Disclaimer: Things I do not own- JAG and all its characters; 'Come Take a Trip in My Airship'; Coca-Cola; CVS; Baby Magic; McDonalds; Enterprise or Budget car rentals, and any other proper nouns you may come across. Things I have never done- traveled to Italy; been involved in the military; been involved in the CIA; been pregnant; studied law; studied medicine (although I will start that in January); spoken Italian; had any encounters with the process of adoption; planned or attended a military funeral. What I am getting at here is that I made all this up. I'm not an expert in anything I wrote about. It all came from my imagination unless otherwise noted.
Dedications: I'm a horrible fanfic fan- I very rarely review. But I love you all, your work is incredible. I'm just lazy I guess big smiles. So I'm dedicating this to you guys. Cece, Mkim, Doc, Karen, Ann, Pixie, the gals of McRose, CLK, Carrie, Kay, Daenar, Teacup, Timer, TR, Michi and Carol, Jackie, Valerie, Aerogirl, Sheri, Tracey, Mariposa, Vivienne, Soleil, Manette, LRM, and so many more. I could seriously go on all night, so if you post on the HB or Jagnik board, or at consider yourself included in this dedication. You are all awesome. Thanks for the entertainment.
Special thanks: Big thank you to Doc for her beta reading. Seriously folks, if it weren't for her, you wouldn't have even been able to read this. Typos are my specialty.
Author's notes: Ok, so I started writing this last year, right after JAG: San Diego (my all time LEAST favorite episode) aired. Everyone was freaking out about the idea of an 11th season in California with Mac (and Vukovic), and Harm being sent to London. I posted on the HB an idea that maybe Harm was called away b/c of the war, and that we'd see a long distance relationship between the two. Then I thought, hey, that'd make a great fanfic. Thus began a year and a half long struggle for me to finish my very first fanfiction. What began as a small fluff story became a 325kb monster, and ironically ended up nothing like the idea with which I started. But I'm finally done (yay!) and ready to share it with ya'll. A warning, FWFS had not aired when I started this, so it never happened, and I pretty much made up Harm and Mac's new duty stations. Oh, and PS, I hated what the PTB did to Mattie and Tom. I thought it was rather cruel; everything Tom did to get well for his daughter, including giving her up to someone else so he could get help, just to have him fail like he did. And how horrible for Mattie... So in my story, the accident never happened and Tom and Mattie are living together happily in Blacksburg. Ok, now, on with the show.
SpongeBob and Patrick were at it again. Jimmy Roberts was giggling madly at the antics of the goofy sea creatures. His big brother AJ was not quite so absorbed in the cartoon. He had bigger things on his mind. Grown-up things that an almost three year old just wouldn't understand.
The boys were side by side on the floor of the family room; Jimmy lying on his back with his feet pointed towards the TV, and AJ sitting Indian style, shoulders slumped and arms crossed. His daddy had told him to watch for Carrie and to keep Jimmy from waking the napping toddlers in the nursery upstairs. AJ knew what was really going on though. He may have only just turned seven, but he wasn't stupid. He knew that Mommy was crying again and Daddy just didn't want the boys to see. He also knew that he didn't want to stay with Carrie when his parents left. He wanted to go with them.
It wasn't that he didn't like Carrie. She was the best babysitter ever. Not like Stinky Stacy, a name AJ would never, ever use out loud again after the last time his mom heard him mumbling it. But it was true, she smelled like…like his mom's purse did that one time he spilled a bottle of perfume in it trying to find some gum. Luckily it was just her "Dime Store stuff"…whatever that meant. Besides, Stacy was always shushing AJ and his little brother because she was soo busy on the phone with her boyfriend...or with someone else talking about her boyfriend. Carrie was different though. She liked to play Jedi Knights and she knew all about the boys' favorite cartoons and video games. And when the babies were awake, she never ignored the older two; she always made time for everyone.
But none of that mattered right now. Carrie or Stacy, it made no difference to AJ. He wasn't staying. All he had to do was convince his parents that he was old enough to go with them. After all, his best friend from school, Sam, went to his grandpa's funeral last year, and he wasn't even six then. He remembered asking Sam about it the next day, when the boy had explained his absence from school.
"When someone dies and goes to heaven, you have them a funeral," Sam explained matter-of-factly. "It's so the people who love them can tell them goodbye."
AJ had known as soon as his parents explained three days ago what was going on, that he wanted to go to the funeral with them. He wanted to tell them right then and there, but Mommy was sitting on his bed crying and Daddy was busy trying to make her feel better. So when they brought up Carrie and babysitting, the usually outspoken and stubborn AJ kept quiet. Each of his parents kissed him goodnight then and that was the end of it.
The next two days were filled with "Keep your brother busy, AJ" and "Please don't wake Nicki and Nate, AJ, Mommy needs them to sleep right now." Mommy was constantly on the phone, and when Daddy wasn't at work, he'd be on the phone or in his office with Mommy where they spoke in quiet voices. Normally AJ would have resented the lack of attention, but he needed to make sure Mommy and Daddy knew he was ready for grownup stuff. So AJ did as his mom told him. He kept Jimmy from waking his baby brother and sister, he did his spelling homework without his dad having to ask four times, he cleaned up after not only himself, but also the twins and his younger brother, all the while hoping his parents would pick up on his new, improved behavior.
AJ glanced over at Jimmy. The younger boy was now lying on his stomach, propped up on his elbows with his little hands bracing his face on either side, still engrossed in the 'nautical nonsense' on T.V. Taking a deep breath, AJ stood up, straightened his back and puffed his chest out a little. Looking for all the world like a miniature marine, he headed for the stairs.
He took the first two or three steps like a little soldier. By the time he was half way up, however, his nervousness was starting to get the better of him. The problem went beyond just trying to get his parents to agree with him. The closer he got to the top of the stairs, the more he began to doubt himself. Did he really want to go? AJ knew what death meant. He knew that once you die, you're gone forever. He realized he would probably cry…in front of other people no less. During the impossibly long journey to his parent's room at the end of the hallway, AJ thought really hard about his decision. He dragged his fingers along the grooves in the wall opposite the banister. His 'ramrod straight' spine became more hunched, his feet dragging more and more. Three more steps...two more...one...
AJ walked past the nursery and one of the twins sighed. Suddenly he almost envied his sister and brothers. They were too little to understand what was going on. To them, this was just another day. Jimmy probably wouldn't even remember any of this. Just like AJ didn't remember much of anything about the time when his baby sister Sarah had died. But he would remember this for a long time, probably forever and ever.
Then he was there. AJ stood in the doorway of his parent's room, all his bravado now gone. He looked like the seven-year old little boy that he was. Leaning on the doorframe, he rolled his shoulder against it, rocking back and forth and scuffing his toes on the wood floor. He looked from one parent to the other but they had yet to notice him. Daddy was straightening his uniform in front of the mirror on the dresser while Mommy sat on the bed staring at the stocking in her hand, but making no attempt to put it on. It was unnaturally quiet in the room and AJ wondered how it was possible that they hadn't heard him at the door.
He looked down at his feet and asked himself one last time if he really wanted to do this. He could just be a little kid with his brothers and Nicki. He could stay home and play Chutes and Ladders with Carrie and Jimmy and watch 'Finding Nemo' when the twins woke up from their afternoon nap. He could pretend it was just another day...
"Hey buddy, is Carrie here?"
AJ looked up. His mom and dad were looking his way now with equal amounts of curiosity and concern. He made up his mind.
"I wanna go with you today," AJ blurted out, his voice not sounding nearly as strong as when he had practiced it in his head.
"Oh, AJ," his mom began, "…baby, I don't think..." she looked to his dad for help. Before Daddy could pick up where his mom left off, which AJ could tell was headed towards a definite 'no', AJ interrupted. He had a speech planned in his head for this moment. He knew that the immediate answer would not be in his favor. He was going to talk about being the oldest of four, and about how he wasn't a baby anymore. If need be, he'd bring up how responsible he'd been these last couple of days. But when he looked to his dad and opened his mouth, what came out, was from his heart instead of his head.
"Dad, I havta! I really…" his lower lip started quivering and he bit it hard to make it stop. If he couldn't get through this without crying like a baby, Mom would never let him go. He squared his shoulders, but it still came out as almost a whisper when he announced, "I wanna say goodbye to Uncle AJ."
His mom's eyes quickly filled with tears and she glanced back down at her hands before looking up at his dad. AJ started to panic a little. He didn't mean to make Mom cry! He looked to his dad, then back to his mom and opened his mouth again, this time with an apology on the tip of his tongue. It died away when his parents' eyes met. He'd seen that look before; it meant they were talking to each other without talking. He waited, holding his breath, and started counting in his head. He only had to go as high as four before the eye contact broke and Dad started his way, lightly stroking his mom's hair as he passed her.
"Come on, buddy, let's go find your suit."