Title: Mac's Best Friend
Author: Jaimi
Rated: PG-13
Category: Harm/Mac friendship, suggestion of romance
Spoilers: Heroes, Vanished, Front & Center, Lifeline, Mixed Messages, Jagathon.
Summary: Jingo dies. Harm is there for Mac and finds special ways to cheer her
up.
Disclaimer: Like I said before. Don't own anyone. JAG and all the wonderful,
amazing characters belong to Paramount, Donald P. Bellisario and CBS.

Author's Note: My second JAG fic. This story is working off the belief that Chloe brought Jingo back at Christmas (Answered Prayers) when she came to see Mac. I know we haven't seen him since then, as far as I know, but work with me here people, it's fanfiction. This story could be included in the shows actual story/time line, except for the fact that Jingo may show up again, and well, you'll just have to read to see the other difference. So, it's a very slightly AU story.
I know the pizza boy's not real, I'm just throwing him in for the sake of the story.
The story follows all episodes up to and including "Hero Worship".
Constructive criticism welcome. Flames will be spit upon and rubbed
out (in other words; DELETED!)

P.S. I can't remember what Jingo looks like, so based on the fact that he's a former drug sniffing dog, large, and reddish, I'm assuming he's a Golden Retriever in this story, though he could be a type of hound. If anyone knows for sure, let me know.

Mac's Best Friend
By: Jaimi

Part 1

1530 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VA

Mac's Office

Throwing her hands up over her head and stretching, Lt. Colonel Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie yawned. She had not gotten a good nights sleep last night. Jingo had been particularly bad at hogging the bed. He had wanted to be right up against her all night. She could have pushed him off, but for some reason found herself unable to bring herself to do so. It was strange. She usually had no problem shooing the large Golden Retriever off the bed.

She jumped slightly as her office phone's shrill ring startled her from her thoughts. She was glad her door was closed and no one had caught her being so jumpy. Not very Marine like. She quickly picked up after the second ring.

"Mackenzie," came her brisk acknowledgment.

"Sarah?"

Mac frowned at the soft, sad tone of her neighbor, Bridgett.

"Yeah, it's me. What's wrong?"

"It's...it's..." There was a sigh and an audible sniff. "I'm so sorry, Sarah. I went into your apartment this morning to take Jingo for a walk and found him lying in his favorite spot...dead... I'm so sorry, I don't know what happened to him. He..."

Bridgett rambled on, but Mac had stopped listening after she had pronounced her happy, go-lucky, fourteen year old dog dead. Fourteen...gosh. She had known he was getting old. He was old when she had adopted him a few years back, but she hadn't really thought about it...maybe hadn't wanted to. Jingo had been a constant comfort to her for the past few years. A friendly face, an encouraging lick, a loving nudge to come home to.

She suddenly realized she was still being spoken to.

"Sarah, are you there?" Bridgett asked.

"What? Oh yes, sorry..." Mac assured her, distractedly.

"No, I'm sorry. I-"

Mac hurriedly got herself together. "Hey. It's not your fault, okay? Don't worry about it...just...just thank you for calling me."

"Really? I wasn't sure if you wanted me to drop this on you at work..." Bridgett replied, worriedly.

"No, you did the right thing. I'll handle it. I'd rather not have found him myself." But I would have rather have been there with him in his last hour... She shook her head at the stray thought. It was too late for that now.

"If you say so. Listen, do you want me to take care of him? Or..."

"No. No thank you, just leave him...please..." Mac replied, softly.

"Okay... I'm sorry. I know it's hard to lose a dog..." Her neighbor was sincerely sympathetic, but Mac didn't need this right now. If this was kept up, she was going to break down in tears.

"Yes, well, thank you. I'll see you later."

There was a brief pause. "...all right. Bye."

"Bye."

Hanging up slowly, Mac stared at the phone, becoming lost in thought. Jingo was dead. She would go home to an empty apartment tonight. No, not empty. She would go home to find Jingo's body to confirm the loss of her furry friend. She closed her eyes, willing the thoughts away. She couldn't deal with this now. She could mourn later. She had work to do. She opened her eyes and looked at the lone file. Okay, so not a ton, but it was work none the less.

She jumped again when Tiner buzzed her. "Colonel, the admiral would like to see you in his office."

"I'll be right there. Thank you, Tiner," she quickly replied.

Mac sat for a moment, getting herself together. Sighing, she stood, brushing her hand over her skirt and then through her hair, before exiting her office.

She attempted a warm smile upon seeing Harm and Sturgis waiting for her in the bullpen. Apparently the admiral wished to see them as well. She barely pulled the smile off, but only Harm noticed. She wasn't surprised. He knew her too well. He gave her a look that clearly asked, 'what's up?'. She just shrugged, and offered another smile. He didn't buy it and she knew it, but he didn't press. The small group approached Tiner who nodded, buzzing the admiral. "They're here, Sir."

"Send them in," came the brusque reply.

Filing through the admiral's door, they all snapped to attention before their CO.

"At ease," he stated, without looking up from the file he was reading.

They promptly loosened their stance and waited patiently for the older man to speak up. After a moment, he did so.

"I have a new case here for you three, as well as Lt. Roberts."

"All of us, Sir?" Turner questioned. (The author realizes this is not a likely occurrence, but lets pretend for the story's sake, okay?)

"Well, since things have been pretty slow, I thought I'd let you all earn your pay."

This earned smirks from the two commanders, but no comments. The admiral continued, ignoring their amusement "The lieutenant is running an errand at the moment, so Commander Turner, you can fill him in, as he will be assisting you on this one. You and him will be prosecuting, that leaves Commander Rabb and Col. Mackenzie to defend."

"What's the case, Sir?" Harm asked, half his attention on his CO, the other on his partner. Mac was staring past the admiral, out the window at the bright spring day.

"I was getting to that, Commander," he replied, impatiently. He did not miss the fact that the colonel seemed to be staring off into space, and the commander was obviously trying to distract him from noticing. Always covering each others sixes, he thought, with a hint of fondness. However, he needed their full attention. "Colonel?" he called out sternly.

She snapped back to attention. "Yes, Sir?"

The admiral softened some. It wasn't often he had to lecture Mac about paying attention.

"Are you all right?" he asked, still keeping a slight edge to his voice. He was still her commanding officer, after all.

She nodded. "I'm fine, Sir. Sorry, Sir." Her tone left no room for argument. The colonel said she was fine, then she was fine. Judging from Harm's look however, the commander must've believed differently.

He knows her better than anyone, AJ thought. Let him find out, so the rest of us don't have to risk having our sixes chewed out by our marine friend for invading her personal problems.

"All right then, let's carry on."

--------------------

The others may have believed Mac's simple statement of "I'm fine", but he hadn't become her best friend by not knowing her moods and her ability to hide things from others.

She had been distracted through the whole briefing of their new, and difficult case. Difficult for the defense that was. The guy looked guilty as hell, but the admiral was familiar with the young officer, and Harm got the feeling AJ didn't believe he was guilty, though he wouldn't say outright.

Harm shrugged to himself. Regardless, Mac and him would do their damnedest to win.

"You two haven't got a hope in the world."

Sturgis' teasing tone broke through his thoughts as the group exited the admiral's office.

Only slightly distracted from Mac's somber appearance, Harm grinned briefly, playfully punching his buddy's shoulder. "Yeah, you keep telling yourself that Pal, and maybe in another universe, it'll be true. Mac and I are gonna kick your sixes. Make sure you tell Bud that too."

Harm was once again surprised as Mac did nothing to help him tease their friend, but continued on to her office, shutting the door. He would have followed her except for Sturgis continuing.

"You can tell him yourself. After you talk to your client, we'll have a meeting about a deal."

"Fine, fine. I'll let you know," Harm stated distractedly. Breaking away from his friend, he strode to his partner's office.

Sturgis watched him go, shaking his head. He could tell by Harm's distracted mood, that he was concerned about the colonel. Obviously he knew something the rest of them didn't. Turner shrugged. Well, if something was wrong with the colonel, he figured Harm would be the one to get it out of her. Shrugging to himself, he turned and headed toward his own office.

--------------------

Mac was staring down at the worn picture in her hand. It was one that she always kept in her desk drawer. It was of her, Harm and Jingo in the park. They had gone for a morning run, when some guy with a Polaroid snapped their picture as they had stopped by a water fountain. Jingo was up on his hind legs, paws resting on the fountain, licking at the stream of water. Harm and Mac were standing on the other side, holding the lever down, laughing. It was a great picture. They'd had a great time... Mac didn't notice the single tear that slipped down her cheek.

She lifted her head, setting the picture aside as her door opened abruptly and Harm entered. "Don't you knock?" she quipped, with a weak smile.

Harm smiled that heart melting, knee knocking smile of his. It quickly faded as he noticed the stray tear. "Well, I'd humor you by walking out, knocking and coming back in again, but I'm too concerned about a friend of mine at the moment."

"You have friends?" she joked, not registering the tear, or the fact that he'd noticed.

Harm ignored her teasing. "Mac, why are you crying?"

"What?" She reached up, feeling the tiny moist trail against her cheek, wiping it away. "Oh, I wasn't crying, I was..."

Harm frowned. "Mac! Don't lie to me, you were crying. What's wrong? I know you. Something had you quiet and distracted all through that meeting, and now you're crying. What is it? Come on, you can tell me."

Mac sighed, knowing she could never keep anything from him. Her eyes traveled over to the picture, and her fingers brushed over the image of Jingo looking young and very much alive. She couldn't believe he was gone. Another tear slipped down her cheek, causing Harm even more concern. He hated seeing her sad.

He made his way around to her side of the desk, crouching down beside her. It was then that he noticed the picture. He smiled at the memory it evoked. Then frowned at the realization that it was the source of her tears.

He gently removed her fingers and picked it up, looking between it and her. "And here I was thinking we'd had a blast that day. The memory really that awful to recall?" His joking was gentle, meant to entice an explanation from her.

She smiled softly, more tears escaping. She briskly rubbed them away. "No, not awful. It was fun, a lot of fun. Jingo had..." Her voice cracked, and she pushed herself away from her desk. She went to stand by her window, looking out at the brilliant blue sky. Jingo would have loved to go for a walk in the park on a day like today...

She felt Harm come up behind her, and place a hand on her shoulder. She fought back the sob that was building in her throat.

Harm had a sinking feeling he knew what was wrong. He carefully broached the subject he felt was the source of his friend's distress.

"Mac...did something happen to Jingo?"

At his words, she began to tremble, and she replied so softly he had to lean closer to hear.

"He's dead, Harm. My neighbor found him in my apartment a while ago. He's dead."

With that, she broke down. Turning around, she leaned into her partner's chest. Harm's arms immediately went around her slender form, holding her tightly against him as she cried softly. He closed his eyes. Why Jingo? Why now? She'd already been through hell the past year with his accident and Brumby leaving. When would it end?

With a gentle sigh, he returned his full attention to his dark haired partner. He spoke soothingly to her, murmuring nonsense in attempt to calm her grief. One arm was locked firmly around her waist, the other around her shoulders, his hand rubbing in comforting circles on her back. Her arms were tucked firmly between them, hands pressed against the front of his uniform. Her head was buried under his chin, her warm breath brushing against his neck.



Sturgis, who was approaching Bud to tell him about their case, stepped up to Harriet's desk unnoticed by husband and wife. The newest JAG attorney's attention was quickly turned to the source of the two lieutenant's. Their concerned gazes were locked on their other two friends in Mac's office. Harriet had looked up to see Mac turn into Harm's embrace, and all three watched as he held the obviously distressed Marine.

Harriet frowned, eyes bright with concern. "Oh Bud, what do you think is wrong? The colonel hardly ever openly cries. She's so strong. Something awful must have happened to get her so upset."

Bud frowned in his own concern, but was quick to reassure his wife. "I don't know Harriet, but whatever it is, she'll be fine. Commander Rabb is with her."

Harriet nodded, and with one last look at their friends, they turned to Commander Turner.

The simplicity of Bud's statement, and the equal acceptance of it from his wife did not go unnoticed by Sturgis. The foursome obviously had a quiet understanding of each other, and each others ways. He hoped one day, he'd work his way into the little group more fully. He figured he'd enjoy the bond the four shared, not to mention the larger group version that included, the Admiral, Tiner and the Gunnery Sergeant that had gone on active duty a few months earlier. He snapped out of his daze as Lieutenant Simms spoke up.

"Can we help you, Sir?"

"Uh yeah, sorry. Lieutenant Roberts, it looks like you'll be assisting me with a case. And I hate to rush things, but we've got to take a look at the facts before Harm and Mac call for a deal."

"Aye Sir," Bud answered. Grabbing his briefcase, he smiled reassuringly at his wife. "She'll be okay, Har- er, Lieutenant. With you and the commander keeping an eye on her, there's no doubt."

"Thanks, Bud," she replied, smiling lovingly at her husband. He really was the sweetest man on earth.

With one last glance into Mac's office, the two men headed towards Sturgis' office. Harriet watched her friends for a moment longer, before turning back to the paperwork on her desk. The commander would take care of her...



Harm stood patiently holding his best friend, wishing he could take all her pain away. He had vaguely noticed Sturgis, Bud and Harriet watching them in concern. He was glad only they noticed. They were good friends, they would understand.

When the tears subsided, and she was down to sniffling, he heard her mumble softly. "I'm sorry, Harm. I don't know why I'm so upset. He was just a stupid dog."

Harm smiled at her weak attempt at brushing the lovable mutt off. "I don't think so Marine," he returned softly in her ear. "Jingo was great. It's never easy losing a dog. They become a big part of your life...someone to come home to every night. Man's best friend, remember?"

Mac smiled weakly against her partner's chest. "Harm, he was my dog. I'm sad, but I'd be slightly more hysterical if it was you that had died."

"Gee thanks," he joked, lightly.

Mac sniffed, chuckling, still leaning into his embrace. She was not yet ready to relinquish the comfort of his strong arms. She loved being held by him. A tough Marine though she was, able to handle anything on her own, she was still a woman with desires, like any other.

And maybe it was just her, but it always felt like they fit...that their bodies were molded for each others... Dream on, Marine! Just friends, remember? Back to the beginning. She sighed. A girl can dream... she told herself. But back to reality. Your other best friend is gone, and you're gonna have to go home to find him lying there... Not a pleasant thought.

"I don't know what to do with him Harm. I don't want to go home to his body. I don't want my last memory of him to be removing him from my apartment. I wish I'd been there with him, but I couldn't be. Now, I just wanna remember him as he was. I can't even bury him..."

Harm pulled away slightly, holding her shoulders with his large, warm hands. He looked down into her dark gypsy eyes, that were looking sadly up into his aqua colored ones. "Let me take care of it, Mac."

"Harm, you don't-" she began, in protest.

"Yes, I do. I'm your friend, remember? It's part of the job description."

"Is it? I didn't know being my friend was a job," she replied.

"Oh definitely an around the clock one, Marine," he joked. Then he sobered. "I'm serious, Mac. I'll take care of him for you okay? He'll be gone when you get home."

Mac's eyes watered slightly. "That's the general problem."

He sighed, pulling her back against him, resting his chin on the top of her head. "I know, Mac. I know."

--------------------

Commander Turner was returning from the kitchen with coffee for Bud and himself. He looked up as Harm exited Mac's office, the pilot's handsome face drawn in a sad, as well as sympathetic, expression. Sturgis quickly intercepted his friend, who had made a beeline for his own office.

"Hey Harm, is Mac okay? It looked like she was crying in there."

Harm nodded, still heading for his office, causing his friend to fall in step beside him. "She was, Sturgis. Her-"

"Commander Turner, have you informed Lt. Roberts of your case yet?" Admiral Chegwidden's voice boomed from behind them, causing the two commanders to turn abruptly and stand straighter before their boss.

"Aye, Sir. Just did so, Sir. We're getting to work on it now."

The admiral crossed his arms over his chest expectantly. "Then what are you doing out here, chatting with Commander Rabb?"

"I'm sorry, Sir. I was just concerned about Ma- er, Colonel Mackenzie."

AJ nodded, but said pointedly, "She said she was fine, Commander. Don't you take her word for it?"

"Not when I see her in the commander's arms in tears, Sir," Sturgis disagreed, then wished he hadn't said that. It probably came out the wrong way and sounded like...well...not good at any rate.

The admiral raised his eyebrows, looking at Harm for an explanation...and a damned good one.

Harm gave Sturgis a look out of the corner of his eye, before turning his full attention to the older man before them.

"It's not what you think, Sir. The colonel was upset and just needed...well...a hug, Sir. It's not her fault either though. She's not bringing personal problems to work or anything. She probably would have made it through the day, but I kind of pushed her to find out what was up."

The admiral pursed his lips, sighing. He believed the younger man, and was now more concerned about Mac. The marine was one tough woman.

"And may I ask what it is that has the colonel so withdrawn?"

"It's Jingo, Sir." Harm answered carefully.

"Jingo?" Sturgis blurted out. "Who's Jingo?"

"Jingo? What's wrong with him?" The admiral asked, both men ignoring Commander Turner's inquiry for the moment.

Harm sighed, rubbing a hand across his forehead. "He's dead, Sir. Mac's neighbor found him in her apartment about an hour ago. He must of passed away just after she left for work."

"Who the hell is Jingo...Sir," Turner added at AJ's slightly annoyed look.

Harm gave Sturgis a warning look as he said carefully, "her dog, Sturgis. Before you say anything, remember, some people do like dogs," he said. (AN: I don't know whether or not Sturgis likes dogs, but let's just pretend he doesn't, and if it turns out he does, oh well, life's a bitch.)

AJ raised his eyebrows at the newest addition to the JAG family. "You don't like dogs, Commander?"

Turner shrugged. "Not a big fan, Sir. And Harm, I may not be a dog lover, but Mac is my friend, and I understand people get attached to the things. Apparently it's like losing a family member when your dog dies."

"Yes, it is. Look, I gotta go make a call and then I'm gonna go back to Mac's office and get to work, hopefully take her mind off Jingo. Don't worry, Sir. I won't make her cry again."

"Make sure you don't, Commander. You have a nasty habit of doing just so." AJ lightened the remark by offering a smile to show his friend he was teasing.

"Aye Sir," Harm responded, grimly.

He knew the admiral was just teasing, but the sad fact was, it was true. It was him leaving JAG to return to flying that had caused tears that fateful day, and it was him crashing into the Atlantic ocean that had apparently made her cry nearly a year ago.

Why is it I'm always hurting the one I... No. No, he was not going there. Not right now. They had just gotten their easy friendship back a few months ago. He didn't want to get thinking about anything that could take it away again. Lord knows, over the two years that Brumby had been in their lives, they'd always remained friends, and yes, even remained *best* friends, but things had been difficult. Words had been said, mistakes had been made, feelings had been hurt.

Never again, he vowed. Never again would he let someone come between the friendship they shared. It meant too much to him. She meant too much to him. And now he was going to be there for her, like he had almost always been...almost... Another regret he would have to live with. How many more?

-------------------

That afternoon, Harm asked Harriet to take Mac to lunch. Normally he went to lunch with her, but he needed to go out and take care of some things for his friend. He requested a longer lunch in order to do so, which the admiral granted, trusting his officer had good reason. When he returned, they would be meeting with their client to go over the case. That would likely take up the rest of the afternoon. It was beginning to look like a long one.

-------------------

2200 ZULU
JAG HEADQAURTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VA

Bullpen

"Hey Colonel, Commander? Ready to discuss a deal yet?"

Both Harm and Mac turned to their friend, as Sturgis emerged from his office.

"Sturgis, it's five o'clock. Time to go home, you know? To our lives outside of work?" Harm returned, with a grin.

Mac however, broke in. She didn't want to go home to spend the night in her apartment alone tonight. This presented a perfect excuse to be distracted from Jingo's absence. "Wait a minute, Sailor. How about you, Sturgis and Bud come over to my place tonight, say around 1900 hours? We can order some pizza's, and go over a deal with the opposing council." She smiled, winking playfully at Sturgis, who looked mildly surprised.

"You two take work home with you?" he asked.

"Beats working here late," Harm stated with a careless shrug.

"Do this often do you?"

"We use to before..." Mac began, trailing off, thinking of her ex-fiancee, and a certain video princess gone mortician's wife. She shook the offending thoughts away and smiled at her partner. "...before, and now we've gotten back into the swing of things. Come on, Commander. Trust us. It makes for a fun way to work."

"I don't doubt it, Mac," Sturgis said with a grin. He was already loving his job here at JAG, and liking the people he worked with...well, most people. A certain devious, blonde haired lieutenant rubbed him the wrong way. Harm had warned him about her, and with good reason. She was the shark in these office waters. "Do you want me to bring anything?" he asked, looking between the two.

They shared a look, that he swore was a whole silent conversation between them.

Harm shook his head. "Just yourself...and Bud could probably do with a lift. I'll order the pizza, Mac has plenty of drinks. You still a haiwian man?" he asked his old academy buddy.

Sturgis nodded, and watched in amusement, as Harm sauntered over and snatched up Harriet's phone, soliciting no argument from the young lieutenant. She just smiled and continued the last of her paperwork. He quickly dialed a number, while Mac gathered her things from her office.

"Hey Billy? Yeah. I know, it's been awhile. Yep. Yep, one MacRabb special, uh-huh. No, there's more. Yeah, company. Half haiwian, half pepperoni and double cheese. Yep. I'll pick it up around 1845...sorry, 6:45. Okay. Thanks Billy. See ya."

Sturgis grinned at the two as Mac rejoined them, having left to inform Bud of tonight's plan. "Familiar with the pizza boy, you two?"

Mac smiled. "Yeah, we go way back. About six years now."

"The pizza boys been there for six years? How old is he?" Sturgis asked, looking appalled.

"Twenty-two. Been working there since he was sixteen. He's paying his way through college."

"Oh really? Does he have a girlfriend? A favorite color?" Sturgis asked, a mirthful twinkle in his eye.

Harm rolled his eyes at his friend's teasing. "Yes, and yes. He's our pizza boy, Sturgis."

Sturgis quirked his eyebrows at the use of "our", but remained silent.

"He's a nice kid. We chat whenever we drop in for, or order a pizza...which has been a lot over these past six years."

Sturgis laughed. "Apparently. You know, my mail man has been divorced three times."

He was mocking them, which earned him a punch on either shoulder, before the two walked away.

"1900 hours, Commander. Don't be late," Harm called back.

Sturgis grinned, calling out after the less then prompt pilot. "You're kidding me, right?"

He heard Mac laugh, and the two disappeared around the corner.

JAG Parking Lot

"Hey Mac, come with me," Harm requested, gently grasping his friends elbow, as she turned to head to her own car.

She looked at him confused. "Where?"

"To get...something. I'll explain on the way. Come on."

Shrugging, Mac nodded, and got into the passenger side of Harm's car. Once they were well on their way, Mac spoke up again. "Where are we going Harm?"

"Well, remember how I told you I would take care of Jingo?"

Mac nodded, then smiled reassuringly. "Harm, it's okay if you didn't get around-"

"Hey, give me more credit than that Marine. I did what I told you I would. I know you wanted to bury him, but couldn't, so I called the vet's office. I met them at your place at lunch-"

"So that's where you were," she interjected.

"Yes, now let me finish," he admonished gently.

Smiling, she closed her mouth and obliged.

"They took Jingo, and I had them take him to be cremated. We're going to pick up his ashes. You can either keep them in your apartment, or you can spread them somewhere. The park...the creek..." He shrugged, slightly embarrassed at how sentimental he sounded. "I don't know. I just thought-"

"Harm," she interrupted, causing him to stop his rambling. His eyes however, remained fixated on the road ahead. "Harm, thank you. I never would have thought of that. It's a wonderful idea. You have no idea how much that means to me." With that she placed her left hand over his right, which rested on the steering wheel, and gave it a gentle squeeze. Taking his eyes off the road for a moment, he looked at her, registering the tears glistening in her large brown eyes. He smiled supportively at her, and squeezed back, before she dropped her hand and they rode the rest of the way in companionable silence.

---------------------

Mac looked up as Harm exited the vet's office, one hand tucking something, maybe his wallet, into his pocket, the other holding a ceramic urn. She shivered slightly, realizing that was all that was left of her old friend. She straightened as he opened the driver's side door. He settled into his seat, closed the door and turned to look at her, holding the urn in his hands.

"What do you want to do, Marine? Take him home, or do you want to go to the park, and..." he trailed off, patiently waiting for her decision.

She looked at the urn in his hands. Jingo loved the park...splashing in the creek that went through it. With a sad smile, she looked up into her partner's concerned blue eyes. "Will you go with me? To the park?"

Harm nodded. "You wanna go now?" he asked, softly.

"Yeah... if you don't mind."

"Of course not," he assured her. He was about to turn back to face forward, but stopped, looking uncertain. Mac realized he couldn't hold the urn while driving, but didn't want to ask her to hold it. The times I catch him being sweet... she thought, then spoke up. "It's okay, Flyboy. I'll take it. I'm a marine, I can handle it."

He grinned sheepishly, and handed it to her.

Mac just smiled sadly, and settled back in the seat, the urn resting in her lap. Harm glanced at her from the corner of his eye as he turned the keys in the ignition. Assuring himself that she was fine, he put the car into reverse.

----------------------------

Harm stood watching his partner as she watched the last of Jingo's ashes fade in the breeze. They both stood on the bridge, overlooking the park's creek. The sun was beginning to set, glinting off Mac's dark brown hair, bringing out the auburn highlights.

She stood with her back to him, leaning her forearms against the bridges side. He could see one side of her beautiful face, the wind rustling her silky hair. She brushed it back, and closed her eyes breathing in the fresh spring air.

He leaned back, not quite ready to disturb her peace. He loved watching her when she wasn't looking...when she was looking her most beautiful...most natural. It was when she allowed herself to drop all her defenses and just...be... Once again, a single tear slipped down her soft, tan cheek. She wiped it away, sighed, and opened her eyes, once again staring off into the distance.

Having his fill of gazing at her, and yet, not having enough, he finally stepped forward. Coming to stand beside her, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder and gazed off into the distance with her.

After a moment, she spoke. "You know, I wish I'd gotten a picture of him, right here, right now. The setting sun always made his coat shimmer like fire. I would have taken it from here, with him down by the creek..." she trailed off, leaving them both to their individual thoughts.

Pictures, Harm thought. A picture could bring about a lifetime of memories, even a dog's lifetime, however long or short. This gave him an idea, but he kept it to himself. He'd add that to his little list of things to do to "be there" for his friend.

They remained quiet, watching the sun dip lower, until Mac finally straightened. "We better go, Flyboy. We still need to go get my car, and you need to go home and change."

"What? My personality or my clothes?" Came his cheeky response, in an attempt to lighten the mood. It worked...a little too well.

"Both," she teased back, glad for the distraction.

"Ouch," he mocked hurt.

She giggled, gently punching his shoulder. "Let's go, Sailor."

----------------------

2418 ZULU
MAC'S APARTMENT
GEORGETOWN, VA

Harm, as usual, was late. Sturgis and Bud were already comfortably seated on Mac's couch when he arrived. He had had to make a stop after he dropped Mac off to get her car, before he headed home to change into jeans and an old Navy shirt.

Mac just shook her head at him when she opened the door. He grinned sheepishly at her as he entered and handed her the pizza boxes. He looked out of the corner of his eye, appreciating her slender form, clad in jeans and a light knit, purple sweater, as he pulled his leather jacket off. Setting his coat on a chair, he followed her into the kitchen to help her get the drinks she had been about to deliver to her other two guests when he'd shown up.

Opening her fridge, he helped himself to a bottle of juice, and grabbed a bottle of water for her, while she got Sturgis and Bud their drinks.

"So," he said, as the two joined their colleagues in the living room. Both men on the couch thanked Mac as she handed them their drinks. "You haven't been trying to coerce my partner without me present, have you?" he asked, looking pointedly at Sturgis.

Sturgis rolled his eyes. "Thanks for the vote of confidence in my character, Buddy. Besides, you should know your partner is not easily coerced."

"Do I ever," Harm replied with a low chuckle.

"I'll take that as a compliment," she retorted with a grin.

"Suit yourself," he said casually. It really was a compliment though. No one could sway his partner when she believed in something strongly.

She made a face at him, but laughed.

He set the pizzas down on her coffee table, then settled down on one of the plush chairs. He flipped both boxes open, and motioned for Mac to sit by him, so they could both reach their pizza. She settled comfortably on the floor, leaning back against the chair, her arm brushing his leg.

"We discussing the deal now or after?" Sturgis asked, eyeing the partners.

"After Sturgis. We like to enjoy our food," Mac answered teasingly.

"How much of that are you eating?" he asked, noting that both pizzas were large. "You expect the four of us to eat both? That's half a pizza each. Do you normally eat that much?"

Mac looked at him deadpan. "You don't?"

"No, two pieces suffice, thank you."

"Well, what the hell do you and Bobbi do when you order pizza? Save it for lunch the next day?"

"No, we don't have to. We don't get a large pizza for just the two of us."

Mac shrugged, grabbing a meat filled piece. "Well, we do, and we finish it all."

"Now, I know Harm doesn't help you with your half...so where the hell do you put it?"

Taking a large bite and chewing with glee, Mac smiled, cheeks full, and patted her slim stomach. Swallowing, she added, "right here."

Harm chuckled, taking his own piece. He grinned as Sturgis gave him a disbelieving look.

"You weren't kidding when you said she could eat," Sturgis stated, shaking his head.

Harm just shrugged. "What can I say? She's a...well...I wouldn't say healthy eater, seeing as she eats animal carcasses-"

"You know, you make it sound much worse than it is...animal *carcasses*. Pshhh." Mac shook her head, and took another big bite, then waved the half eaten slice in his face. "Mmmmm."

Harm frowned, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "Mac, that is so gross. If you don't get that out of my face, you're gonna be wearing it, as well as my half digested piece."

Mac laughed, settling back against the chair, playfully nudging his leg. She took another bite of pizza, still chuckling.

Sturgis just shook his head. Mac was certainly...unique, but it was in an endearing sort of way. She was also beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, funny. She was one hell of a marine, one hell of a lawyer...one hell of a woman. He could understand how Harm had fallen in love with her. (His friend didn't need to admit it to him, for Sturgis to realize as much.)

Despite that though, Sturgis couldn't see himself with Mac. Maybe it was because he knew her heart belonged with Rabb...or because she was obviously off limits. If he went after her, Harm would have his six, in no uncertain terms. Even though the two were only friends...best friends...that had spent a lot of time together over the past six years (he hadn't missed the fact that Harm was perfectly comfortable around Mac's home...perfectly familiar) the love was there, albeit hidden.

Besides, Mac was great, but maybe just a little too unique for him. The psychic visions only added to her intimidation factor. He had a feeling few men could really deal with the sassy marine, as more than a friend. He also had a feeling Harm enjoyed dealing with her feisty nature. The man always loved a challenge, and Mac was one of no comparison, that was for sure.

No, Bobbi was challenge enough for him, and a challenge she was. Mac was all Harm's...if they ever got past whatever it was the kept them apart...

----------------

Later...

"Well, we'll talk to our client, but we're going to recommend against it, Sturgis. I think Mac and I will be seeing you and Bud in court," Harm stated simply.

"Coffee?" Mac asked, just as simply changing the subject, setting her file on Harm's lap.

Bud nodded, while Sturgis grinned. "Well, I guess that's it then," he said with a chuckle.

Mac smiled, shrugging. "That's it. No deal. I'm sure our client will agree. Now, Bud wants some coffee, how about you?"

"Sure Mac," Sturgis said, with a laugh.

Harm grinned. He was about to get to his feet to help her when he remembered he wanted to do something. "Uh, hey Mac? Your box of pictures still in your bedroom closet?" he asked.

Mac frowned in thought for a moment. "Ummm, no. I think Mic moved them when he was here. Check the hall closet. Why?"

Harm shrugged, getting to his feet. "Oh, I just wanted to show Sturgis some pictures. You know of...of AJ...and uh, Chloe and that...okay?"

Mac shrugged. "Sure, go ahead. Though I don't think they'll interest him."

"Sure, they will. Won't they buddy?" Harm said, glancing meaningfully at Sturgis, who though confused, just nodded.

"Oh yeah, sure. Why not?!"

"Okay well, just do me a favor and leave them out when you're done. I wanna put them back in my bedroom, where they belong," she stated with a small frown. She hadn't been fond of any rearranging her ex-fiancee had done.

Harm nodded, and headed for the closet in the hall. Bud, on the other hand, got up and went to help Mac in the kitchen.

Harm returned before them, and sat next to Sturgis on the couch. The other man gave him a quizzical look, and spoke to his friend in a hushed tone. "Is there a reason you want me looking at baby pictures? I mean I know AJ's your godson and all, but I've see him before. And Chloe? Isn't that uh, that little girl that came to visit Mac at Christmas, her uh..."

"Her sister...sort of...yeah. Look, just play along all right? I wanna sneak some pictures out of here."

Sturgis eyebrows shot up. "Of who or what and why, exactly?"

Harm rolled his eyes, but said nothing as Bud and Mac returned with the coffee.

Setting them down before her guests, Mac turned to change the CD's in her player. They'd been listening to some Jazz during dinner and the deal.

"Any requests?" she asked, removing the CD's and placing them back in their cases.

"Put your newest U2 one in, the one with "Elevation"...and the new Aerosmith hits double set..." Harm said, without looking up. He was busy flipping through pictures, occasionally tossing one at Sturgis, and discreetly tossing others into his lap.

"Okay. Bud? Sturgis?"

"I like what you two like," Bud stated, sipping at his coffee. He grabbed a few pictures to look through himself. He idly noted, from his position on the couch beside Harm, that the commander was beginning a collection of particular pictures in his lap.

"Do you have anything classical?" Sturgis asked, looking up at her from casually sorting through some pictures Harm had thrown at him.

Mac paused to think, and then asked, "...Enya? Is that close enough?"

"Close enough," Sturgis replied, with a grin.

Mac smiled and slipped the suggested CD's into her player, and set them at random. The first strains of "Beautiful Day" played through her speakers. She settled herself in the chair Harm had previously occupied, pulling her legs up under her and leaning back against the arm. From this position, she watched as her friends looked through her pictures. Amused, she smiled softly, sipping at her coffee.

"Hope I didn't leave any dirty photos in there," she said casually, breaking the silence and causing Bud and Sturgis to choke on their coffee. Only Harm wasn't affected, being that he was used to her wry humor. He rolled his eyes, not even looking up from his search.

"Gee, wouldn't that be too bad," he replied, nonchalantly. "Then we might find out exactly where that tattoo is hidden."

Sturgis once again, coughed mid sip. He looked at Mac, surprised. "Tattoo?"

Mac just smiled mischievously, but said nothing.

Bud, having recovered after grinning sheepishly at Mac, nudged Harm with his knee and held up a picture for his friend to see. The young lieutenant had noticed the collection of pictures to be specific and thought his friend might want ones he came across. Harm looked at the picture and grinned, winking at Bud.

He wasn't surprised his colleague went along without question. Bud was like that. He trusted Harm, Mac and the admiral, without hesitation. He probably figured that Harm was up to something, but knew it was something for Mac, something special. Harriet had informed Bud about Jingo that afternoon after she had gotten back from lunch with the colonel. If there was anyone else Mac would talk to openly, outside of Harm, it was Harriet Simms-Roberts.

Mac had noticed the wink and raised an eyebrow. "What? Mic didn't mix in any dirty pictures did he?"

Lucky for Sturgis, he didn't have any coffee to choke on this time. He just gave Mac an exasperated look. She shrugged, smiling sweetly at her friend. Bud wasn't even paying attention this time.

Suddenly, Mac perked up, and grabbed the control. "I love this song," she stated, turning the volume up.

Steven Tyler's raspy voice filled the room, as he sang the lyrics of the hit "Crazy". She started humming along, and then began singing. She was soon joined by Bud, and Harm, who took advantage of her distraction, and shoved the confiscated pictures into his pocket. Still singing along with them, Harm took the pictures of him, Mac and the gang from two Christmas' ago, from Sturgis' hand, putting them back into the box and setting it on the floor. The other man just chuckled at his three friends who were now belting out the chorus.

"...Crazy, crazy, baby, I go crazy,
You turn on, then your gone, yeah you drive me,
Crazy, crazy, crazy, for you baby,
What can I do..... honey! I feel like the color bluuuuuuuueeeeee......"