FJA Naval Forces Europe Offices
Harm glanced at his watch for the sixth time that morning, wondering when Mac would return from her appointment. She hadn't been feeling well, and had finally agreed to make an appointment to see a doctor about it.
The door of the office opened, and Mac came into the room, closing the door behind her. He looked up at her over his reading glasses as he was studying a file on his desk. "Mac. I didn't know you were back." He put the glasses onto the desk and rose, coming around to put his hands on her arms. "Everything okay?"
She nodded, and Harm noticed that she appeared to be shell shocked. The idea was troubling. "Everything's fine. I'm fine."
"Then why have you been sick?" he asked, frowning. "A virus or the flu, or -"
"I'm pregnant," she said, watching his face.
Harm's eyes widened. "Pregnant? But - I thought you said that -"
She nodded. "Looks like we got another miracle."
"Yeah. We did." Suddenly Harm pulled her into his arms, holding her tightly as he kissed her. "I love you."
"I love you, too," Mac replied.
"Why don't you sit down?" Harm pulled her gently toward one of the chairs before his desk and knelt beside her as she sat down. "Is everything else okay?" he asked.
"Dr. Locke said that everything looks fine," she told him. "I think I'm still in shock. I never expected for him to tell me that I was pregnant. He did the test even though I told him about the endometriosis, 'just to rule everything out', he said. When he came back in and said that it was positive -"
"I told you that it would work out, didn't I?" Harm said.
"Yes," she said, touching his cheek. "You kept your promise. But then, you always do."
Harm kissed her palm. "I try. When?" he asked.
He smiled and moved closer, intending to kiss her again, but a knock on the door stopped him. Harm rose to his feet with a grimace, frustrated by the interruption. "Enter!" he called out.
Jen came in. "I wanted to remind you about your luncheon meeting, sir," she told Harm. "Your driver should be here any minute." As usual, she seemed to sense the undercurrents in the room. "Is something wrong?" she asked.
Harm glanced at Mac, letting her decide whether or not to tell Jen what was going on. "Harm and I are going to have a baby, Jen," Mac told her.
Jen gasped. "That's wonderful!" she said, rushing forward to give Mac a hug, then turned toward Harm, more uncertain about giving him one as well until he laughed. "I'm so happy for you both! Does Mattie know yet?"
"No," Harm told her. "You're the first we've told."
"I only found out a little while ago," Mac explained. "Can we ask you to keep this quiet for a little while, Jen?" she wanted to know. "Just until we can tell Mattie and Bud and Harriet?"
"Of course. I can keep a secret," she assured them both. Glancing at Harm, she reverted back to being the invaluable yeoman. "Your meeting, Captain?"
Harm grinned, moving around the desk to grab his briefcase just as a young petty officer appeared in the doorway. "I'm on my way, Grayson," he said. "I'll see you later," he told Mac. With a wink and grin in her direction, he left the office.
Harm returned to the office an hour and a half later, stopping by Mac's office on the ground floor before going up to his. Her yeoman, Petty Officer Consuelo Flores was on the telephone, but she smiled at him, indicating that he should go on in.
Mac was sitting at her desk, going over a report.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, coming around the desk to give her a kiss.
She smiled. "Still a little nauseous. But now that I know the cause, it's not so bad. Connie brought me a cup of tea and some crackers, and that helped."
"So I guess you told her."
"She and Jen are room mates," Mac pointed out. "So if I hadn't told her today, Jen would have tonight. She's sworn to secrecy other than that, though," she confided.
He moved behind her to gently massage her shoulders. "Well, after tonight, they'll be able to tell whoever they want."
"That feels good," Mac sighed, resting her head against the high backed chair. "Makes me want to go home and slip into bed."
Harm bent forward to whisper in her ear. "We could," he suggested. "My schedule's clear for the rest of the day."
"Mine isn't," Mac told him, sighing again, but this time with regret. "I have to call Gen. Creswell at 1600 hours."
"You can't call earlier?"
She picked up the message slip. "1600 hours London time. Sharp."
Harm joined her in a sigh. "Oh, well. We'll leave after your call unless something comes up on my end."
"Sounds like a wonderful idea," Mac told him. "We can tell Harriet and Mattie when we go to pick Mattie up," she suggested.
"What about Bud?" Harm asked. "He won't be home yet --"
Mac smiled, apparently picking up on his eagerness to tell the man he considered to be one of his best friends that he was going to be a father. "You can tell him - only wait until just before we leave, please? Maybe he'll be able to keep it to himself until we've spoken to Mattie and Harriet."
Harm gave her another quick kiss. "Deal. I'll be upstairs if you need me."
"I always need you," Mac told him, causing him to smile.
"Sweet talk will get you anywhere, Colonel," he said, winking and leaving the office when he saw her smile as well.
"I'm securing a little early today, Bud," Harm told his Assistant Force Judge Advocate as soon as Connie called to tell him that Mac's call to the General had ended.
"You are, sir?" Bud questioned, surprised at the unusual occurrence. Harm usually stayed later than anyone else. "Is everything okay?"
Harm smiled. "Everything's wonderful, Bud," he said. "Mac found out today that she's going to have a baby."
Bud's jaw dropped. "A baby? That's great, Harm! I mean, sir. I mean -" Bud held out his hand in congratulations.
"Harm's fine, Bud," he assured the younger officer, shaking his hand. "And thank you. I'm pretty pleased about the news myself."
"When?" he asked.
"Sometime in April. We're telling Mattie when we pick her up."
"So in other words, I shouldn't call Harriet until after she calls me," Bud guessed, grinning.
Harm laughed. "I always said you were a smart man, Bud," he said. "Now, I have to change in to my street clothes and go downstairs to get Mac."
"I'll take care of things here. If something comes up -"
"Handle it," Harm told him. "If it's an emergency, call me. But only if it's an emergency. I'm going to take Mac and Mattie out for dinner to celebrate."
"Understood, sir," Bud assured him. "I'll see you tomorrow morning, then." He went to attention and then left the office. Harm shook his head and went into the small changing room off his office, removing his uniform and replacing it with the trousers and shirt he'd worn into the office that morning.
Military personnel serving outside of the US had been directed not to appear in public in uniform unless they had no choice. Doing so made them targets for terrorists - and after the underground bombings only a couple of months before, the directive had been strengthened. So all personnel wore "civvies" to work and changed before starting their day, and changed back after securing and before leaving.
He put his uniform into a garment bag and slung it over his shoulder, grabbed his briefcase and headed out of the office, giving Jen a smile on his way. He took the stairs down to the first floor. Connie gave him another, wider smile. "I'm so happy for you and Col. Mackenzie, Captain," she said.
"Thank you, Connie." He knocked on Mac's office door, entering when he heard her speak.
She was already wearing her street clothes, her uniform ready to go into the garment bag. They kissed, and Harm took the uniform to stow it for her, noticing that she was quiet. "Are you okay?" he asked, zipping the bag and putting it over a chair as he turned to her.
"The reason General Creswell called just wasn't for an 'update'," she told him.
"Then what?" he asked.
"He has another assignment for me," she told him. "Full time, serving at the US Embassy in charge of the Marines there - and working as a translator when needed."
"Is that what you want?" he asked. "I know you're bored doing this job."
"There's not much of a *job* to do," she agreed. "I told him no."
That surprised Harm. "No?"
Mac took a deep breath. "In fact, I told him that I'm considering resigning my commission."
She placed a hand on her abdomen. "I know. I've always been about my career, the Corps. But today, when Dr. Locke told me that I was pregnant - after my thinking that I was never going to know how it felt to - to have a child growing inside of me - *our* child*" she amended, "something inside of me realized that my career just - isn't that important anymore. *This*" she splayed her fingers across her stomach, "This *is*. I don't want to do anything that might jeopardize this baby coming into this world healthy. Are you disappointed with my decision? Maybe I should have discussed it with you, first -"
Harm's hands fell on her shoulders, his fingers gently stroking them. "Disappointed? No. I just don't want you to make a decision in the heat of the moment. If you change your mind -"
"Something tells me that I won't. I never considered that having a baby would make me feel this way, Harm. I think that I finally understand why Harriet made the decision to become a full time wife and mother."
"What did Creswell say?"
She smiled. "He told me to sleep on it and let him know in a few days. I don't think I've heard the last of it."
"Probably not," Harm agreed, deciding to make sure that she didn't hear more about it from him. This had to be Mac's decision. Personally, he couldn't quite see her being happy away from the Corps. She'd tried it once and had come back. "You ready to go?"
"Lead on, McDuff," she told him. "I can't wait to see the looks on Harriet and Mattie's faces when we tell them the news."
"You're *pregnant*?!" Harriet said before hugging them each. "Oh that's so wonderful!" Harriet and Mattie both knew about Mac's endo - and that the chance of her becoming pregnant in the 'normal' way had been slim to none. "You must both be delighted!"
"We are," Harm assured her, his arm around Mac's waist.
"Mommy! Jimmy took all the cookies and won't share!" Little AJ called out from the kitchen, where the two oldest Roberts children were enjoying a snack while their little brother and sister were napping.
Harriet smiled apologetically. "Excuse me. Minor child emergency to take care of."
Harm noticed that Mattie hadn't said much after hearing their news. "Mattie, are you okay?" he asked now.
She was using crutches, having abandoned the wheelchair not long after her arrival in London. Her doctor and therapist said that she was making miraculous progress, and predicted that she would make a full recovery from her injuries.
Now, she shrugged. "Sure. Why shouldn't I be?"
"You're awfully quiet," Mac noted. "Are you upset about my being pregnant?"
"Of course not. It's just -" she stopped, as if uncertain about how to continue.
"Just what, honey?" Mac prodded gently, going over to sit beside the girl.
"I'm happy for you. You're going to have a baby of your own -"
Harm met Mac's gaze over Mattie's head, saw that she'd figured out the problem at the same time that he had. "Mattie, you're still an important part of this family," Mac assured her. "You're this baby's big sister. That won't change."
There were tears in Mattie's eyes. "Do you mean that?" she wanted to know, looking from Mac up to Harm, who sat on her other side.
"Of course we do," Harm said. "Mac and I both love you. This baby won't make any difference."
"But - it will be *yours*."
"We think of you as ours," Mac told her. "Don't tell me that you're afraid of being a big sister."
"It's a big responsibility."
"Yeah, I guess it is," Mattie said, a hint of a smile appearing as the tears began to dry. "I guess I could handle that. What are you having?"
"We won't know for another month at least," Mac said. "But it doesn't matter to me. As long as she has Harm's looks and my brains," she continued, looking at Harm, who smiled when he heard her words.
"Or if he has Mac's looks and my brains," he said, repeating part of the 'deal' they had made so long ago. "Either way works."
Mattie looked from one to the other, confused. "You're doing it again," she said.
"Doing what?" Mac wanted to know.
"It's hard to explain," Mattie began. "Sometimes, even when you're around other people, you seem like you're the only two people in the entire world. Not that that's a *bad* thing, it just - can get a little strange sometimes."
Harm put his arm around her shoulders, giving them a gentle squeeze. "It's a long story - back when little AJ was born, Mac was feeling a little -"
"Abandoned," Mac interjected, causing Mattie to look at her. "My 'little sister' had just gone back to her father, Harm was leaving JAG to go back to flying, and then Harriet had a baby. I felt a little jealous, thinking that I was never going to have a child of my own."
"So I offered her a deal," Harm said. "That if neither of us was in a relationship in five years, we'd have a baby together."
"AJ's six," Mattie pointed out.
"Timing was never our strong suit," Mac told her. "Even though we both kept thinking it was. When AJ was five, there was so much going on in both our lives - and I'd just found out about the endometriosis - that we didn't connect. It took another year for us to do that." She smiled as Harm extended his hand toward her and she took it.
"Why don't we say goodbye to Harriet," he suggested, "then go get something to eat?"
"You mean go home, don't you?" Mattie asked.
"No, we're going to Delfino's for dinner this evening," he announced, seeing a smile appear on Mattie's face when she heard the name of her favorite restaurant.
FJA Naval Forces Europe
"General Creswell is on line one for you, sir," Jen told Harm.
Harm grimaced, wondering why his CO would be calling. There was nothing on the board that required any discussion - the transition had been smooth as silk. Picking up the phone, he pressed the button. "General. What can I do for you, sir?" he asked.
"You can help me convince Col. Mackenzie to take the position I've offered to her, Captain," Creswell said, getting directly to the point of his call.
"This is her decision, sir," Harm told him. "I'm not going to interfere. Have you spoken to her about it lately?"
"Every day for the last week. I'm sure that I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know, Captain, but your wife is a stubborn woman."
"She's a Marine, sir," Harm pointed out. "Never retreat."
"But she's taking it to absurd lengths, Rabb. I'm offering her a post that will give her a chance for another promotion sooner rather than later. I think she'll be making a mistake to resign her commission."
"As I said, General, I'm not going to interfere in this. Mac has to make up her own mind about whether or not to stay in the service."
He heard Creswell sigh heavily. "Okay, so how about if you just help me convince her to take extended leave instead? For the time being, at least?"
"I'll mention the idea to her, sir," Harm agreed. "But beyond that -"
"That's all I ask. And congratulations, Captain."
"Thank you, General."
After dinner that night, Harm made sure that Mattie was settled before joining Mac in the living room. Dropping onto the sofa where she was sitting. "How are you feeling?" he asked. While the morning sickness had passed, Mac's energy levels were lower than usual, and after dinner she was usually ready to just 'crash' as Mattie tended to put it.
"Tired," she told him, snuggling against his side, her head on his shoulder.
"I got a call from Gen. Creswell this morning," he told her.
"Checking up on you?" she asked.
"Looking for my help in convincing a certain Marine Lt. Colonel to change her mind about staying in the Marines."
He felt Mac's shoulders rise and fall as she sighed deeply. "He must be desperate if he called in the Navy," she teased. Harm chuckled. "What did you tell him?"
"That it's your decision, and that I'm not going to try to influence you one way or the other."
"But I did tell him that I'd suggest that you take an extended leave instead of making a final decision now."
"I'm not going to change my mind, Harm," Mac said. "I've already written my letter of resignation. All I have to do is fax it to his office."
"He won't honor it," Harm told her. "I think he'll stick it into one of his desk drawers for as long as he possibly can before he submits it." He smoothed her dark hair. "Mac, are you *sure* about this? You're not that far from twenty -"
"I know. And I know it makes no sense for me to do this. But I - get it now."
"Get what?" he asked.
She pulled away from him so that he could see her face. When Harriet was pregnant with the twins, we had lunch together, and she told me that being pregnant was a - spiritual experience for her, like - collaborating with God. I couldn't imagine how that felt. I never thought I'd have the chance to experience it for myself." She touched her gently swelling abdomen. "Now, I understand. I *get* it. This baby - it's *more* than a miracle. I probably won't get another chance at this. So I don't want to miss a single minute of watching him -"
"Or her," Harm said, and Mac grinned.
"Or her," she accepted, "grow up. I don't want to be on TAD somewhere when he - or she - walks for the first time or smiles, or -."
Harm placed his hand over hers. "I understand, honey," he told her. "I told him I'd suggest it, not that I'd tell you to do it or try to convince you to change your mind."
She lifted a hand to his face. "If it *was* your choice, Harm, what would you want me to do?"
"Whatever makes you happy," he answered.
"That's a safe answer. Now tell me how you *really* feel."
"That is how I feel, Mac. I can't tell you what to do. As long as you're happy, that's all that matters to me. Either in the Marines or out." He turned and pulled her into his arms. "As long as we're together, I don't care."
"How did I not notice that you're incredibly sweet for all those years?" Mac wondered.
"I wondered the same thing on a few occasions," he replied.
"I love you, Harmon Rabb, Jr." she told him. "And you are going to be a *wonderful* father."
"You think so?"
"You're great with Mattie. And every child I've ever seen you with has adored you. I just hope I'm as good a mother."
"You will be," he told her.
"I keep thinking about - my mother. What if I just - walk away some day, like she did?"
"You're not your mother, Mac," Harm said. "You wouldn't do that. Not as much as this baby means to you. You are going to be the best mom in the world."
Mac slid her arms around his neck. "You always know the right thing to say."
"How about 'let's go to bed'?" he suggested.
"That's the best offer I've had all day, flyboy."
23 December 2005
Office of Dr. Gene Locke
Harm stood beside Mac, holding her hand as Dr. Locke ran the scanner over Mac's stomach, watching the grainy black and white screen nearby. "There we are," the doctor said, pressing a button.
Struggling to make some sense out of the image on the screen, Harm realized that the doctor was moving the scanner again. It was only when the image froze again that Harm finally made out something that looked like it *might* be the baby that Mac was carrying - but it didn't look *right* for some reason.
"Is everything okay, Doctor?" Mac asked, and Harm smiled at the fact that his Marine was nervous.
"Everything's fine," he assured them, printing the images out as he put the scanner away and began to wipe the gel from her skin. "They look healthy. And the heartbeats are strong -"
"They?" Harm questioned, seeing his surprise reflected on Mac's face.
"Heart*beats*?" Mac said at the same time.
Dr. Locke smiled and showed them the photos. "You're having twins. I thought I heard two distinct heartbeats the last time, but I wanted to be certain before I said anything."
"Twins." Harm was stunned.
"I can tell you what at least one of them is, if you'd like to know," Dr. Locke told them. "I wasn't able to get a good look at the second one. We can wait a few minutes, perhaps they'll move enough that I can find out the sex of both babies."
"No," Mac said. "What is the one you could see?"
"A boy," he told her, showing them the photograph that led him to that conclusion. "If pressed, I would say that the other one is most likely a girl. But that's not definite."
"One of each," Mac realized, and Harm smiled at the look on her face. "The miracles just keep on coming, don't they?" she asked him.
"No miracle there," Dr. Locke told her. "Often when a woman gets a little older, instead of one egg her body releases two. That's assuming that they're fraternal twins. Do twins run in either of your family?" he wanted to know.
Both of them shook their heads. "Not that I know of," Harm said.
"The chances of having twins increases as a woman gets older," he said again. "Anyway, from what I can tell, mother and babies are all healthy. And I'll see you next month."
"Thank you, Doctor," Harm said as he helped Mac to sit up on the examination table, giving her a hug. "Twins," he repeated.
"I know. I still can't believe it." She stared at the image in her hands. "This changes everything," she told him.
"How so?" he wanted to know as she stood up.
"There's no way that I can stay in the Marines now. Not with *two* babies to take care of."
She had reluctantly agreed to put her commission into reserve instead of resigning it. It had taken a visit from Gen. Creswell in person to convince her not to make what he insisted was a 'rash' decision. "I'm right, aren't I?" she asked Harm now.
"I've always said that it's your decision, honey," Harm said, rubbing the pad of his thumb across her jaw line. "If you want to resign, do it."
"You gave up your career to be a full time mother," Mac pointed out as she and Harriet worked to finish Christmas Eve dinner in the kitchen of Harm and Mac's house.
"Yes," Harriet admitted. "But, well, my career was never as important to me as it's always seemed to be to you. I knew that I'd never rise above Lieutenant, while you're a Lt. Colonel with a shot at getting another promotion -"
"My career *was* important, Harriet," Mac agreed. "But now -" she touched her stomach, "Being pregnant has opened my eyes. It's made me open my eyes to what's *really* important to me. Right now, the only thing I want to think about is having these babies and spending as much time as I possibly can taking care of them; being there for them as much as I can be. I want to take care of Harm, and just be his wife. Does that sound so crazy?"
"No," Harriet said. "Of course it doesn't. But do you really think you'd be content not to be in the Marines anymore? To be a wife and mother?"
"Well, I'd still be the wife of a Navy Captain who has a *very* good chance of becoming the Judge Advocate General in a few years," Mac reminded her. She glanced toward the doorway, then lowered her voice. "You might not know it, but Harm doesn't like the play the 'games' required to get that far. I mean, he can do it, but he doesn't like it. Me, I think I could help him with that. They *do* say that behind every great man -"
"There's a woman pushing him onward," Harriet finished, smiling. "I think you could get him to CNO, Mac," she said.
"So you don't think I'm crazy for wanting to resign?"
"No, I don't think you're crazy. But I'm not sure that Gen. Creswell will agree with me."
"You two need any help in here?" Harm asked, entering the room.
"No," Mac said, returning the kiss he gave her, "I think we have everything under control."
He made a grab for a green bean from the casserole that Mac had just taken from the oven. "Smells good," he told them, grinning as Mac playfully swatted at his hand. "Everyone's here. Jen and Connie arrived a few minutes ago."
"I thought I heard the bell," Harriet said.
"I was on the phone with my mom when they got here, so Mattie let them in," Harm explained. His mother and Frank were spending Christmas in Bermuda, as usual, but had promised to be in London for the birth of their first grandchildren.
"We'll have dinner on the table in a few minutes," Harriet said. She picked up the green bean casserole and moved toward the dining room.
Mac turned to the platter containing the *huge* turkey and started to pick it up, but Harm moved quickly. "Whoa, Marine," he warned, grabbing it before she could. "I've got it."
Laughing, Mac grabbed a plate of hot rolls and followed him.
JAG Liaison's Office
"You're absolutely sure about this, Mac?" she heard Creswell say through the telephone line. She had just faxed him her request for early separation from the Corps for personal reasons, and hadn't been surprised when Connie told her that he was on the telephone.
"More sure than I've been about anything since I married Harm, sir."
"I still can't help but feel that you're making a mistake in doing this. You're too good a Marine - too good a lawyer to just walk away like this."
"Mrs. Creswell doesn't work outside the home, does she, sir?"
She could hear from his tone that she'd surprised him with the question. "Uh, no."
"Has she ever complained about being a wife and mother?"
"No, but -"
"If she had to make a choice, do you think she would choose to do what she's doing or would she decide to do something else? I'm sure she's been an invaluable help as you've moved up through the ranks, sir."
"Point taken, Mac," he said at last.
"Then you'll submit the request, General?"
"I will. I'll send them to BUPERS today. With your accrued leave, you should have another six weeks or so before it's official. If you change your mind during that time, give me a call."
"That won't happen, sir," she assured him.
"I'll send someone out to take over your duties tomorrow. I trust you'll stay around long enough to show him the ropes?"
"I will, sir. And thank you."
"Don't thank me, Mac. This isn't something I want to do."
Mac sat back in her chair once the call ended, then felt movement in her stomach. Smiling, moved her hand over the spot. The babies had been active today - probably fighting each other for attention. Or maybe they sensed how important today was for their mother.
She knew that everyone - even Harm - doubted her ability to turn her back on the Corps and that she'd be content to be a wife and mother. But she would still be a *military* wife and mother, with all that entailed. Moving to new billets, keeping things running smoothly at home so that Harm would be able to concentrate on furthering his career, raising these babies and being the best mother she could possibly be.
If sometimes she wondered whether or not she had the ability to do that, she would remember back to her times with Chloe, or the way she and Mattie had become as close as a mother and daughter since she had married Harm. She was going to be a good mother. Harm was right: she wasn't Deanna Mackenzie.
14 Feb 2006
Mac sighed with contentment as she felt Harm's lips touch hers and move softly. She lifted her arms and put them around his neck, wanting to pull him closer, but he resisted the attempt, and her sigh turned to frustration as she opened her eyes.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Mac," he said, moving back to pick up a bed tray containing breakfast - as well as a vase containing a single red rose and a small velvet box.
"What's this?" she asked.
"Breakfast in bed," he told her. "Mattie did that actual cooking while I got ready for work in the main bathroom, but it was my idea."
"I'll have to thank her later," Mac said, touching the rose. "It's lovely." Her fingers fell onto the box, and she lifted her gaze to his face. "And this?"
"From me," he said, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Open it."
She did, and gasped when she saw the diamond ring inside. "Harm-"
"I regret that I never had the chance to buy you an engagement ring," he told her, removing the white gold ring from its box and lifting her left hand. "I know it's silly, but it's important to me that you have one." He slipped it onto her finger, against the slim, simple band that was already there, and then leaned down to kiss the soft skin above it.
"Thank you," she said, pulling him up to give him a kiss. "I have something for you, too," she told him.
Mac turned and opened the drawer of her nightstand, pulling out an envelope with Harm's name written on the front and held it out to him.
Harm took it, pulling the flap open and removing a sheet of paper. "This entitles Harmon Rabb, Jr. to an unlimited number of flights . . ." his eyes widened. "Mac - How -?"
"I met an RAF pilot during the course of my duties and we talked about how you haven't been able to fly much since we got here. He's got a Tiger Moth that he says is similar to a Stearman - and after he takes you for a check ride, you'll have access to fly it whenever you want."
"You don't like it when I fly," he reminded her.
"That was only when you flew Tomcats," she clarified. "The only time you've ever had a problem flying Sarah was that one time with me, wasn't it?"
He gave her a sheepish grin. "Yeah. I still don't know why I missed that fuel line in my walk around - Maybe I was distracted by the idea of taking such a beautiful woman up for her first flight," he suggested, leaning in again. "Thank you."
"Maybe - you could convince Mattie to go up with you," Mac suggested slowly. "I know she claims not to be interested, but I really think that once she got back in the air, that would change."
"Let's see how she reacts when I tell her about this," he said. "Now, eat your breakfast before I have to leave for the office, if you please, so I can take the tray back to the kitchen before I go."
"I can handle that," Mac insisted. "You'll be late if you don't leave now."
"One of the perks of being the CO," Harm reminded her. "I called and told Coates that I would be a little late since it's Valentine's Day."
Mac watched Mattie as her eyes followed the biplane across the sky. "He looked happy, didn't he?" Mac observed.
"Yeah," Mattie agreed, still watching the aircraft go through its paces.
"You miss flying, don't you?"
Mattie turned to look at her. "I don't know *what* I feel," she admitted, and Mac put an arm around the girl's shoulders. "Watching that plane, I can remember the way flying feels - then I remember that last flight -" she shook her head. "I get cold chills even *thinking* about going up again."
"That accident wasn't your fault, Mattie," Mac reminded her. "Your instructor should never have gone up with the possibility of weather closing in that day. You weren't at the controls, he was. You know, the first time I went up with Harm in 'Sarah', we had to make an emergency landing because of a fuel line -"
Mattie nodded. "He's told me about it," she said. "You ended up shot in the leg by some poachers who tried to kill you both." She sighed. "Did you go back up with him again?"
"A couple of times," Mac said, remembering the *last* time they'd flown in a small aircraft. The crash in Paraguay had cured Mac of ever wanting to fly in another small plane with anyone. "I'm just not good at flying," she said. "I got sick almost every time I went up with Harm in a Tomcat." She didn't mention having to punch out of a MiG in Russia. That and Paraguay were both still classified. "But Harm always said that you were a natural."
"Maybe I was. After the accident -"
"Why don't you talk to Harm about his accident?" Mac suggested.
"The ramp strike?" Mattie said.
"Yes. Have you asked him about how he felt when he finally got the chance to get back into the cockpit of another F-14?"
"We talked about it after I told him that I wasn't sure that I wanted to fly again," Mattie said. "He told me that he was terrified the first time he went up after it happened - but that once it was over, he knew that flying was what he was meant to do." As she spoke, she lifted her eyes to the sky once more, and Mac saw the same desire that she'd seen so often in Harm's eyes.
"You'll never know if you can do it if you don't try, Mattie," Mac pointed out in a gentle tone. "When you're ready, I'm sure that Harm would love to take you back up."
Mac backed off and returned to reading the book that she'd brought to keep her busy while Harm was flying. Mattie's reaction to Mac's Valentine's Day gift had been delight - ostensibly for Harm, since she knew as well as Mac that he missed being able to fly. Mac had come along mostly because she knew that it would give Mattie an excuse to come as well - to keep Mac company.
When Harm and Jake Landry landed a few minutes later, Mac couldn't help but respond in kind to the wide grin on her husband's handsome face. "You were right," Jake told her. "He's good."
"So everyone tells him," Mac teased, held tightly against Harm's side.
Jake sketched a salute in Harm's direction. "Good luck, Harm," he said. "I told my wife I'd be home in time to take her out to lunch."
"You should have brought her with you," Mac said.
Harm and Jake exchanged a laugh before Jake explained. "Linda's not much for flying, I'm afraid. The one time she went up with me, I had a problem and had to make an emergency landing back at the field. I've never been able to convince her to come with me since then."
"Keep trying," Harm told him.
"I will." He nodded in Mac and Mattie direction before leaving them alone with the airplane.
"Thank you," Harm said to Mac, watching as Mattie moved closer to the biplane, running a light hand over the lower wing edge.
"It's thanks enough seeing you so happy," she said. "You want to go up again?"
"Would you mind?" he asked. "I know this isn't much fun for you -"
She held up her book. "I'm still reading this," she reminded him. "And the fresh air's good for me and the babies."
Harm gave her a kiss, then turned back to the airplane and approached Mattie. "You want to go up with me?" he asked.
The fear was evident as she turned to look at him. "I -"
"You won't have to take the stick if you don't want to, but I really think you should at least get back into the air," he told her. "If you don't like it, I'll bring you back down right away."
He watched the fear become replaced with determination. "Was it really hard for you to go back up after the ramp strike?" she asked slowly.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," he answered honestly. "When I finished repairing 'Sarah', I was terrified by the idea of going back up into the air. But I did."
"And what about when you flew a Tomcat again?"
He smiled. "It was an emergency. Instincts took over and I did what I had to do - what I'd been trained to do."
She took a deep breath, looking over to where Mac was sitting. "Would you be okay if I go with him, Mac?" she asked.
"I'll be fine," Mac answered. "Go."
Harm kept his eyes on Mattie, waiting for her to make up her mind.
"Okay," Mattie agreed at last, her palm flat against the fuselage. "Let's go."
They did a quick walk around together, checking the plane for any problems that might have appeared during the flight, then Mattie did a fuel check, declaring that there was enough fuel on board for a quick flight. Then he handed her the leather aviator's cap and second set of goggles from the forward cockpit before helping her into the plane. When he took her hand, he could feel the tension in her body, and remembered when he'd felt that same tension.
Smiling, he helped her to put on the headphones and get the safety belt buckled. "I'm going to go hand prop her," he said. "Will you be okay with the brakes til I get into the plane?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yeah."
"Okay." He climbed down and went to the prop, "Switch on!" he called out.
"Switch on!" she replied, a twinge of nervousness evident in her tone.
Harm pulled the wooden propeller, stepping away quickly as it caught and the engine roared to life. Giving Mac a 'thumbs up'," Harm moved to the back of the wing and climbed into the main cockpit. Donning a pair of goggles and headsets, he asked, "You ready?"
"I'm ready," she said.
Harm cleared the area, then taxied out to the end of the runway, looking at the gauges and checking the flight surfaces once he was there. Getting onto the radio, he announced that the aircraft was ready for take off, and would be departing the pattern to the west of the field.
As the ground fell away from them, Harm turned gently toward the west, keeping the field in sight so that Mattie could use it as reference. "You okay up there?" he asked.
"I'm fine," Mattie replied, and he smiled, hearing the more relaxed tone. He knew that flying wasn't the problem - the problem would come when they went to land.
"You want to take her for a minute?" Harm asked.
"Put your hand on the stick. She's a little more sensitive than a Stearman, so keep that in mind."
"I'm ready," Mattie told him.
Very slowly, Harm removed his hand from the control stick. "She's your bird, Mattie," he said, watching the stick move as Mattie took over.
She really *was* a natural, Harm thought yet again. Even flying something as sensitive as a Tiger Moth - something that not everyone could do - her turns were smooth. "Can I do a roll?" she asked, having brought them up to a higher altitude.
"You're in charge," he reminded her, and laughed when she deftly inverted the aircraft and brought it back wing level. "Very nice!" he praised, enjoying the sound of Mattie's laughter as it drifted back toward him as well as through the headphones. "You want to reverse it?"
"Yes, sir," she said, tilting toward the left this time. "I wish we'd gotten more fuel now," she said. "So we could stay up longer."
"We'll spend more time up next time we come out," Harm promised. "Do you want to try and land her?"
The reply wasn't unexpected. "Okay," Harm said, putting his hand on the stick again. "I have her."
"I'm sorry, Harm," she said after he turned the airplane back toward the airport and announced on the radio that they were on their way back in. "I'm just - not ready -"
"I understand," he told her. "Maybe next time?"
"Maybe," she said, but Harm heard the doubt. If they'd been in Sarah, he might have pretended to have a problem and force her to land the plan on instinct. But since this wasn't his bird, he decided to let her get a little more confident of her abilities in it before trying anything along those lines.
Mac watched the plane land and waited for Harm to taxi it back toward the hangar in the early twilight. Mattie's smile as she climbed from the cockpit was the only answer she needed to whether things had gone well, but she asked the question anyway.
"Did you have fun?"
"It was *great*!" Mattie declared, giving Mac a hug. "Thank you *so* much for giving Harm that present!"
"Consider it my Valentine's Day gift to you both, then," she said, returning the hug before smiling up at Harm. "I don't think Harm will mind sharing it."
"Not at all," he agreed, putting his arm around each of them. "You want to help me put the plane into the hangar, Mattie? Then we'll go out to dinner."
30 April 2006
Staff Meeting room
FJA Naval Forces Europe Offices
"For his bravery in helping to search for survivors of the terrorist attacks in London on 7 July 2005, even though injured himself and ignoring the possibility of further explosions, Captain Harmon Rabb, Jr. is hereby awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal." Ed Sheffield pinned the medals onto Harm's uniform, then stepped back. "Congratulations, Captain," he said.
"Thank you, sir," Harm replied, snapping a salute.
Prime Minister Tony Blair stepped up. "And for the same bravery, Captain Rabb is awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal. Thank you, Captain, for your assistance to the people of London on that day."
"Thank you, Prime Minister," he said, remaining at attention.
"No, thank *you*, Captain," Blair said. "You're a good example. I look forward to seeing you and your wife and daughter this evening." Along with the ceremony, Harm and his family had been invited to a state dinner, at which they were to be presented to the Queen.
Mac, nine months pregnant, and glowing both from impending motherhood and pride in her husband, gave him a kiss, doing the 'honors' as Admiral Chegwidden had once said. Smiling, she used a handkerchief to wipe the lipstick from his cheek.
She and Mattie had been very worried about him after hearing about the bombings and his actions on that day, worried that he might have been killed himself, being so near to the attacks. He'd ended up with a badly sprained ankle and had gotten a couple of scratches on his hands, and one on his face during the last of the blasts, and while removing debris to find other survivors.
"We'll be there, sir," Harm assured the PM, who moved away to speak with some of the reporters that were allowed into the small conference room - the largest one in the building. "I still don't know what all the fuss is about," Harm told Mac. "I didn't do anything special."
"That's not what I heard, Captain," SecNav told him. "Now, as much as I would like to stay and continue this celebration, I have a flight to catch back to Washington. Keep up the good work, Rabb -" he smiled at Mac. "And I expect an announcement when you have those babies, Colonel."
"It's just Mrs. Rabb now, sir," Mac reminded him. "And don't worry. We'll make sure you're in the loop."
"See that you do." He paused at Mattie. "And when you're ready for that appointment to Annapolis, let me know."
"I will, sir," Mattie told him.
After shaking Bud's hand, SecNav and the PM took their leave, followed by most of the members of the press who had been invited to cover the brief ceremony. "I can't believe he came over here *just* to give you a medal, sir," Bud said.
"Harm's an important man, Bud," Mac reminded him. "On the fast track to becoming the JAG."
"I wouldn't say that, exactly," Harm said, a wry grin on his face.
Mattie said goodbye and left with Harriet, heading back to the American school. Looking around at the gathered personnel, Harm said, "As you were, people," and turned Mac toward his office. "You need to be sitting down," he told her.
"I'm fine," Mac said, but sank gratefully into a chair just the same, running a hand over her stomach. "Other than the fact that I'm as big as a house and two weeks past due."
"Which is why you should be at home instead of here."
"I wasn't about to let the SecNav and Prime Minster pin those medals on your chest without my being here," she said, touching each of the medals. "I'm very proud of you, you know."
"I was only doing my job," he told her.
"Hmm. With a sprained ankle and various cuts and bruises."
"I've had worse."
"At least it wasn't another concussion," she teased. "Can you get away for lunch?" she asked.
"I think so. Give me a few minutes."
He went to his desk and sat down to finish the paperwork he'd been working on when she and SecNav had arrived earlier.
"Oooh," Mac said, and Harm frowned, looking at her. She was wincing and rubbing her stomach.
"You okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine. It was just a - twinge -" She winced again. "Harm -"
Harm was on his feet as soon as she said his name, coming around the desk to kneel beside her. "Mac, honey - are you in labor?"
"I-I think I must be."
"Okay," he said, watching her and his wristwatch. "Just breathe. And let me know when the next contraction starts, okay?"
Mac nodded, breathing slowly, still rubbing her stomach. Suddenly she grabbed Harm's wrist, squeezing it. "Harm -"
Harm started panting with her as he timed the contraction. As it ended, he said, "Has your water broken?"
"I think so."
"Coates!" he called out, remaining at Mac's side.
His yeoman entered the room, stopping as she saw him with Mac. "Sir? Ma'am?"
"Call an ambulance, Jen," he said. "Then call Mattie and my parents." His parents had just left the day before for a quick trip across the Channel to spend the weekend in Paris, since Mac was two weeks past her due date. "And then call and give our regrets about the dinner tonight." He looked at Mac. "I think the Queen will have to wait."
"Yes, sir," she said, going to the telephone and dialing the number for emergency services.
"One more push, Sarah," Dr. Locke said.
"AUUUGH!!!!!" Mac grunted, and a moment later, Dr. Locke said, "Okay. Hello there, little one." He looked up. "You have a son."
Harm wiped Mac's face with a wet rag. "You're doing wonderfully, honey," he said. "We have a son."
"Is he okay?" Mac asked, sounding tired but concerned. "he's not crying."
Her words were punctuated by the sound of an infant crying as the nurse took the baby from Dr. Locke and carried it over to one of the beds across the room. "He's fine," Dr. Locke assured her. "Rest for a moment while you can. His sister will be ready to come out very soon." After several sonograms, the doctor had confirmed that Mac had been carrying a boy and a girl.
Harm focused on the nurses across the room, taking care of his son. He heard snippets over conversation, weight, color, everything seemed okay. He considered leaving Mac for a moment to go over there - but the moment he felt Mac's fingers tighten on his again, his attention refocused immediately back to her. "Another contraction?" he asked, and she nodded, panting along with him.
Dr. Locke moved back into place. "I can see her head already," he told them. "Push."
"I can't," Mac insisted, exhausted from the first birth.
"Suck it up, Marine," Harm told her.
"I'm not a Marine anymore."
"Once a Marine always a Marine," he said. "Now *push*!"
"This is all your fault!" she insisted before bearing down again.
This baby began crying almost immediately, causing Mac to start to cry and laugh at the same time as Harm watched their daughter join her brother. The nurses finally brought both infants over to them after they'd been examined. They handed the blue wrapped bundle to Harm, and the pink wrapped one to Mac.
"They're so tiny," Mac said.
"Twins usually are," Dr. Locke said, finishing up. "We need to take them to the nursery for a few minutes, and then we'll bring them back to you," he continued. "Have you thought of names yet?"
Two hours later, the nurses brought the roll around bassinets back into the room where Mattie and Harm's mother and step father were waiting. "They're adorable!" Trish Burnett declared, holding one at a time. "What did you name them?"
Mac, her hand in Harm's, smiled. "Deanna Patricia and Matthew Franklin," she said, causing Trish and Frank to look at them in surprise.
"We wanted to name them after the people who have been important in our lives," Harm explained. "Mac's mother, and you, Mom; and Mac's Uncle Matt O'Hara and you, Frank."
He saw the look of total surprise on Frank's face. "I know that I didn't give you much of a chance, but I realize now that I'm glad you were there."
Trish gave them both a hug, while Harm and Frank exchanged a father-son embrace before he gave Mac a gentle hug as well. "Thank you," Frank said.
Mattie was now holding one of the babies. "Hey, Dee," she said. "I'm your big sister, Mattie."
Later that evening, after Mattie, Trish and Frank had gone back to the house, and after a visit by Bud, Harriet, Jen and Connie, along with a few other of the office personnel, Harm sat beside Mac's bed, still holding her hand. "I still can't believe it," Mac said with a tired sigh. "We have two babies, Harm."
"Two healthy, beautiful babies," he confirmed, leaning forward to kiss the back of her hand. "You're tired."
"Yeah. But it's a good tired," she told him. "If I hadn't known that I made the right choice to give up the Corps before, I would have known it today. The moment I held those two babies - I realized that they're what's important. Nothing I've ever done or could ever do equals giving birth. It really is like collaborating with God, you know?"
"I know," he said. "I love you, Mac."
"I love you, Harm."
Mac woke up, rolling over to try and find Harm and pull closer to him - but the bed was empty. Frowning, she sat up and looked around. It was only three - so he hadn't already left for work, and besides, he would have told her goodbye first.
Grabbing her robe, she left the bedroom and went to the nursery. The sight that greeted her caused her to pause and lean against the doorframe, smiling.
Harm was sitting in the rocking chair with one of the babies in his arms, rocking slowly. It wasn't the first time he'd taken care of the early morning feedings, either. In the three months since the babies had been born, he had eagerly split the parenting duties whenever he was home, giving Mac some free time for herself. He glanced up and saw her there, smiling. "Hi."
"Hi yourself. Why didn't you wake me?" she asked, coming into the room as he stood and carried the sleeping infant to her bed.
"You were sleeping so soundly. Besides, I enjoy spending time with them, since I have to spend so much time at work."
She leaned against him. "You're a good father."
"I hope so. I was just lucky you had some milk in the fridge that I could give them," he said with a small grin as they watched Dee sleeping, then moved over to Matt. "It took Dee a little longer to fall asleep than Matt," he told her.
Mac nodded. "That's usually the way it is," she confirmed, tucking the blanket around her son.
"Let's go back to bed."
She smiled up at him, feeling his long fingers brush against the side of her breast. "You sound like you have ulterior motives, sailor." His grin widened, and she took his hand, pulling him out of the nursery. "Have I ever told you that I like the way you think?"
"Maybe once or twice," he replied, following her down the hallway and into their room, closing the door behind them. On route to the bed, he stopped momentarily to turn the baby monitor back on, and then joined Mac in bed . . .
Harm entered the house and was immediately caught up by twin whirlwinds, each clamoring for his attention. Hanging his garment bag on the wall hook, he picked them up. "Hello, you two," he said, enjoying their hugs. "What did you do today?"
"I made you a picture," Dee said, wiggling and pushing away, so Harm set her back onto her feet, but kept Matt in his arms.
"Didn't you make a picture?" he asked his son.
Matt nodded. "For Mommy," he said as Harm followed Dee into the kitchen, where Mac was just finishing dinner.
He went to the refrigerator, where Dee was showing him the drawing she'd made - of an airplane flying through the air - and then admired Matt's drawing of a dog, something he'd been wanting for some time.
Putting Matt down, Harm went over and gave Mac a kiss. "Smells good," he told her, surveying the dish before her.
"Chicken lasagna," she informed him swatting his hand as he tried to steal a piece of lettuce from the salad, which caused the children to giggle.
Harm winked at them. "Have you two washed your hands?" he asked them.
"No," Matt said. "Com'on, Dee," he said, and they both turned to run from the room until Harm spoke.
"No running in the house, guys." His words brought them both back to a more sedate pace, and he shook his head and laughed once they were out of the room. Taking the lasagna over to the already set table, Harm asked, "How was your day?"
"Busy," she told him. "Between the twins' play date this morning and their doctor's appointment in the afternoon, then their tae kwon do lesson -"
"What did the doctor say?"
"They're both fine. On target for their age." She put the salad onto the table. "Oh. We got a letter from Mattie."
"How is she?" he asked. Mattie was in her fourth year at the Academy, at the top of her class. She had been in London for most of August before returning to start classes.
"Homesick - as always after a visit," Mac said. "You know the drill."
"Yeah," Harm agreed. "But she won't have to wait long to see us again."
Mac was opening the refrigerator to get the milk out when he spoke, and she stopped, looking at him. "What?"
"There's an opening at the Pentagon for an on site liaison between the Joint Chiefs and the JAG office. I was informed this afternoon that I've been tapped for the position."
Mac's jaw dropped at his news. "The *Pentagon*? We're moving back to Washington?"
"Yeah," he told her, pulling her into his arms. "And not only that, but it's a one star billet." He watched her face as she realized what he was saying.
"*Admiral*?" she questioned. "You're an Admiral?!"
"It was confirmed this morning," he told her. "The actual ceremony won't happen til we're back in the States, but I have permission to wear the uniform."
She threw her arms around his neck. "Harm! I can't believe it! Rear Admiral!"
The children came back into the room, hands extended. "They're washed, Mommy!" Dee said.
Harm chuckled and turned to inspect their hands as they turned them over. "Look good to me." He picked them both up again. "Let's go eat."
The next weeks were a blur as they packed up the house and prepared for the move to Washington. Mac and the twins went ahead of Harm, to look for new quarters while Harm remained to bring his replacement, Capt. Sturgis Turner up to speed on what was going on at the office.
Mac and the kids would stay with the Roberts, who had returned to Washington two years ago when Bud had been passed over for Commander and made the decision to retire and go into private practice back in Washington.
Harm went through the low-key change of command ceremony and then went directly to the airport and flew to join his family.
They met him at the airport, along with Mattie, who was in her Cadet's uniform, and gave him a hard time, teasing him by saluting and insisting on calling him "Admiral" and "sir" until he reminded her in a semi-stern tone that he could still decide to start driving the Vette, which he'd given to her upon her completing into her second class year at the Academy.
With that, Mattie had returned to being the daughter, delighted to see her adopted father again. "Mac found the perfect house," she informed him as he scooped Dee up into his arms to hug her again.
"I missed you, Daddy," she told him.
"I missed you, too," he replied, ruffling Matt's dark hair to include him in the statement. "So tell me about this house," he told Mac, who smiled and took his arm.
"I'd rather show you," she replied.
The house was only a block from Bud and Harriet's house, with two stories and a two car garage - and a small storage area/apartment above the garage. There was a large back yard with a swing set/playhouse already in place, and a dog run, which Matt made sure his father saw and knew what it was for.
"A dog!" Matt said.
Harm and Mac exchanged a look over their son's head. "Really?"
Dee nodded, taking up the argument, "Now we can get a dog, Daddy," she said, hugging his leg.
"We'll discuss it," Harm promised, kneeling down to their level and looking at each tiny face. "Okay?"
"Okay," Matt agreed, hugging him. Harm pulled Dee into the embrace before standing up again to tell Mac, "I like it."
"I thought you would," she said. "And we can fix the garage apartment up for Mattie to stay whenever she's in town for a visit."
"Sounds good to me."
"Then we can sign the papers tomorrow morning, before the promotion ceremony," Mac told him.
Falls Church, VA
Mac was picking up toys when Harm came home. "You're late," she said, without any accusation.
"I know. I'm sorry. I should have called, but -" he put his cover onto a table and pulled her into his arms. "Forgive me?"
"Of course I do. What happened?"
He looked around. "Where are the twins?"
"Out back with Scruffy," she told him. "Now, what happened?"
"I told you that I had a late meeting with Gen. Creswell," he began.
"When I came out, I found a young man trying to break into my car."
"That's not the worst thing - turns out, this kid is the son of a sailor who's deployed in the Gulf."
"I called his mother and took him home, but she told me that this isn't the first time he's been in trouble. Apparently she has to work, and that leaves him with a lot of time on his hands and not much parental influence."
"Let me guess," Mac said. "He's bitter and angry that his father's away so much of the time."
"That's about the size of it," he said. "I told her that I wouldn't report the incident, but suggested that she find a program for him to get into."
"That's a good idea," Mac agreed. "Something like 'Big Brothers and Sisters'," she suggested.
"Yeah. I also gave her Bud's number in case she needs a lawyer. That boy really needs a mentor to get him back onto the right path."
At that moment, two children and a dog that lived up to its name ran into the room, all three welcoming the man of the house home from his long day of work.
"Do you remember Johnny Blevins, Harm?" Mac asked a few weeks later once the twins were in bed and they were sitting in the study, Mac reading while Harm did some of the seemingly never ending paperwork involved in his job.
Harm looked at her, thoughtful. "Blevins. Wasn't he the young man who tried to steal my car outside of the JAG offices?"
"Yes. Don't tell me he got into trouble again."
"He did. And this time he tried to steal the car of someone who *wasn't* military. They called the police."
"Damn," Harm sighed. "I guess his mother called Bud?"
"She did. Bud was talking about it when I was having lunch with him and Harriet," she explained. "And when I got home, I did some research - do you have any idea how many children of *deployed* military personnel get into trouble each year?"
"I've never thought of it in terms of numbers," Harm said. "I know it's a tough life - one parent gone so much of the time either on deployment or training. I was lucky to have had my mom and Tom Boone and Frank to keep me on the right path. Not all kids are that lucky."
"No. I was one of those kids," she reminded him. "Between my mom leaving and my dad being drunk - and the only stabilizing influence in my life being gone so much," she said, referring to her Uncle Matt, "I got into trouble."
"But you turned out nicely," Harm noted, smiling at her.
"Only because Uncle Matt stepped up when it mattered," she pointed out. Sitting forward, she said, "I have a idea - but I'm going to need some help to do it."
Harm turned his full attention to her. "What's your idea?"
"I want to set up a pilot program in the area just for the children of military personnel. Pairing those children who are at risk with mentors who are *also* in the military and aren't deployed."
Harm looked thoughtful. "It just might work," he said. "Where would you want to start this 'pilot' program?" he asked as she rose from her chair and came around to perch on the edge of the desk near him.
"Well, I was thinking about Quantico. There are still enough Marines deployed out of there to various places that there must be more than a few children who would benefit from such a program."
"What would you call it?" he asked. "Big Brothers and Sisters is taken."
"I know. I was thinking more along the lines of something that was more descriptive of what the program would be about: how about 'Military Mentors'?" she suggested. "I know the wives of the COs at Quantico and Andrews. We could start joint programs at both places, since it would need to be multi-force to achieve anything."
"Do you have the time to do it?" he asked.
"Well, the twins are both in school - So I have most of the day free other than having lunch with them or going to parent-teacher conferences. And I think I could schedule anything to do with this around that." She looked at him. "The question is, would you mind if I were to do this?" she asked.
"Mac, honey, I want you to do whatever will make you happy," he told her, pulling her into his lap. "You know, I'm very proud of you. You're a wonderful mother, the perfect wife, and if you want to find a way to help others, then I think you should." Mac leaned against him, her arms around his neck.
"You know that I wouldn't trade my life for anything. This is where I was meant to be. It's just that with the kids getting older, I need something to occupy my time other than cleaning house and having lunches with the other Admiral's wives. My only regret is that I waited so long to figure it out."
"Well, we're together now. And I need to tell you something else - thank you for being here. Without you, I don't think I would have gotten this far - or enjoyed it nearly as much. Knowing that you and the twins are here for me makes it all worthwhile."
"You sweet talker," Mac said. "How much more paperwork do you have to do?"
Harm grinned, reaching behind her to close the folder on the desk. "Nothing that can't wait until tomorrow morning. Why, do you have something in mind?"
Mac's fingers worked on the buttons of his shirt as their lips met. "That answer your question?" she asked.
"I think I need more research," he told her, sliding his long fingers around her waist and pulling her closer before burying his face against her neck.
Finally Mac slowly pulled away and stood up, taking his hand to pull him with her. "Come on, Admiral. Time to weigh anchor and move this upstairs."
"That's my take charge Marine," he noted with a sexy smile as he followed her up the stairs.
"So," Mac said as they drove back from the airport, where Harm had taken each of the children up in "Sarah". "Are the rumors true that Gen. Creswell is going to retire soon?"
Harm glanced at her, surprised. "How did you hear about that?"
She smiled, shrugging. "Scuttlebutt. The military wives have a pretty good communications network."
"Yeah," Harm agreed, also smiling. "It's true. Apparently there was something in his last physical that could be a problem -"
"His heart," Mac replied. "The doctor wants him to have less stress in his life."
"And being the Navy's JAG is pretty stressful," Harm confirmed. He'd stepped into the office for a couple of weeks during Creswell's leave earlier in the summer, so he knew first hand what kind of stress the job entailed.
"You realize that you're the one name that they're talking about to replace him, don't you?"
"I work at the Pentagon, Mac. That's where those kind of things are first discussed. Yes, I know. Creswell's even recommended me for the billet."
"Dora said that he was going to do that," Mac nodded, then realized she'd probably said more than she should have and was grateful when Dee spoke up, changing his focus away from the conversation and to their children.
She thought she'd escaped the inquisition until Harm came into the kitchen after dinner as she rinsed dishes and put them into the dishwasher. "What are the twins doing?"
"Playing one of their educational video games," he said wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her back against his body. "I take it that you and Dora Creswell have discussed the possibility of my taking over as JAG?"
"Yes," Mac replied honestly. "She mentioned that he was going to have to retire due to his health, and that he thought you would be a good replacement."
"When was this?"
Mac thought back. "Last week, after the meeting of the Mentors program Council."
"Last week? And you didn't mention it until today?"
She wiped her hands and turned into his arms, looking up at him. "She swore me to secrecy, Harm. If you think the military chain of command is rough - you'd be surprised at the chain within the officer's wives."
"I'm sure," he said. "The General said that he thought it would be a pretty easy job to get me the billet - considering that I have his support and that of the SecNav."
"Not to mention the President himself," she reminded him. "Sheffield owes you."
"Owes me? For what?" he asked, frowning.
"Saving his six at the Hague," she said.
"I didn't do that alone -"
"You did. I know that Bud and I were there - well, Bud was there for awhile - but you're the one who convinced the Court that Sheffield was innocent of the charges against him." She put her arms around his neck. "*You* are going to be the next Judge Advocate General of the United States Navy, Harm," she stated in a confident voice.
"I might not be the only one up for the spot, Mac," he pointed out. "There are other officers out there who are just as qualified -"
"None of them have the stamp of approval of the current JAG, the SecNav *and* the President," she countered. "I'm already planning your promotion dinner," she told him, pulling his head down closer to hers, capturing his lips.
Harm's hands moved down to lift her onto the counter as the embrace and kiss continued.
"Mommy! Matt won't let me have my turn!" Dee called out, throwing a bucket of water on them both.
The kiss ended with both of them laughing softly. "You finish in here," Harm said, lowering her back to the floor with another kiss. "I'll get them tucked into bed and tell them a story. After you finish here, you can come up and say goodnight - and then -"
"We'll finish this," she continued, reluctantly releasing him.
Falls Church, VA
Mac stood proudly beside Harm as he was officially promoted to a two-star Admiral and accepted command of the Navy's JAG offices. The parking lot in front of the building was packed with various dignitaries and invited guests, along with the personnel of JAG Headquarters.
After giving him a kiss - the evidence of which she quickly removed with a handkerchief - she stepped back so that he could move to the podium. In the audience, she saw the twins sitting with Mattie - Lt. Matilda Grace Rabb - and Harm's mother and Frank.
"I'm sure that most of you will be glad to know that I'm going to keep my comments brief," Harm opened, causing a ripple of laughter to move through the crowd, along with a scattering of applause from the civilians who knew him. "During my time in the Navy, I've made many friends - both civilian and military. Some of them are here today - people who always saw in me what I sometimes couldn't see myself." He smiled, finding the faces of some of those people. Tom Boone, Skates, Bobbie Latham, AJ Chegwidden, Bud and Harriet, Keeter, even Sturgis, who was there with Varise. His gaze included those on the dais as well, Pres. Sheffield, the SecNav, and the CNO. "Thank you." He paused before continuing. "And I've watched a new generation of Naval personnel come up through the ranks to continue traditions." His smile this time was for Mattie - and for soon to be Captain Mike Roberts - and for Lt. Cmdr. Josh Pendry, who was in Mattie's squadron. "I want to thank my mother for putting up with a son who probably wasn't the easiest to handle at times - and for always supporting him in his dream of following in his father's footsteps. And my stepfather - who put up with my anger and distrust in the early years of our relationship. Thank you for being there and not giving up on me."
"Last, but certainly not least," he turned to look at Mac, "I want to thank my wife, Sarah McKenzie Rabb. She's been there to support me, keeping me on course, and not letting me back down when it might have been the easier course in rough seas. I know that I tell her this every day - but this time, I have witnesses. And since I'm a lawyer, I know how important that is." Another trill of laughter as he turned and held out his hand for Mac to take. She rose slowly and joined him, holding his hand. "Thank you. For loving me and for believing in me. For giving me two wonderful children." When Mac would have pulled back and returned to her seat, Harm refused to let her go as he continued.
"To those now in my command - I hope to continue the well-earned reputation for honesty and adherence to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. My door will always open, so if you have a problem or need assistance, feel free to ask. If I can help, I will. If I can't, I find someone who can. This country still faces a grave threat from those who would destroy us - and it's our job to make sure those who defend her do so within the confines of her Constitution and the UCMJ. I will do everything in my power to see that we do that job to the best of our abilities. Thank you. Now, let's get to work."
Falls Church, VA
"You were a Marine, weren't you?"
Mac smiled at the question from the young reporter as they drank some coffee. "Yes. I left the Corps as a Lt. Colonel ten years ago - shortly after Harm and I were married."
"Why? From what I've discovered, you were on a fast track just like Adm. Rabb. You could have been the JAG right now instead of him."
"I could have," Mac agreed. "But I wouldn't have had my children - and that was the deciding factor for me."
"Other women have families and a career, Mrs. Rabb."
The smile on Mac's face never wavered. She had heard the slightly accusatory tone of the young, very ambitious young woman sitting across from her before. "Yes. And they have to give up time with their children to do it. I didn't want to do that. By the time I became pregnant, I knew that it was going to be my one chance at having children of my own. I didn't want to miss a single minute of their growing. I didn't want to be on deployment or temporary duty somewhere else when they said their first word or took their first steps. A friend once told me that having a baby was like - collaborating with God. I didn't really understand that until I was pregnant, after I'd convinced myself that it was never going to happen." She smiled. "I know it's not PC for a woman to *want* to be a full time wife and mother, but there *are* rewards. Being there for your children. Being there when my husband gets home at the end of the day. I don't regret my life. In fact, I wish I had realized how fulfilling it can be earlier than I did."
"Would you object if one of your children wanted to go into the military?"
"No. Harm and I have an adopted daughter who's already following in our footsteps."
"Cmdr. Matilda Rabb," the reporter nodded, and Mac was surprised that she'd done that much research.
"Yes. She's currently serving on the Patrick Henry flying F-22s. If Matt or Deana want to go into the Navy or the Corps when they're older, I'll be equally proud of them. I'm pretty sure that Deana is going to follow in Harm's footsteps."
"She loves flying as much as he does, and she's only ten. Mattie's her hero at the moment."
"You and the Admiral have opened your home over the last few years to at risk children of military personnel," the reporter noted.
Finally getting around to her pet project, Mac smiled widely. "Yes. Through the Military Mentoring Program."
"Can you explain a little about what the program is about?"
"It's similar to Big Brothers and Big Sisters," Mac said. "Only this program is for the children of military personnel. It's an effort to give those children someone to turn to if one or more of their parents is deployed so that those same children don't end up in trouble. We screen military volunteers and match them with those children who are recommended to the program by Family Support Groups and local law enforcement and social service agencies."
"You started this program six years ago. Has it helped?"
"I think so. The numbers back that up. Before the program began, there were a high number of minor military dependents who were getting into trouble." She pulled out the papers reflecting those numbers and showed it to the woman. "Now, after five full years, those numbers have dropped drastically. These children are finishing school, going on to become fully functional adults."
"Impressive. And the Pentagon has agreed to start these groups at every military base?"
"Well, the ones where there are dependents, yes."
"What about funding?"
"We're a fully donation funded charity, with no funding from the military or the government. I can proudly say that 98 cents of every dollar we get goes back into the program -"
She smiled as she saw the tall, handsome Admiral enter the restaurant, and waved to get his attention. He returned the smile and moved toward them, his cover under his arm. "Hello," she said, rising when he reached the table to give him a kiss.
"Am I interrupting?" he asked, seeing the young woman.
"No. I think we were just about finished, weren't we? Rachel Morris, this is -"
"You don't have to introduce us," Rachel said. "I know the Admiral from seeing him on new reports." She took his hand. "Admiral." She gathered her recorder and other items before rising. "Mrs. Rabb is right: I have enough for my article. You're a very lucky man, sir," she told him.
Harm's smile widened as he looked down at Mac. "Believe me, Miss Morris. I know. I'm the luckiest man in the world because when Mac had a choice to make, she chose me and our family. And I'm grateful for that every day."
Mac saw Rachel's dreamy expression, and knew that Harm's 'magic' had worked yet again. "If you need anything else, Rachel, don't hesitate to call."
"I will. Thank you again. It was nice meeting you in person, Admiral," Rachel said before leaving them alone at the table.
"I think that I'm the lucky one here," Mac told him, taking his hand.
"I have everything I ever wanted. A good man, children - and-"
Harm laughed softly as he finished the old joke. "Lots and lots of shoes." His thumb moved across the back of her hand. "You're missing the career, though."
"I have a career, thank you. Raising the twins and being the wife of a Navy officer who is rumored to be the next CNO is a full time job. Not to mention the time I spend on the MMP. I couldn't be any happier. I made my choice - and I don't have any regrets."
Harm grinned. "Speaking of the CNO billet "