They honeymooned in the Bahamas, staying at Harm's stepfather's house there. Trish and Frank Burnett had been in London for the wedding - with Trish assuring Jen that she was glad that her son had finally found someone who could make him happy and made him smile again.
Upon their return a week later, Harm returned to the office, smiling. Bud was filling him in on what he'd missed during his week off when Greer called over the intercom.
"There's a Lt. Vukovic out here to see you, sir," she told him. "He says that Gen. Cresswell sent him?"
"Just a moment, Petty Officer," Harm said, meeting Bud's eyes as he closed the connection. "He sent *Vukovic*? I thought the General transferred him to Iceland or something?"
"Apparently not. You think he could be a problem?"
"No," Harm said. "There's nothing to find. Jen and I weren't involved while she was in the Navy. The General said that it was just a pro forma investigation." He pushed the button on the intercom. "Send the Lieutenant in, Petty Officer."
There was a brief, barely audible tap on the door before it was opened by Lt. Greg Vukovic. He came to what Harm surmised passed for attention. "Lt. Vukovic reporting, sir."
Harm studied the young officer, seeing the shadow of a beard - a five o'clock shadow at 0900. Knowing that he probably came here directly from the airport, Harm decided to cut him a little slack - this time. "At ease, Lieutenant. You remember Lt. Cmdr. Roberts."
"Yes, sir," Vukovic said, nodding in Bud's direction. "It's nice to see you again, sir."
"Do you have your orders, Lieutenant?" Harm questioned.
Vukovic belatedly pulled the orders from his pocket and held them out in Harm's direction. "My orders, Captain."
Harm took the orders and read them over. As he'd already known, the Lieutenant had been sent to do an informal investigation into the possibly of any improprieties between Capt. Rabb and former Petty Officer Coates prior to the Petty Officer's enlistment contract ending. "Shouldn't take too long to wrap this up, Captain," Vukovic said. "I've already spoken to Col. Mackenzie in Hawaii -"
Harm frowned. "Why?"
"She *was* your wife, sir," Vukovic explained. "And the marriage ended only a month or so before Coates left the Navy. I needed to see if she felt there was anything going on between yourself and the Petty Officer that contributed to the end of the marriage."
"The reason my marriage to Col. Mackenzie ended had nothing to do with Jennifer Coates, Lieutenant," Harm informed him.
"That's precisely what the Colonel said. Sir." That last was tacked on, as if an afterthought, Harm decided, his eyes narrowing at the smirk on the younger man's shadowed face. "She informed me that she never saw anything untoward between you and then Petty Officer Coates, Captain. Even when the Petty Officer was living next door to you, sharing an apartment with your ward."
Harm glanced at Bud. "If you need anything, Lieutenant, I'm sure that Cmdr. Roberts or my yeoman will be glad to offer assistance."
"I'll remember that, sir."
"Dismissed -" Harm watched the sloppy snap to attention and turn before shaking his head and sitting back to look at Bud. "Why is that man in the Navy, Bud?"
"I don't know, sir," Bud replied. "I've wondered that myself, considering some of the things I've heard about him."
Harm nodded, picking up the report that they had been discussing before Vic's arrival. "Let's get back to work, shall we?"
"So how was the honeymoon?" Harriet asked, sipping a cup of tea as she and Jen sat in the living room.
"Wonderful," Jen said with a smile. "Bermuda is beautiful. Frank's house is right on the beach. Gorgeous white sand. And the bluest water I've ever seen."
"It is gorgeous, isn't it?" Harriet agreed. "My folks had a time-share in Bermuda for awhile when I was growing up," she explained. "Are you getting settled back in to dull routine now that you're back?"
Jennifer was about to answer when there was a knock on the door. "That's probably the mail," she told Harriet. "Harm's mother said something about a package- excuse me." She didn't bother to look out of the peephole before opening the door.
Seeing Lt. Vukovic there, she stepped back in surprise. "Lieutenant."
"Hello, Jen," he said with a smile on his face. "I thought I told you to call me 'Vic'?"
She ignored the slimy smile on his face, and didn't move from the doorway. "Why are you here?"
"You haven't heard? The General sent me to conduct an investigation into the possibility of fraternization."
"Something that you know a lot about, I'm sure," Jen noted, recalling his attempts to become 'friends' with her before she left Washington and came to London with Harm.
She tried not to back up when he stepped closer, entering her personal space without asking. "Be careful, Jen," he warned. "I hold your husband's future in my hands."
"What is that supposed to mean?" she questioned, hoping that her voice didn't reveal how much she was shaking inside. She wasn't sure if it was from fear or anger, though.
"Why don't you let me in so that we can talk about it?" he suggested, moving even closer.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Lieutenant," Jen said, refusing to give ground. "If you want to talk to me, I'll be glad to meet you at the office."
"Is there a problem here, Jen?" Harriet questioned, coming into the entry way and seeing Lt. Vukovic standing millimeters away from Jen.
"No," Jen said, feeling relieved when Vic stepped back onto the porch. "Lt. Vukovic was just leaving."
"You're Lt. Cmdr. Roberts' wife, aren't you, ma'am?" he said, giving Harriet a bright smile that Jen had no doubt usually worked wonders on women.
"Yes. Harriet Roberts. So you're Lt. Vukovic," Harriet said, leaving him in no doubt with her grimace of distaste that she'd heard stories about him from her husband. "I've heard quite a bit about you."
"All good, I'm sure."
Harriet simply continued to smile. "Did you need something, Lieutenant?"
"As I was telling Mrs. Rabb, I was sent to investigate the possibility of fraternization while she was still in the Navy. You're one of the people that I'm supposed to talk to."
"Well, I can tell you now that I never saw any sign of fraternization between Jen and Harm when she was still in the Navy," Harriet informed him. "Both of them were aware of the regulations and would never violate them."
"Fair enough," Vic said. Looking at Jen, he said, "I'll make an appointment for us to meet to talk later, Mrs. Rabb. Nice meeting you, Mrs. Roberts."
Harriet watched him down the walk until Jen closed the door. "That man makes me feel the need to take a shower," she told Jen. "He's slimy."
"Yes," Jen agreed. "He is." She looked at Harriet. "I'm sorry, Harriet, but I need to talk to Harm - can we finish this some other time?"
"Of course," Harriet said, reaching for her coat. "I need to get back to the kids anyway." She grinned. "I still need to talk to you about my idea."
"What idea is that?" Jen wanted to know, grabbing her own jacket from the coat tree.
"The one I mentioned at the wedding. I thought we might talk about starting an event planning business together. With our combined organizational skills, we couldn't possibly go wrong."
"Event planning?" Jen questioned, locking the door of the house behind them.
"Think about it. You guys are supposed to come for dinner this evening. We can talk about it more then."
"Jen!" Liz Greer said, jumping up from her desk when she saw Jen enter the office. "I mean, 'Mrs. Rabb'," she amended with a cheeky grin.
"It's Jen, Liz," Jen said.
"You look great. That's a great tan."
"Thanks. Is he busy?" she asked, nodding toward the door into Harm's office, which was closed.
Liz glanced at the telephone. "He was on the phone, but he's off now. Why don't you go on in?"
Jen carefully opened the door and put her head around the door, seeing her husband - it still seemed strange to think of him that way - sitting at his desk, he head bent over an open file before him. "You busy?" she asked, and his head came up, a smile on his handsome face.
"For you, never," he assured her, rising to come around to meet her halfway as she entered the office, closing the door behind her. He gave her an all-too-brief kiss. "This is a surprise. I thought you and Harriet had plans for the afternoon?"
"We did. But then Lt. Vukovic showed up at the house -"
"What?" he asked, leading her toward the chairs that sat before his desk. "Why was he there?"
"He *said* that he needed to interview me - but there was more to it than that," she said, rising from the chair and moving toward the fireplace, clearly agitated, which disturbed Harm when he realized it.
"Jen?" he asked, moving to stand behind her. "What's wrong?"
"I don't think that Lt. Vukovic is the best person to conduct this investigation, Harm," she said.
"Well, I agree with you, but he's the one that Gen. Cresswell sent -"
"That's because the General doesn't know about what the Lieutenant is really like. Back in DC, he - flirted with me. Told me to call him 'Vic'."
"You didn't report it?"
"There wasn't really anything to report," she sighed. "It was his attitude more than anything else. I saw it happen with other female personnel in the office, but none of us wanted to go to the General to report him without some kind of proof. The General seemed so determined that the Lieutenant do well -"
"How many of these other personnel were enlisted, Jen?" Harm asked.
"Three, four. After I continued to address him by his rank, he more or less ignored me, but I know that he kept talking to Petty Officer Andress."
"That fits with the things Mac told me about him," Harm said, putting his hands on her shoulders to pull her back against him. Mac had told him why she had refused to consider taking the young officer with her when she had planned to go to San Diego - and about his attempt to coerce her into agreeing by dredging up her ill-advised affair with John Farrow. "Did he threaten you in some way when he came by?"
Jen nodded as she turned around to look up at him. "He said that he held your future in his hands," she reported. "The implication was that if I refused to play ball, then he would give the General a bad report, stating that you and I -"
"That bastard," Harm said softly, pulling her into his arms and holding tightly. "I'm going to call the General and let him know what's going on. See what he wants to do about it."
"Two can play the Lieutenant's game, Jen. Would you be willing to testify to his attempted fraternization and blackmail if necessary?"
"Then let me handle it from here. Personally, I've never thought that 'Vic' belongs in the Navy. He's disrespectful, unmilitary - and too full of himself."
She managed a smile. "When he was first assigned, I heard a few people saying that he reminded them of you when you were younger."
"I never believed them," she said. "I knew you were always respectful and proper and would *never* flirt with anyone enlisted the way he did."
"That sure of me, huh?"
He chuckled softly, bending his head toward hers, only to stop as the intercom buzzed and Greer's voice said, "Excuse me, Captain, but Mr. Culver is here for his appointment."
Harm sighed deeply. "I'll see you at home later."
"Okay. We're still going to Bud and Harriet's, aren't we?"
"As far as I know. I'll call you if there's any change. Oh. And don't talk to Vukovic alone, Jen."
"I can take care of myself, Harm."
He cupped her cheek. "I know. But humor me, okay?" They went to the door and he opened it for her, greeting Mr. Culver as she left.
Jen waited until the door closed, and then turned to the young woman sitting at the desk. "Do you know where Lt. Vukovic is, Liz?"
"You mean Vic?" Liz questioned, her expression dreamy. "Isn't he just so cute?"
"I don't think so. And neither should you, Petty Officer." Jen's words caused Liz' expression to sober immediately. "He's an officer, Liz. And you don't address an officer by his nickname or his first name. If the Captain hears you do it, he'll read you the riot act."
Liz nodded, chastened. "Sorry. He's just so cute and nice -"
"Cute and nice - and an *officer*. Keep telling yourself that. Now. Where is he?"
"He was with Lts. Tiner and Andrews. I think he was going to interview them."
"I would guess they're in the conference room."
"Thank you, Liz."
Jen left Liz' office and walked down the corridor, seeing Jason Tiner come out of the conference room. He was frowning until he saw Jen. "Hi there," he said.
"Hi, Jason. Is Lt. Vukovic still in there?"
"Yes. He's interviewing Lt. Andrews. Or asking her out on a date."
"The latter most likely," Jen said. "Would you come in with me, Jason? Harm doesn't want me to see him alone -"
"I'll explain later. Will you do it?"
As they entered the conference room, it was to hear Marion Andrews' soft laughter as Vic stood close to her, speaking into her ear. She stood up when she saw Jen and Victor, her cheeks coloring with embarrassment. "Jason."
"Well. Hello again, Mrs. Rabb," he said, giving Jen a bright smile. Glancing at Jason, he said, "If you two don't mind, I need to interview Mrs. Rabb -"
"I've asked Lt. Tiner to stay," Jen told him. "On my husband's advice."
She thought that Vic's eyes narrowed slightly upon hearing her words, but his smile never faltered. "Very well. If that's the way you want it. Why don't we sit down and make ourselves comfortable?"
As soon as Mr. Culver left his office, Harm dialed the number that would connect him with Gen. Cresswell's office. The General was pleased to hear from him - until Harm mentioned that there might be a problem with Lt. Vukovic investigating Harm and Jen considering the Lieutenant's own admittedly unproven history of attempted fraternization with female personnel - both officer *and* enlisted.
"Do you have any proof of this allegation, Captain?" Cresswell wanted to know.
"I have a statement by former Petty Officer Jennifer Coates, sir," Harm said. "And I believe that there are a few others in your office that he approached as well. Jen mentioned PO Andress. You might consider talking to Col. Mackenzie about him. He might have over-stepped the mark once or twice with her."
"I'll do that. Until this is settled, it might be best if the Lieutenant ceases his current investigation and remains there TAD - if that's convenient for you, Captain."
"Put him to work, Captain. I should have followed my first instinct and given him to you to whip into shape to begin with, instead of letting him convince me that he'd be better off in the hands of a Marine."
"I thought that Col. Mackenzie did a good job."
"Not good enough, apparently," Cresswell sighed. "Whip him into shape, Captain," he repeated. "You have my permission to do whatever it takes."
"Thank you, sir," Harm said, not having counted on ending up being 'assigned' to take the young man in hand.
"I'll get back to you after I've spoken with Andress and Mackenzie."
Harm hung up the phone, and then pressed the button his intercom. "Greer, do you know where Lt. Vukovic is at the moment?"
"I believe he's in the conference room with Lt. Tiner and Mrs. Rabb, sir," was her answer.
Harm shook his head and sighed. "Thank you." He rose from his chair and left the office via the hallway door, going directly to the conference room, where he listened at the doors for a moment.
"Are you sure that you never - flirted with an officer while you were in the Navy, Jen?" Vic was asking, a smarmy undercurrent in his voice that made Harm's skin crawl - and every muscle in his body tense in preparation for a fight. "Even innocently? I mean, you and then Commander Rabb spent a lot of time together when you were living in the same building and sharing an apartment with his ward -"
"Mattie was always there as a chaperone, Lieutenant," Jen answered in a calm, cool tone. "Harm would never have done anything -"
"Of course not -"
Harm pushed open the door, causing the three people occupying the room to turn and look at him. "Captain," Jason said, coming to his feet to attention. Vic followed, albeit more slowly.
"As you were, Mr. Tiner," Harm said, his eyes moving from Jen to Vic. "You're dismissed, Jason. I'll take over."
"Aye aye, sir," Jason said, and made his escape before Harm could change his mind.
"This is a little unorthodox, Captain," Vic began, but Harm interrupted him. "Did I give you permission to speak, Lieutenant?"
"No, sir, but -"
"No 'but' about it. I just got off the phone with General Cresswell. He's conducting his own investigation into a charge of fraternization - against you, Vukovic."
"Yes, *you*. Until that is cleared up, your current investigation is ended. *And* you're assigned here TAD until further notice."
"Here, Captain? I thought -"
"You thought wrong, mister," Harm said, maintaining eye contact as Jen spoke up.
"Excuse me, but since I'm finished here, I'll be going. I'll see you later, Harm."
Harm nodded, but kept his eyes on Vic, gratified to see the younger man swallow nervously. Once Jen was gone, Harm stood toe to toe with Vic, easily towering over him. It wasn't often that Harm deliberately used his height to intimidate, but on occasion, it was a handy tool. "For however long you're in my command, Lieutenant, you will maintain strict military discipline at all times. You will address officers and enlisted by their rank, and you will observe others personal space. If I so much as see you looking at a female member of my staff in any other way than as a fellow sailor, I'll have a Marine guard on you so fast that your head will spin. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir." Vic said, his eyes fixed on Harm's chest, since he couldn't look up - and he couldn't find the wall past Harm.
"Tomorrow morning, you will report to my office upon your arrival to the office. I expect to see a shine on those shoes - and your face to be clear of any and all stubble. If I'm not satisfied, I will send you back to your quarters to get it right. You might have been able to get away with being lax in your previous posts, but not here. I keep a rechargeable electric razor in my desk to use if necessary. You might consider that option. Or a package of disposable ones. Either way, beginning tomorrow, I don't want to see any five o'clock shadow. Understood?"
"Now, if you'll come with me, there are some case reviews that you can work on -"
"Case reviews, sir?" Vic questioned, and then swallowed heavily when Harm turned to look at him.
"Do you think you're too good to be assigned such mundane work, Lieutenant?" Harm asked, borrowing a page out of Admiral Chegwidden's book.
"No, sir. Not at all, sir."
"Good. On my six." Harm led Vic from the conference room to a small office that they were using for storage - not much bigger than the supply closet that Harm had been consigned to upon his last return to JAG - it had a small window that overlooked the next building and not much else. The desk was piled high with file folders, with only a small space in which to work. Harm flipped on the computer and held out the chair. "This is your temporary office. I'd get started if I were you."
As he left the office, Harm found Bud standing in the hallway. "You enjoyed doing that, sir, didn't you?" he asked.
"All I did was put a new attorney to work, Bud," Harm pointed out. "We've been trying to find time to do those reviews for the last eighteen months. Besides, it will keep him out of trouble until things are settled."
"What if the General decides to leave him here, Harm?" Bud asked, accompany Harm toward his office. "What then?"
"We'll manage. It might be interesting to see if there's really a Naval officer under that slacker exterior." At Harm's office, he turned to say, "Keep an eye on him. If he slips, send him to me."
"I hope you know what you're doing, sir."
Harm placed a hand to his chest, his expression wounded. "You doubt me, Bud?"
Playing along, Bud said, "Well, you have been known to misjudge things on the rare occasion, sir."
"Well, we'll see if I'm wrong this time."
"I need this signed," Mattie told Harm immediately after entering his office. She was holding a paper in her hand.
"Well, hello to you, too, young lady," he said, rising from his chair to take the paper as he gave her a quick hug.
"I hope you're not busy," she said as an afterthought. "Liz wasn't at her desk when I came through -"
"No, I'm between appointments," he assured her. "What is this?" he asked, looking at the paper. "And why are you here instead of on the tube heading home?"
"I forgot that I needed this signed by today so that I could go on a field trip next week. So I thought I'd drop by here, have you sign it and fax it back to Mrs. Gregg, who's waiting for it at school, and then I'd go home."
"Does Jen know -?"
"I called her and told her I would be late," Mattie assured him.
"Stonehenge?" Harm questioned, picking up his pen.
"Yeah. I think it's cool."
He signed the paper, and then handed it back to her. "I'm sure Liz can fax it for you using the machine in her office." He noticed that she was walking a little slowly as they turned back toward the door. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay," she said, but Harm heard otherwise in her voice.
"Mattie, don't overdo or you'll set your recovery back," he warned gently as they entered Liz' office.
"I'm okay, Harm," she insisted again just as Liz and Vic entered the office.
"I'm sure I have some more legal pads in here -" Liz was saying, and stopped when she saw Harm and Mattie. "Oh. Captain. Mattie."
"Greer. Lieutenant. Finished with those reviews already?"
"No, sir," Vic said, standing at attention. "I needed another legal pad, and there aren't any in the supply room."
Harm looked at Liz. "Indeed?"
"I requisitioned them, sir, but they haven't arrived yet. I have an emergency stash in my file cabinet," she explained.
"Then why don't you get one for the Lieutenant so that he can return to his assigned task?"
Harm noticed that Mattie was staring at Vic, and recognized the look. "At ease, Lieutenant. This is my ward, Mattie Grace. Mattie, Lt. Gregory Vukovic."
Mattie's hand was halfway extended when she heard the name, and she visibly hesitated before continuing to put it out. "Lt. Vukovic," she said.
"Miss Grace." Liz gave him two legal sized canary yellow pads, and Vic thanked her before going to attention again. "Permission to leave, sir?"
Harm heard the slight undertone of rebellion in the younger man's voice but chose to ignore it. "Permission granted, Lieutenant," he said.
Vic executed a perfect turn and left the room.
"So that's him," Mattie said. She, too, had heard Mac's stories about the young Lieutenant who had been so disrespectful and aggressive in all the wrong ways. "What's he doing here?"
"It's a long story," Harm told her. "I'll explain tonight. Or Jen will when you get home. Mattie has a paper that she needs to fax to her teacher, Greer."
"Of course. What's the number that it's going to?" Liz asked. Mattie gave her the number and the paper. "Do I need a cover page?" Liz asked.
"No. It's a direct line to her office. She's waiting for it," Mattie explained.
While Liz took care of faxing the paper, Harm noticed that Mattie was looking at the door through which Vic had gone. "He *is* cute," she said.
Harm laughed as he touched her nose. "*You* think that Jason Tiner's 'cute'," he reminded her softly. "So I'm not sure your observation is valid."
"Jason *is* cute," Mattie insisted. "In a totally different way than Lt. Vukovic, of course. There seems to be an aura of - I don't know - danger about Lt. Vukovic that isn't there with Jason."
"I wouldn't tell Jason that he's not dangerous," Harm replied, struggling to hide his laughter. "His feelings might be hurt."
"Here you go, Mattie," Liz said, handing Jen the reply that showed the fax had gone through.
"Thanks, Liz," Mattie said.
"I'll go downstairs with you," Harm told Mattie. "I could use a short break before my next appointment."
"You *didn't*!" Jen said once Harm told her about what he'd said to Vic.
"I did. The General practically gave me carte blanche to do whatever it takes to turn Lt. Vukovic into an officer and a gentleman."
"You might manage the first part," Jen said. "But the second -"
Harm put his arms around her. "You doubt my abilities, Mrs. Rabb?"
"Not in the least, Captain," she answered, running her hands up his arms to his shoulders. "I'm well aware of your *abilities* by now. But I could stand a refresher course -"
Smiling, Harm pulled her closer and bent his head to capture her lips, wishing that they hadn't agreed to be at the Roberts so early. "I'd love to oblige, but we're due at Bud and Harriet's." Jen's regretful sigh as she started to pull away caused Harm to tighten his arms to prevent it. "But I'll make it up to you tonight."
"I promise," he assured her, dropping another kiss onto her lips before releasing her. Opening the door, he said, "Shall we go?"
"You should have seen her, Harm," Harriet told him while they talked before dinner. "The way Jen stood up to that Lothario -"
"That's what Bud said he was," Harriet said, looking toward her husband for support.
Bud looked slightly embarrassed. "You have to admit, Harm, he does tend to think that he's God's gift to women. I don't think I've ever seen him *not* flirt with a woman."
"And they usually eat it up, I bet," was Mattie's comment as she came into the room from spending a few minutes with the Roberts' children. "AJ was wondering how much longer before dinner was ready," she explained.
"Another few minutes," Harriet answered.
"You shouldn't be listening to adult conversations, young lady," Harm told Mattie, but the firmness of his tone was underpinned with gentle good humor. As much as he'd tried, Mattie had never really been a kid. Sometimes he thought she was really closer to thirty than eighteen.
"I couldn't help but overhear," she said. "You have to admit, Lt. Vukovic *is* handsome," she said to Jen and Harriet.
"And he knows it," Jen agreed with a sour expression. "The man's ego is boundless."
"Sometimes an ego is a good thing," Harm pointed out.
"Maybe so. But it's the way a person uses that ego that matters, Harm," Bud said. "He uses his looks and ego almost like a weapon. It's like he has a targeting radar that senses a woman's presence and sends him into full out - attack mode or something. I think that in all the time I've known you, you've never been that way. I've seen women come onto *you*, but very seldom have you ever -" his voice trailed off as he realized he'd probably said too much.
"I think we get the point, Bud," Harm said, aware that his ears were heated. "Depending on the results of the General's investigation, I'd like to find out if there's more to Gregory Vukovic than meets the eye."
"I think it's a good idea," Harm confirmed after Harriet explained her idea about a business that she and Jen could start together. She had already done a lot of research on whether or not there was a need among the US contingent in London for event planning.
"What about the kids?" Bud asked as the adults and Mattie sat in the living room talking after dinner that evening.
"Most of this can be done from home, Bud," Harriet explained. "Via telephone and computer."
"And whatever can't be, I can do it," Jen chimed in.
"If you think it's the thing to do, sweetie, then do it," Bud decided.
Harriet squealed with delight and threw her arms around her husband's neck.
"And do I have your permission?" Jen asked Harm.
"Jen, you don't need my permission to do this or anything else," Harm told her.
"I know. But I want it anyway." She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the lips.
"So what are you going to call this business?" Mattie asked, more to break the romantic afterglow than anything else. "Rabb-Roberts Event Planning?" she suggested, at which the others looked at one another.
"It's Harriet's idea," Jen insisted. "So if we go that route, it should be Roberts-Rabb."
"I'm not concerned about credit, Jen," Harriet insisted. "This will be a fifty-fifty partnership."
"How about R&R Event Planning?" Harm suggested. "That way, you don't have to worry about which one is first."
"That's perfect!" Harriet declared. "How about it, partner? R&R Event Planning?"
Jen held out her hand. "Sounds good to me, partner."
"Harm, what did you tell General Cresswell about Lt. Vukovic?"
Harm winced as he recognized Mac's tone of voice. "Just what you told me about his being - overly familiar with a superior officer. Combined with Jen's statement regarding his attempted fraternization with her and others in the DC office - why?"
"He called earlier, wanting a statement from me about Vic's actions when we were there. He wanted to know why I hadn't reported him for disrespect -"
"Why didn't you?" Harm asked, finally asking the question that he'd wanted to ask when Mac had first told him about the Lieutenant's actions.
"It was harmless. And I was able to handle it without ruining his career -"
"He won't *have* a career if he continues on that path, Mac. You should know that."
"Did *you* ever report Allison Krennick's - pursuit - of you?" she asked pointedly.
"No. Because there was no reason to do so."
"Because you were a man," she guessed. "And it would have made you look weak and ineffective if you had gone running to your CO with a charge that she was harassing you."
Harm knew she had a point. It would have made her look too weak and ineffective in front of a fellow Marine if she had taken her concerns about Vic to Cresswell. "Okay. I get it, Mac. But you had to know that it could come out one day. Harassing you was one thing. You were a senior officer and didn't respond. But a younger, more gullible enlisted person could have made that mistake and ended their career and his."
He heard her sigh over the phone. "I've already faxed my report to the General. He mentioned that Vic is TAD to your staff until this is settled?"
"Yeah. He thought I could instill some military decorum into the Lieutenant's backbone."
"Where I didn't," Mac said, still sounding a little put out.
"I don't think the General holds it against you, Mac," Harm assured her. "I do think he's realized that he probably should have put me in charge of Vukovic from the beginning, though."
"Probably," she agreed. "So. How's married life?"
"Not bad. Jen and Harriet are going into the event planning business together."
"That should be fun - considering some of the things Jen came up with for the Admiral's wedding to Meredith Cavanaugh."
"She told me about that - she said that she only did that because of Meredith's previous penchant for - the unusual, and that once Meredith told her that she wanted something simple, she changed the planning."
"Ah. That makes sense. You *do* sound happy."
"That's because I am," he told her, smiling and winking at Jen as she came into the study.
"It's late there, so I'll let you do. Tell Mattie I said hi. And Jen."
"I will. Bye, Mac." As he hung up the phone, he saw Jen's slightly guarded expression and held out his hand toward her. "Come here." When she took his hand, he pushed back from the desk and pulled her into his lap. "What's wrong?"
"I know I shouldn't, but every time you talk to her, I - worry."
"That I'll decide that I want her back in my life?" he guessed, lifting her chin to look into her eyes.
"That she'll decide she wants *you* in her life."
"Won't happen," he assured her. "You know why?"
"Because I'm in love with you."
"Why did she call?"
"To talk about Vukovic. The General called her."
"Oh. I guess she's upset since she never reported it."
"Neither did you," he reminded her.
"No. And I guess we did it for the same reason. We knew it was wrong what he was doing, but we didn't want to get him - or anyone else - into trouble."
"Never a good reason to overlook a serious breach like that," Harm pointed out, running his fingers through her long hair.
Jen's fingers moved to the buttons on his shirt. "How much longer are you going to be?" She slipped the top button out of its hole.
"Not too long," he told her, glancing at the file on his desk. "Just a few more notes -"
The second button followed the first, and Jen slipped her long fingers inside of his shirt to tangle them in the curling hair. "You sure it can't wait til tomorrow morning?" she asked in a soft, sexy voice, her lips touching the outer shell of his ear. "After all, you did promise that you'd make it up to me, remember?"
"So I did." Reaching behind her, Harm closed the folder and Jen smiled, slipping out of his lap, taking her hand in his to pull him to his feet. Harm turned off the light on the desk and followed her out of the study and down the hallway to their bedroom . . .
By the end of the week, Harm dropped by Lt. Vukovic's "office" to see with his own eyes how the young man was doing on his assigned task. The reports that had crossed his desk so far had been quite good - revealing that he was indeed a good attorney and could handle the dreaded paperwork that most seemed to dislike with a passion. Including Harm.
Harm had always silently believed that the really *good* attorneys, the ones driven to find the truth, usually weren't good with the reports and such. It was one reason that he and Bud made such a good team. While Bud was an excellent attorney, he could handle the paperwork with greater efficiency than Harm could ever hope to manage on his own.
Maybe that meant that Bud was the better attorney, period, Harm mused as he knocked on the frame of the open doorway into the small room. Lt. Vukovic rose to his feet upon seeing Harm standing there, snapping to attention much quicker than he had a few days ago. The stack of cases to be reviewed was greatly reduced, and Harm nodded. "As you were, Lieutenant," he said, and Vic sat down again.
"Is there something I can do for you, Captain?" he asked, obviously unnerved by his temporary CO's unannounced visit.
"Just checking up on things," Harm said. "I got a call from General Cresswell earlier."
"He'll be arriving in London tomorrow."
"He's coming here, sir?"
"Yes. I think he's completed his investigation."
"Permission to ask the Captain a question."
"Are you singling me out, sir?"
"I beg your pardon?" Harm was pleased when Vic didn't back down at his tone. Good the young man had some backbone after all.
"For special disciplinary action, sir."
"What makes you ask, Lieutenant?"
"I've noticed that you seem to be on a first name basis with the other officers on your staff."
"A few of them, yes," Harm acknowledged. "Those who have proven themselves to me. Those who have shown me that I can trust them to do their jobs without my standing over them. You haven't done that yet. I've known some of them for a long time. I know that I can trust them with my life if necessary. I don't know that about you."
"So this has been a test, sir?"
"In a way, Lieutenant. The reports do need to be done - and sometimes even the best attorney needs to be reminded that he's not irreplaceable or invaluable."
"Humility," Vic said, and then quickly added, "Sir."
"Precisely. I need to know what makes you tick. I need to know that you care more about the truth than about winning. The best attorneys have a fire in their bellies- not to win - but to find the truth, no matter where it takes them. Even if it means that by finding the truth, they lose their case. Truth, honesty, those are the important things. Don't you agree?"
"I might, sir, but -"
"The wins look better on your record than the losses," Harm guessed, and saw that he was right by the look on Vic's face. "That's true. But at the end of the day, the only record that matters is what's inside of you - whether or not you can look at yourself in the mirror and say that you *like* the person that you see there."
"Why are you telling me this, sir?"
"Because if the General decides not to take you to a court martial, I'd like you to think about staying here. For a while, anyway."
"You - want me to stay, Captain?"
"I think you have potential, Lt. Vukovic. With the right training and mentoring - you might even come up to *my* standards."
"Do those standards include shooting a gun into a courtroom ceiling, sir?" Vic asked, and Harm managed not to smile at the long ago memory.
"*That* is an example of what *not* to do," he said. "I've made the mistakes. I'm willing to share those experiences with you - if you're willing to take the time to learn. It won't be easy. In fact, there will be days when you'll hate my guts. But I believe it will be worth it in the end. Think about it and let me know your decision before you secure at the end of the day."
"Yes, sir," Vic said, and Harm easily read the confusion on his face.
"Carry on, Lieutenant."
Harm wasn't surprised when Greer told him that Lt. Vukovic wanted to see him. "Send him in, Petty Officer."
Lt. Vukovic was a far cry from the sorry excuse for a Naval officer that he'd been upon his arrival five days ago. His shoes were shined to a brilliant sheen, and his face held nary a trace of a shadow. He entered Harm's office and went to attention, waiting for Harm to acknowledge him. "As you were, Lieutenant," Harm said, and kept his face emotionless as Vic went to 'at ease' stance.
"The Captain wanted my answer before I secured for the day?"
"By all means. I've been waiting to hear it."
"I would - like to stay, if you're willing to have me, Captain," Vic said, and Harm felt a tiny jolt of accomplishment. Hopefully, the first of many.
"Why?" he asked. When Vic looked confused again, Harm said, "It's a simple question: Why do you want to stay? Is it simply because you'll be damaged goods in General Cresswell's eyes now, no matter what his decision might be?"
"No, sir. You're a - legend, Captain. One that I dismissed, wrongly as it turns out, in favor of currying the favor of Col. Mackenzie. That was wrong of me, too, sir. But in all fairness, I've used my looks to get by for a long time -"
"That's understandable," Harm said, indicating one of the chairs. "But unnecessary if you believe in yourself. Why did you - curry the Colonel's favor, as you put it?"
"The General was going to have you 'show me the ropes', sir, but I had already met the Colonel, and well -" he seemed hesitant to continue.
"Speak freely, Lieutenant."
"I thought she - responded to me. Sir," he added, well aware that he was talking about his Commanding Officer's former wife and friend. "And I thought I could - manipulate her so that I could get away with cutting corners."
"I don't think that went well, did it?" Harm questioned.
"No, sir. It didn't. She read me the riot act."
"Col. Mackenzie's very good at that," Harm admitted with a half-grin. "So. If the General agrees, you'll agree to my I request that you be transferred here?"
"Fine. Be here early tomorrow, Lieutenant. And - keep up the good work."
"I will, sir."
Harm sat back in his chair once Vic had gone, shaking his head. Mac *had* possibly been attracted to the young man. But Harm knew that she would never have acted on that attraction for the same reason that he wouldn't have acted on any attraction he might have felt toward any junior female officer he'd worked with. She'd probably been a little flattered by the attention, though. And he couldn't fault her for that. Heaven knew, she hadn't been letting *him* give her any during that time. They had barely been speaking to each other about personal issues, even after Mac had admitted after her accident on Christmas Eve that she had been pushing him away.
Maybe that was where they'd gone wrong: Harm had always been afraid to push back, to stand up to Mac and insist on talking things out for fear of pushing her further away, or of adding to her troubles when he had problems of his own that he needed to discuss.
It was that mistake which had made him more open with Jen than he'd ever managed to be with Mac, not letting things simmer until they boiled over. He and Jen discussed most things - including Mattie if the decision affected the entire family. Standing up to stretch his legs, he glanced out of the window in time to see Vic leaving the building in civvies, juggling his briefcase and a stack of file folders. Harm smiled at the sight, realizing just how he had managed to make such a sizeable dent in those cases in just a week's time.
There was hope for the young officer after all. *If* the General agreed.
Harm discussed his plan with Gen. Cresswell when the General arrived. The arrival of the US Navy's Judge Advocate General in London had been kept as quiet as possible to avoid the usual public and political response to a visit by a two-star. "This is just a quick in and out visit," Cresswell informed Harm. "I'm just here to get this settled, and then I'll be returning to DC."
"May I ask what you're going to do, General?"
"Why don't I save that for Lt. Vukovic?" he suggested, pointedly.
Harm went to the intercom. "Greer, tell Lt. Vukovic that I want to see him."
"Aye aye, sir," she said, clearly a little rattled by the General's arrival.
"She reminds me of Coates when I first took over as JAG," Cresswell noted to Harm.
"She's better than she was when she first started, sir," Harm acknowledged.
"Speaking of Coates. How is she?"
"She's well, sir. She and Commander Roberts' wife have gone into business together."
"They're starting an event planning business. Planning weddings and parties for military and US personnel in London."
"I wish them luck."
"I'll relay that message, sir," Harm said as Vic knocked on the doorframe and entered the room, looking as though he had just run a razor over his face.
"Lt. Vukovic reporting as ordered, sirs," he announced sharply.
Harm could tell that Cresswell was already impressed in the changes that he could see. "Lt. Vukovic. I've finished the investigation into your conduct regarding female personnel in my office. Before I tell you what I found and have decided to do, I want to ask you something."
"Yes, sir?" Vukovic maintained eye contact with some distant point on the wall across the room, never moving except to speak.
"Not once while you were at JAG HQ did I ever see you clean shaven - or your shoes shined so well. What's different?"
"Captain Rabb, sir."
Cresswell spared a quick glance in Harm's direction, and Harm kept his features carefully schooled against that look. "Capt. Rabb was able to accomplish what being in *my* command couldn't?"
"The Captain's style of motivation is - different, General."
Cresswell nodded, narrowing his eyes as he looked at Vic. "After speaking to several members and former members of my staff, I can't find any concrete proof of wrongdoing - but the appearance of wrongdoing is enough," Cresswell continued when a small sliver of relief began to appear on Vic's face. "I can't send this to a court martial, but I can place a reprimand in your file, Lieutenant. It will remain there for one year, after which time if you've kept your nose clean and shown me that you can be a by-the-book Naval JAG officer, it will be removed with no detriment to future promotion. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," Vic said, and while Harm detected the slightest hint of relief, he was pleased so that Vic managed to keep most of it hidden behind a stoic mask.
"Further, Captain Rabb has requested that you be reassigned to his staff on a permanent basis. I've decided to agree to that request." He stepped close to the young man. Vic didn't as much as blink. "But be aware, Lieutenant, you're on my radar screen, and I *will* be keeping a close eye on everything you do. Do I make myself clear?"
"As crystal, General," Vic answered.
"Good." Cresswell turned away from him. "Now, unless Captain Rabb has something to say, you're dismissed."
"I'll speak to the Lieutenant later, General," Harm said.
"Very well. You can return to your duties, Lieutenant."
"Thank you, sir," Vic said, turning on his heel and leaving the room.
"Your reputation is well-earned, Captain," Cresswell told Harm once they were alone in the office.
"My reputation, sir?"
"That you're a miracle-worker who excels in turning people around. Coates, your ward, even Col. Mackenzie sings your praises. And that's not an easy feat for most ex-wives."
"I've just been lucky, sir," Harm said modestly.
"I think it's more than luck, Rabb. I can see that I'm going to have to start looking over my shoulder."
Seeing Cresswell's serious expression, Harm began to worry. "General -"
"That was a joke," Cresswell assured him. "I'll have Vukovic's transfer papers sent over ASAP," he said, picking up his overcoat. "And as for the investigation he was sent here to do - consider it complete and marked 'Closed'."
"Thank you, General," Harm said.
"Don't thank me. Just make sure that I never hear that your marriage to Coates is ended and that you're planning on marrying Petty Officer Greer." He started to leave, and then turned back. "By the way, that was another joke."