A Nickel Trumps a Dime of Fate

AN: This is the end of this current tale. I promise no tears this time, well at least not sad ones. The sad was in the beginning…the blissful happiness is now. I decided this time to leave my Rabb family young, that way I can use them in the future for sequels, short stories or challenges. Special thanks to all of you who have read and reviewed; your responses have been heartfelt, wonderful and encouraging. I hope you enjoy.

I'll try to get a short story up in the next couple of days…so, stay tuned!

Disclaimer: I don't own JAG or any of the characters. I just take them out and play with them on occasion before replacing them safe and sound back on the shelf.

Part 22

11:30

Monday, Labor Day

3 September 2012

Pacific coast, near the Rabb House

La Jolla, California

Harm stretched out on his side on the beach towel enjoying the warmth of the sun on the cloudless day. His 19-month old daughter played in the sand at his side. He smiled at the petite dark-haired beauty dressed in a red-checked swimsuit, complete with a bouncing ruffle and butterflies in flight. A wind gust caught the brim of her sunbonnet blowing it away from her face and ruffling the ringlets of dark curls hidden underneath. He shook his head in never-ending disbelief…his daughter was an exact replica of her mother right down to the tiny lacquered red toenails.

He chuckled at the memory of the nail painting extravaganza. After a particularly rough day in court, Mac had retreated to the master bathroom to soak in the tub. Upon her reappearance back into the land of the living, he offered her a foot rub to massage away the headaches of the day. She'd somehow conned him into painting her toes. Never having performed the task before, he bristled at the rather unmanly idea, but finally relented when she flashed him 'that smile' that made his insides melt. He was clumsy at first, but quickly mastered the skill, deciding it was something akin to the painting of delicate details on airplane models with Ben. Midway through the pedicure treat, Ellie had wandered into the room and dropped to the floor. Lying on her tummy, she propped her face in her tiny hands and watched the spectacle with a rapt concentration rarely seen in the likes of a toddler. Task completed, he had lowered Mac's feet to the floor. Ellie bounded up from her location on the rug, cocked her head to the side in that perfect female 'I'll get anything I ask for' stance, and proclaimed in her high-pitched sweet voice, "Me too, Daddee…Ewie pitty toes." He'd laughed at the sight as his heart fell in love all over again. He'd carefully completed the delicate task on the tiny nubbins of nails. He'd even added tiny dots of pink and white to form a flower on one of her great toes. She'd giggled with pride and delight at the 'big girl' fun, then exclaimed, "Wet Daddee…bwow." She demonstrated her command with a deep exhalation, sending droplets of spittle in every direction. He'd obeyed the command until the polish was dry to the touch and then pulled her into his arms. Tickling her into a fit of giggles, he subsequently calmed her movements with soft sweet kisses and rubs to the back until she'd fallen asleep on his shoulder. And he wondered once again, how a person could fall in love deeper and faster and anew with the dawning of each day.

Coming back to the present, he glanced out to the sea. Mac and the boys were jumping through the cresting waves. Connor held tightly to Mama's hand as he jumped and rolled and giggled. Ben, who was all of 6, rebuffed the help, claiming to be old enough to wade on his own. Trish and Frank sat in close proximity ready to lend a hand as needed. The only one missing from the day of family fun was Mattie. She'd opted to spend the long holiday weekend back in Virginia. He had it on good authority that she was to receive a special ring this very night. Her boyfriend, soon to be fiancé, had called a week prior asking for Harm and Mac's blessing to marry their daughter. They'd given it freely to the man who had captured their daughter's heart while never giving thought to her disability…he challenged Mattie to be all that she dared and dreamed to be.

His attention returned to his little girl as shovelfuls of sand showered in his direction. Looking up with a stern expression, he immediately broke into a smile as she giggled and hid her face. "Ellie, what did Daddy say about throwing the sand?"

She cocked her head to the side and batted her eyes, "Sowwy Daddee." Her unrepentant giggle invalidating the apology offered once again.

He sat up on the towel and crawled toward his daughter, hands hovering at her side, "What should Daddy do with you, Ellie Bean?" His hands moved closer, "Maybe I should send in the Tickle Monster."

She giggled louder as she danced in the sand. Just as his fingers grew close, she stood and turned to run, "Nooo…Daddee," was shrieked between laughs.

He came up behind her and swung her high in the air before settling her on his shoulders. Patting her legs, he pointed to the water's shore, "Hey sweet pea, do you wanna go play with Connor and Ben?"

She held on tight to his ears, "No Daddee…Ewie scawry…I wan Papa."

He trotted to the water's edge and passed his daughter off to Frank. Stalking toward his family, he raised a finger to his lips to silence his eager sons. Connor giggled recognizing his father's intent and pointed at his Mama. Mac, keeping an ever-watchful eye on her sons, failed to notice the advancing predator. Caught completely unaware, Harm swooped in from behind, gathered her into his arms, and waded deeper into the expanse of the sea.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and glared, "Harm, don't you dare…put me down, Sailor."

He grinned mischievously, "Oh I plan to, sweetheart. By the way, you're slipping Marine…there was a time when I would have never successfully crept up on you unawares. I think you may be due for a refresher course in boot camp ops."

When he reached an area of water that came to mid thigh, he stopped in place and waggled his brows. She wiggled in his embrace trying to escape, "Harm, I swear…if you…."

He tightened his hold and flashed that favorite flyboy grin he knew she couldn't resist, "Or you'll what Mac? I think I'm willing to take my chances." He glanced back to the cheering squad on the shore, "What should I do with your Mama, boys?"

A duet of giggles rang out, "Throw her in!"

His smile grew impossibly wider, "You heard the bosses…you wouldn't want me to disobey an order."

She scowled in her best officer voice, "Harm!"

"What Mac?" He chuckled even as his arms began to sway.

As the arc of his swing increased, he heard her laughing voice say, "Don't you dare throw me away."

He stopped just before launch and pulled her back to his side. Her legs wrapped around his waist on impact as arms clutched desperately to his neck. His forearms locked at her back and he sunk to his knees. Staring intently into her eyes, he whispered, "Never Mac…I promise, I'll never throw you away."

Her eyes glazed with tears at the urgency of his unexpected plea. Caressing his cheek, she stared back into his soulful eyes, "I know, Harm. I was just kidding."

He pressed his cheek further into her touch, "I just want you to know…that I…that this," he shook his head, "…love you, forever."

She brushed her cheek against his, placing a whisper light kiss on his ear, "I know…me too…forever and always."

"To the moon and back."

She pulled back slightly, "What?"

He leaned forward touching his lips to every surface of her face, "How much I love you and our family. It's what I told Ben…to the moon and back."

She held his face gently between her hands and stared lovingly into his eyes. "To the moon and back," was whispered as her mouth slid slowly over his. Their lips met in a deep and searching embrace. Images and sounds ceased to exist as time stood still. Caught up in their own world, the lovers failed to notice the laughs and giggles of their sons…the tiny elfin request of 'me too' from their daughter…or the sigh of satisfaction from an all-knowing mother.

Frank chuckled to himself then reached out to grab his wife's hand, "Do you think they'll ever come back to shore?"

Trish's eyes danced with joy, "In the literal sense, I'm sure they will eventually." She turned back with a satisfied gleam and watched as her son lost himself in the arms of the woman he loved. With a sigh of maternal happiness, she whispered, "But the literary world of poets and romance…Oh, I so hope they never do."

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16:30

Monday, Labor Day

3 September 2012

The Rabb House

La Jolla, California

Harm knocked on the master bathroom door, "Mac, the boys are bathed and dressed. I need to run to the store to pick up a couple of things for the barbeque."

Mac yelled back over the sound of splashing water, "'kay, Ellie and I are almost done in here. Can you tell Ben to keep an eye on Connor for a couple of minutes?"

He opened his mouth to acknowledge the request when he heard a squeal from the other side of the door. Cracking it open a touch, he peered around the doorframe and laughed at the sight. Mac and Ellie were buried in a mountain of bubbles. He rapt against the door to gain their attention and then entered the room.

"Mac, you better be careful or you'll loose her in the foam." Ellie squealed once again as she batted bubbles through the air. He chuckled at the decadent image of his girls and leaned in to give each a quick peck on the cheek. "I'll be back in about 20 minutes, sweetheart." He picked up a handful of suds and blew them at his daughter.

She clapped her hands to break the foam and scolded, "No Daddee…bobbews for Ewie and Mama."

He tweaked her nose, "I'll bubble you, Little Miss." When she frowned a pout in return, he grinned and bent over to kiss her protruding lower lip, "I love you, Ellie Bean."

She cocked her head and blew a kiss his way, "Wuv you too, Daddee."

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Thirty minutes later, Harm wandered in from the garage with grocery bags in hand. Setting the sacks on the counter, he called, "Mac? Kids?"

Ben spoke up from the family room, "Mama's getting Ellie dressed."

Walking toward the family room, he took in the disaster of scattered toys, "Guys, I thought I told you to clean this mess up."

Ben grumbled, "I did pick up my stuff…the rest is Connor's."

"Connor…Daddy asked you pick up your toys," he towered with arms akimbo.

The little boy looked up from his toy cars and grinned, "But Daddee, I still pwayin." He resumed his activities, pushing miniature cars in a circle around the ever-indulgent Molly.

"Connor," he waited until his son's eyes met his own, "…our company will be here soon, I want you to pick-up your toys and take them to your room."

The little boy stood up and threw a salute, "Yez Sir," before rolling his eyes and giggling in delight at his own silly antics.

Harm shook his head…his soon to be 3-year old son was an imp who danced to his own beat. Ben on the other hand was the perfect caricature of a 'classic' first child…responsible, organized and for the most part easy to rear. He pointed toward the pile of blocks, racetrack and cars, "Ben could you help Connor clean up this mess."

Ben shrugged his shoulders in resignation, "Yes Sir."

Returning to the kitchen to unpack the groceries, he looked up to find his wife entering the room with Ellie perched on her hip. He chuckled at the sight of his little girl. She was dressed in a bright pink floral bubble romper. The intricate smocking along the front giving way to huge gathers of material that ballooned out to form short pantaloons fastened with ornate bows just above her knees. Her feet were shod in white leather sandals decorated with large pink ruffling flowers at the strap. Her tiny red toenails peeking out on display for all the world to see. And secured atop her head was a huge fuchsia pink bow with curlicue streamers, holding back a topknot of wild cascading dark curls.

Mac set the little girl down on her feet and Ellie danced toward her father. Stopping just out of reach, she spun on her tiptoes in a slow uncoordinated gait with hands out stretched, "Ewie pitty, Daddee?"

He scooped her up in his arms and blew a kiss upon her cheek, "You're absolutely beautiful, Ellie Bean."

She scrunched her shoulders to her ears and giggled, "Dat tickow, Daddee." Pointing toward the kitchen door, she asked in a high lilting voice, "Mama pitty too, Daddee?"

Harm glanced to the entrance and studied his wife with an appreciative gaze. She was leaning against the doorframe, one foot hooked over the other. Also dressed in bright pink, she wore a short linen sundress with straight form-fitting lines and buttons down the side. The color accentuated the sun-kissed bronze of her skin. She looked young and beautiful and vibrant. His eyes drank her in from the top highlights of her radiant brown hair, to the rosy glow of her cheeks, to the well-toned shape of her legs and finally the red lacquered polish of her bare feet. His eyes shone with desire as he licked his lips, "No Ellie…Mama's delicious."

Ellie frowned and raised her hands in question, "Wat you say?"

He watched Mac saunter his way with a sexy grin and muttered, "Never mind, sweet pea…that's for Daddy to know and you to never find out."

Somewhere in the fog of his mind, he registered the chorus of laughter from his sons, accompanied in duet by the bark of the dog. Ellie wiggled in his grasp and requested to join the activities of fun. He set her down on the floor, never taking his eyes off his wife. Once Mac was within reach, he pulled her into his arms and dipping his head nibbled a path up from her neck to her cheek. When he reached her ear, he whispered, "You look stunning…I take it you're my own special holiday dessert." She shivered in his arms as goosebumps spread down her body in the wake of the warm caress of his breath. Turning her head, she slipped her lips over his. He leaned in to firmly meld the touch and devoured her in a ravenous kiss. When they finally broke for air, she leaned further into his embrace. Locking her hands behind his waist, she tucked her head under his chin and hummed in contentment against the wall of his chest. He splayed his fingers and ran them lightly up her back. Rubbing his cheek against the softness of her hair, he closed his eyes and rocked their joined bodies to and fro in perfect time with the shared song of their soul.

They were broken from their quiet moment of communing hearts by the sound of a loud crash. Pulling back slightly from one another's embrace, they peered into the family room at the giggling mass of their children. Ben was attempting to corral the toys back into their rightful place, while Ellie ran in circles around her big brother grabbing toys from his grasp. Connor, for his part, was tossing blocks toward the plastic bin. Harm sighed in frustration, "I told the boys to pick up that mess. As usual, Ben is complying with orders, while Connor breaks rank."

When he attempted to extricate himself from her arms to deal with his son, she hooked a finger through his belt loop and held on tight to his waist. "Harm, they're both doing as you asked."

He pointed toward the family room and rasped, "Mac, Connor's just throwing things."

She reached for his hand and intertwined their fingers. Tucking their joined hands to her chest, she encouraged, "Harm, just stand here and quietly watch."

He exhaled loudly, "But Mac…."

"Sssssh!"

He took in the scene before him. Ben dropped the toys into the large plastic bin, one after another. At that moment a trio of blocks flew past Ben's hand, one hit the bin. Harm rolled his eyes toward Connor and watched his son pitch block after block in an underhanded toss…one in three made it safely home. Frustration evident on his face, Connor backed up and picked up two more blocks. This time he threw overhand like a free throw toss…one block made it into the bin. Frowning in concentration, Connor kicked a block into the air, once again missing the toy tote.

Harm shook his head, "Mac…."

She raised a finger to his lips, "Sssssh, keep watching."

Connor knelt to the floor and balanced a stretch of racetrack from his chest to the toy box. One car after another flew down the track…half missed their mark…but half were dead on. Harm squinted and frowned and considered his son. Laying the racetrack aside, Connor pulled a cushion from the couch creating a ramp with the bin. Once again toy cars and blocks dropped to the plastic's depth…two thirds were swallowed, while the edge took the rest.

Sighing in disgust, Connor dropped to the floor next to Molly. Pouting his lip, he ran a finger over the dog's snout. Eyes widened in scheme and the little boy climbed on the poor beast's back. Grabbing a car from the floor, Connor drove it over the top of the dog's head and down Molly's snout. The car hit its mark with success just as Molly rolled to the side, dumping her small master clean on his six. Connor stood and rubbed his backside, then with a shout of glee, dove back atop Molly and wrestled to be supreme.

Harm laughed at his son's theatrics and turned back to his wife, "So he managed to get a few toys in the bin. The room is still a mess."

She placed her arms akimbo and tapped her foot, "Harm, you're missing the point. Connor is searching for the 'best' way to complete his chore."

He rolled his eyes, "But Mac, he's just…he's just," he sighed in frustration, "…making a simple task more complicated."

A shrewd smirk broke out across her face, "Well, imagine that…I wonder where he got that idea?"

He had the good sense to look sheepish, "But Mac…."

"Sailor," she pointed toward the den, "…those boys couldn't be more like us if we'd actually contributed to their genetic make-up." She watched her 6-year old son drop a handful of toys into the toy chest, "Ben accomplishes his tasks with a minimum of tries…two or three at most. He's our nickel kid!"

Harm peered over to Connor and watched as he wrestled Molly to the floor, "Then Connor is our…."

"Ten chances for a Dime," she laughed. "He's always looking for the solution that's bigger and faster and better. Harm, he's you!"

The couple watched as Ellie circled Ben and robbed him of another block. Their eldest reached out to grab the toy just as Ellie launched herself into his arms. The pair flew backwards onto the floor with a shout as Ellie landed perched atop her brother's chest. Ben threw his face from side to side, giggling in defeat, as Ellie swooped in to cover him in slobbery wet baby kisses.

Harm laughed at his daughter's successful quest, "And what do you call her, Marine?"

Mac sidled up to his side and encircled him in her arms, "She's our one in a million lifetime chance."

He couldn't suppress the well of laughter that bubbled up from that wonderful place in his heart. Dipping his head back to hers, he captured her lips in a joyful kiss. "They really are our kids…three different roads…for three different chances…for the perfect completion to our deal of fate."

A shadow sobered his handsome face. Reaching up to caress his cheek, she asked, "Harm, what's wrong?"

He shook away the sadness, but remained circumspect, "I almost blew it, Mac. When I walked away that night at McMurphy's, I almost cost us our chance at happiness."

She moved her head until she caught his darting eyes, "No Harm, that's not true."

He stared back mouth agape, "How can you say that…I almost threw all this away."

She ran a fingertip over his brow to erase the lines of worry and self-recrimination, "Harm, if you hadn't walked away…we never would have had the family we do now."

"What?"

She smiled to lessen the shock, "What if we had decided to stay together that night…one of us would have had to sacrifice our military career…flip a coin…whatever. Suppose I had gone with you to London, I never would have reconnected with Bernice and we wouldn't have gotten Ben." He tilted his head to the side and considered her logic. She continued, "Or say, you retired to join me in San Diego…we might never have started our law firm…never met Josephine…and never adopted Connor."

He stared into the soulful brown depths of her eyes and saw the wisdom buried beneath, "So you're saying, we needed to endure the pain of the separation to reach the unbounded joy of the present."

Her smile grew, "Exactly. I hated the loneliness and heartache of those 18 months when we were estranged and apart, but I'd do it all over again to get to today. Every tear, every sorrow, every hurt…I'd gladly endure 'ALL' of it just to have you and our children."

He gathered her close, "When did you get to be so wise?"

She leaned up to press a soft kiss to his lips, "I learned from you."

Listening to the music of their children's laughter in the background, he leaned in to capture a second, "I love you, Sarah."

She spied a bouquet of summer flowers sticking out from the sack of groceries. Reaching over, she plucked out a cheery bloom from their midst. Twirling the daisy between her finger and thumb, she tore off a petal. Extending the white silk before his face, she giggled with schoolgirl charm and exclaimed, "HE LOVES ME!" then tossed the petal onto the floor.

He grew serious once more and brought his face close to hers, "Yes he does…more than you could ever know."

She brushed her cheek against his, "Not more…the same."

Tears glazed his eyes, "To the moon and back."

She ran her fingers over his lips battling her own tears, "Forever and always."

Their lips met in a sweet kiss destined by the hand of fate. Neither one had given up…fate had reigned true. The Nickel had preserved and triumphed to win, aided by the crafty hands of a trio of matchmaking sprites. Love was theirs for all eternity…to the moon and back.

The End…For Now…