Harm sat in his room, wishing he could tune out the sounds of laughter and music coming from downstairs on the patio. From the window, he would be able to see the 'happy couple' - that thought brought a sneer to his already handsome thirteen year old face - a face that everyone who had known his father said was the mirror image of him as a boy.
Deciding that maybe listening to his music with the headphones on would drown out the noise, Harm stood up and crossed the room to the new stereo system that his new stepfather had bought for him when they had moved into this place. The only saving grace was that it was on the shore - like the old house had been. But it wasn't close to the base, which meant that Harm wouldn't be able to sneak away and watch the planes take off and land like he used to do.
He'd gotten the headphones on and was about to turn on the system when there was a knock on the door. He seriously considered ignoring it, figuring that it was probably his mother coming to look for him, intending to drag him back down to help celebrate her marriage. Removing the headphones, he crossed to the door and opened it, stepping back in surprise when he saw his father's wingman, Tom "Tong" Boone standing there in his white summer uniform.
"Can we talk for a few minutes, Harm?" he asked.
"Sure," Harm said, moving away. He'd been surprised when his mother had invited Tom Boone to her wedding, since he'd never thought she liked him much. "I was surprised to see you here," he said now, sitting down on the bed, watching as Tom walked around the room, studying the stereo and the stacks of cassettes beside it before heading to the window the overlooked the back yard.
"You mom invited me."
"Didn't mean you had to come," Harm pointed out. "*I* wouldn't have been here if Mom hadn't insisted on it. I wanted to go out to stay with Grandma Sarah in Pennsylvania."
Tom nodded. "So she told me when she noticed that you'd disappeared. Hammer's mom couldn't make it out for the wedding?"
"No. She told mom that she was really busy at the farm right now. I think she just didn't want to come out here and watch mom marry *him*."
"Frank seems like a nice enough guy," Tom pointed out, sitting down in the chair at the desk. "For a used-car salesman anyway," he finished with a wry expression.
Harm chuckled at that, knowing that Tom was well aware that Frank Burnett was on the Board at Chrysler. "I can't believe she's just - given up on Dad being alive, sir. He's still out there - and for her to have him declared dead just to marry *him* -" Harm shook his head, giving up on trying to explain.
Tom sat forward, his elbows resting on the knees of his white trousers. "Harm, it's been seven years. If your father was alive, I think he would have been home by now."
"You know as well as I do that they've still got prisoners over there, sir," Harm insisted, standing up to make his point. He picked up the photograph of himself and his father, taken on the Hornet on family day when Harm was five. "He's over there and he needs help to get home. It's like - she wants to forget all about him. Like he was never here. She said she was 'starting over' with her life."
"And you're afraid that means she doesn't need you, aren't you?" Tom asked with that soft drawl.
Harm glanced up from the photograph, surprised that Tom had seen through him so easily. Carefully returning the photo to its position of honor beside the bed, Harm sighed deeply. "I guess. I tried my best to take care of her. To be the man of the house. The way Dad would have wanted me to be. But I guess I wasn't good enough." He had moved to the window, staring out over the wedding reception, watching as his mother gave her new husband a kiss.
Tom rose from the chair and joined him, placing a comforting hand on Harm's shoulder. "Your mother loves you more than you could possibly know, Harm. I don't want to ever hear you say differently. But she's also still an attractive woman, who needs to feel that she's appreciated and loved as a woman, not just as someone's mother. You can't in all fairness expect her to lock herself away from the world, waiting for something that might never happen -" Harm opened his mouth, but Tom spoke again. "And I understand where you're coming from as well. You want to believe that Hammer's still out there. I want to believe it too, Harm. But I also know that if there was any way on this earth that he could possibly have gotten back to you and Trish, he would have done it by now. The two of you meant more to him than anything else in the world."
Harm took a deep breath, shaking his head once he'd considered Tom Boone's words. "He's out there. I can *feel* it, sir. Maybe he's lost his memory - or - or - who knows, but he needs someone to *find* him and bring him home. I don't expect you or anyone else to believe me," he said. Glancing at the party again, he sighed. "If she *had* to marry again, why couldn't she have married you? At least you're a pilot. The only time Frank flies is in a corporate jet or a commercial airliner."
Tom laughed. "I thought Trish told me that he'd offered to pay for your flying lessons? Give you a head start before you head out to the Academy and Navy flight school?"
"Yeah. That's the *only* good thing about him. He seems to understand my wanting to be in the Navy and to fly."
"That's something," Tom pointed out. "Means he's not *all* bad."
"Still wish it was you instead of him."
"Your mother loves Frank, Harm. Not me."
Harm thought he saw something cross Tom's face, regret, maybe. "You don't know that. If you had asked -"
"Who says I didn't?" Tom replied evenly, his eyes locked on the scene below the window. He gave Harm a half-grin as he saw Harm's surprise. "I'm a reminder of Hammer to her. Reminder of how she lost him, anyway. I'm still in the Navy, still flying and have no intentions of stopping. She can't take the chance of losing someone like that again, and I don't blame her." He nodded toward where Trish and Frank were talking to another couple. Trish's laughter carried across the warm La Jolla breezes up to the window. "She loves Frank, Harm. She's happy again. And her being happy is important. It's what I want - and it's what Hammer would have wanted. Do you really think that he would have wanted her to spend the rest of her life waiting for him if she could be happy with someone else?"
Harm shook his head. "No, I guess not."
"You know, Harm, the best thing you can do is to try not to do anything that would make your father anything other than proud of you. You be the best son, the best damn Naval aviator that you can be."
"Is that so?" Tom said, turning to face Harm fully. "Tell me, son, do you think that Hammer would be proud of the way you're acting now? Hurting your mother by hiding out up here on her wedding day?"
"She doesn't look like she's hurting," Harm pointed out.
"She was on her way up here to talk to you when I offered to do it for her," Tom explained. "She doesn't expect you to let Frank take Hammer's place, Harm. No one can do that. Not even for her." He looked at the window again as Trish's laughter drifted upward. "That's a nice sound. Been a long time since I've heard it. Do you really want to deny her that?" Harm shook his head. "And I want you to remember that if you ever need to talk, maybe to complain about Frank, or about how unfairly you think that life is treating you, or about your flying, all you have to do is pick up a phone and I'll be there. Not saying I'll agree with you, but sometimes a man needs to be able to talk about things that he can't discuss with his mother."
"I'll remember, sir," Harm assured him. "Thank you."
Tom stood there for a minute, staring at Harm. "You look so damn much like your dad. The older you get -" he broke off, clearly fighting his emotions. Suddenly he smiled, dropping a hand onto Harm's shoulder. "So. Are you ready to go back down there and make Hammer proud, son?" Tom asked.
Harm took a deep breath and smiled. "Yeah. Let's go."