(Takes place after "Fair Winds and Following Seas". Harm is arriving in London and is preparing to meet his new staff. Mac is not here, for no reason other than this has to do with Mattie and Harm. Mattie's POV.)
I know it took quite a while but the flight from New York to London seemed to fly by in minutes. Of course part of that time I was sleeping. The rest of the time was taken up with trying to come to grips with my new life.
Has it been only two years since a certain man walked in the door of my, well, on paper anyway, crop dusting service looking for a job? Now that man is sitting next to me in a pair of first class seats on a plane bound for our new home in England. And that man had gone from being an employee to being my foster father and now permanent legal guardian.
I have to say, an easy road it was not. There were more than one set of raised eyebrows over the idea that a dashing eligible bachelor wanted to basically adopt a teenager and a female at that. We weathered that, just like we weathered everything else up until my accident.
They say you can hear people when they talk to you when you're unconscious. I know that's true. I didn't hear the words, but I knew, knew beyond any doubt that Harm was nearby. And as long as he was there I didn't have anything to worry about.
I remember when I opened my eyes. I didn't know where I was. My eyes tried to focus on the blurred face in front of me. Then I heard Jen's voice calling. "Commander!" and then there he was and I could see all the concern and love for me.
I wish Jennifer was coming to England. She is so wonderful, the big sister that I never had. I think she had a crush on Harm. I saw her eyes follow him around all the time. But heck, what woman wouldn't have a crush on my tall, strong wonderful Dad?
Oh boy. There I go again. More and more often I find myself thinking about him as that name rather than Harm. I already have a father after all. Don't I?
I asked Harm about him when I could talk. He tried; he really tried to cover for my father. I called him on it. "That's the first time you've ever lied to me," I told him when he attempted to spin some tale of my father getting things ready for me for when I got out of the hospital. I knew what it all meant. He was off the wagon and on another bender.
There have been times that I hated my father. Really, really hated him; for what I thought he had done to my Mother and for what I knew that he darned well did to me with all his absences and abandonments. He's not a bad man, he's simply a weak one. I've come to forgive him though. I had to in order to move on; to start this new life with my new Dad.
It was Jen who told me that Harm had sat with me day and night since the accident. I wasn't surprised. That's the kind of man he is. He's the kind that comes early and stays late. He's the one who came to every one of my physical therapy sessions once they started. He's the one who got his reassignment delayed until I could travel with him and until he was assured that our quarters in London would be wheel chair accessible. He made the arrangements so I can continue my therapy sessions without a break.
When he called me to tell me about his promotion and reassignment I had mixed emotions. I was so happy for him. Jen hadn't told me, didn't know, the particulars, but she had said there was something in the wind. Later on she would explain what a huge step forward it was for him and how it practically assured that one day he would be THE Judge Advocate General of the Navy. That's great of course. Now. But at the same time I was scared. I didn't know what would happen to me when he was gone.
I know I'm dumb. But I'm used to being let down. I had come to expect it. I summoned all my courage and told him how great it was he was being promoted and going to such an important position and he should go for it. That's when he said the words that made me the happiest young woman in the whole damn hospital.
"I'm not going anywhere without you."
I wanted to do the Snoopy dance. Not easy when you're in traction and you can't walk anyway. I managed to hold back the tears until after we hung up. Then I cried like I haven't cried in years, but every one of those tears was blessed.
The pilot comes on to announce that we're making our landing approach. In just a few minutes the wheels chirp and then rumble. We're down. I can let go of Harm's hand now. Until I looked down I didn't even realize how tight I was holding it. I guess my nonchalance about flying hasn't fooled him. But he doesn't say anything. He just squeezes my hand back and kisses me on top of the head.
We pull up to the terminal and the gateway extends to the forward hatch. We have to wait while everyone else gets off so Harm can get my wheelchair and settle me in it. The flight attendants had offered to hold up the second class traffic until we got out but that wouldn't have been fair. But it was nice of them. Maybe all the attention is from ulterior motives. Not a one of them hasn't lingered by our seats during the trip. And I suspect they're keeping an eye on the handsome guy in the white uniform and the gold wings instead of me.
When we finally get off the plane there's a Navy officer waiting for us. A full Commander I see. Jen taught me all the insignia and how to read sleeve stripes and shoulder boards. He had come to escort us to our quarters. There were sailors there to handle our luggage and a van that was equipped to hoist me and my wheel chair in together.
The Commander then looks a bit apologetic. He tells Harm he knows we've had a long trip but asks if there would be time for him to quickly meet the senior members of his staff. Today turned out to be some British holiday so they came down here.
Harm tells the Commander it will be fine if I don't feel too tired. That's him, looking out for me. I tell him I'm fine and the Commander leads us to one of the VIP rooms where a group of officers stands up.
The commander introduced the whole line of officers. Gosh there was a ton of them; male and female; Navy, Marine and even Army and Air Force. If this was just the senior members of the staff then just how large was the whole office? Wow.
After all the handshaking and name dropping was over it was his turn to say a few words. He stepped to my wheelchair and pushed me forward.
"I'm pleased to meet all of you. I know we will all work well together. Thank you for showing up here to greet us." Harm said. He rested his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it. That was the last bit of motivation I needed and I felt warm with what I had decided. It was the perfect opportunity when he continued "Speaking of 'Us', I would like you all to meet my..."
"Daughter Mattie," I finished firmly.
This time it was his turn to hold back the tears. He managed to do it until we were in the van headed for our new home when he held me and hugged me for all he was worth.
Captain Harmon Rabb. My Dad.