Harm woke to find himself alone in the bed. The bathroom door was open, and the smell of coffee was wafting through the apartment. Finding his warm-ups, Harm made a quick visit to the head before passing through the living room to the kitchen door.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," Mattie teased when she saw him.
"What time is it?" he asked, watching her pour him a cup of coffee.
"0814," Mac supplied easily from the stove, where she was cooking breakfast. She glanced at him, and then quickly looked away.
Taking a drink from his cup, Harm placed it on the counter before moving to stand behind Mac, sliding his arms around her waist. "Good morning."
She turned her head and looked at him again, accepting the kiss he gave her before glancing nervously toward Mattie. "Harm -"
"Hey, don't mind me," Mattie insisted, grabbing the plates and utensils from the cabinet. "I'm going to go set the table anyway."
"You embarrassed her," Mac accused gently.
"Her, or you?" he questioned, releasing her to grab his cup again as he turned to lean against the counter nearby.
"A little of both." She gave him a shy smile. "I didn't expect the morning after to be well -"
"Awkward," she said. "Worrying that Mattie might be upset, and that -"
"That they only reason we're together is because you want a child more than anything else," she said quickly, as if needing to say it before she lost her nerve.
Harm, in middle of taking a drink from his cup, nearly choked at her words. "You don't believe that, Mac."
"I don't want to," she told him.
Harm picked up the skillet and place it onto a cold burner, took the spatula out of her hand and gently turned her to face him. "Mac, I don't care if we never have a child of our own. That's not what's important here. What's important is that we love each other and we're together because we want to be. Unless you regret what happened last night -?"
"No," she said. "Of course not."
"Is this about Webb?" he asked. "Maybe we should have waited longer - I rushed you -"
"No, you didn't, Harm. I *wanted* it as much as you did. I'm just - I'm afraid."
"I'm happy. For the first time in a long time. And I can't help but worry when it's going to end."
"Why should it end, honey?" he asked.
"Because it always does."
Harm pulled her close. "Not this time. This time is forever."
She looked up at him. "You promise?"
"Don't make promises you can't keep."
He smiled at the reference to the other promise. "I haven't yet. I do love you, Sarah," he said, smoothing her dark hair with his hands and looking into her eyes.
"Me too," she answered, and returned the kiss that he proceeded to claim until Mattie cleared her throat behind them.
"I'm glad you two figured it out, but I'm hungry," she told them.
"You're always hungry," Harm teased. "Just like a certain Marine I know."
"So why did you stop me from making breakfast?" Mac asked, pushing away from him. "Go take a shower while Mattie and I finish up in here."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, giving her a sharp salute before turning to leave the kitchen, only to stop as he felt a stinging pain in his hip as a towel connected with it.
Hearing Mattie's stifled laughter mixed with Mac's he knew what had happened, but when he turned around, Mac was at the stove again, looking the picture of innocence. "I thought you were going to take a shower?" she asked, as if suddenly realizing that he was still there.
"Remember what they say about payback," he told her.
"I don't know *what* you're talking about, Harm," she said. "Do you, Mattie?"
"What?" Mattie asked, pretending ignorance as she looked around from putting bread into the toaster.
"I'm going to take my shower," Harm announced, and as he walked across the living room, he heard Mac and Mattie laughing again. Deciding that he liked the sound, Harm found himself laughing as he went into the bathroom.
Mr. Brooks met them at the gravesite, his expression the same somber one of the day before, but he spoke to them quietly away from everyone else. "I'd like to apologize for the - distasteful incident which occurred yesterday," he said.
"It wasn't your fault, Mr. Brooks," Mac assured him. "You had no way of knowing it would happen."
"No, but it did happen on my property - and for it to occur at all is most distressing -"
"It's okay," Harm assured him, noticed Wesley, Kyle and their families arriving. Wesley spoke to his brother for a moment and then moved toward them. Ignoring Mattie, Harm, and Mac, he spoke to Mr. Brooks.
"Excuse me, Mr. Brooks, but I thought you should know that Marie won't be able to make it today." He glanced toward Harm. "She's - not feeling very well."
"Thank you for letting me know, Mr. Johnson."
Mattie looked at Harm as they were left alone again. "Aunt Marie's drunk," she announced quietly. "That's what 'not feeling well' means."
"Either that or she doesn't want to face anyone since her husband's in jail," Harm suggested.
"No, she's drunk. I'm surprised she was sober yesterday."
"If she drinks that much, Mattie, how does she work?" Mac questioned.
"She only drinks when she's *not* working," Mattie said, looking at the road through the cemetery as a car pulled up at the curb and someone got out. "Jen?"
Mac and Harm turned, following her gaze to see Jen, Bud, and Harriet get out of the Roberts' minivan and approach them. "Bud. Harriet. This is a surprise."
"Jen wanted to come for Mattie, and so we thought we'd come too," Harriet explained after giving Mattie a brief hug.
"Where are the boys?" Harm asked.
Bud smiled as he answered. "Mike's with them."
"Aha. Thanks for coming."
Harriet gave Harm a smile. "Of course we came. I know we haven't been family over the last year, but I think times like this should bring people together, remind them of what's important in life. You and the Colonel were there for us when Bud was injured, sir. It's only right that we be here for Mattie now."
"You're remarkable, Harriet," Harm told her. "And you don't have to 'sir' me anymore."
"Or call me 'Colonel'," Mac added.
Mr. Brooks approached the group. "We're ready to begin the service," he informed them.
Harm placed an arm around Mattie's shoulders and took Mac's hand in his as they turned toward the rows of chairs that had been placed beside the coffin. He noticed the look that Bud and Harriet exchanged as they saw his and Mac's entwined fingers, but turned his attention to making sure that Mattie got through the next few minutes.
A local minister, who had spoken at Mattie's mother's funeral, gave a brief sermon before saying a prayer, and it was over. Mattie moved over to kneel beside the coffin for a moment, and Harm took a deep breath, blinking away the moisture that had gathered behind his eyes when Mac moved over to join her.
Wesley and the others left without saying a word, causing Bud to turn to Harm. "Who was that, sir?"
"Harm, Bud. We're not at work. Mattie's cousins and their families. It's a long story, but let's just say it's not a close family."
Harm looked to where Mattie, Jen, Harriet and Mac were talking near the Lexus. "In fact, Mattie's aunt didn't come today because she was 'under the weather', a phrase that Mattie says is a euphemism for her being too drunk to go anywhere."
"Seems to be a family problem then. At least Mattie's father was overcoming it."
Mac looked up and smiled at Harm, and he returned it. "Sir, tell me if I'm out of line, but - are you and Mac -"
"We're getting there, Bud," Harm said. "That's all I want to say right now."
"Are you ready to go, Bud?" Harriet asked as she joined them.
"Now? I thought we might go somewhere and get something to eat," Harm objected.
"Mike has to get back be 2000 hours," Bud said.
"Jen's going with you guys," Harriet explained to Harm. "Mattie's planning on convincing you to stop by the new house."
Harm shook his head. "We haven't even made a final decision about taking it yet."
"You will," Harriet said with a certainty that caused Harm to give her a look of surprise. "You're a pushover," she told him.
"Harriet!" Bud yelped, but Harm was laughing.
"She's right, Bud. When it comes to certain things, I am *definitely* a pushover."
"Was I right?" Mattie asked Jen as they stood in the middle of the living room of the two-room garage apartment. "Is it perfect or what?"
"It certainly *looks* perfect," Jen agreed. "It would depend on the rent, though -"
"Around what you've been paying," Harm told her. "The utilities are on the main meter, but there's a separate hot-water heater up here. Not much in the way of a kitchen, but -"
"As long as I have a microwave and a hotplate I'll be fine, sir," she said, and then hesitated. "That is - if you decide to take the house."
Harm saw three pairs of eyes turn toward him and took a deep breath before saying, "Why don't Mac and I go downstairs and talk to Mr. Cramer?"
"Yes!" Mattie said.
Half an hour later, Harm and Mac had signed the lease on the house and Harm had written a check for the first month's rent. Mac supplied a check for the deposit. Mr. Cramer handed them each a set of keys and smiled as he wished the four of them a pleasant evening before leaving to have dinner with his wife.
"When do we move in?" Mattie wanted to know before the man was even out of the driveway.
"That's going to take some planning, Mattie," Harm pointed out. "Moving vans and boxes and -"
"Next weekend?" Mattie suggested.
"I think we'll have to work toward sooner than that - if the court finds out that we're staying at Mac's -"
"Why are you worried about the court?" Mattie wanted to know. "They wouldn't take me away now. Would they?"
"With your father dead - "
"But he wanted me to be with you," she insisted. "He told me that last week. That if anything ever happened to him, he was glad you were around so I wouldn't be alone."
"It's one thing for him to tell you that, Mattie," Mac pointed out. "But if he didn't leave a will -"
"He said he was going to. That while he was at rehab they suggested that he make arrangements so that I'd be taken care of. He told me he was going to have you sign the will as a witness, Harm -"
"When was this?"
She paused, thinking. "The night before he was killed. Wednesday."
Harm and Mac looked at each other, both thinking the same thing: that Tom Johnson had probably been carrying the will when he'd been shot. "Mattie, what did you do with those things that Agent Holland gave you?"
"They're at Mac's. Why?"
"It's possible that his will is in that bag. And if it is -"
"Then the court won't be able to take me away?"
"Not if I can prove to them that I can take care of you."
"You already do that," she said.
"Until lately, I've let other people take on a lot of that responsibility. Like Jen."
"I didn't mind, sir," Jen assured him.
"I know. And I appreciate all you've done. But from now on, this young lady is going to learn to live in the same house as her family. Big change from being on your own."
"I wasn't on my own," Mattie said. "You were there."
"He's good at that," Mac told her.
Mattie turned to Jen. "Come on, Jen. Let me show you which room I've picked out."
Jen hung back for a moment until Harm lifted his arm. "Go on. We can stay a little longer." Once the girls were gone, he turned to slip his arms around Mac. "We're going to have to work on logistics."
"The easiest way would be to hire someone to come in and move everything from my place over here and then we'll see what other furniture we need."
Harm groaned, resting his forehead against hers. "Furniture. I hadn't even thought about that."
"Then it's a good think I'm here, isn't it?" she asked, smiling.
"Damn good thing," he agreed, his lips on hers. As the kiss ended, he asked, "Have you been out back yet?"
He took her hand and pulled her through the kitchen and to the back door. "Close your eyes."
She gave him an uncertain look. "Harm -"
"Do you trust me, Mac?"
"You know I do."
"Then close your eyes. I promise. You'll like it."
She closed her eyes tightly, and Harm opened the door, pulling her outside, warning her softly about the step down onto the patio. Once he had her in position behind the workshop, he said, "Now, take a deep breath, and open your eyes."
Mac did a he asked, and then gasped at what she saw. A small gazebo sat right in the middle of a rose garden. Mac lifted a hand to touch one of the roses, this one a creamy pale yellow. There were other colors as well - and she noticed that the garden needed tending.
"*This* is what made me decide I wanted you to see this place," he told her, sliding his arms around her from behind. "Everytime I see a rose, I think of you."
Mac turned into his arms to kiss him
After having dinner at a restaurant, they dropped Jen off at the Roberts, and returned to Mac's apartment in Georgetown. The instant they entered, Mattie went to her suitcases in Mac's bedroom and returned with the plastic evidence bag that Agent Holland had given to her. Holding it out to Harm, she said, "Here."
Harm looked at it. "You haven't opened it?"
"I guess I wasn't ready yet," she told him. "I'm still not. But I thought you could look and see if the will is there." She turned around. "I'm going to take a shower."
Harm watched her go, worried. "She needs time, Harm," Mac reminded him.
"I know," he said, taking the bag over to the sofa, where he opened it and began to remove the contents. A wallet, containing several photographs of Mattie by herself and of she and her parents, a coin with the AA prayer stamped on it, some pocket change, keys to the truck - which, Harm reminded himself, was still parked outside of the old apartment building - and a piece of paper folded over several times were all that was left of a man's life.
"It never fails to amaze me," Mac said quietly, looking at the small, rather pitiful pile of personal items, "an entire life and it boils down to this. Not much, is there?"
"No," Harm agreed. "But the most important thing in his life wasn't something that could be put into a plastic ziplock bag." He indicated the photograph of a smiling Mattie and her parents before picking up the folded paper. Carefully opening it up, he read what was written. "Bingo."
"It's his will?"
"Signed, dated - and witnessed by a - Leo Gregory."
"Was Mattie right? Did he want you to have her if -"
"Yes. 'In the event of my death before my daughter Matilda Grace Johnson reaches the age of 18 years, I hereby name Harmon Rabb, Jr. as her legal guardian . . .' I don't think the court will be able to argue with it."
"You realize this means she's *really* your responsibility now, don't you? No wiggle room."
"I never wanted wiggle room, Mac. When I started this, the only thing I wanted to have Mattie as a part of my life. Her father's return just before Christmas wasn't something I had counted on. I didn't count on a lot of things, I guess. Like how much I'd miss her if she weren't around." When Mac covered his hand with hers, he smiled at her. "I couldn't love Mattie anymore if she was my own child, Mac. Walking away wasn't going to be an option."
The bedroom door opened, and Mattie came out, still using a towel to dry her long hair, Seeing them sitting on the sofa, both with tears in their eyes, she froze. "It wasn't there?"
Harm held out the paper toward her, waiting for her to take it. "Yes, it was."
She read it and then looked at him. "Aren't you happy about this?" she asked, misunderstanding his reaction.
"Oh, yeah. I'm happy, honey," he assured her, rising to his feet and pulling her into his arms. "No one is going to take you away again. Not until you're ready to go, anyway."
"And even then," Mac suggested, "I think he's going to have a hard time cutting the apron strings. Think they'll stretch from here to Annapolis?"
Harm chuckled and held out his arm, inviting her to join them. "Come here. You're part of this too."
1000 Hours Local
Falls Church, VA
"You're sure you're okay?" Harm said into the telephone as he signed the papers that Jen placed in front of him.
"Harm, you and Mac have been gone what - two hours? I'm almost sixteen -"
"You're still fifteen," he countered.
"Still plenty old enough to stay by myself during the day without you calling me every five minutes."
"Now I know you're exaggerating," he said. "It's been longer than five minutes."
"Okay, ten. Seriously, Harm, I'm okay here. I'll just hang and veg out in front of the TV -"
"That's what I'm afraid of," Harm sighed.
"I could be down on the street, getting into trouble," Mattie suggested, and Harm chuckled.
"Point taken. If you need anything."
"I have your private number, your and Mac's cell phones and the main number into JAG. I think I can manage."
"Bye," he said.
Handing the papers back to Jen, Harm noticed the grin that she was trying desperately to hide. "You wouldn't be laughing at me by any chance, would you, Petty Officer?" he questioned in a firm tone.
"No, sir. That thought would never occur to me. But she's right. It was like - five minutes."
"Don't you have work to do, Coates?" he asked, the twinkle in his eyes giving lie to the tone of voice.
"Yes, sir," she proclaimed, turning on her heel and leaving the office.
Harm sighed deeply and took the first folder from the stack on his desk and opened it.
"I do understand your decision to make this effort, Colonel. But you should also be aware that your chances of conception aren't as high. The time frame could become critical."
"How much of a window would you say I have?" Mac wanted to know. When Harm had called from the apartment early that morning to cancel his appointment with Dr. Macon's office, she had expected the doctor to call her and ask the reason for the cancellation. He hadn't disappointed her.
"No more than three months. After that, we'll have to move to a more drastic procedure and use the drugs. Why don't you make the appointment for then, so you won't have to wait any longer?" he suggested. "Hopefully, you won't need to keep it. But if you do -"
"Okay. Make the appointment."
"Very well. I do want to wish you good luck, Colonel Mackenzie. Regardless of what people think about my specialty, I still prefer the idea of people doing things the old-fashioned way. I'm simply here to give a helping hand if necessary."
"Thank you, Doctor."
"You can thank me best by having a healthy baby in the next year," he told her. "Good bye."
Mac hung up the phone and sat staring at it for a moment until she noticed movement in the doorway of her office. A deliveryman was standing there with a single red rose in his hand. "May I help you?" she asked, a strange sense of déjà vu coming over her.
"Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie?" he asked.
Mac noticed several of the staff in the bullpen were turned toward her office, watching as she stood up and approached him. "Yes. I'm Col. Mackenzie."
He held out the rose. "This is for you."
Mac took the rose. "For me?"
"Yes, ma'am." He nodded. "Have a nice day."
"Wait," Mac said, stopping him as he stepped out of her office. "There's no card?"
"I was told to deliver a single red rose to Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie at JAG Headquarters, ma'am," he explained. "Now, if you'll excuse me -"
"Of course," Mac nodded, looking at the rose again, turning back into her office. Finding a half empty bottle of water inside a drawer, Mac removed the lid and dropped the long stem of the flower into it, placing it on her desk in plain site.
"Looks as though you have an admirer," Sturgis commented from the doorway, pulling Mac out of her thoughts.
She looked up and smiled. "Apparently. It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"A single red rose. Strange how something so insignificant can say so much, don't you agree?"
"Oh, completely," Mac nodded.
"So, does that mean I'm no longer bound by my promise to keep a certain conversation to myself?" he asked. "According to office scuttlebutt, you and Harm are spending quite a bit of time together these days. And not just because he and Mattie are staying with you."
"And since when do *you* listen to scuttlebutt, Sturgis?" Mac asked.
"When it concerns two people that I care about, I listen. Is it true?"
"I think so."
"You *think* so?" Sturgis shook his head. "Mac, either you're together or you're not."
"We're going to be buying a house together," Mac told him. "So I guess the answer would be yes, we are."
"How come I still don't hear any *real* certainty in your tone, then?" he asked.
"Maybe because I'm afraid to be too certain about anything in my life anymore," Mac sighed.
"Run that by me again?"
"Every time I think my life is finally coming together, something always happens to throw it back into a state of chaos," she said with a sigh. "You get kicked back down that way enough, you start to question whether anything will last."
"Have you discussed this with Harm?"
"I mentioned it. But there's so much going on right now that we didn't really get into it."
"You should. The man's a poster boy for picking yourself up after a fall and rebuilding his life." His dark eyes softened. "And so are you. Don't sell yourself - or Harm - short, Mac. The man's tenacious as hell."
"Don't you mean stubborn?" Mac questioned with a smile.
"Pot calling the kettle black," Sturgis pointed out, but he was smiling as well. "I have to get to court, but I was wondering if you wanted to get together this afternoon to discuss the Donaldson Article 32."
"You willing to deal?"
"We'll discuss it," was all he would say.
"How about 1400?" she suggested.
"See you then."
As Mac turned her attention back to work, she noticed the SecNav crossing the bullpen heading toward Harm's office.
"Excuse me, Commander, but the SecNav is here to see you."
Harm looked up from the report he'd been reading to see Sec. Sheffield standing behind the Petty Officer. Rising to his feet, Harm nodded at the yeoman. "Thank you, Coates. Good morning, sir."
"Please, Commander. Sit down," Sheffield said in that quiet tone that often caused people to underestimate him. He sat down in one of the chairs in front of the desk. "I'm here to see how you're doing after last week."
"I'm fine, sir. I've already found another place to live - it's just a matter of finding the time to get moved in."
"And your ward? Miss Grace, I believe? How is she?"
"She's doing well. She appreciated the flowers that you sent to her father's funeral."
"I felt that it was the least I could do. I feel somewhat responsible for what happened."
"You had no way of knowing, sir. If it's anyone's fault, it should be mine for not having spoken up earlier."
"I still don't understand how someone with Allison Krennick's record could have - there was no *need* for her to do the things she did. She was promoted on merit every time, never *any* hint of instability in her mental profile."
"Sometimes it doesn't take much to make a person snap, Mr. Secretary. A word, an isolated incident. Admiral Krennick had worked her entire life with one goal in mind: to become the first female Navy JAG. When she saw that goal being taken out of her grasp, she retaliated against what she perceived to be the reason for that loss."
"Which only goes to show that anyone is capable of such things if pushed to their limits," Sheffield noted sadly. He rose from his chair. "I was on my way to another meeting, but I wanted to stop in and see how you were doing - and to tell you that if there is anything I can do for your ward, please don't hesitate to call on me."
Harm stood as well, coming around to shake the man's hand. "I'll remember that when Mattie's ready to pursue an appointment to the Academy, sir."
"She's planning on attending the Academy?"
"Yes, sir. She wants to be a pilot," Harm explained proudly.
"If she's even half as good as her guardian, then the Navy will be lucky to have her."
Harm hid his surprise at the compliment as he followed the other man into Jen's office. "Thank you, sir."
Sheffield smiled. "Good day, Harm."
"Good day, sir."
"Is everything all right, Commander?" Jen asked, giving him a worried look.
"Everything's fine," he assured her, trying to see into Mac's office. "Uh, Jen, has there been anyone here to deliver anything?"
She grinned. "You mean the delivery man who brought Col. Mackenzie a single red rose, sir?"
"She got it?"
"He left a few minutes before the SecNav arrived, sir."
Harm nodded. "I'm going to get some coffee," he decided, moving across the bullpen - with a detour in the direction of Mac's office.
She sat staring at the computer screen when he knocked on the doorframe. Glancing up, she smiled. "Hey."
"Hey. Busy?" he asked.
"Just doing some research on the Donaldson case. Sturgis wants to discuss it this afternoon. I noticed you had a visitor," she said as he moved to stand before the desk, fingering the soft petals of the rose.
"He wanted to find out how Mattie was doing after what happened last week. And I think he wanted to check up on how *I* was doing around here."
Mac glanced behind him to the bull pen outside of her office. "Everything looks calm and under control to me."
"Nice rose," he commented.
"Yes, it is, isn't it?" she agreed, sitting back in her chair. "There was no card."
"A secret admirer? I wonder who it could be?"
"Oh, I don't know. Commander Jenkins downstairs might have sent it," she suggested.
"Mike Jenkins?" he questioned. "What makes you say that?"
"He's always smiling and friendly when I go down to the legal services office - Of course, there's always Col. Davis -"
"Mac -" Harm said, frowning until he saw her start to smile and realized that she was teasing him.
"Thank you," she said. "It's beautiful."
"No more beautiful than you are," Harm said as Coates appeared in the doorway.
"Excuse me, Commander, but - Admiral Hastings is on the telephone for you."
"I'll be right there, Coates." Harm took a deep breath. "Back to the salt mines," he told Mac. "Lunch?"
For the next week, they spent their evenings packing things into Mattie's father's truck and transporting them to the new house. Harm's Vette had already been ferried out to Lewinsville, secured in the garage there, as was the pickup during the night and day while Harm and Mac were working.
The two of them were finding it easier than they had imagined to maintain a working, professional relationship - but they were also aware that a new JAG might decide to split them up - and if they were to take their relationship to the next, logical step, it would mean that one of them would *have* to transfer out, since they no longer had AJ around to use 'Admiral's privilege' to keep them in the same office.
And the roses kept arriving. On Tuesday, the same deliveryman brought two, on Wednesday, it was three; by Friday, Mac shook her head at the five red roses and marched into Harm's office.
"This has *got* to stop," she told him, closing the door behind her.
He looked up from the papers on his desk. "What has?"
"Oh. How many was it today?"
"You know darn well how many I got today," she said, coming around the desk and pulling his chair around so that she could brace her hands on the arms. "Five. That makes a total of fifteen this week. You're spending a fortune on roses!"
"Ah, but you're worth it," he told her, pulling her into his lap, ignoring her protest as he reached across to the intercom. "Coates, the Colonel and I are in conference for the next few minutes. See that we're not disturbed."
"Yes, sir, Commander," Coates replied crisply.
"Harm, you're going to get us both court-martialed," Mac insisted, but she wasn't trying to get out of his lap anymore as he pressed a kiss to the side of her neck.
"I've sworn Jen to secrecy."
"And what if the SecNav or someone else insists on coming in here?"
His shoulders slumped and he sighed. "You're going to insist on being practical, aren't you?"
"I'm afraid so. But if it makes you feel any better, I was tempted to throw caution to the wind."
He reluctantly released her. "Okay."
"And I meant what I said about the roses. As beautiful as they are, Harm -"
"Okay. I won't send anymore roses," he told her, following her toward the door, where he took her hand before she opened it. "I only did it so you'd know that I love you."
Mac turned to him, touching his cheek. "You're sweet."
"Mmm," was his response as she opened the door and left the office. "That wasn't quite the response I was looking for," he muttered.
"I beg your pardon, sir?" Jen asked.
"Nothing," he said, returning to his office and sitting down at the desk. While he'd told Mac on several occasions that he loved her, she had yet to actually say the words back to him. Usually, he would say it and she would respond, "Me too," or "So do I." Everything was wonderful between the two of them. They had found the friendship that he'd thought lost just a few months ago - combining it with the physical closeness that he'd never really expected to share with her.
The only dark spot was in not knowing for sure that she felt the same way about him. The fear that he was second best, that he'd only been a fallback position after Webb's death was something that he normally managed to keep at bay. But at the moment, it was eating at his confidence, making him uncertain and afraid for the future.
Picking up the phone, he dialed the number of the florist who'd been sending the roses all week. "Yes, this is Commander Rabb -"
"Hello, Commander. Dennis says that Col. Mackenzie's office is starting to look like my shop."
Harm chuckled softly. "Yes, well. I think we need to make a change - She's getting a little tired of roses."
"After fifteen? I don't doubt it. What would you prefer next?"
"Didn't I see that you also sell chocolates?" he asked. He might have promised Mac not to send any more roses, but he'd never said anything about chocolate . . .
The weekend was spent moving Mac's things into the new house, as well as getting what could be salvaged out of Jen and Mattie's old apartment. It was the first time Mac or Sturgis had seen the devastation that Allison Krennick had wrought in her search for revenge. There hadn't been time to go up when they had come over for the Vette and then the truck, and seeing it at last, she stood there, nearly in tears at the scene.
"You put so much time and money into this place," she sighed, leaning back against him.
"It's just a place, Mac," he told her. "Four walls. I'll make the new place my own after awhile."
She smiled, turning to look up at him. "So that's what I have to look forward to."
"Among other things," he returned, capturing her lips for a kiss.
"Hey, you two," Sturgis said, interrupting them. "Time for that later. Right now, I could use some help getting things out of Jen's apartment."
"Sorry, pal," Harm apologized, turning to join his friend.
By Sunday evening, Jen's apartment was ready, and she invited Mattie up to share some of the pizza that had been ordered for dinner. Mattie looked at Harm and Mac, as if asking permission.
"Go," Harm said, holding out one of the boxes for them to take.
Mac looked at him once the two girls left through the back door and he settled back onto the sofa with her. "Did you arrange this?" she asked.
"For Jen to invite Mattie upstairs so we could be alone."
"No," he answered honestly. "But I wish I had." Mac moved to pick up some pizza and he saw her wince. "Your back's hurting, isn't it?"
"A little. I think it's mostly from all the carrying things around I did over the last two days."
"After we eat, I'll rub it, if you like."
"There's still so much to do before we turn in," she sighed. "The kitchen still needs squared away, and the beds -"
"We'll make the beds and everything else can wait until tomorrow. Mattie will be here, it will give her something to do." Pulling her back against his side, he told her, "You've done enough for today. Time to take it easy."
"Don't treat me like I might break any minute, Harm."
"I'm not," he insisted. "I'm just concerned. Hey, *I'm* tired, and I'm not ashamed to admit it."
"You're used to sitting behind a desk all day," she teased. "Has SecNav mentioned anything else about a new JAG?"
"Not a word. Scuttlebutt around town is that they're interviewing possible appointees, but even then he's not about to put someone in that office until they're confirmed." He took a bite of pizza and then groaned. "And I have a meeting on the Hill tomorrow morning with the CNO."
"You realize that if you keep this up, you'll get that promotion."
"I'm not really sure I want it now."
Mac turned to look at him. "What?"
"A promotion to Captain would require that I accept a command somewhere. And that could take me away from you and Mattie."
"Not necessarily. You could be assigned to the Pentagon, or the Navy Yards -"
"Or overseas," he finished. "I've been doing some checking with my detailer just in case - there's not much in the area, I'm afraid."
"Now who's being pessimistic?" she asked. "We'll manage, Harm. Whatever happens."
"I think I'd rather retire and fly tourists than to end up leaving you and Mattie alone, Mac," he said, resting his chin on the top of her head.
"I don't want to think about it right now," Mac decided. "I'd rather enjoy being together now instead of worrying about what might happen next week or next month or -."
"I get the point," Harm sighed, tightening his arm around her. "I love you so much, the thought of leaving -"He sighed again.
"I feel the same way, Harm," she assured him, and he couldn't help but notice that she still hadn't said the words.
Returning his half-eaten pizza to the box, Harm turned her to face him. "Mac, do you love me?"
"I said I did," she answered and yet didn't answer.
"It's a yes or no question, Mac."
"Harm, do I have to say it? I thought you'd know by now how I feel -" she said, pulling away from him and standing up to go to the window that looked out onto the front porch.
"Then why can't you say the words?" he asked. "It's not like you're still waiting for me to say them. Hell, I've said them at least once every day for the last week. Is it because I pushed you too hard and -"
"No," she insisted, turning to look at him. "I can't say it, Harm. I - I can't."
He frowned, confused. "Why? Because you don't feel the same way?"
"Of course I do," she insisted. "It's not that I don't *want* to say the words, Harm," she said, turning to look out of the window again. "It's that - that I'm afraid to say them."
Harm rose, crossing to stand behind her. "Afraid? What are you afraid of, Sarah?" he asked, taking a chance and reaching out to place his hands on her shoulders.
"Every time I've said the words to someone they've left," she finally answered in a tear-roughened voice. "They were the last words I said to Dalton. I said them to Mic, and he walked away. And the last thing I said to Clay -" He felt the fear of losing him taking control, and pulled her against him for a second before turning her into his arms so that he could look at her as he spoke.
"Mac, I'm not going anywhere. I don't care what I have to do, I'll be right here, where I belong. I love you."
"I love you," she finally said, looking up at him with eyes that glittered with unshed tears.
Harm looked around the room before looking at her again. "See? I'm still here. And I'll be here just as I promised."
"One of these days, you're going to have to break one of those promises," she told him.
"Not this one," he assured her, lowering his lips to hers. "Never this one."
Harm returned to JAG the next morning just before lunch, having spent all morning with the CNO and his staff, going over records of JAG personnel and possible transfers into it. He'd totally forgotten about the surprise he'd arranged for Mac until he entered his office and found the small heart-shaped box sitting in the middle of his desk. He was staring at it when Coates entered the office behind him with his messages.
"What's this doing here?" he asked.
"Col. Mackenzie asked me to put it there before she went into court this morning, sir."
He grimaced. "What kind of mood was she in?" he asked.
"It was difficult to say, Commander," Coates told him, watching as he removed the decorated lid to reveal one chocolate remaining in the box. "She shared it with the rest of the staff except for that one piece. She said that it was yours."
"Yes, sir. I tried to remind her that you don't normally eat chocolate, but she insisted that -"
"Thank you, Coates," he said, popping the sweet into his mouth as she watched with surprised eyes. "Anything pressing on my agenda?"
"Not really, sir. Mattie called, wanting to know where she should put a few things, but I think we got it figured out."
"Efficient as ever," he told her with a grin.
"I just figured that after this weekend, you and the Colonel would appreciate as much of that stuff being put away as could be. I don't mean to speak out of line, but she was looking pretty tired last night."
"She insisted on keeping her end up," Harm nodded, looking through the message slips. "And ended up doing too much - but she'd never admit it."
"No sir. Marines usually don't."
"No. Thank you, Coates. Would you mind asking the Colonel to come in here when she finishes in court?"
"I'll give her the message, Commander."
Harm returned the phone calls that needed to be returned - including one to the judge that was overseeing Mattie's case, to inform her about the will that Tom Johnson had left and that he had filed a week ago. While she agreed that the will validated his claim as Mattie's guardian, she told him that she still wanted an update on the living arrangements.
He agreed to be in touch with her to set up the meeting and was hanging up just as Mac entered the office, obviously ready to take him to task. "Thank you for making sure there was a chocolate left for me," he told her first thing, taking the wind out of her sails.
"You're not going to deny that you sent them?"
"Why should I?"
"I thought we agreed -"
"Ah. We agreed to my not sending anymore roses. Nothing was ever said about anything else."
"Harm you can't have them deliver chocolates here every day - even as much as *I* like chocolate, that's just too much."
He sighed, but reached for the phone. "You're right. I guess I went a little overboard. I'll cancel tomorrow's delivery of Godiva chocolate -" he was dialing slowly, watching her out of the corner of his eye, and saw her reaction.
"I *think* that's what the lady at the shop said," her eyes widened slightly. "But -"
"Wait -" she said, extending a hand toward him.
Harm looked directly at her. "Don't tell me I've finally found the way to your heart, Sarah Mackenzie," he suggested with a smile
"You've already found that," she replied with an answering smile. "But I wouldn't mind that Godiva chocolate."
"Then you'll have it," he said, putting the phone down again.
"But no more after that. Really No roses, no chocolate. No. More. Gifts of *any* kind."
"Yes, ma'am," he agreed, aware that even though he'd lost this battle, he'd won the war.
That Saturday night, Mattie and Jen went to a movie, leaving Harm and Mac free to spend some 'adult' time. Harm took full advantage of the event, making reservations for them at a small Italian restaurant. After the meal, they returned to the house.
Harm suggested that they go outside for a few minutes, but when Mac would have stayed on the patio, he led her down the paved walkway that led to the gazebo. "It's so beautiful here," Mac sighed, sitting on the bench inside of the small building, Harm's arms wrapped around her shoulders.
"You know," Harm said slowly, uncertain about her reaction, "I was thinking the other evening when I was out here pulling weeds that this would be the perfect setting for a wedding." He held his breath as she went still in his arms before turning to look at him.
"Was that a proposal?" she asked.
"Just - testing the waters," he said, trying to read her expression in the dim light. "I just - I want to make sure you know that's where I'm hoping this will end up."
"Because if I wait, and you find out you're pregnant, I don't want you to think the only reason I'd want to marry you would be because of the baby."
"And what if we got married and I *didn't* get pregnant?"
"It wouldn't matter. As long as we were together. It's been almost a week since you said the words, honey, and I'm still here."
She smiled at him before turning around and wrapping his arms around her waist. "You know, you're right. This place *would* be perfect for a wedding."
Now it was Harm who went still. "Mac? Was that a 'yes'?"
She looked up at him, sliding her arms around his neck. "What do you think Flyboy?"
Harm hadn't been prepared for her to give in so easily, and it threw him for a moment, causing him to fumble in his search for the small item that he'd tucked safely away in the pocket of his slacks just in case. He'd taken to carrying it with him all the time over the last few days, waiting for the right time and opportunity to present itself. "In that case," he said, finally locating the small velvet box, "I think this belongs to you." Watching her reaction, he opened the box to reveal the single diamond set in white gold.
"Harm," she breathed, placing a hand to her throat. "How long have you been -?"
"Remember that package my mom sent early this week?" he asked, removing the ring from its satin bed. "She sent it then. It was my grandmother's before it was hers." He took her left hand in his before slipping down onto one knee. "Sarah Mackenzie, will you do me the honor of agreeing to become my wife?"
A tear slipped down Mac's face as she nodded and answered, "Yes," in a quiet voice.
Harm slipped the ring onto her finger and then kissed her hand. Mac's other hand cupped his cheek and when he lifted his head, their lips met in silent promise.
"You are *not* going to leave JAG, Mac," Harm insisted a week later. "I'll find a billet here in DC somewhere, but I know how much being here means to you."
"And you are *not* my boss, Harmon Rabb, Jr.," Mac shot back. "If I want to leave, I'll leave."
They had agreed to wait on getting married until a new JAG arrived, but so far, that event still didn't seem to be on the horizon. Mattie had been delighted by the news, as had their friends. Mac had even called AJ, finding him in Arizona with Francesca, and asked him to give her away once they settled on a date for the wedding.
AJ had agreed, and warned her not to put it off for too long, careers be damned. "You two have already waited long enough to figure out that you belong together," he'd growled into the phone.
When Mac told Harm that she had decided to take the offer of a posting with the Judiciary, removing her both from Harm's temporary command and JAG, he wasn't happy. "It doesn't make sense, Mac. You love JAG. You love being in the courtroom -"
"I'd still be in a courtroom," she pointed out. "And it would be easier. Admiral Morris is willing to consider leaving me here in DC so I wouldn't have to do a lot of traveling, freeing some of the others up for that. It's got set hours, no investigations -"
"I wasn't going to tell you this, but SecNav told me that he needs a new adjutant - and he's considering asking me to take that billet once they find a new JAG."
"What happened to Tracy Manetti?"
"He has another assignment for her, according to him."
"Harm, you'd hate working for a politician."
"Then I'll find something else."
"No. This is the best way, Harm," she insisted, placing a hand on his arm.
"I just don't want you to end up resenting me for your leaving JAG," he sighed.
"It's my decision, Harm. No one is forcing me to go. Why would I blame you?"
"I don't know. I guess I just don't want have to break in a new partner," he said, giving her a sheepish grin. "And it's going to give Admiral Morris headaches trying to schedule around the two of us."
"You already give him headaches," Mac pointed out. "You have ever since that gun incident."
Harm lifted his eyes toward the ceiling, shaking his head. "Nine years. And the holes have been repaired. Along with the damage they caused."
The intercom buzzed, and Harm gave Mac a regretful sigh as he pressed the button. "Yes?"
"The SecNav's on line one for you, sir."
"Thank you." He looked at Mac. "Duty calls."
"We'll finish this later," she told him, giving him a little wave as she left his office.
"Mr. Secretary," Harm said into the phone. "What can I do for you?"
To Part 7