"Harm, Mac, would you mind staying behind for a few minutes?" AJ Chegwidden asked as the rest of his guests made preparations for departure.
The two officers glanced at each other before answering. "Yes, sir."
A few moments later, he joined them. "Thank you for staying. There were some things that I wanted to talk to both of you about - some of it having to do with JAG - and some of it something I couldn't say as your CO."
"Might as well get used to AJ, Harm," he said with a grin. "As of midnight tonight, I'm out of the Navy." He took a deep breath. "Might as well get the business taken care of first. Until another JAG is confirmed, you're going to be OIC, Harm. Mac, I told SecNav that you'd be willing to remain as Chief of Staff to help him. I know you're wondering why you weren't chosen to be OIC -"
"Actually, sir," Mac said, "no, I'm not. Harm's been at JAG longer than anyone else. The difference in our promotion dates is negligible."
"Well. This is a surprise. I expected a disagreement, bad feelings. Gives me hope for the future."
"Admiral - AJ," Harm said. "I was gone for six months last year - and then the six months while I was on sea duty -"
"You need to take a good look at your service record, Harm," AJ said. "And stop arguing when good things happen to you. You tend to look gift horses in the mouth, as if daring them to bite you."
"My service record?"
"You were doing legal work for the air wing while on carrier duty, weren't you?"
"Yes, sir, I was."
"As for last year, your official record says that you were TAD to another governmental agency as a pilot. Technically, you were never *out* of the Navy."
"This is only a temporary arrangement. No longer than a couple of months, I'm sure. I - took the SecNav by surprise with my decision to retire," he said with a grin.
"He's not the only one, AJ," Mac pointed out. "You're really sure that this is what you want to do?"
"Positive, Mac," he told her. "It's time. I'm sure both of you have noticed that this last year I've - lost the edge. Become a damned politician, more worried about the bottom line than justice and doing the right thing." He took a deep breath, looking at Mac as he spoke. "If Harm hadn't done the right thing last spring, you and Webb would both be dead now," he told her. "I should never have refused your request, Harm."
"It's in the past, AJ," Harm told him. "Things have worked out. I didn't understand at the time, but I think it all happened for a reason. If I hadn't been forced to leave, I wouldn't have met Mattie."
"You mentioned something else that you wanted to talk to us about, AJ?" Mac reminded him.
"Yes." He shook his head. "I could never say this as your CO - even though I wanted to. You're both damn fine attorneys. Best I've ever seen - especially when you work together."
"Thank you, sir."
"But if you two don't figure out what this *thing* is between you, you're going to drive all of your friends totally crazy. I've spent the better part of eight years watching the two of you dance around each other, watched while you put others between you, and argued like cats and dogs. Don't count on whoever takes my place being as willing to put up with it - which is all the more reason to figure it out now. Hopefully these next months will give you both a chance to do that so that once you're no longer OIC, Harm, the two of you will be able to either move forward - be it together or apart. If you two put as much effort into making a relationship work as you have in fighting it, you'd have been together years ago." He shook his head. "And those are my final words as your commanding officer," he declared. "But as one of your friends, I have a question to ask each of you. And I expect nothing less than an honest answer." He turned to look at Harm. "Harm, are you in love with Mac?"
Harm looked at the woman. "Yes, I am," he answered without hesitation.
"And are you in love with Harm, Mac?"
"Yes," was her response, her eyes locked on Harm's face.
"Now was that so damned hard?" he questioned, chuckling. "Now get out of here, both of you. I have an early flight to Italy in the morning to see my daughter."
He gave Mac a hug and shook Harm's hand before pulling him into a manly embrace, and then watched as they moved toward their cars. Over the night air, he heard Harm's voice. "You up for a cup of coffee, Mac?"
"Depends. Who's buying?"
"I know this great place north of Union Station - if you want to drive that far."
"Why don't we stop in Georgetown instead?" Mac suggested. "It's closer."
"Sound like a plan," Harm replied, getting into his car.
AJ watched them drive away, smiling, hoping that *this* time, those two might finally get it right.