma'am?"
"No, I'm going to send Petty Officer Tiner to Supply so that I can get my basic office supplies and get rolling. There doesn't seem to be anything left in here."
She opened the top drawer in the middle of her desk and saw a piece of paper; she picked it up and started to toss it in her trash bin.
Bud saw the other side of the paper and realized it was a picture of Commander Rabb and someone whose face he didn't recognize right at that moment.
"Oh, ma'am, I can take that. I'll just have it sent to the commander's mother."
Mac turned the paper over and saw a picture of the commander and a woman who, if she had not known better, could have been her.
"My God." She turned the picture back toward Bud. "This could be me."
The lieutenant walked further into the office and then recognized the woman in the picture as Lieutenant Diane Schonke.
"Yes, ma'am." He told her the name of the woman and that he had served with her aboard the Seahawk.
Mac looked again at the picture. The commander was standing behind Diane with his arms locked loosely around her waist. They were both smiling for the camera; it appeared to have been taken very recently.
"Did you know the commander well, Lieutenant Roberts?"
"Not well, ma'am. He conducted a few investigations aboard the Seahawk when I was the public affairs officer." Bud paused a moment. "I do know that he was a good officer, ma'am. His and his father's exploits were legend aboard the Seahawk. His father was an aviator too. He went MIA during Vietnam, I think."
Mac listened without comment. This guy must have been something else. She would have liked to have met him, she decided.
"Here…ma'am, I'll take that picture."
"No, that won't be necessary, Lieutenant. I have a number of things in the apartment that will have to be shipped to Mrs. Burnett. I can take care of this."
"You are dismissed, Lieutenant."
"Ma'am." Coming to attention, Bud turned on his heel and left the room.
Later that afternoon…
Mac opened the door to the apartment while juggling two bags of groceries and her dinner in the form of a Beltway Burger and large fries. She left the door open while she made her way to the now cleaned and cleared kitchen island. The painting was finished, with the exception of the bedroom, and her furniture would arrive tomorrow.
The windows were trimmed in white and the walls painted in the palest yellow. She looked around the room, satisfied with what she saw. Her eyes came to rest on the portrait still hanging over her bed. She smiled, wondering what the commander would think. Then, as though someone had read her mind, her front door once again slammed shut.
She was startled and turned toward the door; she walked to it and placed her hand on it. She felt around the frame of the door, looking closely to see if the door had been hung straight. Maybe the floors weren't level. She'd had the apartment inspected everything seemed to be in order according to the home inspectors report. Pondering this, she continued to inspect the door and the frame around it. She decided this was a huge and drafty old building. It was still officially the spring season; storms and winds blew up out of nowhere. The longer she thought about it, the more she knew that there had to be some reasonable explanation for this.
She turned and walked toward her kitchen, deciding dinner was long overdue.
Harm had been waiting for the major to come to the apartment all day. He thought that all he needed was to have her alone in the apartment for one night and that would be the end of any more intrusions from her or that pest David Parker. He could see now that this was not going to be as easy a task as he had thought. The evening was young, though, and a good strong storm was on the horizon. He had only to wait until dark.
Harm had learned that in his present state that he could be everywhere at once within his apartment. He watched from what seemed to be far away but could be immediately be as close as he chose. He watched as Sarah Mackenzie showered and sang to herself, bits of and pieces of songs that he did not recognize.
She really did appear to be a nice person. He was beginning to have to work very hard at not liking her, and he had to remind himself at almost every turn that she was not Diane. There were times, though, when it was very obvious that she was not; right now, for instance, it seemed Sarah Mackenzie, in addition to appearing to be physically stronger than Diane, was a bit more voluptuous too.
He leaned unseen against his bathroom sink, unable to keep from smiling as he watched her finishing up her shower and decided at that moment that being a ghost…had its advantages.
Mac walked out of the bathroom after her shower wrapped in a thick terrycloth robe she had found stuffed in one of the closet drawers. It was entirely too long and the sleeves had to be rolled up to fit her, but she loved the feel of it around her. As she walked out of the bedroom she lifted the sleeves to her nose and breathed in its clean and masculine scent. She laughed out loud at herself as she entered the kitchen and said aloud.
"Commander Rabb, you're just the kind of man I need, tall dark and handsome….and never ever in the way."
She shook her head and set about making herself a cup of tea before she went to bed.
Harm discovered that all his senses had not disappeared. As she passed him, she smelled of soap and shampoo, and her laughter was such a sweet sound that it reminded him of just how lonely he had been in this apartment before she had come into it.
She had unpacked most of her clothes after dinner and had been able to get her kitchen squared away as well. She filled her teapot, set it on the stove and turned on the burner. While she waited for her water to boil she remembered the picture she found in her office that afternoon. She walked over to her purse and took it out and looked longingly at the couple. They seemed so happy. To anyone who knew her by sight, they would believe that this was her wrapped in the arms of a man who loved her.
"Oh, to be loved like that," she said, heaving a huge sigh, and walked back into the kitchen.
Harm could see the picture she had in her hands. He was suddenly so angry that every kind thought he had about the major left him immediately. Who the hell was this woman? That picture belonged to him – what was she doing with it, anyway?
He watched as she slipped the picture into the pocket of his bathrobe.
The storm he that had been waiting for seemed to strike at the most opportune moment. It was as though the heavens opened and the rain suddenly came down in sheets. The lightning was streaking across the sky, with the thunder booming so loudly that it made the windows in the kitchen rattle.
Mac seemed unfazed by the storm and took a mug out of the cabinet and began to make her tea. She turned off the burner on the stove and just as she began to pour the water in her cup, the lights in the apartment went out.
She set the teapot down on the stove and went in search of her flashlight. She had left it in a box, she believed, that she had left near the door.
She had only taken a couple of steps when the lightning lit the room and she was face to face with the specter of Harmon Rabb Jr.
She drew in a breath sharply and stepped back.
Harm was feeling very pleased with himself. He hadn't had to say anything; maybe this would be all it would take. Just as he thought he had won, she seemed to steel herself and began to stare back at him. She swallowed hard and lifted her chin slightly as if she were challenging him.
"Who are you?"
"Don't you recognize me, Major?"
Mac continued to stare, and as she did, she realized who she was seeing; it was the commander in the portrait. He was a bit paler and it seemed that his hair was darker. His eyes also seemed even more penetrating than in the picture. His lashes were black and thick in sharp contrast to the pale blue color his eyes seemed to have become, a difference so stark that they cast an iridescent glow.
"You're Commander Rabb."
"Very good, Major. Now what the hell are you doing here?" He narrowed his eyes, trying to convey just how unwelcome she was.
"This is my home; I signed the final paperwork on the apartment this afternoon."
"Correction, Major Mackenzie: this is my home and you are not welcome here." He had raised his voice, making it carry and bounce off of the walls as the thunder had.
Mac shivered as the room's temperature seemed to drop 20 degrees.
Harm smiled smugly; counting backward from five, four, three … She should be running for the door any second.
Mac suddenly felt anger rise within her. This was the first and only home that was completely hers. She had always had to share with roommates, and as with many people in military life, a place called home could be difficult to find at best. No one was going to scare her away. She clenched her teeth and although she was afraid, she was not going to be chased away.
"Now you listen to me…whoever you are. I'm not leaving here. You could shake this building until it falls down and I will still be standing here in whatever is left of it."
She didn't understand the attachment she had to this place. She only knew it was her home and no one or nothing would make her leave it.
When she stopped speaking, Harm could see her chin begin to tremble and he knew instinctively that there was nothing he could do to make her go away. Truth be told, she was beginning to break his heart with her courage in the face of what he had been throwing at her. He felt ashamed as he saw the tears starting to slide down her cheeks.
"All right, enough of that. I didn't mean to make you…"
Mac didn't let him finish. "Don't flatter yourself, you didn't make me cry…it's…it's been a long day and I'm tired." Mac swiped at the tears on her face, still staring at him, still trying to comprehend that she was speaking to the ghost of the man who had lived here before her.
"Whatever you say, just stop." The fierceness that had been in his voice was replaced by an almost pleading sound. He could feel her pain as though it were his own; he felt connected to her for some inexplicable reason.
"Then you'll leave me in peace?" Mac asked hopefully.
"I didn't say I'd leave….I'm not sure I can…."
"Is it because suicide?"
"Mr. Parker, the real estate agent, he said that you might have committed suicide."
"Mr. Parker is an idiot and he doesn't know anything about me. I didn't commit suicide. I had a huge lapse in judgment, yes…I should have let a professional help with that damn gas line…but I did not commit suicide."
Mac reached into her pocket and took out the picture of Diane and Harm.
"Where did you get that?" He still hated the idea that she had a picture that had been so precious to him in his lifetime.
"It was in your desk at JAG. The Admiral assigned your former office to me."
"My office – you're in my office?"
"Yes." Mac suddenly felt sorry she had mentioned that particular fact.
"My apartment, my office…" He gave her an appraising look. "….my bathrobe. It seems that you have almost everything that was mine."
She noticed now how young he was, and how handsome. He must have had some life. An aviator, a JAG attorney, obviously loved by his coworkers and by the woman in the picture. She could only hope to have what he had in the short time he was here.
Harm answered her thoughts as though she had said them aloud. "I did have a lot of good things in my life. I lost Diane, though. She was murdered."
"Lieutenant Roberts told me."
"Roberts is at JAG?"
"Yes, he seemed genuinely disappointed that he would not be working with you."
Harm was silent, his mind returning to the problem at hand. How would they make this work? He knew now he could not make her leave, but if she painted another thing in this apartment 'pale yellow' he fully believed that this was meant to be his hell.
"You and I have to think of a way to coexist, Major Mackenzie."
"All right…I think I can do that. But my friends call me Mac." She smiled a half smile; okay…she was introducing herself to someone who happened to be a ghost named Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr.
"It's short for Harmon."
"Oh…well, Harm…I think we can do this."
"On one condition."
"And that would be?"
"Leave my bedroom as I left it and whatever you do don't paint it yellow. And I want my portrait to stay there. I am proud of this place too. It was the first home I ever had on my own as well."
Mac turned to look at the bedroom through the louvered glass as the lights flickered and then came on to stay.
"I can do that." She turned to look at him and he was gone.
She yawned and suddenly felt so tired that she forgot her tea and walked back into the bedroom, turning off lights as she went. She stood at the side of the bed and began to untie the robe she was wearing; she looked up at the picture and remembered that she wasn't wearing anything under the robe. She suddenly closed it. She took an oversized T shirt from her closet with her to the bathroom and quickly slipped it over her head. She quickly turned off the light and slipped into bed.
As she settled under the comforter she heard a soft and husky chuckle. "You really know how to dress up a T shirt, Mackenzie."
Mac turned onto her side and slid the comforter up to her chin. She smiled, thinking about how insane this was and how much less lonely it felt to get into her bed alone tonight. It wasn't actually her bed, though, was it, she thought. It had been 'Harm's.' She snuggled deeper into the pillow and covers, trying to detect the slightest scent of the man whose home she was sharing, in her own personal ghost story. She giggled…in spite of herself. This really was insane.