2000 Hours ZULU
"Pacing won't do any good," Beth O'Neil to Mac as Mac paced outside of the C-130's open tail door, her gaze locked on the path that Victor had taken to reconnoiter the area and gather whatever information he could about where Harm might have been taken if captured.
Mac glanced around, obviously surprised that the former Navy Commander had spoken to her at all. "I know. I just feel so helpless."
"A bit like Harm must have felt when he went looking for you last year," Beth noted.
"Look, - Beth. I know you don't like me very much -"
"I don't know you that well, Colonel," Beth pointed out. "But I know that someone hurt Harm very deeply just before we started working together. And from things he's said and from Keeter, I can add two plus two just as well as the next person. Harm's my friend, and I don't like it when someone hurts him."
"That's understandable. I consider him to be a friend, too, Beth. And I know I hurt him. But I wasn't thinking clearly at the time. I'd just been through a traumatic experience, listening to someone I cared about being tortured - when I was the one responsible for placing in that situation."
"Is that why you're doing this? Because you feel responsible for Harm being in the CIA? If he'd been allowed to stay in the Navy, would your actions toward him been any different than they have been for the last several months?"
"I honestly don't know if they would have been or not. But I *do* know that he wouldn't be down here, going through who knows what."
Keeter came out of the C-130 with Andy. "How long has Victor been gone, Beth?"
But it was Mac who answered automatically. "Two hours and sixteen minutes."
Andy and Beth both started at her, and Andy asked, "How did you do that?"
"It's a gift," she told him, and Keeter managed a soft chuckle.
"I spent nearly a week with her once and I never did find out how she does it."
"A week?" Beth repeated.
"In the Iranian desert with a Bedouin tribe," Keeter continued. "It's a long story."
"For which we don't have time," Andy told them, nodding toward the dense undergrowth that surrounded that abandoned airfield. "Victor's coming back."
He was out of breath, and took the bottle of water that Beth held out with a grateful grin. "Thanks."
"You looked like you could use it. What did you find out?"
"Ortega del Mar has him. At least, from what I could tell. One of his men was at a local watering hole not far from his place. I overheard him talking to someone there about a gringo that tried to steal his boss' airplane."
"Then he's alive," Mac said with a sigh. "Thank God."
"Let me get those sat photos of Ortega del Mar's compound," Andy offered, disappearing into the aircraft and returning with a file folder. "You know where they were keeping him, Victor?"
"They didn't say. But I did hear him mention something about a doctor."
"So he was injured."
"Apparently so, Andy," Victor nodded. "But he's alive. We just have to find out where they might be keeping him," he continued, studying the photos again.
"Did you make contact with Delgado?" Keeter wanted to know, referring to their contact in the nearby village.
"He wasn't there," Victor informed him. "And no one knows where he is."
2100 Hours ZULU
Ortega del Mar Hacienda
Harm watched as the doctor spoke quietly to Ortega del Mar before leaving the small building where he was being held. This one was a little better than the last one - at least it had a bed instead of a dirty blanket on the dirty floor. Not that the bed was that comfortable with its lumpy mattress and squeaky springs. And it was too short - but that was something Harm had learned to deal with over the years.
Once the doctor had gone, Ortega del Mar spoke quietly to one of his guards who then left as his employer turned to address Harm. "Are you feeling better, Senor?" he asked.
"Yes," Harm admitted. The doctor had declared the break in his leg to be a clean one, and set it easily before placing it into a splint again. The ribs were securely wrapped by a bandage. He was still a bit shaky from the stun gun, but the doctor had assured him that it would pass and that he doubted there had been any permanent damage. "Thank you."
"I need you well to fulfill your obligation to me, Senor," Ortega del Mar stated. The guard who had left a few minutes earlier returned with another - and between them they were holding a decidedly terrified man that Harm recognized as his contact in the village. Harm saw the man's instant recognition that was quickly hidden. "This is Manuel Delgado, Senor Smith. He has betrayed me. So you are going to kill him."
"This is the way you want me to repay you?"
"No. This is a test. I have a much bigger target in mind for you to set your sights on to repay me for the cocaine that you destroyed by stealing that airplane."
"Sorry. I don't audition," Harm replied, lying back against the headboard. "If you want him dead, do it yourself. At the moment, I'm tired and need to rest." He closed his eyes only to open them again upon hearing the sound of rifles being readied. Looking around, he saw that all of the weapons were pointed toward him, and that Ortega del Mar was holding a pistol out to him.
"You will either kill this man, or you will be needing the doctor again very soon."
Harm took the pistol from Ortega del Mar as the guards forced Delgado to his knees beside the bed. He kept his expression carefully neutral as he slowly checked the weapon - discovering that there was only one shell.
"One should be all you will need to accomplish your task," del Mar said.
"I don't work around witnesses," Harm said, handing the weapon back to him. "If you leave us alone -"
"Oh come now, you're among friends here - Senor Rabb."
Harm's eyes flew from Delgado's face back to Ortega del Mar's as he realized that Delgado had given him away. Delgado started to rise, sputtering. "You have what you wanted, Senor," he said to Ortega del Mar. "May I go now?"
But Ortega del Mar stopped him from rising with a hand on his shoulder and placed the pistol barrel against Delgado's head. As Delgado began to beg for his life, the man pulled the trigger - killing Delgado instantly.
The guards came forward to remove the body, and Harm forced himself not to react to the remains they left behind that were spattered across the floor near the bed. "Now, Senor Rabb, I want the truth about why you are here. And I will not remain patient for much longer."
He motioned to the other guards, who surrounded Harm and dragged him from the bed, pulling him out of the building.
"Someone's coming out of that building," Keeter told Mac, Victor and Beth. Andy had volunteered to stay with the airplane and be ready to get it started if they needed it quickly while the rest of the group went to Ortega del Mar's hacienda to look for Harm.
"Whoever it is, he's dead," Beth added when she saw the two men dragging the lifeless body between them.
Mac grabbed a pair of binoculars to look, sighing with relief. "He's too small to be Harm."
"Someone else is coming out of the building," Beth told them. "It's Harm!"
They waited, watching as the guards and Harm followed Ortega del Mar toward another building. A few minutes later, Ortega del Mar came back out of the building, heading toward the main house, accompanied by his usual compliment of guards.
"Okay. Everyone ready?" Keeter asked, looking at his companions. They all inspected their weapons, holding them ready as they confirmed that they were indeed ready. "Victor, you and Beth go that way, create a diversion using those grenades that we brought. Mac and I will head for the building where they took Harm and hide close by until it starts."
"Meet back at the plane?"
Victor and Beth wove through the jungle that edged the hacienda under Mac and Keeter's watchful gaze. The moment they were out of sight, Keeter motioned for Mac to follow him toward a small clump of bushes just inside the compound that was closer to the building where they'd last seen Harm.
"Can't we get closer?" Mac whispered.
"No cover," he explained. "Just be ready to move when they start throwing those things."
He saw Mac close her eyes. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Just - remembering the last time I did this. I convinced Webb that we had to rescue the Gunny and we ended up captured."
Keeter nodded, motioning for her to remain quiet as a guard came close to their position. At almost that exact moment, there was an explosion across the compound as one of the grenades found a target and exploded. The surprised guard turned in that direction, giving Keeter a chance to grab him and twist his head. He released the man, letting him slide to the ground, only to discover that Mac was already halfway across the open space in the direction of their destination. Keeter covered her as he followed, shooting three guards, while Mac shot two as well.
At the door of the building, Mac stood beside the closed door as two bursts of automatic weapon fire tore through it. Keeter joined her and kicked the door in and firing off a shot almost immediately after to take out one of the men inside holding what looked to be a stun gun against Harm's neck. Mac took out the second man and rushed to Harm's side.
"Hey there, Flyboy," she said, noticing the bruises on his face. His eyes were open, but he seemed unable to respond.
"He'll need a few minutes to recover from the shock of this," Keeter said, picking the stun gun up from the floor and throwing it across the room. "Damn animals. We can't wait." Grabbing one of Harm's arms, he lifted it over his shoulder, feeling the bandages around his friend's chest. "Sorry, buddy. I know it hurts. We'll get you out of here as soon as we can."
Mac gave Keeter cover as they left the building and headed toward the perimeter. "We need some transportation," she told Keeter, diverting her steps toward a van that was parked nearby. "Come on."
Several other explosions were going off on the other side of the compound, but Ortega del Mar's men were alert enough to know that they needed to watch their prisoner as well. Mac lost count of how many she shot as they reached the van and she pulled the back door open and got inside to help Keeter get Harm into the vehicle. Keeter jumped behind the wheel. "Stay down!" he ordered Mac as he bent to try and hot wire the vehicle.
"We're sitting ducks here, Jack!" she told him, keeping herself between Harm and any bullets that might come their way.
"I know!" he replied before the engine turned over and roared to life. Putting the truck into gear, he gave it enough gas to shoot them forward, causing several of the guards to jump out of the way or be run down.
"Hang on!" Keeter called back to his passengers as he turned the van in a tight arc and headed toward the closed gate.
The gate gave easily, but Keeter knew that the van had been damaged - the windshield was cracked - but he hoped that the stolen transport would get them closer to the airfield. Grabbing the small transceiver he had clipped to his belt, he keyed it open. "Foghorn to Chicken Little. Come in."
"Chicken Little receiving," Andy replied.
"We've found the missing chick. On our way back to the coop. Any sign of the weasels?"
"Negative, Foghorn. All quiet. Will be waiting. Chicken Little out."
"Foghorn out," Keeter replied, glancing behind him to the back seat. "How's he doing?"
"He's still out of it. His leg's broken," she confirmed. "But it looks like someone set it."
"Probably when they wrapped his ribs," Keeter nodded. "We'll get him back to the plane and home ASAP." Looking the mirror, he watched Mac's face. "You really do care about him, don't you?"
"More than I want to admit," she said, looking at him.
"Why not just admit it?"
"I don't know. Afraid of being hurt - that he doesn't feel the same way - I don't know," she said again, glancing at Harm as if to make sure he wasn't listening. She ran a hand over his head.
"You know what you two need?" Keeter questioned.
"To be locked in a room somewhere and not let out until you've talked to each other. And I mean *talk*." The dash lit up like a Christmas tree, signaling that the damage inflicted on the engine had finally taken its toll. Pulling the van off the road into a clump of bushes, Keeter killed the engine and looked at Mac. "We have to walk from here."
"How much farther is it?"
"Not far. Just beyond that stand of trees over there is the airfield. We should be hearing the engines on the C-130 soon." Grabbing his weapon and the transceiver, he got out and opened the back door. "Come on, Harm, old pal. Let's go."
At that moment, Keeter's radio crackled to life. "Chicken Hawk to Foghorn Leghorn."
Keeter saw Mac's relief at hearing Gunny's voice. "Foghorn here. What's your status?"
"We're en route to the coop. Your sitrep?"
"Have the missing chick and will meet you there. Foghorn out."
"Where do you people come up with the code names?" Mac asked.
"Don't laugh. It's was Harm's idea. And it works." He placed Harm's arm around his neck, waiting for Mac to follow suit with the other arm. "Let's go."
They were over the Gulf by the time Harm was finally aware of his surroundings enough to look around. "Where am I?" he asked.
Hearing his voice, Mac, who had been talking quietly with Andy and Keeter nearby, turned to where he was laying. "Shh," she said. "You're on the way home."
His blue-green eyes were filled with confusion. "Mac?"
She moved to kneel beside him, lifting his head into her lap. "Yes, Harm. I'm here. Rest. We'll be home soon."
He lifted a hand to touch her face. "You're really here?"
"Where else would I be, Flyboy?" she asked him, taking his hand in hers, feeling the slight nervous tremors that were a remnant of the stun gun's effects. "I had to find some way to repay you for coming after me last spring, didn't I?"
"No need," he said, his eyes closing again. "Tired."
"It's a reaction to what you've gone through," she said. "Just rest. You're in safe hands."
"Safe," he repeated as he relaxed again into a fitful sleep.
Kresge Medical Center
Pimmit Hills, VA
"I don't like the idea of her being alone with him," Beth told the others as they headed toward the emergency entrance of the hospital.
"Mac's not going to hurt him, Beth," Keeter said quietly.
"She risked her life to go get him," Victor added. "Along with all of us."
"I know. But you didn't see how much she hurt him last time," Beth confided.
"I did," Victor said. "Partly, at least."
"I think we're overlooking one small fact here, guys," Andy said. "He still loves her. And he *wanted* her with him in the ambulance. I don't think anything short of a full strength tranquilizer would have made him let go of her hand."
"I just hope she's finally figured that out," Beth sighed, frowning as Keeter waved her to silence when they rounded a corner near the waiting area.
Inside the room, they heard Clayton Webb's familiar voice. "Sarah, I'm sure he'll be okay. It's something that he survived at all. He'll be back to flying planes for the Company before he knows it. You know Harm. Hell, he was back at JAG within a week of ejecting into the Atlantic. He's indestructible."
"No, he's not, Clay," Mac answered. "When we got there, they had him strapped to a table and had a stun gun against his neck. Another few minutes, he would have been dead. And he won't be going back to the Company if I have any say in the matter."
"What are you talking about?"
"I told you - I'm going to convince Harm to give up the CIA and go back to JAG where he belongs, Clay."
"It might not be that easy, Sarah," Clay answered.
"What do you mean?"
"Just that Harm's damn good at what he does. The Company isn't likely to give him up without a fight."
Mac's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Then they'll have to fight the Marines, Clay."
"And the Navy," AJ Chegwidden added as he entered the room from the other direction. "And for future point of reference, Webb, don't bother asking for my people's help in one of your missions. It won't be forthcoming." He backed Clayton Webb up against the wall. "Now get the hell out of here before I break your nose again."
"Yes!" Victor muttered under his breath, trying not to smirk as Webb grabbed his overcoat from a nearby chair.
"You're both ignoring one important point in this," he said to Mac and AJ. "Harm. What if *he* doesn't want to leave the Company? Tell him I'll be by later to talk to him. I still have to debrief him on what happened."
"I think you'd better send someone else to do that, Webb," Keeter said, stepping out to stop just in front of Webb. Confronted by the entire AirWing team, Webb paled slightly. "In fact, I'm going to call Blaisdell and have him talk to Kershaw about it."
"If you'll excuse me, I have someplace that I need to be about now."
"Good choice, Webb," Beth said, stepping aside so that he could pass.
"How is he?" all of them seemed to ask Mac at the same time.
"He was conscious when they took him into the treatment room," she told them. "Admiral, how did you know we were here?"
"Bud and Harriet," he answered, and Mac nodded, turning to explain to the others.
"I called them the minute we were out of the ambulance. Mattie and Bud should be here soon."
"That's good," Beth told them. "Seeing her will help Harm."
"He thinks the world of that girl," Andy agreed.
"You know, Webb's right, Mac," Keeter said. "It has to be Harm's decision to leave the Company. No matter how much you or anyone else might want him to, you can't force him to go."
"He was forced to leave the Navy," Mac reminded them, and AJ shook his head.
"He resigned of his own volition, Mac. Yes, I might have forced his hand, but -"
"Because of politics, sir," Mac said. "If Harm decides not to return to the Navy, then I'll live with it. But I'm hoping he will. If not for my sake, then for Mattie's."
Bud and Mattie appeared in the doorway, and Mattie moved immediately toward them, seeking solace and information. "Is he okay?" she asked Keeter.
"We're still waiting for word," he told her. "But Mac here says that he was conscious when they took him in."
Mattie turned to look at Mac, whom she still had yet to meet. "You're Mac?"
"Yes. Hello, Mattie," she said, extending her hand in a friendly manner. "I've been looking forward to meeting you. I wish it were under better circumstances."
"Yeah," Mattie agreed, hesitating before shaking Mac's hand just as the doctor came into the room and looked around before finding Mac.
"How is he?" she asked nervously.
"Sleeping at the moment. He was lucky. He has a broken left leg, two broken ribs. The leg was set and seems to be okay. We've put a cast on it. He'll have to wear it for at least six weeks."
"What about nerve damage?" Mac wanted to know, remembering Webb's injuries after being tortured.
"Luckily, stun guns usually don't cause the kind of nerve damage that lasts very long. We still need to run a few tests, but right now, I'd say his prognosis is excellent."
"How long will he have to stay here?" Mattie asked, drawing the doctor's attention.
"This is his ward," Mac told the doctor.
"I see. Mattie, right? He mentioned you while we were examining him. He was worried about you." He gave her a smile. "I expect that we'll be releasing him in a few days. But he'll need someone to keep an eye on him. Getting around with a cast isn't easy. Add that to the ribs, and well, I think it would be a good idea for him to spend some time on his back."
"How long will it be before he can go back to work, Doctor?" Beth asked.
"At least six week. More likely eight. He might need some therapy for the leg once we remove the cast."
"I know you said that he's asleep, but - can I see him?" Mattie wanted to know.
"I think that can be arranged," the man said with a smile at the young woman.
One Week Later
Falls Church, VA
"What's this?" Harm asked, frowning as Keeter steered the Lexus into the driveway of the house that he had just gotten word was his when he'd left on this last mission. "This place isn't ready to be lived in yet -"
"You sure about that, ol buddy?" Keeter questioned with a grin, nodding as the front door opened and Mattie appeared on the porch, waving as she came down the steps to greet them.
"What's going on?" Harm asked Mattie after returning her embrace, looking from her smiling face to the house.
"It's a surprise," she told him, urging him toward the steps as Keeter followed with Harm's suitcase. "Can you manage the steps?" she asked, glancing at the cane he was using.
"No problem," he assured her, using her to help him lever up onto the porch. "See?" he tried to peer through the screen door before it was opened and he entered a previously empty house which had needed some minor repairs.
Now, it was filled - well, not filled, but contained the furniture from his old apartment. The floor was polished to a high sheen and the walls painted just the shade of off white that he and Mattie had discussed upon their first visit to the house. Mac, Beth, Gunny, Andy, Bud, Harriet, Jennifer and Sturgis all stood in the room, watching his reaction.
"Welcome Home, Harm," a paper sign that was hung across the doorway into the living room proclaimed.
"You guys have been busy," Harm said. "You didn't have to do all this -"
"Mattie wanted to be able to take care of you," Harriet explained. "And she couldn't do that at your old place."
"So we got together and fixed this place up," Victor added.
"We didn't do everything," Keeter warned. "The outside still needs painted," he said. "Figured we'd leave a few things for you to do once you get back on your feet."
"And they only fixed up two bedrooms," Mattie told him. "One for you and one for me. The third one's still a mess."
Harm dropped onto the sofa, putting his leg up onto the coffee table, smiling as Mattie quickly found a pillow to put under his foot. "Thanks," he told her. Looking at the others, he said, "And thank you. All of you." His eyes found Mac's, and he wondered - not for the first time - where Clay was. He hadn't seen the spook since his first day back. Kershaw himself had come to the hospital to debrief him about the mission.
And Mac had been curiously absent during his recovery after having helped to rescue him, letting Mattie and his mother spend most of the time with him. Trish had come in for a few days, but after meeting Mattie and seeing that Harm was okay, had decided that she could leave him in good hands. Harm had been relieved. His mother tended to be a little over powering when he was hurting. For once, he found himself grateful that she had a life in California and a business that required her attention.
Now, he saw the look in her eyes and recalled Beth having told him about Mac threatening to resign her commission to go after him. He was still a little hazy regarding the details of his rescue - but he did remember Mac being there, hearing her voice along with Keeter's and not being able to respond to them. The nurses had told him that Mac had called or come by every day to check on his progress, but had never asked or stayed to talk to him.
Before long, everyone left - except for Mac. And she would have gone as well, but Harm asked her to stay behind. "I think we need to talk," he said after asking Mattie to leave them alone for a few minutes.
"Nothing to talk about, really," Mac said. "I'm just glad you're home and okay."
"Beth told me what you did," he said. "Did you really threaten to resign?"
She nodded. "Yeah. It surprised me as much as it did the Admiral, I think," she said with a little smile. "I couldn't leave you down there anymore than you could leave me, Harm. Not after all these years, everything we've -"
"What about Clay?" he asked.
"I don't want to talk about him," Mac said. "It's finished. And if I never have to see him again, it'll be too soon." Harm frowned, confused by her anger. "He used me, Harm. Used *us*. The only reason he asked me to go down there with him was because he knew that you'd come after us if something went wrong. You were his back up plan."
"That b-" Harm began, biting off the word before finishing it. "He admitted that?"
Mac nodded. "Yes."
"And after? What about that? This last six months?"
"He says he cares, but - I don't. I can't trust him. I realize that now. He was willing to leave you down there to die if I hadn't insisted on his making a call to Harrison Kershaw."
"I guess we're even on the saving each other's life part, aren't we?" he said.
"Yeah. I never thanked you."
"I didn't do it for thanks, Mac," he pointed out. "I did it because I didn't want to lose you. I never have." He hesitated. "I guess if you're not seeing Clay anymore, then that means you're free to see other people?" he asked.
Before Mac could answer, there was a knock on the front door, and a moment later Admiral Chegwidden appeared, looking a little uncertain about his welcome. Harm made to get up, but AJ held out his hand to forestall the movement. "No, don't. I just stopped by to make sure you'd made it home in one piece. And to tell you that my offer still stands."
"Thank you," Harm said. "But I'm happy where I am. I'll put in the rest of my twenty doing work for the Company to get a government pension and then maybe retire - help Mattie run Grace Aviation or something along those lines."
"But Harm -" Mac began. "You can't be serious. What kind of life is that for Mattie, never knowing where you are? When you'll be home? *If* you'll be home?"
"Mattie and I have discussed this, Mac," Harm said. "She understands and agrees with me that what I'm doing is important work. Besides, if I were back in the Navy, I wouldn't be able to stay at JAG anyway," he told her. "Not if things work out the way I think they will."
Mac's eyes widened as she looked at him and read his expression. "Oh."
"Maybe we could work something out," AJ suggested. "I hate to lose the services of a good lawyer. What's the name of your boss over there again? Blaisdell?"
"Yeah. I think you two might have a few things in common. He was with Air America in Nam."
"Thought the name was familiar," AJ grumbled. "If he and I can come to some kind of agreement, would you be willing to consider it?"
"It would depend on the agreement, Admiral," Harm said.
"Okay, then. I'll see what I can do. You get some rest. And I'll see you first thing tomorrow morning, Colonel."
After he left, Mac told Harm, "I'd still feel better if you weren't working for the CIA, Harm. There are too many uncertainties -"
"Life's uncertain, Mac," he pointed out. Seeing that she wasn't convinced, he grinned and held out a hand. "Come here." She slowly placed her hand in his and let him pull her to sit beside him on the sofa, taking care not to jostle his leg. "You know what I've figured out? We can't wait around anymore, expecting life to be perfect. We have to take what we can and enjoy it while it's there. Because if we wait too long, it will be too late."
"And it's not too late?"
"I don't think so. But it's also not just me anymore that I have to think about. If the court agrees, I hope to have Mattie around permanently. Think you can handle that?"
"I think so." She smiled. "I'm not going to get moonlight and romance, am I?" she said.
"After all these years, don't you think we're a little past moonlight and romance, Mac?" he questioned as his thumb moved against her hand.
"Maybe, but it would still be nice to have it."
He smiled. "I'll see what I can do," he promised, bringing her hand to his lips.
"And don't expect me to stop trying to convince you to go back to JAG. You belong there, not flying planes into hot zones."
"Mac, even in the Navy, there's the possibility that I could be reassigned to a fighter squadron once I transitioned to Hornets. It's what I do. I thought you had accepted that."
"I have. But that doesn't mean I'll stop trying." She lifted a hand to his face. "Harm, I can accept that flying is a part of your life. But taking the kind of chances you take while flying for the CIA - at least in the Navy you know they would come after you if possible."
"I know that you'll come after me in the CIA," he pointed out. "You, and Beth and Keeter and Gunny and Andy - You know, I really thought I was going to have to get out of there on my own," he admitted. "I kept remembering that month in the brig after I was arrested for Singer's murder. I was on my own then, too."
"We were all under orders to stay away, Harm," Mac reminded him. "And I know, that if the tables had been turned, you would have ignored those orders."
"Damn straight I would have," he nodded. "But I'm glad I was wrong this time. When the door opened and I saw you and Keeter standing there -" he squeezed her fingers with his as the emotion built. "I thought I was dreaming. That you weren't really there at all."
"I had a nightmare the night before," Mac told him. "I thought it was a flashback to Clay's torture - but it was you. And I didn't realize it until I found out that you were missing. I couldn't stay behind after that. I had to get down there and find you."
"I'm glad you did," he said, leaning forward to capture her lips with his for a gentle kiss.
When he would have pulled back, Mac refused to allow him to end it, and was surprised when she continued the kiss. "Mac," he finally said, glancing around as if worried that Mattie would have seen them. "Mattie."
"She'd better get used to it," Mac told him.
"Don't worry about me," Mattie said with an impish grin as she appeared in the doorway.
"Mattie," Harm began, turning awkwardly in the seat to look at her.
"It's okay, Harm. I was just going to ask Mac if she was going to stay for dinner."
"If it's no bother," Mac said, nodding.
"Not at all. Harriet left a couple of casseroles and I was going to put one into the oven and make a salad to go with."
"I'll come help with the salad," Mac offered, starting to leave Harm's side, but Mattie shook her head.
"No, that's okay. I think I can handle cutting tomatoes and lettuce. I'll call when it's ready."
"She's a good kid," Mac told Harm when Mattie had gone.
"Yeah. I think with a little time she'll open up a little more." He pulled her back onto the sofa beside him. "Where were we?" he asked.
Mac touched a finger to his lips, then to hers. "Here, I think."
"Hmm. Remind me. I forget."
1530 Local Hours
CIA: AirWing HQ
Allan Blaisdell recognized the man who stepped into his office from newspaper and television reports. "Admiral Chegwidden," he said, standing up to offer his hand. "Allan Blaisdell. To what do I owe the honor of a visit?"
AJ shook his hand before looking around the room, spying the various photographs of Blaisdell from his Air America days. "Make it AJ. I could say that I was here to talk about the old days," AJ suggested. "It's amazing that you and I never crossed paths back in the day."
"I didn't spend a lot of time on the ground back then if I could help it," Blaisdell told him. "We did insert a couple of the teams for covert ops, but never part of Seal Team Two. Now that the niceties are out of the way, what can I do for you?"
"Am I that transparent?" AJ asked with a wry grin on his face.
"Well, considering that my best pilot is currently on recuperative leave and that he also happens to be *your* top legal eagle, I have to admit that I've been expecting you to visit."
"Got any coffee around here?" AJ asked.
"Yeah. Come on." They passed some aircraft techs moving toward the hangar as they went into the break room. He found two cups and poured coffee into them, handing one to AJ. "Why don't we talk outside?" he suggested. "I need a cigarette break anyway."
AJ nodded and followed him out into the cool fall day. "I want Rabb back in the Navy," he said, not beating around the bush.
"You made him an offer?" Blaisdell questioned.
"Yes. But he wants to keep working for you. Apparently there are some - personal reasons involved that have to do with his remaining at JAG HQ if he returns."
"Does this involve Lt. Col. Mackenzie?" Blaisdell asked.
"How could I help but notice? She was like a bulldog with a bone, refusing to back down, insisting that she was going with them to rescue him. I could use a few more like her on this team -"
"You're *not* going to recruit another member of my staff, Allan," AJ growled, his eyes narrowing dangerously, and Blaisdell shook his head.
"Believe me, I'm not. You have any ideas on how to handle this? Because I don't want to lose Rabb. Like I said, he's good. Damn good instincts, even if he does tend to play cowboy a little too often for comfort."
"That's what makes him so damn good," AJ pointed out. "I do have a suggestion. A way that you could use him on missions that call for his special talents and I could have him for keeping things running smoothly in my world as well. Let him return to the Navy - and I'll assign him TAD here as a special Navy legal liaison to your unit. He'll serve at JAG HQ unless you need him here."
"Would that satisfy the personal problem that you mentioned?"
"I think so. I'll still have a few headaches keeping them scheduled off of opposing cases, but I think we can work around that." AJ looked at him. "Do we have a deal?"
Blaisdell offered his hand. "We do," he agreed, shaking AJ's hand to seal it. "How are you going to square this with your boss?" he wondered.
"Don't worry about that. The SecNav's been giving me heat for letting Rabb go to begin with. I'd never tell Rabb, but he could almost write his own ticket with Sheffield."
"Do you think that Rabb will agree to this?"
"There's only one way to find out," AJ said. "Can you get away for a couple of hours?"
Falls Church, VA
"I'd technically still be working for the CIA but spending my downtime at JAG?" Harm questioned after hearing the two men out. "Is that possible?"
"It can be worked out," AJ assured him. "If you're willing to do it, that is."
Harm looked at AJ. "Admiral, I know how you feel about your people being used for CIA missions-"
"And you're right," AJ nodded. "But I think this might be worth it. You'll be able to finish out your twenty if that's what you want to do - or more."
"I'll need to discuss it with Mattie and Mac," Harm said. "I don't want to make this decision without their input."
"Where are they?" AJ asked.
"Shopping. I made the mistake of giving Mattie my credit card."
"Never a good idea with a teenager, Rabb," Blaisdell said with a laugh. "I learned that the hard way."
"You have kids, Blaisdell?" Harm asked.
"Two. Both of them are grown, but they went through my credit cards like water before I figured out how to stop them."
"I think I'll be okay as long as Mac's with her to keep her in line," Harm told them.
"Once you've discussed this with them, let us know what you want to do and we'll get it set up by the time you're off sick leave," AJ told Harm. "I have to get back to the office."
"Same here. I can't trust those other guys to keep out of trouble."
Harm chuckled. "Tell Keeter to behave or I'll kick his six when I get back on my feet," he said.
"I'll do that," Blaisdell said.
Harm saw the two men out and returned to the living room, sitting down on the sofa again to think about what they had come up with. It would be the best of both worlds, in a way. A chance to keep flying and doing what he did best - as well as continue to be a part of the Navy, something that he'd spent most of his life preparing to do. And there was the added incentive of being able to pursue the relationship with Mac since they wouldn't technically be in the same command structure.
He knew that Mac wasn't going to like the idea of his being involved with the CIA at all, but he hoped that she'd be able to adjust to this. And while working for the CIA and having Bud and Harriet as back up would have been okay with the court, Harm knew that being back in the Navy would make gaining custody of Mattie that much easier for him.
His life *seemed* to be coming together, Harm decided. A job he liked - *two* jobs he liked - the promise of a family with Mattie and Mac.
Things were definitely looking up.