Dinner was a quiet, pleasant affair, at a local restaurant. After the meal, they returned to the house, with Mattie insisting that they play a game of "Scrabble" before Jen went home like they used to do back in DC.
"I'm sure Harm will be willing to drive you to the tube station," Mattie said. "Right, Harm?"
"Sure," he agreed, for once not bothering to point out that it was a week night. Mattie seemed happier and more relaxed than she had in ages, and he didn't want that to end just yet. He refused to acknowledge the thought that he also wanted to spend a few more minutes in Jen's company away from JAG.
So he got the Scrabble game out and set it up on the dining room table. They were all laughing when Harm's cell phone rang. Expecting it to be something to do with work, he sighed as he opened it and said, "Rabb."
"Hi. Thought it might be a good idea to call."
Hearing Mac's voice on the other end, Harm felt the familiar pull that it caused. "I guess you got a copy, too?"
"Yes. Your friend had a copy of the final papers express messengered to me. I guess it's really over, isn't it?"
"It was your choice," Harm reminded her.
"And you're loving that."
"It's nice, doing something again."
"You're Admiral Armstrong's assistant, from what I hear. A good stepping stone to become JAG one day."
"We'll see." Apparently Mac picked up on how strained the conversation was, because she asked, "How's Mattie?"
"She's right here. Do you want to talk to her?"
Harm held out the phone toward Mattie, all interest in the game vanished as he got up while she said, "Hi, Mac . . . ."
Getting up, Harm went into the kitchen to retrieve a bottle of beer, not realizing that Jen had followed him until he turned to toss the cap into the trash. "You're still in love with her," Jen said, and he heard no accusation in her voice, --- and then wondered why he thought he would.
"I think I'll always be in love with her."
"That's understandable," Jen said. "But maybe, someday, you'll find someone else - you deserve to be happy, sir."
"Sometimes I wonder about that, Jen," he said, shaking his head. "You want a beer?"
"Sure." He got a second bottle out and removed the cap before handing it to her. "Thanks."
"You don't think there might come a day that you'll find someone else?"
"Right now, Jen, I can't see that happening. What I feel for Mac -" he stopped, shaking his head and sighing deeply. "I once told her that I'd never feel that way about anyone else. I don't think it would be fair to someone else to go into a relationship with that lurking in the background."
"Maybe that someone else would be able to understand and wouldn't feel that it was unfair, as long as she was with you."
"I never took you for a romantic, Jen," he said.
"I don't think I am. I'm being realistic. It's not realistic to think that someone as wonderful as you are would end up alone."
"I have Mattie."
"Only until she starts college," Jen pointed out. "Then what? You become a bitter, lonely man like Admiral Chegwidden, totally dedicated to your job with no one to come home to? No one to share your life with?" She shook her head, turning away. "I'm sorry, sir. I forget sometimes that I shouldn't overstep the boundaries." She put the untouched beer onto the counter. "I think I need to go home now."
"Jen -" Harm never knew what he might have said as Mattie called his name. "Harm? Mac wants to say 'bye!"
Harm moved around Jen and took the phone from Mattie, stepping toward the study to take the call. "Yes?"
"I just wanted to let you know that I'm okay. And to make sure that you're okay."
"I'm fine, Mac," he told her. "I have Mattie. And Bud and Harriet are making sure I don't spend too much time alone."
"Mattie said that you, she and Jen were playing Scrabble when I called."
"Yeah. I thought it might take Mattie's mind off things, going out to eat and she invited Jen to join us."
"You're lucky to have Jen there to help out. She and Mattie are close."
"Yeah," Harm said, suddenly realizing that he was repeating himself. "Did Mattie mention that Jen's getting out of the Navy?"
"No. She didn't. When did this happen?"
"It hasn't yet. She's got two more weeks before her enlistment is up."
"I guess you and Mattie will be on your own, then."
"No. Jen's staying in London. She says she has a job lined up. I think she has a boyfriend that she's decided to give up the Navy to be with." He winced the moment he said it, knowing that she would take it as a subtle indictment of her own actions.
"I hope it works out for her," was all Mac said. "I have to go. I'll keep in touch -"
"I hope so. I'd like to think we're still friends."
"We are. Don't work too hard."
"Same to you," Harm said, his chest tight with suppressed emotion. "Take care.
"I will. Bye."
"Bye, Mac." He closed the phone stood there, trying to take deep breaths, hoping it would ease the pain in his chest. Finally, he turned and went back to the living room, looking around when he saw Mattie sitting at the dining room table, slowly putting the game away. "Where's Jen?" he asked.
"She decided to walk to the tube station," she explained, looking up at him. "You okay?"
"I made my peace with you and Mac not being together, Harm. I'm not happy that she chose the Marines over you, but I guess I can understand in a way."
Harm nodded, amazed again at Mattie's common sense approach to life these days. "Look, I'm going to go see if I can't catch up to Jen, drive her the rest of the way to the station. It looked like rain earlier. I wouldn't want her to walk in it."
"Will you be okay here alone?"
"I'm not helpless, Harm. Go."
"You want to come with -"
"Go!" she repeated, smiling and shaking her head.
Harm grabbed the keys to the van on his way out of the bungalow. A fine rain had begun to fall, coating everything with a diamond-like sheen of moisture. In the distance, he could see lightening in the clouds, telling him that the rain wouldn't remain fine for very long.
Turning the van onto the road toward the tube station, Harm was relieved to see Jen walking along the edge of the road and pulled over, rolling down the passenger window as he did so. "Need a ride?" he asked.
"I'm fine," Jen insisted, even though her dark hair was already soaked by the rapidly increasing rain. "I can walk -"
"Get in, Jen," he said, reaching over to open the door for her. "Don't argue. You're soaking wet. Last thing you need is to end up on sick call tomorrow morning."
Jen got into the van and closed the door, rolling the window up against the now harder rain.
"I thought you were going to let me drive you to the station?" he asked.
"You were busy. I thought I could make it before the rain started."
"Well, you were wrong. And you should have waited." He glanced at the sheets of rain falling outside and looked into the mirrors before making a u-turn back in the direction that he'd come from.
"Where are you going?"
"Back to the bungalow. It's closer than the station," he explained as a bolt of lightening hit very close by, rattling the van's windows and causing Jen to gasp. "Besides, you can't ride back to the middle of London on the tube in wet clothes. I'm sure Mattie has something dry that you can change into."
"I don't want to be any trouble -"
"I'll let you know if you are," he said, turning the car into the parking area and turning off the engine as he peered out into the rainy darkness. "We'd better make a run for it."
He waited for her to open the door, and then did the same, following her up the path to the front door and inside.
"That was quick -" Mattie said as she came into view, only to stop upon seeing two dripping wet people standing in the hallway.
"We need some towels - could you take Jen into your room, Mattie? Find her something dry to change into after a hot shower?"
"That's not necessary, sir -" Jen began, her dark hair plastered against her head.
"I say it is. Go on."
"Is that an order, Captain?"
"If it has to be, yes," he answered. As they made their way down the hall toward Mattie's room, Harm called out, "I'll put some water on for tea."
The bathroom main bath was directly across from Mattie's room, so Mattie told Jen to go into the bath and get her shower started, and she'd find some dry clothes for her and leave them for her. "Mattie, -"
"Are you going to argue with *him*?" Mattie questioned, and Jen, who was already fighting chattering teeth, shook her head.
"You can use my shampoo and conditioner," Mattie offered as Jen closed the bathroom door.
Jen quickly stripped out of her wet clothes and turned on the shower, stepping into the warm spray and letting it warm her clammy skin. She tilted her head back into the water, letting it fully wet her hair, automatically picking up the shampoo as she considered Harm's actions in going to get her and bringing her back here.
His confession that he would always love Col. Mackenzie was something that Jen had already known about - but hadn't wanted to admit to herself. She had been fooling herself to ever have thought he could care about *her* in that way. Even going after her was only proof that he saw her as younger sister or another daughter. Someone to worry about - but not a woman that he could love.
The realization made her pause only a moment regarding her plan. She would be out of the Navy in two weeks, and would then apply as Mattie's caregiver. She could transport the young woman back and forth to school and therapy, take care of her in the afternoons - have a nice dinner ready for Harm when he got home from JAG.
She would see how things went and then make a decision once Mattie no longer needed her there and left for school. At least she'd have a little time with him without their military status coming between them.
Harm had changed into a pair of warm-ups and towel dried his hair by the time the tea kettle began to whistle and Jen reappeared, wearing a pair of Mattie's warm ups. Her hair was still wet from the shower, but while she sipped the cup of tea that Harm had waiting, Mattie sat behind her and combed it, remarking how envious she was of Jen's straight hair.
"I don't care how much I try to straighten mine, it never stays straight for very long."
"I always wished I had some natural curl," Jen replied. "It's still raining," she noted as thunder rolled around them.
"It looks like it will last most of the night," Harm said.
"Then Jen has to stay here," Mattie declared.
"No. I don't have a clean uniform for tomorrow," Jen insisted, giving Mattie a warning look.
"I think your CO will understand if you're a little late tomorrow morning," Harm said. "Mattie's school isn't far from your quarters. You can ride in with us."
"I don't want to be -"
"I know," Harm finished. "You don't want to be any trouble. It's no trouble. There's a hide a bed in the study that you can use. Mattie's right. You're not going anywhere in this storm. You'll just end up wet again by the time you get on the tube. So you're staying here. End of argument."
"Yes, sir," Jen said, and enjoyed his smile of approval in return as she continued to sip her tea.
"Now that that's settled, I'll go find you something to sleep in," Mattie told Jen, picking up her crutches and disappearing down the hall.
"Tell you what, why don't you sleep in the master bedroom?" Harm suggested, and Jen wasn't able to hide her surprise at his suggestion.
"I meant - I have some work that I need to do in the study. I can sleep in there - and the bed in the other room is *much* more comfortable."
"I don't want to put you out of your bed, sir," Jen insisted. She'd seen the sofa in the study - and had slept on a hide-a-bed before. That experience, combined with the fact that she also knew that the bed in the master bedroom was a super king-sized, bought especially because of Harm's height forced Jen to insist on not taking his bed.
"I'm used to it," Harm assured her before he quickly picked up his cup and took a drink of tea just as Mattie returned. "I'm sleeping in the study, Mattie, since I have some work to do. Jen's taking the bed in the other room."
"Okay," Mattie agreed. "But I put the nightgown in the study. I'll go -"
"That's okay. I can get it before I go to bed," Jen said. "And I think I'll do that now. It's been a long day. And that shower and the hot tea made me sleepy."
"I think I'll go to bed, too," Mattie decided.
"Why don't I just share Mattie's bed?" Jen suggested. "We used to do it in the apartment in Washington," she said before either of them could say anything. "And that way I won't feel guilty about putting Capt. Rabb out of his bed."
"And then we could talk like we used to," Mattie said excitedly. "Sounds great!"
"As long as you remember that you have school tomorrow," Harm reminded her, coming over to give her a kiss on the cheek. "Night."
"Night," Mattie said.
"Night, sir. Thank you," Jen told Harm.
"Night. Don't let her keep you up all night."
"I won't, sir."
Harm watched them go, then carried the empty tea cups into the kitchen, where he rinsed them and the tea pot out, placing them onto the drain rack. Turning off the lights, he made sure that the front door was locked and bolted, then went to the study to finish the report he'd brought home.
"You're in love with him, aren't you?"
Jen lifted wide eyes to Harriet Roberts. She had insisted on throwing a 'goodbye' party for Jen, even though Jen had told them she wasn't going anywhere. They were in the kitchen, refilling glasses with ice, when Harriet asked the question.
"In love with who, ma'am?" Jen asked in reply, stalling.
"Harm. And you don't have to call me 'ma'am' anymore, Jen. You're not in the Navy."
"Technically, I'm still in for another month," Jen reminded her. With the leave time I accrued -"
"You're not answering the question. But you don't have to. I can see it when you look at him. I just wonder how I missed it before."
"Ma'--" Jen paused. "I -"
"And being prototypical oblivious male, he doesn't know, does he?"
Jen just shook her head no. "I didn't want him to know. And I still don't."
"Is that why you're leaving? Because of the way you feel about him?" Before Jen could answer, Harriet continued. "No, that's not right. Because you're staying in London."
"I will be if he agrees to let me help take care of Mattie," Jen confirmed, keeping her voice down and glancing toward the door to the kitchen in case Harm happened into the room.
"*That's* the job you have lined up?"
"I know Mattie. She knows me. I can handle her better than anyone else."
"And it has the added bonus of your being around him," Harriet finished. "Mattie knows, doesn't she?"
"Yes. I've found a small, one room flat near here. It's within walking distance. I know you probably think I'm silly, but -"
"Silly? To fall in love with Harmon Rabb, Jr.? Not at all. I just hope you realize that there's a pretty big age difference there - and that some people might not understand."
"I know. I worry about how it could affect his career if he *did* feel the same way about me - would people think that something was going on while I was still in the Navy?"
"I'm sure they wouldn't. And even if they did, there are more than enough people who can testify that neither one of you ever broke any regs. Anyone who knows Harm knows that he wouldn't have done anything like that."
"It probably won't matter anyway," Jen sighed. "I'm sure that he'll never be ready to find anyone else. Not the way he feels about her."
"Give it time, Jen," Harriet suggested. "And if you ever need to talk -"
"Don't thank me. I still owe you more than I can ever repay for what you did when Bud was injured."
"I didn't really do anything, ma -"
"Call me Harriet. We're both civilians now. And *I* happen to think you did a *lot* from what Harm and Mac told me. Now," she said, picking up the tray with the glasses. "Let's get back in there before everyone wonders what happened to us. After all, it's *your* party."
The Saturday morning after Jen finished at JAG, Harm was surprised when she appeared at the front door of the bungalow. "Jen. This is a surprise," he told her.
"May I come in, sir?" she asked.
"Sure. I'll go get Mattie -" he began, stepping back and turning at the same time.
"It's not just Mattie I'm here to talk to." She held out a paper. "Here."
"An application to become Mattie's caregiver while you're at work, sir."
"Jen, you don't have to call me 'sir' anymore -" He frowned as he realized what she'd said. "You're applying for the job --- *this* is the job you've been talking about?"
"Yes," she answered, looking very nervous. "I didn't think it would be proper to bring it up before my enlistment was over. I know what you're offering to pay, and I think I can manage with the small flat I found here in town."
"Jen, I -"
"Hi, Jen," Mattie said, coming from her bedroom. "What's up?"
"Jen wants to go to work for us, Mattie," Harm said, and seeing Mattie's non-reaction, began to be suspicious. "You knew about this, didn't you?" he asked his ward.
"I - suspected," Mattie confirmed. "So. Are you going to hire her or not? She's perfect for the job. She and I get along great, but she won't let me slide on my exercises -"
"If I don't agree, then what happens, Jen?" he asked. "Do you have another job -?"
"No. I'll have to go back to the states if you turn me down, sir."
"Okay, I'll agree - on one condition."
"That you call me Harm." Mattie was so excited by the announcement that she would have jumped up and down if she could have. Harm held out his hand. "Deal?" he asked.
"Deal - Harm," Jen said, taking his hand and shaking it.
"When does she start?" Mattie wanted to know.
"Well, since - Harm was planning on spending some time at the office today to catch up on paperwork," Jen said, "I might as well start today, right?" she said to Harm.
"I really do need to spend a couple of hours there, at least," he agreed. "Tell you what, why don't you two meet me in town this afternoon and we'll take in some sights?"
"Sounds good to me," Mattie agreed eagerly.
"Are you sure about this, si- Harm?" Jen questioned. "Your career -"
"I think my career can handle it. I'm just hiring someone who used to be my ward's roommate to help take care of her. The fact that you used to be in the Navy and my yeoman shouldn't come into it."
"I hope you're right."
"Harm's always right, Jen," Mattie said. "This is going to be *great*!"
"Is he home?" Mattie asked Jen for the third time from where she was sitting on the sofa.
"I think I heard the car in the drive," Jen confirmed, smiling.
"Do you think he'll be surprised?" Mattie asked.
"I think he'll be delighted," Jen said.
Harm opened the front door and stopped as he saw Mattie standing in the hallway - without her crutches. "Mattie."
"Stay there," she said, and slowly walked toward him, with Jen standing nearby every step, just in case she faltered. At last she stood before him, her face beaming up at him. "Surprise!"
Harm caught her up in his arms and swung her around with a delighted laugh. "Way to go!"
"See? I told you I'd be walking by Thanksgiving, didn't I?"
"I never doubted you for a minute." He gently put her back onto her feet and escorted her into the living room, noticing that Jen was wiping a tear from her cheek as she followed them. "You okay, Jen?"
"Just happy," she said.
"I still have more therapy, but Ms. Gresham said that it's time for me to start spending some time every day without the crutches."
"As long as you don't overdo," Jen reminded her.
"That's what you're here for," Mattie said, sinking onto the sofa again. "I've still got a long way to go before I'll be ready to pass a physical test for admission to Annapolis - if I ever can."
"You'll get there," Harm declared, "If that's what you want."
"Thanks to both of you," Mattie said, looking up at Harm and Jen.
"I think we need to celebrate," Harm decided.
"Jen's already making something special for dinner," Mattie told him.
Jen's job had slowly morphed into more than just taking care of Mattie after school and ferrying her around London. She was the housekeeper more than anything else, and Harm had become used to her being there most of the day. One more than one occasion he had driven her home - or walked with her if it was after dark and the weather cooperated. They had started running in the early morning before he had to leave get to the tube to get to work, since he often let Jen keep the van for Mattie.
He'd wondered more than once about the man she had been seeing - he knew that she spent most of her time with Mattie- or with both of them, and was confused as to when she found the time to spend with her friend. But he hadn't asked, not wanting to find out that there *was* indeed someone else in her life. He was too content with pretending that he and Mattie were her whole focus.
They both had some wine with dinner that night - celebrating Mattie's near-recovery, and after Mattie went to bed - insisting on doing everything herself, Harm helped Jen with the dishes - enjoying spending a few minutes alone with her in the small kitchen. At one point he held a plate out that she hadn't gotten clean, and she narrowed her eyes in his direction before taking it from him. Harm turned to pick up another plate, and as he turned a dollop of soap suds landed squarely on his cheek.
Harm turned to look at Jen, who was re-washing the plate, her eyes on the water as though nothing had happened. Very deliberately, Harm used the towel to wipe his cheek, and then reached into the rinse water and flicked it into Jen's face. Suddenly, she was laughing, and so was Harm as they engaged in a few minutes of splashing water and soap suds at each other.
It wasn't until he had her 'trapped' in the corner of the cabinets, his hands resting on either side of her that the laughter faded and they stood there, looking at each other, moving closer and closer.
"Night, guys," Mattie said, causing Harm to straighten quickly, and turn away from Jen. "Oops. Sorry."
"Nothing to be sorry about," Harm assured her, crossing the kitchen to give her a hug and kiss goodnight, enjoying the hug he got in return. "Night, princess."
"Night, Dad," she said.
Jen crossed behind him to accept a hug as well. "Night."
"G'night, Jen. See you tomorrow morning."
"As always," Jen assured her.
Once Mattie had gone, Jen returned to the sink and quickly finished the dishes as Harm watched her from across the room. "Jen, I think we should talk."
"Talk?" she asked, not stopping what she was doing.
Harm crossed the room and put his arms around her, taking her hands and lifting them out of the water before turning her to look at him. "Yes, talk." Picking up the towel, he carefully dried her hands and then pulled her into the living room, where they sat down on the sofa. "Before you left the Navy, I had the feeling that there was a man that was the reason for your decision. Was I wrong?"
"No," Jen said. "You weren't wrong."
"Then why haven't we met him? I know this job doesn't leave you much time for a social life - that can be changed if necessary. I'm sure we could manage a few hours during the week - maybe all day Saturday and Sunday -"
"That's not necessary, Harm," Jen said.
"It didn't work out?"
"No. It didn't. Not yet, anyway. But more time isn't the problem."
"Then what is the problem?" When Jen didn't answer, Harm reached over and took her hand in his. "Jen, I'm only asking because I care about you. You're a part of the family -"
"Like a little sister," she said quietly.
"I guess so," he said, frowning as she used the words. That wasn't how he saw her, but had accepted that was how *she* saw herself. "What's the problem, Jen?" he asked.
"He was - married before," Jen said slowly. "And he told me that he still loves his wife."
"They're divorced?" Harm questioned.
"Yes. I've hoped that he might - fall in love with me one day, but - I'm beginning to think that's not going to happen."
"Then he's a fool," Harm told her. "You're a great catch." He thought he saw a small smile on her face. "Are you still seeing him?"
"Maybe if I talked to him - or maybe not. I'm not a poster boy for moving on, am I?"
"No," Jen agreed. "I think I should go home now."
Harm looked out of the window. "It's gotten colder out there. Why don't I drive you?"
"If you want."
Harm went to Mattie's room and told the still awake girl that he was driving Jen home, and that he wouldn't be long, then he and Jen went out to the van. They were silent as he drove the short distance to the tiny flat she'd found.
Before she got out of the vehicle, he said, "I plan to go for a run tomorrow morning - will you be there?"
She smiled. "Probably. We're still going to Thanksgiving dinner at the Roberts, aren't we?"
"We are. Jen, about what happened earlier. In the kitchen -"
"Don't, Harm. Please. Just let it go," she said, fumbling to find the latch to open the door. "I understand. Night."
Sensing that she was upset, Harm leaned over, intent on trying to help - but Jen turned toward him as his arm crossed her legs - and their faces were closer than they'd been earlier. "Jen -" he murmured softly before their lips met in a soft, gentle, tentative kiss. Harm pulled away, expecting to see shock and disappointment in her dark eyes - but instead saw something else. Something that made him move forward again and pull her as close as he could, considering the bucket seats in the van, deepening the kiss this time, exploring Jen's lips and mouth as she did the same to him.
Her eyes were shining up at him when the kiss ended, and Harm lifted a hand to her cheek. "You're not angry that I did that?" he asked.
"I've been wishing you would," she told him.
The things she'd told him about the man in her life finally came together in Harm's mind, and he felt like a fool. "It's me, isn't it? I'm the one who -"
Her lower lip disappeared between her teeth as she nodded. "Yes."
"I feel like an idiot," he sighed, resting his forehead against hers. "All this time - how long?"
"A long time," was all Jen said in answer to his question. "I kept telling myself that you were an officer. Then that you were my CO and happily married to a woman that even *I* thought was your soul mate. You were off-limits."
"And then Mac left and -"
"You were still off limits. But I knew that I could help you - that's why I gave up the Navy. I wanted to be there for you. And for Mattie."
"You don't regret not reenlisting?"
"No. I don't miss it all. I'm happy, taking care of Mattie, keeping your house clean and cooking."
Harm felt a little overwhelmed by all of this, and looked down at their joined hands. "Jen, I don't know what to say. This last month has been - I can't find the words. I -"
Jen lifted her other hand to cover his lips. "Don't. I don't expect you to tell me you love me. I know how much Mac means to you. And I don't expect anything more than your friendship. So I'll meet you tomorrow morning to run - and then we'll go to the Roberts for Thanksgiving dinner and pretend this didn't happen." With that, she found the door latch and opened the door, escaping onto the curb and into the building.
Harm considered following her for a moment, but recalled that her landlady was old-fashioned and didn't allow men upstairs after 2200 hours. He would talk to her tomorrow morning.
Jen entered her flat and went to the dark windows, watching the van drive away down the street. She'd made a mess of things. He probably felt sorry for her now, and that wasn't what Jen had wanted at all. She hadn't intended to kiss him - but he'd been so close that she hadn't been able to resist the temptation to find out what his lips would feel like against hers.
She hadn't been disappointed, either. It had been wonderful. But she wasn't kidding herself as to why he'd responded to her. Mac had been gone for several months, and he was lonely. Kissing any woman would have caused him to respond, she told herself.
By his own admission, he was still in love with Mac and would always be in love with her. He was probably already regretting what had happened, and Jen groaned at the thought of having to listen to his apologies tomorrow morning.
Removing her clothes, she put on her nightgown and crawled into bed, knowing that she wouldn't be able to sleep.
Jen frowned when she was awakened by a shaft of sunlight through the window blinds. Turning over, she glanced at the clock on her nightstand and sat up in shocked surprise upon seeing that it was nearly 0900. She and Harm usually met to run at 07:30. She *never* overslept, and then remembered that she hadn't set the alarm the night before due to her preoccupation with what had happened between herself and Harm.
Reaching out for her cell phone, she winced as she realized that it was turned off. Groaning in frustration, Jen fell back onto the pillows, remembering having turned it off yesterday evening so that she wouldn't be interrupted while making dinner.
Turning it on now, she waited until the thing booted and found that she'd missed two calls, both of them from Harm's cell number. Pressing the button, she replayed the messages. The first had been made at 07:45.
"Jen, it's Harm. It's 07:45. I thought we were running this morning? I hope what happened last night didn't change your mind." He seemed to wait, as if thinking she might pick up. "See you later."
The second call had come in nearly an hour later. "Jen, it's Harm again. I'm getting worried now. If it wasn't for having to face that dragon lady you have for landlady, I'd be over there banging on your door. Call me when you get this message, okay?"
Jen was touched by his concern, but knew too that it didn't mean he cared for her as anything other than a friend. Dialing the number for the Rabb house, Jen waited for it to be answered.
"Mattie, it's Jen. Is Harm around?"
"He just got home a few minutes ago and he wasn't in a good mood. I thought you and he were going running this morning?"
"We were. I overslept," Jen explained. "And my cell phone was turned off -"
"He's in the shower. Let me -"
"No," Jen said quickly. "Look, can you take care of getting ready to go over to the Roberts on your own?"
"Sure. No problem. Why?"
"I still have to shower and wash my hair - and get dressed. I'll meet you and Harm there, okay?"
"Okay - Jen, is everything okay? Did something happen between you and Harm last night?"
"I'll talk to you about it later, Mattie, okay? Just tell Harm I'm sorry about this morning."
Mattie hung up just as Harm came down the hallway. "Who was on the phone?"
"Uh, Jen," she said. "She said she'd meet us at Bud and Harriet's."
"Then she's okay."
"She overslept this morning. And her cell phone was turned off, so she didn't get your messages until she woke up."
Harm nodded. He hadn't enjoyed his run this morning, worrying about Jen's non-appearance. His first thought had been that he'd frightened her off the night before, or that she hadn't been able to face him after her confession that she was in love with him. Then, as the minutes had gone by, he'd pushed himself harder than usual running, and called her again when he'd finished - halfway considering going over to her apartment. But her landlady didn't trust men very much - Jen had explained that Mrs. Donovan's husband had run off and left her years ago - and while she'd been pleasant enough to Harm on the one occasion that they'd met, Harm had been aware that she'd watched him like the proverbial hawk the entire time.
Oversleeping was something he could understand. He hadn't slept much last night - in fact, he hadn't slept at all. Once he'd returned home after dropping Jen off, he had laid in bed for a couple of hours, tossing and turning, trying to come to grips with the sudden right turn that his life had just taken. Finally, aware that sleep wasn't going to come, he had gone to the study and spent the rest of the night working on something important, only stopping to take a shower and change into running clothes before going out to meet Jen.
"Did something happen between you two last night, Harm?" Mattie asked. "You weren't asleep when I got up around two this morning -"
"Just had some trouble sleeping, that's all," he told her. Seeing Mattie's doubtful look, Harm put a hand on her shoulder. "Look, I need to talk to Jen first, okay? Then I'll tell you what's going on. Although I think you already know."
"Why Jen left the Navy. Why she stayed in London and took the job here, helping you."
"Yeah. *That*," he repeated, lifting one eyebrow in her direction.
"She *told* you that she's -?" she stopped, as if realizing that she might still be revealing Jen's secret.
"Once Jen and I have a chance to talk, you and *I* are going to talk," he told her.
"Look, I was just keeping a friend's counsel. She didn't want anyone else to know. I guessed, and she made me promise not to tell you, Harm. You wouldn't have wanted me to break a promise, would you?"
"No. I wouldn't have," he agreed. "What time are we supposed to be at Bud and Harriet's?"
"Harriet said around ten. They're going to be so surprised when they find out I don't need my crutches."
"Yes, they are," Harm agreed, giving her a hug.
She looked up at him. "Are you and Jen going to be okay, Harm?"
"I hope so," he replied. "But I want to talk to her first."
"I understand. I'm going to get dressed."
Harm wandered into the study and his eye caught on the photo of him and Mac at their wedding in Washington just before he left to come to London. The General had expedited Mac's paperwork so that she could stay in Washington with Mattie, sending Sturgis to San Diego in her place. He should have seen it then - the look in her eyes when she'd heard that news should have been a warning that Mac was never going to be happy out of the Corps and being a Navy wife. He often wondered if it would have made a difference if they'd been able to have a baby together. If even that would have been enough to make her happy to be with him and Mattie.
He'd never know, he supposed. At least they'd tried. And maybe Mac was right: maybe one day, they'd be the friends they once were, after she found her footing again, a safe place where she could be happy in her own skin.
But Harm needed more than a friend in his life. He needed someone to share his life. He'd enjoyed that year, having a family - and these last few months, having Jen around, he'd come to think that the three of them as a family, too.
He saw another photograph, taken recently by Mattie of himself and Jen standing at the fountain in Trafalgar Square, smiling. He had to admit, they made a nice couple. How he'd missed the truth all this time was something Harm doubted he'd ever understand. He'd known Mac for nine years before he'd gotten the courage to say what he needed to say.
There was no way he was going to let history repeat itself.
Jen arrived at the Roberts, finding herself greeted by the children, all talking at once. Harriet came from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dish towel, shooing the children away. "Go and find your father," she said, smiling at Jen. "Where are Harm and Mattie?" she asked, looking behind Jen.
"I overslept," Jen explained. "I'm sure they'll be here soon."
Jen was hoping that Harriet wouldn't read her, but knew it was hopeless when the blonde said, "Something's happened."
"You might say that," Jen nodded.
"Come on into the kitchen. You can help me with the potato salad while we talk."
"I'm not sure what there is to say," Jen began, finding herself relieved and even more nervous as the doorbell rang again.
"Just a minute," Harriet said, moving past Jen to open it, revealing Jason Tiner. "Come in, Jason," Harriet said, accepting the bottle of wine he was carrying. "Thank you."
"Hi, Jen," Jason said, removing his coat. "It's been awhile."
"Only a month," she reminded him, relaxing when she realized that Harm wasn't there yet. "I hear you're doing very well."
Jason blushed - something that caused Jen to smile - even officer's training hadn't broken him of that little habit. "Thanks to Cmdr. Roberts and Capt. Rabb," he acknowledged.
"Nonsense," Harriet insisted. "Bud says you're a very good attorney, Jason. Now, you go right in there and talk to Bud while Jen and I finish dinner -" She was interrupted again - this time by Lt. Marion Andrews, one of the other junior officers in the office, followed immediately by Petty Officer Liz Greer. Jen immediately volunteered to show them into the living room where Bud and Jason were with the children, giving her a reprieve from having to face Harriet's third degree.
Jen was pleased to see that Jason didn't seem as nervous around Lt. Andrews as he usually did around women - and Liz confided that there was already an office pool as to when Jason would get the nerve to ask the attractive woman out on a real date. Of course, Jen knew that Harm had invited Marion to come today in the hope that Mattie might see Jason with someone else and get over her crush on him - something that Jen wasn't sure was going to happen.
Jen nearly forgot about the impending arrival of Harm and Mattie until the doorbell rang again, and from her vantage point she saw the two of them arrive - and had a front row seat to witness Harriet's delighted reaction seeing Mattie standing on her own two feet.
Hearing her voice, Bud and the others went toward the hallway, and Jen watched as Bud caught the young woman up in a huge hug as he congratulated her on her recovery. "I knew you could do it," he said. "It's a lot of hard work, but it's worth it."
"You're right," she agreed. Over the top of the group, Harm found Jen and smiled at her, easily seeing how nervous she was.
"You didn't tell me about this, Jen," Harriet said in a gently admonishing tone.
"Mattie wanted to surprise everyone," she explained, crossing the room toward them, stopping before she reached Harm and Mattie.
As the others began to move back toward the living room, with Mattie giving Jason a grateful smile as he offered his arm for support, Harm took Jen's arm as well and told Harriet, "I need to talk to Jen for a minute -"
"There's a bench in the front garden that's good for talking," she explained, taking Jen's jacket from the coat rack and handing it to him.
Under Harriet's approving smile, Harm held Jen's jacket for her, pulling her long hair out of the collar and letting it drop before he opened the door and looked at Jen. "Shall we?"
Jen hesitated for a moment before she passed him and left the house, going toward the bench that Harriet had mentioned.
She sat down and said quickly, "I'm sorry about this morning. I was going to be there, but -"
"I didn't sleep much either," he told her.
"Actually, I didn't sleep at all." Seeing the surprise on her face, he sat down beside her, taking her hand in his. "You know, there's no reason for you to be so nervous."
"I'm just - not sure where I stand now. I don't want your pity - or -"
This time it was Harm who placed a finger to Jen's lips to silence her. "I think it's time that I said something, don't you?" When she would have spoken anyway, he shook his head gently. "Shh." Moving his hand to thread his fingers through her hair, Harm met her dark eyes. "It's not pity, Jen. I was surprised by what you told me last night. And I don't handle surprise well. I know - I'm a lawyer. And in a courtroom, I can charm the birds out of the trees," he told her with a wry grin. "But when it comes to saying something on the spur of the moment, something important - I tend to stumble over my own tongue. I practiced this all night, and I hope it's the right thing to say." He paused, recalling the words he'd written down in the study during the early hours of the morning. "I was surprised, Jen, not because I didn't see you as a woman, but because I never thought you saw me as anything more than a big brother or father figure. I'm far too old for you -" She started to speak again, but stopped and remained silent. "And I'm still coming out of a divorce that I thought would never happen. I work long hours and don't always notice things that I should. But I've noticed that you've been there for me for a long time. When I needed someone to help with Mattie, you were there - both in Washington and here. You've made things so much better by being in my life. I wasn't looking forward to the day when Mattie wouldn't need you anymore and you would leave - because *I* need you. Not just as a housekeeper or a yeoman, but as you. As Jennifer Coates. You're a desirable, beautiful woman, and I don't want to lose you." When Jen remained silent after his speech, Harm began to wonder if he'd said too much - or not enough. "You can talk now," he said.
"What about Mac?" she asked. "Do you still love her?"
"Yes," he answered honestly, and when Jen would have pulled away, he refused to let her go. "I love her as a friend. As someone with whom I once planned to spend the rest of my life - but just because I love her, doesn't mean I can't fall in love with someone else."
Jen's eyes widened, and Harm's eyes dropped to their hands.
"I know people are going to say that we're rushing into things, but I'm tired of putting things off. I kept putting off telling Mac how I felt until it was too late for us to make it work. I don't want to make that mistake again." He turned to face her, framing her face with both hands, his fingers in her hair. "I love you, Jen."
Jen's breath caught in her throat and she leaned toward him, "I love you, too. And I don't think you're too old at all, Harmon Rabb. I like older men. I think they're incredibly sexy."
"Is that so?" he said, his arms moving to encircle her, pulling her close to him.
"Mm hmm," she said against his lips as they finally met.
When Harm lifted his head, his eyes flickered toward the house. "We have an audience," he told her, seeing Mattie and Harriet's delighted faces at the window. "I think we need to go inside and put Mattie and Harriet out of their misery."
"Don't be angry with Mattie that she didn't tell you - I made her promise not to."
"So she told me earlier. I don't like that she kept a secret from me, but I understand the reason." He looked at her. "You know this won't be easy, don't you? People are going to say all kinds of things -"
"It won't affect your staying in the Navy, will it?"
"I don't think it will. But you never know. We'll have to wait and see, won't we?" He gave her another kiss before standing up and holding out his hand to pull her up as well. "This is one Thanksgiving that I'm going to enjoy. Because I have something to truly be thankful for."
They returned to the house arm in arm, only to find Mattie standing in the hallway to meet them, a delighted grin on her face. In the background, Harm heard Bud's voice as he asked Harriet, "What's going on, sweetie?"
"Love, Bud," Harriet answered with a sigh. "Love."
A month later, Harm sat in the study of the house that he, Jen and Mattie had bought not far from the bungalow, his eyes on the telephone in front of him. He had just returned from a small 'boy's night out' with Bud, Jason, and some of his other coworkers and friends. Tomorrow morning - he looked at his watch and realized it was later *this* morning, he and Jen were going to be married. Even Jen's decision to have a full-blown military wedding at the chapel on the base hadn't dimmed his enthusiasm for the idea.
"I only plan to be married once," she had told Harm. "So I want this one to be one I'll always remember." And her reason for choosing Christmas Eve had stunned him further. "I don't think you've had many reasons to look forward to that holiday, - other than gaining custody of Mattie - since your father went down on Christmas Eve. I want this to be something happy to replace that."
Tonight, Jen was spending the night at Bud and Harriet's, since Harriet had insisted that it was bad luck for them to see each other before the wedding. He wasn't in the least sleepy, and he had a call to make.
Looking at his watch, Harm noticed that it was nearly 0200. Doing the time difference in his head, Harm figured that it would be about 1600 in Hawaii. Picking up his cell phone, he dialed the number and waited. A young woman answered the other end. "Lt. Col. Mackenzie, please."
"May I say who's calling?" she asked.
"Just a moment."
It was barely a moment before Mac's voice came over the line. "Hello, Harm. This is a surprise."
He was sure that it was. This was the first time that he'd called her. And he hadn't spoken to her since Thanksgiving when Mattie had called to tell Mac about her recovery. "I needed to talk to you. Wanted to let you know something before you heard it through the rumor mill." He had to say it quickly. He didn't want to hurt her, but he felt she had a right to know that he was getting married again.
"This sounds a little ominous. Mattie didn't mention anything going on the last time she wrote - is everything okay?"
"Yes." He took a deep breath. "I'm getting married, Mac." There was silence on the line, and for a minute, Harm thought he'd lost signal. He was about to pull the phone away from his ear to check when she spoke.
"Married? That was quick."
"We didn't see any reason to wait," he said.
"Someone you met through work?"
"You might say that. Mac, it's Jen."
"Jen?" Mac repeated. "As in Jennifer Coates?"
"Yes. You know she's been helping since you left -"
"Of course I do. And Mattie told me that she'd gone to work for you after she left the Navy. Harm, this is -"
"I know. I was surprised, too."
"Do you love her?"
"Yes, I do. And she knows that I'll always care about you, Mac -"
"That's not fair to her, Harm. She deserves all of your heart, not just part of it."
"And she has it. Mac, I didn't call to hurt you -"
"No. I knew you'd find someone else - you're too good a catch to end up alone."
"How about you? Any prospects on the horizon?"
"No. I've been concentrating on getting my career back on track. When's the big day?"
"Today. Christmas Eve. In fact, the wedding's in eight hours."
"Then you'd better get some sleep. I have a feeling that Jen will keep you on your toes."
"Probably. Mac, I never planned for this to happen. And neither did she. Nothing happened until after she was out of the Navy. Or while you and I were together -"
"I know. Because I know you. That code of yours wouldn't have let anything happen. And I know Jen well enough to know that she wouldn't do anything to hurt either of us. You especially. I guess Mattie's on cloud nine?"
"She's Jen's maid of honor," Harm said. "And Bud's giving her away. I asked Jason to be my best man."
"I'm happy for you, Harm," she said. "Really. You deserve to be happy."
"So do you, Mac."
"I am. In my own way. I've discovered that I really don't mind my own company after all. I don't have to answer to anyone; I can do what I want, when I want -"
"Sounds like you've finally figured it out."
"I think so. Does General Cresswell know that you're marrying Jen?"
"Yes. He was surprised, but took it pretty well. He did mention something about an investigation, simply to make sure things were on the up and up before she left the Navy, but I don't think there will be a problem."
"I hope whoever does the investigation isn't someone with an axe to grind. I'd hate to see this marriage create problems for your future in the Navy."
"We'll see. If it does, then I'll retire." He winced as soon as he said it, realizing that his being totally willing to give up his career to be with Jen had to cause Mac pain. "Mattie would like to see you. Next time you're through the area -"
"I'll stop by," Mac assured him. On the other end, Harm could hear someone speaking. "Harm, I have to go to a meeting. Congratulations. And give Jen my best wishes."
"I will. Bye, Mac."
He hung up and put the phone on the desk. Standing up, he turned off the small light on the desk and went toward the master bedroom to try and get some rest before the big day.
"Aren't you the least bit nervous?" Harriet asked Jen as she and Mattie helped get the bride ready in the chaplain's office.
Jen smiled the same serene smile she'd had since Thanksgiving. "No. I know what I'm doing is the right thing for me."
"I knew I loved Bud and that he loved me," Harriet replied, "but I was a basket case the day of our wedding. Of course, it didn't help that Bud, Harm, and the Admiral had all been thrown in jail after a fight at Bud's bachelor party and Mac had to bail them out -."
"A fight?" Mattie asked, ignoring the mention of Mac.
"Bud's father arranged for a party at a strip club -- someone started a fight and they were arrested. Big Bud grabbed Mike and ran off before the police got there," she grumbled.
"A strip club?" Mattie said, her voice rising. "No wonder you were worried, Jen," she said.
"I wasn't worried," Jen insisted. Bud and Jason had taken Harm to a pub the night before.
"No. Because I threatened them all with death if it happened *this* time," Harriet said, stepping back after placing the veil on Jen's dark hair, which she had elected to wear down and slightly curled on the ends. "You're beautiful, Jen," she sighed. "I hope when Nikki get married she looks a pretty as you do."
"I'm sure she will, Harriet."
"Don't you think she looks wonderful, Mattie?"
"Gorgeous," Mattie agreed, taking the bouquet from its box and handing it to Jen. Mattie was wearing a gown of light blue, a garland of blue and white flowers woven through her blonde curls. "Are you ready?" she asked. "Mom?"
Jen laughed with Mattie and Harriet as she nodded. "I'm ready."
"Then I'll go let them know," Harriet offered, stopping to give her a hug. "I'm so happy for you, Jen."
"Thank you. For everything. Helping me plan this, everything."
"I live to plan, Jen. In fact, that's something I want to discuss with you after you and Harm get back from your honeymoon." With that, Harriet was gone, leaving a surprised Jen and Mattie.
"What was that about?" Jen asked.
"I don't know. But I'm sure you'll find out." She straightened the train on Jen's wedding dress.
"I wish I knew where we were going," Jen sighed. Mattie had packed for her, and the suitcase was standing nearby, along with the 'going away' dress for later in the day.
"Trust me, you're going to love it."
"You've never lied to me yet."
"And I'm not about to start now, Mom," Mattie assured her.
This time, Jen took a playful swipe at the young woman, deliberately missing. Harriet returned with Bud, who took one look at Jen and exhaled loudly. "Wow."
"See, Jen? I told you." The Wedding March began to play, and Harriet grabbed Mattie's arm. "Let's go."
Standing just outside of the doors into the chapel's interior, Bud squeezed Jen's fingers. "Good luck, Jen."
"Thank you." Her heart was beginning to race as they stepped into the doorway and she saw Harm standing before the altar, looking impossibly handsome in his dress blues. Jen didn't care what anyone else said, she preferred the dress blues to the dress whites - and then she didn't think at all as her eyes met Harm's and she saw the love in them.