"This is *most* impressive, Captain Rabb," the Judge said, surprising Harm by recognizing his change of rank. "You've made quite a few changes in your life over the last six months. You bought a house, did a remarkable job of making sure that Miss Grace attended school, and got married," she finished, looking at Jennifer, who was sitting just behind Harm and Mattie. "I take it that you're -" she consulted her paperwork, "Jennifer Coates Rabb?"
Harm gave Jennifer a supportive smile as she rose to her feet. "Yes, your honor."
"You've been married to the Captain for - two months?"
"Yes, ma'am," Jennifer said, giving her the exact date.
"How long had you known Captain Rabb before your marriage?"
"We met just before Christmas two years ago, your honor."
"You were in the Navy at that time?"
"I see here that you were a Petty Officer. Why did you decide to leave the Navy, Mrs. Rabb?"
Harm knew that the Guardian ad Litem had already covered this in her report, so Jennifer would be able to answer the questions easily. "I decided that I wanted to become an Officer, your honor. But to do that, I would have to finish college. If I had remained in the Navy, it would have taken me almost four years to finish. This way, I should have my degree in two years."
"And what do you intend to get your degree in, Mrs. Rabb?"
"Psychology, ma'am. I've always been interested in why people do things."
"Having a teenager around isn't putting a strain on your still new marriage?"
"Of course not, ma'am," Jennifer answered, giving Mattie a smile. "Mattie and I are good friends. I enjoy having her as a part of our family."
"Speaking of family, have you and your husband discussed having children of your own?"
"We have. And we're not going to wait to add to our family."
"You're employed at the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps Headquarters in Falls Church, is that correct?"
"Yes. I'm Admiral AJ Chegwidden's administrative assistant."
The Judge nodded, and Jennifer sat down, exhaling softly while the Judge continued to examine the papers before her. "Mr. Watley was even more glowing in his home report, Captain. Apparently the house is more than adequate. And the Guardian ad Litem Ms. LeMoyne was impressed as well.
Mattie gave Harm a look of triumph, glancing behind her to include Jennifer as the Judge turned to Thomas Johnson, who already looked defeated. "Mr. Johnson. According to these reports, you've made some changes in your life as well."
Tom stood up. "Yes, your honor. I'm - enrolled in a - treatment program for my alcoholism." He indicated a man who was sitting behind him. "This is gentleman is my sponsor. Hank Dawson."
"You're gainfully employed, Mr. Johnson?" the Judge asked.
"Yes. Yes, I am. I'm working as an aircraft mechanic as the airport in -" he glanced at Mattie before saying more, "- in Blacksburg."
The Judge nodded, studying her paperwork. "And you're living - where?"
"I've rented a small apartment - I haven't been able to do more than that, your honor -"
"And do you currently believe that you are in a place where you could adequately see to your daughter's needs? Both emotional and physical?" the Judge asked.
"If I may, your honor," Mr. Dawson said, rising to his feet.
"Yes, Mr. Dawson?"
"Mr. Johnson is *not* capable of taking care of Mattie at the present time. However, he hopes that this will change as he becomes stronger and gets control of his addiction."
"Do you have any idea how long that might be, Mr. Dawson?"
"No, ma'am. Unfortunately, that time frame is different for every individual. But knowing that he has access to his daughter and might at some point reconcile with her in some fashion is an important part of his desire to recover. To remove her from his life altogether would create a serious setback to that recovery."
"Thank you, Mr. Dawson."
Mattie gave Harm a worried look, but he simply shook his head and covered his hand with hers in a gesture of reassurance.
"Miss Grace, do you have anything that you would like to say?" the Judge asked.
"Yes ma'am," Mattie said, standing up. "I want to stay with Harm and Jennifer, your honor. I love them as much as I loved my mother. As if they *are* my parents. I have a chance for a really good life with them. I want to attend the Naval Academy, to become a pilot in the Navy. The chances of that happening anywhere else are - well, I don't think it would happen. I don't want to live with my father, ma'am," Mattie said, glancing toward him. "I can't forgive him for my mother's death."
"Do you think that there might be a time in future in which that might change, Miss Grace?" the Judge wanted to know.
"I don't know, ma'am," Mattie admitted. "But at the moment, I can't see it ever happening."
"Thank you for your honesty, Miss Grace," the Judge said, and Mattie sat down again, smiling as Harm squeezed her hand.
The Judge looked through the papers again. "It is the decision of this court that the minor, Matilda Grace, be placed in the custody of Captain Harmon Rabb, Jr. and his wife, Jennifer Coates Rabb until she reaches the age of eighteen.
"Yes!" Mattie said quietly, squeezing Harm's hand tightly.
"I would also recommend that the Rabbs seriously considering maintaining some kind of contact with Thomas Johnson, Miss Grace's biological father." She smiled at Mattie. "Congratulations, Mattie. See my clerk after court for the necessary paperwork." Banging her gavel, she dismissed court.
Mattie hugged both Harm and Jennifer, "Looks like it's for real," Harm told Mattie, his smile fading somewhat as Tom Johnson approached them. "Mr. Johnson."
Mattie turned to look at her father. "I guess I knew it would go this way," Tom said. "I just wanted to let you know that - I do love you, Mattie. I always will. I hope that someday you'll be able to understand - and to forgive the things I've done." He looked at Harm. "Take care of her."
"As if she was my own," Harm promised, his arm around Mattie as he shook Tom's hand.
Tom nodded in Jennifer's direction before leaving the courtroom.
"We'd better get that paperwork," Harm told Mattie and Jennifer, glancing toward the door through which Tom and his sponsor had gone. Harm led them over to the court clerk where he and Jennifer signed the necessary papers which gave them full custody of one Matilda Grace Johnson.
Mattie took the papers from him. "So, what about the adoption? Will this make it easier?"
"You're still sure that you want to do that?" Harm questioned.
"If we convince my dad to give up his rights, yeah."
Harm took a deep breath, his gaze on the door through which Tom Johnson had gone. "Uh, Jennifer, could you make sure that Mattie gets back to school?" he asked.
"Sure. Where are you going to be?"
"Taking care of a few things." Hugging Mattie again, he said, "We'll celebrate this evening."
"Sounds good to me," Mattie agreed.
Harm gave Jennifer a kiss. "I'll see you back at JAG in a couple of hours or so."
"What should I tell the Admiral if he asks where you are?" Jennifer wanted to know.
"That you don't know. I'll explain to him when I get back."
"It's your funeral," she told him, shaking her head. "Come on, Mattie. We should be in time for lunch."
"Wonderful," Mattie sighed. "You have *any* idea what they're serving today? If you did, you'd take me to lunch *before* taking me back."
Harm shook his head as Jennifer and Mattie moved toward the Lexus, which Jennifer had taken to driving while Harm was again driving his beloved Vette. Temporarily, anyway. He had a feeling that they might have to trade the Lexus in for something a little larger once the baby was born - and Mattie was rapidly approaching the age where she would be able to drive legally.
"Not *my* Vette," Harm said to himself as he turned the car toward Blacksburg. He'd find her a nice, economical little car when the time came. No way was he going to turn the Vette over to a sixteen-year-old teenager, even if she could drive all the way from Blacksburg to DC on her own, and could pilot 'Sarah' as though she'd been flying all her life.
"Well?" Mac asked the moment Jennifer returned to JAG. "How did it go?"
"We got custody of Mattie," she told the Colonel, grinning from ear to ear as she put her purse into her desk.
"I'm glad," Mac said. "I mean, I never had any doubts that the Judge would agree to give you and Harm custody. Speaking of Harm," she said, glancing around and frowning. "Where is he?"
"He said he had something to take care of and that he'd be here in a couple of hours," Jennifer explained as the door to the Admiral's office opened and Mac snapped to attention. Jennifer just barely stopped herself from following suit to smile. "Good afternoon, sir."
"It's about time you got here, Jennifer," he growled. "The damned phone's been ringing off the wall all morning." He looked at Mac. "Did you need something, Colonel?" he asked.
"No, sir," Mac said quickly, turning on her heel to return to her office.
"Thank you for understanding why I needed to take the morning off, Admiral," Jennifer began, but AJ shook his head.
"Didn't have much choice. But if I had to spend much longer with Petty Officer Dobbs as my yeoman, -" he stopped, taking a deep breath. "How did things go?" he asked, and Jennifer smiled as she saw that he was more curious than he wanted to let on.
"Very well. Harm and I have custody of Mattie."
"Good luck," he said. "Raising a teenager isn't easy from what I understand. Heaven knows my ex-wife complained enough about our daughter during those years."
"She turned out all right, didn't she, sir?"
AJ smiled. "Yes, I suppose she did at that. Although I can't take much credit for it."
"I don't know, sir. From what the Captain has told me about her, your daughter's quite a bit like you in some respects."
"Rabb said that?"
"He might just turn out to be a decent father after all," he said, and for a moment, Jennifer wondered what the Admiral would say if he knew about the baby she was carrying. He put the folder he'd been carrying onto her desk. "I need to see Capt. Rabb in my office."
Jennifer winced. "He's - not here, sir."
Frowning, AJ looked at her. "Where is he?"
"He said that he - had something to take care of and that he would be back in a couple of hours," Jennifer explained, watching the man's reaction carefully.
"You know, Jennifer, you'd think that becoming a father, getting married, and making Captain would cause a man to have a little better sense of responsibility."
"Excuse me, Admiral, but - I believe it has something to do with Mattie's decision to change her last name to Rabb."
"I don't understand," he said, frowning more deeply.
"I think he's gone to talk to her father about the matter," Jennifer explained. "Mr. Johnson left the courtroom before Harm had a chance to talk to him."
AJ nodded. "Very well. When he does come in, I want to see him."
"Is this about his transfer, Admiral?" Jennifer had to ask.
He gave her a smile. "I think I should discuss that with him, first, Jennifer. Don't worry. Do you really think I'd risk losing the best admin assistant I've ever had?"
"No sir. Thank you, sir," Jennifer said, smiling at his praise.
"Oh and - congratulations."
Jennifer felt the blood rush from her cheeks, wondering how he'd found out. "Sir?"
"On the hearing," he said, frowning again. "Is there - anything else I should know about?"
"Not - at the moment, Admiral," she said, pretending a sudden interest in his calendar for the day and the telephone log written by her morning replacement, Petty Officer Dobbs. Desperate for a distraction, she grabbed the telephone when it rang. "Admiral Chegwidden's office."
Harm pulled up to the hangar, frowning at the sign on the front which proclaimed it to be "Blacksburg Aviation". Like Mattie, he couldn't quite understand her father's willingness to go to work for the people who had bought out what had once been his late wife's business.
Entering the hangar, he stopped when a man confronted him. "Can I do something for you, Captain?"
"I'm looking for Thomas Johnson. I was told that he works here."
"Yeah. He's over there -" the man said, pointing toward an Ag Cat with the cowling removed.
"Thanks," Harm said, moving toward the airplane.
He saw Thomas Johnson before the other man saw him. He was squinting up into the engine, trying to install a part. When Tom dropped a wrench and swore softly Harm bent down to pick up the tool and held it out, asking, "Having a problem?"
Grabbing the tool, Tom frowned. "You here to gloat?" he asked, attacking the starter again. "You've got my daughter. What the hell more do you want?"
"I'm here about what Mattie wants, Tom," he said.
"The only thing she wants is to never see me again," Tom told him, becoming frustrated as the wrench slipped again. "Damn!"
"I need to talk to you, Mr. Johnson," Harm said.
Exhaling loudly, Tom studied the starter as he said, "Look, I have a job to do - I can't afford to lose it. Why are you here?"
"I want to talk to you about Mattie."
"You heard the Judge. She's your responsibility now."
"I'm aware of that. Mr. Johnson, I didn't have to come here - but I thought you'd want the opportunity to spend time with her - if you're willing talk deal."
Tom frowned, looking at Harm. "Deal? What kind of deal?"
"Mattie wants to change her last name from Johnson to Rabb."
"Doesn't surprise me. She's never liked using Johnson."
"Then you wouldn't mind if we formally adopted her?"
Tom shook his head in disbelief. "You take the cake, Captain," he said. "You steal my daughter away as your ward, and now you want her as your daughter. Sorry. I'm not going to step aside -"
"Not even if it means you'll be able to see Mattie on a regular basis?" Harm asked. "Be able to write her, send her birthday cards? Be a part of her life?"
"The Judge said that -"
"She only suggested," Harm clarified. "It's our decision. If you agree to give up your rights as Mattie's parent, and not fight the adoption, you'll be able to be a part of her life."
"I'm a lawyer, Mr. Johnson," Harm pointed out. "Everything I do is in writing."
"Exactly what do you mean by regular?"
"An hour a month," Harm agreed. "An invitation to her graduation and whatever else she wants to ask you to."
"Mattie will agree to this?" Tom wanted to know.
"I think so. Do we have a deal?" Harm asked, holding out his hand.
He could see the thoughts and emotions flitting across the other man's face before Tom took Harm's hand. "We do."
"Good. I'll be in touch," Harm said. "Thank you."
Mac and Bud were just leaving court when Harm returned to JAG, and he walked toward the glass doors with them, discussing the case and the victory he'd had in court himself. When they entered the bullpen, he went to Jennifer's office, only to find that she was on the telephone. When he caught her eye, she looked up to see him and smiled. Harm mouthed, "Later," only to have her lift a hand to stop his retreat. So he came farther into the office, hovering near her desk while she finished the call.
Hanging up, Jennifer looked at him. "How did it go with Mr. Johnson?" she asked.
"How did you know that's where I was going?" Harm asked.
"I'm slowly learning to read you like a book," she teased. "So?" she prompted.
"He'll agree to sign over his rights in return for being a part of Mattie's life. One visit a month for sure, more than that, we can negotiate."
"The Admiral told me to send you in when you got back," Jennifer said.
"Yes, Captain, I did."
Harm straightened to attention at the sound of the other man's voice. Neither of them had heard his door open. Handing Jennifer his cover and briefcase, he said, "Could you keep an eye on these?"
"Sure," Jennifer said, watching nervously as Harm entered the Admiral's office until the door closed.
Harm stood at attention. "I assume you have an explanation for the delay in your return, Captain?" AJ asked.
"Yes, sir. I needed to discuss something with Mattie's father regarding the possibility of Jennifer and me adopting her. I'm sorry that it took longer than I originally planned, sir."
AJ sat down. "Have a seat, Harm." Harm sat down as well. "You might have heard that Captain Myers downstairs at NLSO North Central is retiring - leaving an opening for someone with your experience." He held out a folder. "The billet's yours if you want it." He sat back as Harm looked at the papers.
NLSO North Central was located in the same building as they were in now - and it was a plum assignment, one that Harm really hadn't expected to receive. Feeling the Admiral's eyes on him, Harm looked up.
"Well? Do you go or not? I think there's another billet opening in Italy -" he said with a half smile.
"I think I'd prefer to remain here, sir. Uprooting Mattie probably wouldn't be a good idea."
"Probably not," AJ nodded in agreement. "When's the new baby due?" he asked suddenly, and Harm responded without thinking.
"Sometime in late December -" He stopped, meeting AJ's look. "Uh, Admiral - How did you -"
"Just - a suspicion," he said, smiling. "Congratulations Harm."
"Thank you, sir," he said, relaxing slightly when he realized that the Admiral didn't look angry. "We're not planning on telling anyone for another month or so - Jen hasn't even been to the doctor yet. She has an appointment for tomorrow, I think."
"Then I'll keep it between us until further notice," AJ said. "Just promise me one thing."
"What's that, sir?"
"That Jennifer won't have the baby here at JAG."
Harm grinned. "I think we can arrange that, Admiral."
"Good. My days of being a mid-wife are over," he declared firmly.
"Can't say I blame you, sir."
"So. You'll report for duty on Monday morning to the NLSO downstairs."
Harm heard the tone of dismissal and rose to his feet. "Yes sir. Thank you, Admiral."
"Don't let me down, Harm," the other man said.
"I'll try my best, sir," was Harm's reply.
"You'd better do more than your best," AJ growled. "If you cause *any* problem, I'll personally come down there and handle it personally before transferring your sorry six to the most out of the way billet I can locate. Dismissed."
Harm turned on his heel and left the office, stopping momentarily by Jennifer's desk. "How's Mattie getting home today?" he asked.
"Andre's mother." She glanced toward the Admiral's office door. "Is everything okay?"
He held up the folder with a smile. "NLSO North Central. One floor down. Oh, and - the Admiral knows."
Jennifer saw him glance toward her abdomen and placed a hand there. "Oh. I was afraid of that -" the telephone rang. "Later."
"It's a promise," he replied, giving her a 'flyboy grin' and a wink as he left the office.
Jennifer knocked on the now open doorway into the Admiral's office, waiting until he looked up from the paperwork on his desk. "Excuse me, Admiral, but I'm about to leave. Is there anything else you need before I go?"
"I don't think so. Do you need some time off tomorrow?"
Jennifer blushed, stepping further into the room. "No, sir. I scheduled my appointment for lunchtime so not to disrupt the office any further. Harm and I should be back before 0100."
"If you won't be, just keep me informed."
"And Jennifer -" he smiled. "Congratulations."
"Thank you, Admiral."
"Now get out of here. I wager that that husband of yours has a celebration planned after today's events."
"You'd win that wager, Admiral," Jennifer told him, smiling as well. "I'll see you tomorrow morning."
AJ nodded, watching her turn and leave his office. She'd come a long way since their first meeting - and since her marriage to Rabb, she seemed older, more mature. While she still offered to help others out, the offer now seemed to have more thought behind it instead of simply being a reflex action.
Of course, Rabb had been changed by the combination of becoming a parent to Mattie and his relationship with Jennifer. He seemed more settled, less apt to leap into something without looking first and considering the consequences.
Rabb was no longer Peter Pan, AJ realized and sighed at the idea of losing his best litigator to NLSO just when he'd finally turned that corner. At least he wouldn't be losing Jennifer - not yet, anyway. Balancing pregnancy, work, and school wasn't going to be easy for her.
But he had an idea that if anyone could do it, Jennifer Coates-Rabb could. If she could perform a miracle by whipping Harmon Rabb Jr. into shape, she could do anything.
"To family," Mattie said later as she lifted her glass of ginger ale at the restaurant that Harm had taken them to.
"Family," Harm and Jennifer echoed, lifting their own glasses.
"And to Harm's new job," she continued, to which both adults drank as well.
"To daughters," Harm suggested, and he tapped his glass with Jennifer's, lifting them in Mattie's direction.
"I'm so excited," Mattie said. "I guess I might as well get used to calling you Mom and Dad, huh?"
Harm gave Jennifer a questioning look as he said, "Well, it's fine with me, but, uh - Jennifer might have a problem with it -"
"I admit that I never thought I'd have a 15 year old calling me mom when I was only 25," Jennifer said, and then smiled. "But I'm going to have to get used to it anyway, so why not? But the first one of your friends who calls me 'Mrs. Rabb' will pay for it," she warned, causing both Harm and Mattie to laugh.
"I'll make sure to let them know," Mattie promised, her eyes sparkling as she finished with "Mom."
Jennifer looked around. "Where?" she asked. "Oh, me? See? I told you I needed to get used to it." Seeing Harm's laughter, she glared playfully in his direction. "At least you're *old* enough to really *be* her father," she pointed out, her grin widening at his surprised expression.
"You had to remind me of that, didn't you?" he asked, leaning closer so that only she could hear his next words. "But you're the one who *married* the 'old man'," he pointed out, his warm breath on her ear sending a shiver of anticipation along Jennifer's spine.
"Only because I happen to love him," Jennifer said, turning to place a kiss on his lips.
"That's nice to know, since he loves you, too," Harm replied, returning her kiss.
From across the table, Mattie groaned. "Come on, you guys. You're creating a scene here. Talk about embarrassing."
"Hey. Can't a guy tell his wife that he loves her?" Harm questioned the younger girl, keeping his arm across Jennifer's shoulders.
"Yeah. But how about doing it when I'm not around to be grossed out?" Mattie teased. "I mean, you could scar me for life or something, couldn't you?"
Across the restaurant, Clay noticed Mac watching the family gathering. "You want to go over and say hello?" he asked.
"No. They're probably celebrating. They make a nice looking family, don't they?"
"Never thought Harm it in him," Clay said, and then lifted his hands when Mac turned to look at him. "Joking. You're right," he agreed, sliding her arm around her shoulders. "He's lucky. Although I don't envy him having a wife that much younger than he is - I have a hard enough time keeping up with you."
Mac chuckled, carefully stirring her coffee. "Oh, I don't know. Jennifer looks pretty - satisfied, don't you think? Makes me wonder sometimes if I made a mistake -"
"You'd better be joking, Sarah."
"Payback, Clay," she told him, smiling at him before leaning closer to him, her eyes on the still laughing Harm, Jennifer, and Mattie. "You think we'll ever have that?" she wondered.
"I'm sure of it," he told her. "Might take us a little longer - not everyone becomes a parent to a 15 year old and *then* gets married. Leave it to Harm not to do things the way most people do."
"Clay," Mac said.
"Let's go home."
"Your wish is my command, Sarah," he told her, lifting his hand to signal for the check.
The visit to the obstetrician was uneventful. Dr. Grainger confirmed that Jennifer was a little over eight weeks pregnant and that her due date would most likely be around Christmas Eve. He saw no reason why she couldn't continue to work as long as she didn't do any heavy lifting and took care of herself.
He also reassured her when she asked about her apparently lack of morning sickness. "You'd be surprised how many women *don't* suffer from it, Mrs. Rabb - Jennifer," he corrected himself, recalled her having stated a preference at the beginning of the examination. "Some women are ill for a few months, some the entire nine months, and some, like you, seem not to suffer at all. And every pregnancy is different. So I wouldn't worry. I'd count myself lucky."
After giving her a prescription for pre-natal vitamins and telling her to set up another appointment in a month, he congratulated them again and they were on their way back to JAG.
"You hungry?" Harm asked, glancing at her as he steered the Lexus toward Falls Church.
"A little. But if we stop, we'll be late."
"How about the drive thru at Beltway Burger?" he suggested.
"I suppose I could eat something," she told him.
"Such as?" he wanted to know, signaling a lane change in preparation to turn into the fast-food franchise.
"A salad," she said. "And a chicken sandwich."
"*And* a chicken salad?" he repeated, looking at her, his eyes wide.
"And - maybe a milkshake?" she continued. "Chocolate," she decided. "A chocolate shake."
"A salad, a chicken sandwich and a chocolate shake," Harm ticked off. "Is that all?"
"I think so," she said with a grin.
Harm pulled the Lexus up to the menu. "Welcome to Beltway Burger," a scratchy voice said through the speaker. "I'll take your order whenever you're ready."
Harm looked at his wife again, looking for silent confirmation before placing the order. When she nodded, he shook his head. "Two regular salads with vinaigrette dressing, one Chicken Burger, a medium chocolate shake, and lemonade."
"Would you like a fresh apple pie for dessert with that?" the voice asked.
"Yes," Jennifer answered loud enough to be heard before Harm could speak again.
"Is that all?" the voice asked.
Harm turned to Jennifer with a questioning look before he said, "I think that's enough."
The voice told him how much the order came to and asked him to pull around to the window.
"An apple pie," Harm repeated, shaking his head. When Jennifer placed a hand on her stomach, he said, "I know. You're eating for two. Which explained the full course meal last night, I guess."
"I'm hungry," Jennifer told him.
"Apparently," he said, laughing as he pulled up to the window and pulled out his credit card, handing it to the young man standing there.
Jennifer had finished everything except for the apple pie and shake by the time they got back to JAG, and she took both inside with her. The Admiral was waiting in her office, glancing at his watch as she placed them on her desk and stowed her purse in a drawer. "Sorry, sir," she apologized. "I was hungry after we left Bethesda -"
"Is everything all right?" he asked.
"Perfect, Admiral," she assured him.
"Good. I need the Douglas file when you get a chance."
"Right away," she promised, waiting until he was in his office before sneaking a quick bite of the apple pie and washing it down with milkshake.
After finding the Douglas file, Jennifer carried it into his office. "Here you go, Admiral," she told him, stopping as she realized that he wasn't alone. "Mr. Webb."
Clayton Webb nodded in her direction, smiling but not speaking.
"I have mission for you, Jennifer," the Admiral said.
"A mission, sir?"
"I need you to find - in the following order, Capt. Rabb, Lt. Roberts, Cmdr. Turner - all without letting Col. Mackenzie know that you're doing it."
Jennifer began to smile. "She was on the list, wasn't she?"
"Just make sure that the *last* person you find and bring in here is the Colonel, Jennifer," he told her without answering the question.
"Yes, *sir*, Admiral," she said, turning and leaving his office.
She went directly to Harm's office, relieved to see that he wasn't with a client or on the telephone. He smiled when he saw her. "Hi, there."
"The Admiral wants to see you in his office ASAP."
"Is there a problem?" he asked, frowning.
She glanced behind her. "I'm not at liberty to say."
"Okay," he said, walking down the hallway with her. When Jennifer started to move away from him as they entered the bullpen, Harm placed a hand on her arm. "Jen?"
"Just go. I'll be there in a few minutes after I gather everyone else."
She knew he was watching as she went into Bud's office before he continued on to the Admiral's office. "Excuse me, Bud," she said as he hung up the phone.
"Yes, Jennifer?" he asked.
"The Admiral wants to see you in his office now."
Bud stood as quickly as he could and moved toward her. "Do you know what it's about?"
"I have no idea," she lied. "He just told me to have you come in." She watched him go in that direction as Sturgis Turner appeared with Mac. She waited a moment until Mac detoured toward her office.
"Sir, the Admiral has asked me to send you to his office," she told Sturgis. Even though he was one of Harm's oldest friends, Jennifer was still a little uncertain that he approved of her decision to leave the Navy and then to marry Harm.
He frowned, much as Bud had done. "Did he say why?" he asked, looking toward the office.
"Please, sir. I'm just the messenger."
Sturgis nodded and moved in that direction, leaving Jennifer to square her shoulders and head toward Mac's office. She tapped on the doorframe, waiting until the other woman lifted her head from the file before her.
"The Admiral would like to see you in his office, ma'am," Jennifer said, trying her best not to smile anymore than normal.
"He would? Why?"
"I'm just delivering the message, Mac," Jennifer told her, watching Mac walk around her desk. She entered the Admiral's office just behind Mac.
"Clay?" Mac asked as he came to stand beside her with a knowing smile. "What are you doing here?"
"Attention to orders!" the Admiral announced, causing all of the gathered officers to snap to attention. "Congratulations," he said, smiling at Mac as he moved toward her, "Colonel Mackenzie," holding a box containing a silver eagle open before her. "Captain Rabb, since you were the last promoted, would you care to do the honors?" he asked.
Harm stepped forward to remove the oak leaves from Mac's collar and replace them with eagles, smiling all the while. Once finished, he stepped back to allow the Admiral to administer the oath. Clay gave her kiss. "Congratulations, Sarah."
"I had no idea that my name was even on the list," Mac told the Admiral.
"It was a late addition," he told her, glancing at the rest of the staff. "Thank you, gentlemen. That will be all."
"I'll see you later, Sarah," Clay began, giving her a brief kiss before following the others out. "AJ," he said, nodding in the Admiral's direction.
Mac stood there, still taking in the fact that she'd finally made full bird Colonel as the Admiral waited for Jennifer to close the door behind Clay. When he turned to look at her, Mac thought that she saw something in his dark eyes that looked almost like regret before it vanished and he moved away.
"I'm sure that you're aware, Mac, that keeping any officer over an O-5 around here is damn near impossible."
"I believe so, Admiral." She frowned internally, wondering where she was being transferred to. She had been at JAG HQ for so long that she tended to forget that being transferred was part of military life.
"There's an opening in the Judiciary," he said, looking up at her. "Adm. Morris was impressed how you handled yourself last year when you were TDY to him. He's asked my permission to offer the billet to you - if you want it."
"Move to the Judiciary on a permanent basis, sir?"
"I can't say that I like the idea of losing my two best attorneys during the same week, but I think it's time to spread your wings, Colonel."
The reminder of her words to him when she had resigned - or attempted to resign - in order to take a job in the private sector brought a smile to Mac's lips. "You were just waiting to say that, weren't you, Admiral?"
"You have to admit, it's appropriate," he replied. "There is one drawback to the offer: It would mean some traveling - would that be a problem with Webb?"
"I'll need to discuss it with him first, Admiral."
"Understandable - and commendable. Very well. Get back to me as soon as you can with an answer."
"Aye aye, sir." Mac hesitated before continuing. "Admiral, I have personal request -"
He looked up at her, "Personal request?"
"It has to do with my - wedding, sir."
He placed both hands on his desk, looking up her. "What about it?"
"If you remember, I asked if you would give me away when I was going to marry Mic -"
"I remember. I also remember that I never had the opportunity to follow through on that promise because Harm decided to do his quals that weekend and got caught in a storm."
"I don't think we have to worry about that happening this time, sir."
"Thank goodness for small miracles," he drawled.
"Well, sir, I was hoping that - well, you'd be willing to try again."
"Give you away to Clayton Webb?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. I know you and Clay have had your differences -"
"Only because he insisted on putting my people in danger every time he showed up in this office," AJ recalled, looking at her. "And if you didn't look so happy around him, I'd probably - break his nose again," he finished, leaving Mac to wonder what he had been about to say before the pause. "In answer to your question, Mac, I'd be honored."
"Now, if there's nothing else, I have to see about finding replacements for you and Harm."
"Yes sir," Mac said, turning to leave the office.
Clay was lingering in her office with Harm when she entered. "Talking about me behind my back?" she asked, smiling as both men stopped talking upon seeing her.
"Not at all," Harm said. "I was just keeping Clay company until you came out. Congratulations again, Mac."
"I'm just relieved you don't outrank me anymore."
"If you consider that I made Captain a month ago, technically, I still do," he pointed out, laughing. "I have to go. Tomorrow. And it was seeing you, Clay. You two need come over for dinner soon."
"We will," Clay agreed. Once he was more or less alone with Mac, Clay said, "I asked him to be my best man."
"Did he agree?"
"He did. And he also promised not to go anywhere near an airplane for a week before the wedding."
She laughed. "I just told the Admiral that we wouldn't have to worry about that, anyway."
"Did you ask him to give you away?" Clay wanted to know.
"I did. And he said yes."
"I never doubted he would. I'm not sure any man in his right mind could resist you," he told her, pulling her into his arms.
"Hmm. You certainly know how to flatter a girl, Clay."
"How long til you can leave for the day?" he asked.
"How about now?" she answered. "I don't think the Admiral will dock me for five minutes."
Clay offered her his arm as she grabbed her briefcase and cover.
"You about ready?" Harm asked, watching Jennifer finish filing a folder away. He was holding his briefcase and cover as he hovered in the door.
"Sure," she told him, getting her purse from the drawer that she always kept it in. "Just let me tell the Admiral that I'm leaving." Harm nodded, remaining where he was as she went to the Admiral's door. "I'm leaving now, sir. Unless there's something else you need?" It was an almost daily ritual they went through. A holdover from her days as his yeoman.
"No, Jennifer. I'm fine. Have a nice evening."
"I will, sir. Don't work too late."
"Paperwork never seems to disappear," was his comment, and Harm frowned. "Night."
"Good night, Admiral," Jennifer said.
Harm pressed the button at the elevator, glancing back toward the glass doors that led into the JAG offices. "Jen, has the Admiral said anything to you about what happened between him and Meredith?"
"You mean other than blowing up and telling me to mind my own business a few months ago?" Jennifer asked.
"Yeah," he said as the doors opened and they entered the car.
"Not a word. Why?"
"I don't know. It just - never mind."
"You're *not* thinking about trying to - fix him up with someone, are you?" Jennifer wanted to know,
"Who, me? Of course not. The Admiral wouldn't appreciate anyone doing that."
"Which is what he told you, Sturgis and Mac once before, according to Jason Tiner," she noted, giving him a knowing smile as the doors opened on the ground floor and she preceded him from the elevator.
Catching up with her as she showed the Marine on duty her badge and signed out, Harm did the same. "Tiner told you about that?"
"He did," Jennifer confirmed as she reached the Lexus. "He told me all about how the Admiral chewed all of you a new six - only to find out that Mac *hadn't* been trying to arrange anything with Dr. Cavanaugh."
Harm snorted. "Yeah, right." He unlocked the passenger side door for her, opening it as well. "I've never believed that story," he said before closing the door.
Jennifer waited until he got into the vehicle. "You think she set them up? The Admiral and Meredith?"
"I'm almost sure of it. Mac knew Meredith because of Chloe. She also knew that the Admiral was a Shakespeare aficionado," he pointed out. "And she knew that he was angry with Sturgis and me for having tried to set him up earlier. So she invited Meredith to meet her here, making sure that she was conveniently unavailable with Meredith arrived, so that she would possible run into the Admiral, and he would misunderstand what was going on, and then he would apologize to Meredith for the misunderstanding -"
"And the rest was - or should have been - history," Jennifer nodded. "I suppose Mac *could* have planned that. But there are a lot of variables that even the best trained Marine might not have been able to take into account," Jennifer pointed out. "It doesn't really matter, though, since the Admiral's not talking about what happened."
"When is the last time you heard from Meredith?" Harm wondered, starting the engine and backing out of the parking space.
"Not since right after he told me to mind my own business."
Harm glanced at her, hearing her tone of voice. "You think I should do the same thing."
"Harm, if the Admiral wants to talk, he will. Whatever happened between him and Meredith, it's his business."
"He's been working late and on weekends. Did you know that?"
"Of course I know," Jennifer said. "I leave a stack of work in my 'In' box on Friday, when I come in on Monday, it's usually in the 'Out' box."
"He needs a life outside of work, Jen."
"Maybe he doesn't want one," Jennifer suggested, placing her hand over his. "Harm, let it go. Everyone has different ways of handling problems. This is his."
He parked the car in the driveway, finding the remote for the garage door. "Can *you* just - 'let it go'?" he asked.
"I was ordered to, remember?" she said.
"But you're not bound by that order anymore," Harm returned, turning off the engine and closing the garage door behind them.
"I am as a friend."
"So if I asked you to call Meredith -"
"I don't think that's such a good idea," she said, opening the door to get out of the truck.
Harm grabbed his briefcase and cover to follow her through the laundry room and into the kitchen, where Mattie was sitting at the table doing her homework. "Hey, kiddo," he said, putting his cover on the table beside the door. "How's it going?"
"Not bad. Except for this math homework."
"Give me a minute to change and I'll look at it," Harm said, removing his jacket, pausing to look at Jennifer, who was taking the ingredients for dinner out of the refrigerator. "You need some help?"
"No. It's just going to be spaghetti. Won't take long."
Harm stood there for a minute, watching her. "I'll be back down in a minute," he finally said and left the room.
"Hey," Mattie said, looking over at Jennifer, who was already taking the ingredients for supper from the refrigerator. "What did the doctor say?"
"That everything's fine," Jennifer told her, giving her a smile. "And he confirmed that I should deliver around Christmas Eve."
"A Christmas baby," Mattie mused. "That's so cool." She toyed with the pencil in her hand, twirling it through her fingers in an unconscious imitation of Harm. "Is everything okay, Jennifer?" she asked.
Jennifer looked at her. "What do you mean?"
"You and Harm just seemed a little - tense when you came in," Mattie noted.
Continuing to work at the stove, Jennifer said, "Just a minor disagreement," she said. "Harm thinks we should interfere in the Admiral's personal life. I don't."
"I wouldn't either after the way he yelled at you. What does he want to do?"
"I think he wants me to call Meredith - the Admiral's ex-fiancée," Jennifer clarified. "To see if I can find out what happened and if there's any chance for them to get back together."
"It's been months. I think that if there was a chance, it would have already happened, wouldn't it?"
"Not necessarily," Harm said as he returned, wearing jeans and a dark tee shirt. Looking at Jennifer, he said, "But you're right. I'll stay out of it."
He moved to touch her face before dropping a kiss onto her lips. "Anything to keep you happy."
"You are *so* whipped, Harm," Mattie groaned.
Grinning, Harm gave Jennifer a wink as he responded. "Yep. And glad of it." Turning toward the table, he said, "Now, about that math -"
Clay brought the plates to the table as Mac poured two glasses of tonic water for them. "What did AJ want to talk to you about after the rest of us left?" he asked.
"Uh, he's offered me another billet," she told him, sitting down before her plate.
"A transfer?" Clay asked with a frown.
"In a way. There's an opening in the judiciary, and he asked if I wanted it."
"You'd be a judge?"
"I told you that I'd spent some time TDY as a judge last year," she reminded him. "Apparently I impressed Adm. Morris," she said. "The only drawback is that - it could require that I do quite a bit of traveling." She saw him hesitate and reached across the table to capture his hand in hers. "Clay, if you'd rather I not take it, I won't, but -"
"But you can't stay at JAG now that you're a full Colonel," Clay finished. "And any other transfer would probably mean leaving DC."
"That's about it," she agreed, watching him carefully. "I know it's not fair to you, after you gave up being a field agent because I didn't like your being gone -"
"Was it just my being gone, Sarah, or that you couldn't contact me, and didn't know where I was or for how long or what I was doing?" he asked, his eyes meeting hers.
"I guess that *was* the problem. Not that you were gone, but all the rest of it."
"Okay, let me ask you: if you accept the transfer, when you went out of town to hear a case, would I know where you were going?"
"I would think so."
"And I'd be able to contact you?"
"And you've have a general idea of how long you'd be away?"
"Then I don't see a problem," he told her. "And for the record: I don't regret giving up being a field agent, I'd have done anything to make you happy."
"If you're sure -"
"Mac, you're a Marine. That's not being CIA. Well, in some respects, maybe. But the point is, I had a choice and made it. You don't. Not really. You'll make an excellent judge. Who knows," he grinned. "You might even take Morris' place one day."
"I doubt that. But thanks anyway. I'll give the Admiral my answer tomorrow."
"JAG's not going to be the same place with both you and Harm gone."
"Sturgis and Bud will still be there," Mac pointed out. "And Jennifer."
"Have you decided who you're going to ask to be your maid of honor?" Clay wondered. "And before you say anything, I'm only asking because Mother was asking about it."
"I'm going to ask Harriet, but she and the boys are in Florida visiting her parents this week. Bud said today that she'll be back in time for the get together to celebrate Harm's moving over to NLSO - and now my transfer as well, I suppose. I'll ask her then."
True to his word, Harm stayed away from his precious Stearman the entire week prior to Mac and Clay's wedding - even though the weather was, in his and Mattie's words, "absolutely, totally *perfect* for flying" and told Mac that she was going to owe them both seriously for their sacrifice to make sure that *this* wedding went as planned.
Since Porter had insisted on more than just a best man and maid of honor, Bud and Jennifer had joined the wedding party as well as groomsman and bridesmaid. Chloe arrived on Friday afternoon before the wedding in time for the rehearsal. She and Mattie sat in the church keeping an eye on little Jimmy while the others were busy, both girls a little shy around each other and uncertain of what they might have in common with each other.
After the rehearsal was finished, Harm, Bud and AJ took Clay back to Harm's for an evening of drinks and what Harriet called "male bonding", which brought a groan of mock-terror from Clay. He turned to look at Mac with hopeful eyes. "You don't seriously expect me to spend the entire night with them, do you?"
"Oh, come on, Clay," Harm said. "It won't be that bad."
Clay gave a long-suffering groan as he gave Mac a farewell kiss. "I'll see you tomorrow. I hope."
Mac laughed. "Go on. Remember your promise, Harm. If I get a call in the middle of the night asking me to bail you out, I won't do it."
"You have my word," Harm promised. "Come on, Clay."
Mac, Jennifer, Mattie and Chloe followed Harriet and the boys back to the Roberts house for a little girl talk and movie watching. Once Little AJ and Jimmy were tucked up in their beds, Harriet brought out soft drinks and snacks out for everyone. "You and Jennifer can have some wine, Harriet," Mac told them. It won't bother me."
Harriet hesitated. "That's okay. I'm fine. How about you, Jennifer?"
"Jennifer can't drink," Mattie said, and immediately fell silent, her eyes widening as she saw Jennifer's warning look. "Ooops. Forget I said anything."
But it was too late, and Mac, Harriet, and Chloe looked at Jennifer. "What's going on?" Mac asked.
"Nothing," Jennifer insisted, grabbing a Sprite from the tray.
"You didn't drink at the party when Harm and Mac left JAG, either," Harriet recalled.
"And I know you drink - had champagne when you and Harm married," Mac added.
Mattie gave Jennifer a look of apology. "You might as well tell them - Mom," she said, finishing with a grin.
"Mattie!" Jennifer warned again.
Harriet's eyes widened. "Ohmigod! Jennifer, are you - You're pregnant, aren't you?"
"Almost four months," Jennifer confirmed.
"That's great!" Chloe declared as Harriet and Mac both gave the younger woman a hug.
"We found out for sure just before Harm left JAG," Jennifer told them.
"Why haven't you told anyone?" Mac wanted to know.
"I didn't want to steal your thunder," she explained. "I figured Harm and I could tell everyone after your wedding -"
"You'll make the announcement at the reception," Mac declared, her tone allowing no hint of refusal.
"Do you know what it is yet?" Harriet wanted to know. "Or do you want to?"
"Dr. Grainger is going to do an ultrasound next week. We haven't fully decided on whether we want a girl or boy. I don't really care - but I think Harm hopes it's a boy."
"When are you due?" Mac wondered, mentally counting the months. "Christmas."
"The end of December," Jennifer nodded. "Possibly even Christmas Eve."
"It's a boy," Mac declared, and when her two friends gave her a questioning look, she shook her head. "Don't ask. I just know." Somehow, Mac knew that Harm's first child would be a boy. A child that once she would have been sharing with him instead of Jennifer.
The time for the completion of the deal that she and Harm had made had come and gone the previous spring with no mention - after all, Harm was already happily married to Jennifer and enjoying being Mattie's guardian, and Mac had been engaged to Clay.
It never occurred to Mac to be jealous or upset with the young woman. She looked happy and content. "That explains the looks that I've noticed Harm giving you whenever he's around you," she said. "I wish you'd share your secret, Jennifer," she told the woman. "Harm positively *dotes* on you."
"Dotes?" Mattie snorted. "He's *totally* whipped," Mattie declared, causing everyone in the room to laugh at the idea of Harmon Rabb, Jr. being 'whipped' by anyone, much less a slip of a woman like Jennifer Coates-Rabb.
"I'm afraid that my biggest problem tomorrow is going to be keeping my mother from running everyone ragged," Clay said, taking the glass of scotch that Harm held out to him. "Thanks."
"Like living dangerously, Clay?" Harm questioned, his brow raised.
"I don't have any choice; the last thing I need to deal with is my mother's nerves. I have enough of my own."
AJ shook his head. "I'll see what I can do about keeping her occupied tomorrow," he told Clay. "But you're going to owe me."
"I thought I already did, AJ," Clay told him, grinning. "And thanks."
"You can thank me by taking care of Mac," AJ replied, expression serious as he finished his beer. "Because the first time you do anything to hurt her - I'll do more than break your nose." Glancing at the empty, he told Harm, "I'm going to get another. Anyone else?" he asked
"I'm good," Bud answered.
"So am I," Harm agreed, watching AJ leave the room.
Clay looked at Harm. "You don't think he was serious, do you?"
"I don't know, Clay," Harm said, fighting a smile. "The Admiral's pretty fond of Mac. I don't think he'd take it lightly if anyone were to hurt her. And he's not the only one."
Clay lifted his eyes toward the ceiling, as if seeking help from a higher power.
"All you have to do is make sure you don't hurt her," Bud pointed out.
"Not you too, Bud," Clay groaned. "Okay. Okay. But believe me, if I ever hurt Sarah, I think you'll *all* have to stand in line behind *her* to get to me."
Harm chuckled softly. "It's only that we care about Mac, Clay," he said.
"God, this is like having three brothers in law," Clay sighed.
"Damn straight, and don't you forget it," AJ agreed as he returned, and Clay shook his head again.
"So what do you think of Clay?" Chloe wanted to know while she and Mattie sat off to one side as the grown ups chatted about 'adult' stuff.
"He's cool. A little stuffy sometimes, but - I think he loves Mac, and that's what's important."
"Yeah," Chloe agreed. "Mac told me that his mother's got a stable and horses - have you ever ridden a horse?"
"A couple of times," Mattie said. "I prefer flying. Did Harm ever take you up in his plane?"
"I was never able to stay around long enough," Chloe said with a sigh, searching her mind for another topic. "At least Clay's better than the *last* guy she was going to marry."
"A real loser, huh?" Mattie asked.
"I don't know. Mic *did* let me have a sip of champagne at the rehearsal dinner," she confided.
Chloe nodded. "It was *awful*."
AJ managed to keep Porter out of Clay and Mac's hair the next day, and the wedding, held in the main salon at the Webb house in Great Falls, went off without so much as a hiccup. Little AJ proudly carried the ring down the aisle on a Marine green velvet pillow that matched the lighter shade of Harriet and Jennifer's dresses. When she saw the look of love and appreciation in Clay's eyes, Mac was glad she'd chosen the white silk dress with lace and pearl trim. She was wearing the emerald and diamond necklace and matching earrings that Porter had presented to her a few days earlier, informing her that it was traditional for a Webb bride to wear it for her wedding.
As best man, it fell to Harm to give a short speech at the reception afterward, offering his heartfelt best wishes and congratulations to two of his oldest and dearest friends, finishing by hoping that if they would be as happy as he and Jennifer were.
While dancing with Harm after the wedding, Mac said, "Congratulations, Harm."
He grinned. "I thought I was supposed to tell you that."
"Not about the wedding. About the baby."
"You know?" he asked, looking around to where Jennifer was dancing with the Admiral.
"Don't blame her. Harriet and I noticed she didn't want anything alcoholic to drink last night, even though Harriet offered. One thing led to another, and - I'll tell you like I told her - I want the announcement made today. Either before Clay and I leave or after. I don't care."
Harm nodded his agreement. "That's fine with me. Jennifer's the one who didn't want to steal your thunder. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops the day after we found out for sure," he explained. "I - uh, guess this means our little 'deal' is - null and void," he said, looking into her eyes.
Mac smiled up at him. "I guess so. But it was a silly deal anyway," she pointed out. "It wouldn't have been fair to a baby or to us."
"No," Harm agreed.
"Now I understand the little smiles you've been giving Jennifer these last couple of months. I should have guessed from that if nothing else. And the way you and the Admiral -" she stopped, watching the couple dancing across the floor. "He knows, doesn't he?"
"He guessed and agreed to keep it a secret until we were ready to tell everyone."
"So. How does it feel to know you're going to be a father?"
"I'm already a father," he pointed out, glancing over to where Mattie and Chloe were laughing about something. "But I know what you mean. It's a little scary," he admitted. "Thank goodness Jennifer's so calm about it. I just take my lead from her." Seeing Mac's expression, he moved back to look at her. "What?"
"Mattie's right," she said, her laughter causing several heads to turn in their direction. "You really *are* whipped."