Classification: Harm / Mac Romance, Investigation
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Disclaimer: This is for entertainment purposes only.
belong to CBS, Paramount and DPB.
Please ask before archiving online. I like to know where my stories are posted.
And thanks to Kathy for convincing me to give this a shot- and for beta reading it for me.
15 August 2003
12 AM local time
Elk Grove, California
Annie Pendry glanced at the clock on the wall once again, and exhaled loudly as she realized that it was nearly midnight- three hours past her son's curfew. She reminded herself that setting curfews hadn't done much good lately. What would her late husband Luke have done in this situation, she wondered? Would this be happening at all if Luke were still alive?
Josh, now almost fourteen, was starting to look more and more like his father. She'd tried her best to raise him alone - as far away from the Navy and airplanes as she could. After losing Luke in an F-14 crash, there was no way she wanted Josh to follow in his father's footsteps. He'd be a banker. Or a lawyer.
That thought reminded her of Harmon Rabb, Jr., ex - aviator turned lawyer. He'd probably be the next JAG once Admiral Chegwidden retired. But he was still an aviator at heart, and probably always would be.
An old photograph Luke, Harm and her in happier times drew her attention. She traced Luke's gentle smile, comparing it with Harm's devil-may-care grin. She'd made the right choice, choosing Luke over Harm all those years ago. Even if she was standing here now, alone, waiting for her son to come home from who knew where.
The sound of the front door opening caused Annie to turn toward the entry, where she saw Josh heading toward the stairs. "Josh?" He squared his shoulders as he stopped, as if getting ready for a fight.
"I'm tired, Mom," he said, not turning around, one foot on the bottom step. "Can't this wait until tomorrow?"
"No, it can't," Annie said in a firm tone. "Come in here, please."
She heard Josh's sigh from across the room as he turned and came to the doorway. "Yeah?" he said.
He shrugged. "I was busy," he told her. "Lost track of time."
"Where were you?"
"Out," he said. "Does it matter?"
"Yes, it matters!" Annie exclaimed. "I need to know you're okay. I don't even know who your friends are anymore! I called Mitch Conklin, and he said he hadn't seen you since school got out for the summer."
"You had no right to sneak around, calling people behind my back-" Josh began, but Annie refused to back down.
"I have *every* right! I'm your *mother*!" She ran a hand across her forehead in frustration. "You leave here at first light every morning, and you're gone all day until late night."
"I told you. I'm busy."
"Stuff," Josh answered in a sullen tone.
"You're not being very helpful," she accused. He stood there, staring at his feet.
"Is that all?" he asked. "Cause I'm really tired, and-"
"We need to talk this out, Josh," Annie said in a quiet voice, moving closer to her son. She tried to put her arm around his shoulders, but he shrugged it off. "Josh, what's going on? I know I've been busy with work and-"
"And James," Josh added, sneering as he finally looked at her.
"Is that what this is about? My seeing James? Josh, I know James isn't your father, but I hoped you'd understand-"
His eyes flashed with anger. "Understand? Oh, I understand, Mom. Better than you know. You're right. He's *not* my dad, and he'll never *be* my dad. If you want to see him, fine. I don't have to be around."
Annie bit her lower lip as the frustration and worry built. "You're my son, Josh. And James wants a chance to get to know you better-"
"I know everything about him that I need to know," Josh returned. "He's a *banker*." He nearly spat the word out. "A good role model. Something that you want *me* to aspire to."
So they were back to this again, Annie thought to herself. Why did they *always* come back to this? "Josh, you're not doing anything- illegal, are you?" she asked hesitantly. "Like- drugs or-" She instantly regretted the question as she saw the shock appear in his eyes. "Josh-"
"You think I'd do something like that? Thanks, Mom!" He turned and stomped up the stairs before she could stop him. "Thanks a *lot*!"
Annie followed him to the bottom step, and then flinched as she heard his bedroom door slam loudly enough to shake the entire house. Taking a deep breath, she went up the stairs and paused at his door, lifting her hand to knock as she heard the muffled sound of music playing loudly over earphones. She could knock from now until doomsday and he wouldn't hear her.
She decided to call into the bank and take the next morning off. She needed to make things right with Josh. He'd be fine, she insisted to herself. Just needed some time to cool off and get some rest. Annie continued to her own room, and after a glance at Josh's closed door, went inside.
16 August 2003
7 am local time
Elk Grove, California
Annie knocked on Josh's door. "Josh?" she called softly, trying to wake him gently. When there was no response, she thought he might have fallen asleep with his headphones on again and opened the door.
He wasn't in the bed- in fact, the bed looked just as it had the day before- neatly made, just as it always was. "Squared away" as Luke had always put it.
"Josh?" she called again, frowning now as she noticed the clothing hanging out of an open drawer. That was totally unlike her son. While he might stay gone all hours doing who knew what, he was very careful to keep his room neat as a pin.
As she approached the drawer, Annie felt a cold chill along her spine. That's where Josh kept the money he got for birthdays and for the paper route he'd gotten right after they moved here. The money and some of the clothes were gone.
Annie rummaged through the closet, looking for the duffel bag that had belonged to Luke. Josh had insisted on keeping it, and it, too, was gone. Looking around the room, Annie realized something else was missing as well.
Josh's prized possession, a framed photograph of Luke in an F - 14, was not in its usual place of honor on his nightstand.
Slowly, Annie sank onto the bed in shock.
Josh had run away from home.
16 August 2003
8 PM local time
Harmon Rabb's apartment
North of Union Station
Harm placed the end of the spoon into Mac's mouth, watching as she took the offering and then closed her eyes. "Mmmm," she groaned, and then opened her eyes to look at him.
"So you approve?" he asked with the lift of a brow. "I mean, considering what you think about my cooking-"
Mac swatted playfully at his arm as he turned his attention back to the sauce simmering on the stove. "I never said anything about your cooking," she protested.
"Is that so? I seem to recall a comment about my meatless meatloaf," he said, glancing at her with a grin. He turned the burner down under the sauce and picked up the glass of non-alcoholic wine he had bought earlier.
"Well, I was serious about that," Mac returned. "But you're not making meatloaf- " she paused, looking slightly worried. "Are you?"
Harm laughed, giving her one of the glasses of wine that he poured. "No. No meatloaf. Lasagna."
"Meatless?" she questioned with an air of resignation.
"Easy, Marine. It's only half meatless." He opened the oven and pointed to the far end of the glass-baking dish. "See? That half is all yours."
Mac slipped her arms around his neck when he closed the oven. "I knew there was a reason I liked you, Flyboy," she told him.
"Because I'm thoughtful?" Harm suggested.
"Uh-uh," Mac replied.
"Because I'm irresistible?"
"Because -" Mac said, and pulled his head around to whisper into his ear. When Harm's ears turned pink, she laughed. "What's the matter, sailor? Don't think you're up to it?"
"Give me a minute, and I'll show you just how *up to it* I am, Sarah," he returned, lowering his lips toward hers as the telephone began to ring- and the sauce began to hiss, as if threatening to boil over.
Harm's reflexes took over as he turned to deftly remove the pan from the flame. Mac, laughing softly, said, "I'll get the phone. I can see you're busy."
"Not as busy as I'm going to be," Harm replied, giving her that look that she was sure he knew turned her bones into water.
Mac laughed again and lifted the receiver as the machine started to pick up. "Hello," she said. There was silence on the other end, and for a moment, Mac thought whoever had called had gotten tired of waiting and hung up. But she heard something that sounded suspiciously like a sob. "Hello?" she repeated, and saw Harm glance her way, his expression curious.
"Is- Is Harm there?" a woman asked.
"Just a minute," Mac said, and started to hand the cordless phone off, but the woman's voice reached her again.
"Mac? Is that you?"
"Annie?" Mac glanced at Harm as he turned off the burner on the stove and came around, his hand extended to take the phone.
"I'm sorry if I'm interrupting something- I really need to- to talk to Harm."
"Just a minute," Mac said, and held the telephone out. "She sounds upset about something."
Harm gave her a look that clearly said, "When is she *not* upset by something?" but took the telephone anyway. He hadn't heard from Annie since her abrupt departure with Josh. There was only one reason she would call after telling him to keep away from them. Something had happened to Josh.
"Annie, it's Harm. Is Josh all right?"
"I'm interrupting something, aren't I?" Annie said. "I'm sorry, Harm. I shouldn't have- it's just that I didn't know where else to turn. I blew it, Harm. I really blew it- Look, I'll call back-"
"Annie, don't hang up," Harm said quickly. "What's happened?"
"Josh ran away, Harm," she told him.
"Ran away?" Harm repeated, and saw Mac's frown of concern. "When?"
"Sometime last night. We had an argument - but that's not unusual for us lately. I was hoping he might have called you - have you heard from him?"
"No," Harm said, glancing at his answering machine, aware that he'd checked his messages when he had come home earlier. "I haven't heard from Josh since he sent me a Christmas card last year," he told her, hoping that he wasn't getting Josh into further trouble with his mother. "Have you called the police?"
"Of course. First thing. They said that it happens all the time with boys his age, and that they'll look for him, but-"
"What about his friends?"
"He hasn't been spending any time with them lately," Annie admitted.
"What *has* he been doing then?" Harm asked.
"I wish I knew. He leaves the house early in the morning, doesn't come home until almost midnight most of the time. It's been this way since school ended. When I questioned him about it, he said it was none of my business."
"That doesn't sound like Josh," Harm said as Mac moved away toward the windows. "Annie, if you need me to come out there-" He took note of the disapproving set of Mac's shoulders, but dismissed it. Josh could be in trouble.
"Could you, Harm? I know it's a lot to ask- especially after the last time we saw each other. But Josh always responded to you. I guess it was because you remind him of Luke."
"Probably." He glanced at his watch. "I'll have to call the Admiral, arrange for a few days leave," he told her. "I should be able to get a flight out and be there by tomorrow morning."
"Thank you, Harm. I know I shouldn't ask-"
"I'll be there, Annie," Harm promised. "I owe it to Luke to do whatever I can for his son. Is there someone who can stay with you till I get there?"
"Y-yes," she said. "A - friend."
"Good. We'll find him, Annie. I promise." He hung up the phone and looked at Mac's back. It was as straight as a board, and he could almost see the waves of disapproval emanating from her tense body. "Mac- I have to go. Josh-"
"Is it really Josh you're concerned about, Harm?" Mac asked.
Harm moved to place his hands on her shoulders. "Whatever was between Annie and me, Mac, it's long gone. I realized before she left that the only reason I got involved with her was -"
"Because of Josh. Why, Harm?" Mac asked, turning to look up at him with troubled eyes. "Is it because he lost his father like you did?"
"Not like I did," Harm clarified. "Luke died. Everyone knew he was dead. It took years for me to find out for sure that my father was dead."
"But you still see a part of yourself in Josh, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do," he admitted. "I can't turn my back on him, Mac. I can't just walk away-"
"You did for four years," she pointed out.
"Because Annie told me to stay away. Hell, she even picked up and moved back to California without telling me to keep me from influencing him. She *wants* my help now, Mac."
"And after? What then?" Mac asked.
"Mac-" he began, but she placed a hand against his cheek to keep him looking at her.
"I saw how upset you were when she cut you out of his life the last time, Harm. I don't like the idea of you opening yourself up to that kind of hurt again."
Harm took her hand and brought it to his lips before pulling Mac tight against his body. "Isn't that what's kept us apart all this time, Mac? My fear of being hurt? Of letting someone close enough that I can *be* hurt? I know what Josh is going through. I've been there, right where he is."
"When you ran away to Vietnam with Colonel Stryker," Mac recalled. "I doubt that's where Josh is."
"No. But there are other places he could be. Places that Annie and the police might not think about."
"Places you *would* think about," Mac finished for him. "Because you've been there." She sighed and rested her head against his chest. "You call the Admiral; see if he can do without us for a few days-"
"Us? Mac, you don't have to-"
"Hey, flyboy, we're in this together, right?"
"I doubt that the Admiral will give us both leave for personal business, Mac."
She gave him the telephone. "It's worth a shot. I'll go put some things into a suitcase for you. We can stop by my place on the way to the airport. Oh, and you'd better check into a flight as well."
She stopped halfway to the bedroom and looked at him. "The least I can do is be there to pick up the pieces when Annie pulls the rug out from under you again. Make the call, Harm."
Harm hit the Admiral's home number on speed dial and waited for someone to answer. "Meredith? It's Commander Rabb. Is the Admiral busy?"
17 August 2003
12 AM local time
"He really gave us an entire week?" Mac asked again as she secured the seatbelt around her waist as they sat in the 747 that was going to take them across the country.
"Once I told him the reason we were going, he said that things were slow right now, and Sturgis and Bud could handle anything that comes up. Think his engagement to Meredith has mellowed him?"
"I think Josh charmed the Admiral, too," Mac said with a smile. "Was his father anything like that?"
"He was a pilot," Harm said. "But Luke wasn't as -"
"Arrogant?" Mac suggested with a teasing gleam in her eye.
"Self assured," Harm said, giving her a look. "He was always more of the family man type. Ready to settle down. I always thought Annie made the right choice when she chose him over me."
"The Admiral didn't say anything about our going out there *together*?" Mac questioned. Harm knew she wasn't as nonchalant about being known as a "couple" as she pretended to be.
Harm smiled. "Didn't say a word. After what happened, I don't think he's surprised, Mac." He bent his head to look at her. "You're not ashamed to be seen with me, are you?"
"Of course not," she assured him, smiling. She gave her seatbelt an extra tug as the airplane began to roll down the taxiway.
As the jetliner took off, Harm noticed that Mac was gripping the arms of her seat hard enough to show the whites of her knuckles. "Hey," he said, as he pried one of her hands loose to hold in his, "It's okay." She'd been this way on the flight back from Paraguay, too. And when he had offered to take her out for a spin in "Sarah", she had found an excuse not to accompany him. "Nothing's gonna happen, Mac. Relax. Breathe," he ordered gently, and then did just that in example. "That's it," he said, when she followed suit. "In. Out. In. Out." He shook his head. "Some Marine. Scared of a cross country flight in a jetliner."
"Well, considering how many times I've made emergency landings, punched out, and crashed with a certain pilot I know, I think I'm doing pretty damn good, Squid." She took another deep breath and released it.
"I'll have you know, none of those were due to pilot error. The first time was mechanical failure, and the second two we were shot down." He eyed her seriously. "Do you really think I'm arrogant?" he asked, grinning at her as she swatted his arm. "Why don't you lay back and try to sleep," he suggested. "It'll make the flight go faster."
"What are you going to do?" Mac asked.
"Try to figure out where Josh might have gone. When we land, I want to hit the ground running."
Harm helped Mac settle back in the seat, draped a blanket over her, and sat back himself, his gaze straying to the darkness beyond the window. Josh was two years younger than he'd been the summer he'd run off to Viet Nam with Stryker. Harm had saved every cent of his generous allowance and paper route money, until he had enough to join up with the mercenary who had promised to help him locate his father. At the time, he hadn't considered that his wealthy stepfather might have helped his search. He still saw Frank Bennett as an interloper, someone who had wormed his way into their lives by playing on his mother's grief and loneliness. But Frank had convinced his mother to let Harm take flying lessons, and had pulled all the right strings to get him into Annapolis.
The plane dropped suddenly, and Harm felt Mac's increased tension. Putting an arm around her, he drew her head onto his shoulder. "It's okay," he whispered. "Just a little turbulence," he assured her. For once, he didn't say a word about a Marine who was afraid of a little air pocket. He was too caught up in the turbulence of his own thoughts.
He had a hunch he knew what Josh was up to, but he wanted to confirm it before mentioning it to Annie. If he was right, she wasn't going to be happy about it.
To Be Continued---