"Col. Mackenzie," Mac answered the phone.
She smiled and sat back in her chair, still amazed at how just the sound of AJ's voice caused her body to react. "Hi there yourself," was her reply. "How are things going?"
"Tense," he told her. "It's a good thing today is Friday, because I'm not sure this office would survive much longer."
"That bad, huh?"
"Jen's a little - distracted," he confirmed. "How about on your end?"
"Harm's been a little distracted too. He was almost late for court this morning," she explained. "And then he forgot his notes and had to send Lt. Andrews to get them."
"Jen transposed two client meetings, then gave me the wrong file for each one. I finally sent her home to get ready for this evening."
"I hope it goes well," Mac sighed.
"So do I. But for different reasons."
"Let me guess," Mac began. "Because the sooner they talk and get it settled, the sooner they'll leave and we can be alone?"
"For the weekend," he pointed out.
"I'm looking forward to it, AJ," Mac responded with a quiet laugh that ended when she realized that she was no longer alone. Turning, she saw the General standing in the doorway. "I have to go," she said into the phone.
"No need, Colonel," Cresswell said. "I need to see you in my office when you're finished."
"Yes, sir," Mac said, forcing herself to meet his gaze before he turned and left the room. "Damn."
"What's wrong, darlin'?" AJ asked. "Was that Cresswell I heard?"
"Yes," she replied, wincing and closing her eyes. "I think he heard me say your name into the phone."
"I thought we agreed that there was no reason to hide, Mac."
"We did. But putting that into practice isn't as easy as it sounds."
"If he gives you any guff, let me know."
"I will. But this is one battle I think I need to win by myself."
"I understand. Talk to you later."
"Yeah." She hung up the phone and took a deep breath before standing up, automatically smoothing her uniform, and inspecting it for anything out of place. Maybe this wasn't about AJ, she reasoned. There were any number of reasons why Gen. Cresswell would want to see her - and none of them involved her personal life.
She smiled as Jen's replacement, Sgt. Morris, spoke. "He said to send you right in, ma'am."
"Thank you, Sergeant." Mac straightened her shoulders and entered the office, coming to attention before the General's desk, waiting for him to look up from the papers he was reading and acknowledge her presence.
The moments stretched out, with the only sound that of the clocking ticking on the fireplace mantle. Just as Mac was about to risk speaking, Cresswell beat her to it. "I wasn't aware that you were still in close contact with my predecessor, Colonel."
"I hadn't been until just recently, sir," she replied. "The Admiral - AJ recently returned to his home in McLean after spending the summer away and contacted me."
"I'll admit to having overheard a portion of your telephone conversation. I went to your office to see if you could explain why Commander Rabb had been so distracted all week, only to discover that you're somehow - involved with your former commanding officer. Seems like this is familiar territory for you, Colonel."
"Sir, if I might point out, Admiral Chegwidden is retired, and no longer my commanding officer, and there are no regs that prohibit my seeing a civilian."
"No," Cresswell agreed. "But the appearance of possible impropriety is there. Admiral Chegwidden was your CO for how long?"
"Seven and a half years, sir."
"And now, less than six months after his retirement, you and he are - involved?"
"That's correct, General."
Cresswell rose from his chair and went to the window, staring out. "And you expect me to believe that during those seven plus years, you and he never acted on any - mutual attraction?"
"Never, sir. I was unaware that he felt about me as anything more than a JAG officer in his command. I even asked him to give me away when I was planning to be married a few years ago." Mac took a deep breath as she forged ahead. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
Cresswell turned to look at her. "By all means."
"You would be within your rights to order an investigation into this, sir. But I hope that you would consider the danger that something like that - of even the public *suspicion* that something more went on - would do to damage the good name of this office. Recalling Admiral Chegwidden after all this time would only smear his name for no reason - because you won't find even the *smallest* bit of evidence that he did anything improper during his time behind that desk. He was always the consummate officer and gentleman. If you would prefer, I will request a transfer to another duty station. But to drag AJ through the mud would be wrong. In my opinion, sir."
He kept silent for a long time again, and Mac mentally prepared herself to transfer out of JAG and hope for another billet nearby. But when he finally spoke, she had to keep from showing relief instead. "You're right, Colonel. Starting an investigation now would only give the Navy and JAG a black eye. And I can't regulate who you see in your off-duty hours. Your private life is just that. Private. As long as it doesn't affect this office, anyway. I *would* have preferred this not to go public after a little more time had passed, however. You said yourself that the *appearance* of impropriety could be inferred."
"Shall I submit a request for transfer, General?" Mac asked.
"No. For the time being, anyway. Now. About the Commander -"
"I believe you should ask him about whatever might be going on in his personal life, sir." The last thing Mac needed was for Cresswell to find out about Harm and Jen. It was bad enough that she and AJ's relationship could be suspect - but they'd both been officers. Jen had been enlisted. There was no way that Mac would do anything to scuttle Harm's career."
"Then there *is* something going on."
"I didn't say that, General."
"No. But the implication is there, Colonel. He's been very distracted this last week. I put it down the first couple of days to the hours he put in on the Seahawk last week - and the trip out there and back. But I think it's more than that. Judge Helfman reported that the commander seemed to be unprepared for this case this morning."
"He simply -forgot some notes, General and Lt. Andrews retrieved them before they were even needed."
"That's not like Rabb," Cresswell said, shaking his head. "He's usually at the top of game. Are you sure you can't at least give me a hint so I can be forewarned?"
"Like I said, sir. You need to talk to him." Privately, she wondered *why* he hadn't done so before now. To her best knowledge, the General had spent time talking to Bud, and Sturgis, and Jen, and herself, but he hadn't spoken at any length with Harm.
"Until now, Colonel, I haven't *needed* to talk to him. He's done his job without incident. He's an excellent attorney, a decorated aviator, and I haven't felt that he needed my -" he paused to search for the right word. "Guidance," he finished. For a moment, Mac wondered if he'd read her mind. "I'll give him another few days to get whatever's going on in his personal life settled and get his professional life back on track. After that, you might warn him that I'm going to be asking some hard questions."
*You probably will be anyway*, Mac thought, knowing the reason for Harm being so distracted. "Very well, sir. Will there be anything else, sir?"
"No," he said slowly. "You're dismissed."
She could feel his eyes on her as she turned and left the office, closing the door behind her. Ignoring the fact that Sgt. Morris was watching, she visibly relaxed, exhaling before drawing in another breath. Giving Morris a smile, she marched back toward her office, pausing in Harm's door to find him sitting at his desk, studying something on the computer. "Busy?" she asked, causing him to glance toward her before returning to the computer.
"Just doing some research on something that came out in testimony today."
"Good to know you're a little more focused - for the moment, anyway."
He must have heard the tone of her voice and turned his attention toward her. "I know I've been a little -"
"Distracted," Mac nodded. "Forgetting notes, almost being late for court - those aren't things I would normally associate with Harmon Rabb," she said. "Nor would the General." Harm's eyes widened.
"I think Judge Helfman mentioned something to him about the notes incident."
"Ah. What did he say?"
"That he's going to give you a few more days to get it together before asking some 'tough questions' about the reasons."
"That sounded like a quote," Harm said, wincing. "What do you think he'll do if Jen and I -?"
"Well, I can tell you this, he knows about AJ and me, and while he took me to task about it, he agreed that my personal life was my own as long as it doesn't affect my work while on duty."
"Then there's hope," Harm sighed. "How'd he find out about you and AJ?"
"He came into my office while I was on the phone," she explained. "Have you called Harriet yet?" she asked.
Harriet had called Mac the day after her talk with Bud, wanting the 'full scoop', as she had put it. Once she had realized that Mac was happy with AJ, she decided that Harm and Jen would be fine - if they ever caught up with each other, that is, and told her to have Harm call her when he got a chance.
"I've been avoiding that," Harm said. "She's left two messages on my machine at home. I'll call her next week, once I have something definite to report."
"Its' your funeral, sailor," Mac warned with a laugh. "I need to get to work on the Donaldson case -"
"What time is it?" he asked, glancing at his watch as he did so, only to stop as Mac answered.
"You're never going to explain how you do that, are you?"
Mac just smiled. "See you later. And relax. I'm sure everything will turn out the way you want it to."
Mac and Harm arrived at AJ's within minutes of each other that evening. By the time Harm got out of the Vette and approached the house, Mac and AJ had had sufficient time to say their "hellos" without worrying about his being there.
AJ let him inside, and Dammit moved closer to sniff of Harm's leg. He reached down and rubbed the German Shepard's head. "Hey there, girl."
The dog's tail wagged and she nudged Harm's hand, eager for more attention. "I think she remembers you," AJ noted. "She's been friendlier to strangers since I got back."
"She probably just wants the attention she didn't get while you were gone," Harm pointed out, going onto his haunches to pet the animal as Mac came into the room, causing Dammit to turn from Harm and go over to her. "Abandoned by another female," Harm said in a teasing voice, watching Mac with the dog. "The story of my life."
All three of them laughed at the bad joke. "Jen should be here any minute," AJ told him, which brought Harm's nerves back to full alert. "And before she arrives, I want to tell you that she's very important to me."
"I'm aware of that AJ," Harm said.
"I don't think you do. Jen's almost like a second daughter me, Harm. And if you screw this up or hurt her, you'll answer to me."
"Understood," Harm replied, his eyes widening as he heard the sound of another car nearing the house.
"Mac and I are going to take Dammit out back for a run," AJ said. "Give you and Jen some privacy."
"Thanks," Harm said, turning his attention toward the windows, through which he could see Jen's beat up old car come to a stop behind his Vette. He never heard AJ and Mac leave the room or house as he moved toward the front door and opened it as Jen came up the steps and onto the porch.
She stopped, looking at him. "Hi."
Harm stood there, mutely wondering again how he'd missed the way she looked out of that uniform, the way her long hair fell over her shoulder; the way her dark eyes darkened when she looked at him. "Hi," was all he could say.
"You look tired," she told him, lifting a hand to touch his face as they stood inches apart. "You haven't been sleeping, have you?"
"No," he had to admit, moving to capture her hand in his much larger one. "Between worrying where you were and if I could somehow fix this -"
"There's nothing to fix, Harm," she said, pulling her hand from his and moving to the railing to look out over the front yard. "Your career-"
"Doesn't mean as much to me as you do, Jen," he said, and saw the uncertainty in her eyes as she glanced at him, then away again.
"You don't mean that," she said. "I'm not important. Not to anyone. Not to my father, not to the Navy -"
"You're important to AJ. And to me. You know, he threatened me with bodily harm if I screw this up." She turned to look at him. You wouldn't want that to happen, would you?"
"He really said that?"
"Yes." When she turned back to study the scenery, Harm copied her move, resting his hands loosely on the rail in front of him. "During that week on the Seahawk, I had a lot of time to think, Jen. Especially when you wouldn't return my calls." He gave her a sidelong glance as he spoke.
"I didn't want anyone to wonder why a lowly Petty Officer was calling a Commander in her off duty hours," she admitted softly.
"And on duty? Every time I called the office, you had a reason not to talk -"
"It wasn't the right time."
"No, I suppose not," he had to agree. "But it did give me time to think about what happened on my birthday. You want to know what I decided?" he asked, turning to lean his hip against the rail so that he was looking at Jen.
She turned as well. "If you want to tell me."
"I decided that I was glad it happened. Because it made me open my eyes to a special, wonderful young woman. You've been there when I needed you, Jen. Saving Bud. When I needed someone to help me with Mattie -"
"I almost put you in prison, too," she reminded him.
"Ancient history. You did the right thing. You told the truth. And that verified my faith in you."
"If it hadn't been for your faith in me, I'm not sure where I'd be right now," Jen sighed. "You made me realize that I could be more than I'd been up to that point. And you were there for me, too. When Lt. Singer accused me of stealing her bracelet, you came to find me instead of writing me off. Then you got me out of a horrible situation when you asked me to move in with Mattie. And then that mess with Pia -"
"You resolved that yourself," Harm reminded her.
"But I knew you had my back. That helped more than you know."
Harm took a chance and reached down to touch her cheek. "Jen, I had planned to talk to you when I got home. To try again to talk to you about what happened - to see if it - if *I* still felt the same way. But when I came home to find you'd disappeared, I realized that I *need* you in my life. Not as Mattie's friend, or a neighbor. As a woman."
"What about when Col. Mackenzie told you she was ready to - talk?" Jen asked.
"She thought that knowing that was the reason you decided to leave," Harm said. "And she also figured out that my being willing to leave the Navy even to find out if there was more to this than I hoped there would be was proof that -"
"That what?" Jen questioned, her dark eyes fixed on his.
"That I love you, Jen," he said. "I know I'm too old for you, but if you'll give me a chance -"
"You're not too old," Jen assured him, placing her hands on his chest. "And yes, I'll give you whatever you want, Harm. I've loved you for longer than I know. I fought it for a long time, but on your birthday, I thought I'd take chance -"
"Thank God you did." He moved closer, bending toward her. "Don't ever leave me like that again, Jen. Please."
"I won't," she promised as their lips finally met and joined. Harm felt as if he had finally found the safe harbor that he'd been looking for all his life as he held Jen close.
"You owe Mattie a phone call," he said a few minutes later as he rested his hips against the rail with Jen leaning into his body, her head on his chest. "She was pretty upset when I told her that you'd left the Navy."
"I couldn't tell her the truth," she said. "I didn't want to risk her telling you what was going on. And I figured that you would set her straight when you got back." She looked up at him. "What's going to happen to your Navy career, Harm?" she asked. "I don't want this to cause you any problems -"
"If it does, I can walk away, Jen. As long as I have you, I'll be fine. I can fly crop dusters for Mattie's father, or maybe go into partnership with AJ. Nothing matters except being with you," he promised, cupping her face between his hands.
"You quit for Mac, too," she recalled.
"And I believed - up until the moment that it didn't happen - that AJ would take me back without a second thought," Harm confided. "But this time, I have my eyes open, and if I walk away, it won't be because I expect to be able to go back if I change my mind. Because that's not going to happen." He touched his lips to hers again and felt her shiver in the cool night air. "We'd better find someplace else to continue this discussion."
"I have a small place in McLean," Jen told him. "It's not much, but - it's close."
"McLean?" Harm questioned, lifting one eyebrow.
She gave him an abashed grin. "I'm working as AJ's legal aide and office manager," she told him. "Really, I'm just a glorified secretary, but the other sounds better."
Harm chuckled. "I don't think AJ would agree with your assessment," he said, standing up and taking her hand in his. "What do you say we go say our goodbyes to AJ and Mac, then get out of their hair?"
They heard sounds from the kitchen as they entered the house, and moved together toward the door, stopping as they watched AJ and Mac working in the room to put the finishing touches on their dinner while Dammit lay beside the back door. When she saw Harm and Jen, she lifted her head, her tail started to wag, and she let out a soft "Woof!"
Harm watched as AJ's dark, hawk-like eyes moved from their faces to their joined hands. "From appearances, it looks as though you two have settled things," he noted.
"I think we have," Harm said, smiling down at Jen.
Mac joined AJ. "Good. It's good to see you, Jen."
"Ma'am, are you really okay with -" Jen began, and Mac's smile widened as she slipped her arm through AJ's.
"Call me Mac," she said. "Just seeing that look on Harm's face is enough for me. I'm fine."
"Damn right you are, darlin," AJ agreed softly, freeing his arm to put it around her waist to pull her closer. To Jen, he said, "I'll expect you in the office ready to work on Monday, Jen."
"Yes, sir," Jen nodded. "I guess we'll go now, let you two get on with your evening. Thank you both for everything."
"You can thank me best by being happy, Jen," AJ told her.
Jen smiled. "I am." She released Harm's hand and closed the distance to give AJ a quick, slightly uncertain hug. "Thank you."
He returned the embrace. "You're welcome. Now get out of here," he said with mock gruffness. "Our dinner's nearly ready. And I'm hungry."
Jen giggled and returned to Harm's side, waving at Mac as they left the house. "I'll follow you," Harm said as he opened the driver side door of her car. "I can't believe you're still driving this thing."
"It gets me where I need to go," she told him.
"And it's in the garage more than it's on the road," he noted.
"It's also all I could afford on my salary," she pointed out, sitting down in the seat and turning the key in the ignition. It sputtered for a moment before catching, and Jen glared at Harm's 'I told you so' expression.
"We could go car shopping tomorrow," he said.
"I might have other plans for tomorrow," she replied, giving him a cheeky grin as she fastened her seatbelt. Seeing the pink that tinted Harm's ears, she laughed softly.
Shaking his head, Harm bent to steal a quick kiss before closing the door and heading toward his own car. Even with Jen's teasing, Harm felt more relaxed and at peace with himself than he'd ever felt. Watching the tail lights of Jen's car ahead of him, he decided that nothing he'd done - except maybe for deciding to get custody of Mattie - had ever felt this *right*.
With Mac and the others, he'd had to work at being relaxed around them. But not with Jen. Even from the first few days of her sharing the apartment with Mattie, Harm had been surprised at how easily they had fallen into a comfortable routine. It had seemed natural for them to be together. In fact, it had been difficult at times for them when Mattie wasn't around, especially during those last weeks when Matts had been spending so much time in Blacksburg.
Now he understood why Jen had seemed slightly withdrawn that evening when he'd been at a loose end and so had she and he'd invited her over to dinner. But he hadn't pushed her that night as he had on his birthday. Maybe if he had -- his thoughts veered away from that night as Jen turned into a parking space in front of a small apartment building near downtown McLean. He found another space nearby, and automatically set the alarm when he got out of the Vette to join Jen on the curb to survey the building.
"You're living here?" he asked, seeing the peeling paint on the woodwork.
"It's cheap," she told him. "And close to AJ's office. I can walk from here on a nice day. It's only about four blocks in that direction." She slipped her arm through his as she continued and they started toward the building. "Besides, I'm not sure you should talk. You live in a converted warehouse."
"So did you until a week ago," he pointed out, stepping around her to open the door into the building. "And at least that converted warehouse doesn't look like a stiff wind could knock it down."
"It's only temporary until I find another place," she told him, leading him up the steep, narrow flight of stairs to the second floor.
He caught up with her. "Maybe we could look together," he suggested, watching as she paused before a door and took out her key.
Jen flashed him a smile. "You're moving pretty fast, aren't you?"
Harm's answering smile was one of his patented 'fly-boy' grins. "To fast?" he asked, following her into the small, one-room apartment. It was sparsely furnished, with only a sofa, one arm chair, a table for a television/audio system, and a table and chairs in the kitchen area.
"No," Jen assured him, looking suddenly nervous. "Not at all. I just - I don't want you to regret any problems this could cause -"
"I'm not going to regret anything, Jen," Harm assured her, moving to take her elbow and turn her to look at him. "I'm doing what I want to do. I'm doing what's right. Are you having doubts now?"
She looked up at him. "No. Oh, no. In fact, I think I'm dreaming all this. I keep wanting to pinch myself to make sure I'm awake and that it's really happening."
"Well we're both dreaming then," Harm said. "And I hope I don't wake up. Or if I do, that you're right there with me." He pulled her closer as he bent his head toward hers to capture her lips.
The kiss on the porch had been long and hard and filled with pent up passion that neither of them had felt comfortable giving in to at that moment. But here, in the privacy of Jen's apartment, there were no restrictions, no chance that anyone could interrupt them.
Harm started to deepen the kiss, running his tongue around Jen's lips in a silent invitation for entry, only to have her tongue meet his while her arms went around his neck. Sighing into her mouth, Harm's fingers moved along Jen's spine until they found the bottom of her shirt and touched bare skin.
Jen whimpered with need, and Harm wanted to hear the sound again. The idea that he could make her shake the way she was caused all of the blood in his head to rush to another part of his body, and his hands moved down to her hips, lifting her up and pulling her tightly against him so that she could feel what she was doing to him.
"I want you, Jen," Harm whispered against the soft skin of her throat. "God, I *need* you."
"I need you, too," she confessed, and he felt her move back just enough to slide her hand between them. When it brushed against his denim-covered hardness, Harm groaned.
"You're going to kill me," he said, his fingers digging into her ass.
"Believe me, that's *not* my intention." Jen's fingers quickly dispensed with the buttons on his jeans, and reached inside to touch him. "I knew you'd be a big boy," she noted with a sexy wink as her thumb brushed across the top of him.
"Damn," he said, his teeth nipping gently on her collarbone. "Careful. It's been awhile."
"I plan to be *very* careful," Jen said, pushing him onto the sofa. "Why don't we make ourselves a little more comfortable?" she suggested, lifting her sweater over her head, revealing the lace-cupped bra she was wearing. Harm's eyes widened in appreciation and he felt his mouth begin to water at the thought of sucking on the dark nipples that he could see through the sheer material.
While she worked at unfastening her own jeans, Harm lifted his hips and pushed his pants down, kicking them and his tennis shoes aside, and his shirt followed a moment later. "Have you always worn such sexy underwear, Jen?" he questioned when the matching thong to the bra was revealed.
"Only when I was off duty," Jen assured him.
"Pity. If I'd known you had something like that on under your uniform -"
Jen grinned and moved toward him, straddling his thighs. "It would have made you crazy?" she suggested.
"Insane," he corrected as his hands moved to cup her breasts. Leaning forward, he ran his tongue around each chocolate tip before sucking it into his mouth. The latch fell victim to his long fingers, and he moved back to peel the fabric away from his goal. "God, you're beautiful," he sighed, feeling Jen's fingers on his own nipples, circling, gently pinching the tiny nubs. "I have something in my jeans," he told her, looking into her eyes -
She shook her head and drew his hand back to a spot on her hip, where he felt what seemed to be a small fabric patch. "I've got it covered," she whispered against his lips, raising up in his lap and allowing his cock to rub against her. "That feels so good."
"Jen," Harm said, holding her back. "Are you sure?"
"If I wasn't, do you think I'd be here, now, like this?" she replied, leaning forward to brush her breasts against his chest. "I love you. And I want to be with you. I thought you felt the same -"
"God, I do, Jen," he assured her, reaching down to move what little there was of the thong from over the neatly trimmed dark hair that it covered. His fingers delved into her slick folds, finding that she was dripping with moisture, ready to take him inside.
"Make love to me, Harm," she pled, squirming against his fingers, needing more. "Please."
He moved to put himself at the entrance, but the thong moved, and Jen groaned in frustration before reaching down to jerk the scrap of fabric, causing it to tear and move out of the way. With a contented sigh, she lowered herself onto him. "You're so big," she said. "It feels sooo good."
"Mmm," was all Harm could manage when he felt her body welcome him, wrapping him in her soft warmth. "God, Jen, I love you," he said, pulling her to him for another kiss as their lower bodies moved against each other in a slow, ageless dance.
When the kiss ended, Harm's lips closed over Jen's nipples again, his hand going to down to find the little bud above their joining. Jen lifted herself and went back down over and over again, doing most of the work, something that Harm usually didn't like - he preferred to be the one in charge. But with Jen, it didn't matter to him.
He could feel the shaking in her body, feel how taunt it was, and sensed that she was nearly ready, as he suckled one stiff peak into his mouth, he moved his slickened finger down until it was against their joining, and then turned it up along side his cock and forward as he bit down gently on the nipple in his mouth.
Jen's reaction was immediate and strong. "Ohmigod," she cried, gasping, tossing her head from side to side, whimpering. Her back arched, and Harm brought both hands up to cup her breasts and began to lift his hips quickly, joining her on the plateau with a strangled cry of completion.
She collapsed onto his chest, his cock still buried inside of her clasping body as if it were unwilling to release him just yet. "That was -" Harm began, and smiled into Jen's hair as she finished.
"Wonderful." Her voice was dreamy, and Harm ran his hands down her back and up again, enjoying being here with her.
"I was going to say incredible, but wonderful works, too," he said. "Thank you."
"Thank *you*," she said, snuggling closer. "Are you *sure* this isn't a dream?"
"Nope." He gently pinched her bottom, causing her to yelp. "Still think it's a dream?"
"No," she said. "I love you," she said, lifting her head from his shoulder.
Harm moved, and his back protested. He tried to hide the wince, but must have been unsuccessful, because Jen frowned. "What's wrong?"
"My back. It'll be okay. Just one of the problems with my being older."
She started to move off of him, but Harm shook his head. "No. Just a minute." He slid over until he was laying on the sofa, with his head resting against the padded arm. It was far too short for his long legs, but he lifted his knees, easing his back somewhat, and then resettled Jen against his body. "There. How's that?"
"Nice," she sighed. "Next time, I'll make out the bed," she promised, then said in a quiet voice, "If there's going to *be* a next time."
"Oh, there will be, sweetheart. I hadn't planned for our first time to be on a sofa like this."
She placed her fist on his chest and rested her chin on it to look at him. "How did you plan it?" she wanted to know.
"Oh, I don't know. A nice, candle lit dinner, maybe listening to some soft music while we had a couple of glasses of wine, then we'd move into the bedroom, where we'd make love slowly and thoroughly."
"You're a romantic, Harmon Rabb," she teased.
"Sometimes," he admitted, then chuckled as Jen's stomach growled. "Sounds like someone's hungry."
"A little, maybe."
Harm ran his fingers through her long hair. "Why don't we get dressed and go out to find something to eat?" he suggested.
"I could order in," she said.
"Are there any good Chinese places in McLean?"
"Down the street," she said. "It's not as good as the one you like in DC, but it's not bad."
"You're sure you wouldn't rather go out and have a real dinner?"
"I'd rather stay here with you and make love all night," Jen insisted, placing a kiss against his chest. But the effect was spoiled when her stomach made itself heard once again, and they both laughed.
"I don't think your stomach agrees," Harm told her. Giving her bare ass a soft slap, he said, "Okay. We'll order in. Where's the head?" he asked as she slowly lifted herself from him.
She pointed toward a door. "Over there. It's small. The shower stall's barely big enough for me."
"I'll manage," he assured her, grabbing his jeans while she picked up his shirt and drew it over her shoulders. The bottom came to just below her hips, and Harm grinned before turning toward the bathroom. "You know what I like."
"Are we talking about Chinese food or something else?" she questioned, giving him a cheeky grin when the turned to look at her.
"Both, I think. Be right back."
Jen smiled as she heard the shower starting, and picked up the phone to dial the number for the Chinese place.
After finishing the food, which Harm had agreed was surprisingly good, they went back to the sofa. "I need to open the bed," Jen said, but Harm refused to let her go. "Harm -"
"I have another idea," he said. "Why don't we drive back to my place and spend the weekend there? My shower's big enough for two," he pointed out.
"Are you sure? If someone sees us -"
"I don't give a damn who knows we're together, Jen," he insisted. "I'm not hiding this. There's no reason to."
"I doubt that General Cresswell will agree. I was enlisted, Harm. I lived next door to you. And now -"
"You're no longer Navy, and not off limits just because I'm an officer. Unless you don't want to be seen with an old man," he suggested.
"No. Oh, no. I don't think of you as 'old'," Jen said.
"Then pack a bag and we'll drive back to DC. Then on Sunday, we can go visit Mattie. Then I'll drop you back here on Sunday night if you want." He smiled. "But I'm hoping to convince you to move back to DC."
"How about if we *both* move somewhere else?" she suggested.
"Talk about *me* moving fast," Harm said. "What did you have in mind?" he wanted to know.
"Well, I thought maybe we could move to McLean if we could find a place. I want to keep working for AJ -"
"And finish college?" Harm questioned.
"Eventually. But I'm not going back into the Navy."
"You sure about that? You could get your degree and go back as an officer -" but Jen shook her head no.
"I think one of us in the Navy is enough - if they don't boot you out because you're seeing me."
"They won't. And if they do, I'll survive."
"If I go back into the Navy, Harm, the possibility of our being separated would always be there. I don't want to have to worry about that."
"You have a point," he agreed. "Okay. So tomorrow we'll start looking in the papers for places in this area."
"There *is* another advantage to moving out here," Jen reminded him, sliding her hands up his chest to his neck.
"It's a little closer to Mattie."
He smiled. "Yeah. It is." He gave her a kiss. "Come on. Get your sea bag and let's go."
"How about this one?" Jen asked, pointing over Harm's bare shoulder to an ad in the classifieds. They were still in bed, the newspaper spread out across it. Harm had gone out earlier to get some pastries for breakfast, and Jen had dragged him back to bed when he'd returned with them and the paper.
Harm looked at the ad. "Four bedrooms, two and 1/2 bath, two car garage on two acres. Full basement, formal dining and family rooms. Needs minor work -" he read. "That's a big house."
"Well, we'll need a room for Mattie when she visits," Jen pointed out. "And you could convert one into a study -"
"And the other bedroom?"
"Well," she told him, moving over so that she was laying on him, "I thought maybe we might find someone else who could use it."
"Such as?" he asked, dropping the paper onto the floor beside the bed to put his arms around her, watching the way her silken curtain of hair moved against his skin.
"Oh, how do you feel about children?" she wanted to know.
"You know me, Jen. I love kids. The more the merrier."
"So you wouldn't mind a large family."
"Well, I don't know about 'large'," he countered. "But I wouldn't mind having a couple of kids." The memory of Mac's inability to have a child flitted through his mind.
"What's wrong?" Jen asked.
"Nothing. It's just - Mac told me last spring that she can't have kids."
"Oh. Is that why you and she -?"
"Not on my part. I don't *have* to have a child to be happy. And if you hadn't made me realize how I felt about you, I would probably have married Mac and been - content with whatever we had. It bothered Mac more than it bothered me, I think. I was willing to consider adoption or surrogacy if she was willing."
"But she wasn't?"
"No," he answered, then ran his hand over her hair. "Enough about Mac. We were talking about *us*, weren't we?"
"Um hmm," she confirmed, placing a kiss along his jaw. "And making babies."
"Making babies," Harm repeated. "That sounds nice."
Jen reached behind her and started to remove the patch on her hip, but Harm stopped her.
"Because I want us to be married first."
Jen blinked. "M-married?"
Seeing her surprise, Harm laughed. "You thought I just wanted to live with you?"
"You never said -"
"Well I am now. Will you marry me, Jen?"
"Yes," she answered, showering his face with kisses as she repeated the word. "Yes, yes, yes, yes."
Harm rolled them over so that she was on her back, kicking the newspapers onto the floor as he did so. "I'm not doing any of this the way I planned to," he said. "You deserved a romantic setting -"
"I have what I need," she said, dragging her short fingernails along the sensitive skin of his hips and lifting up into him. "Or I will soon."
"Impudent woman," Harm muttered, covering her lips with his as he lifted his hips and entered her easily.
They called about the house and arranged to look at it on the way out to see Mattie the next morning. There were a couple of others that looked promising, but after talking to the agent about the first one, Harm had a feeling that they had no reason to keep looking. Something about Jen being in his life made his infamous Rabb luck seem to double. He did insist that they go out to dinner that evening after spending most of the day in bed, talking about their future.
Sometime during day, Jen also insisted that he call his mother and let her know that he was getting married, even though she was certain that Trish Burnett would think she was *far* too young for her son.
The two women had met when Trish had made a one day stopover in DC to meet Mattie. They had gotten along, but Jen had been a little intimidated by Harm's mother. And she hadn't been planning on *marrying* Trish's son at the time. But Jen knew that Trish was important to Harm, even if he rarely called her.
After hearing Harm's news, Trish insisted on speaking to Jen. Nervous, Jen took the phone. "Hello, Mrs. Burnett."
"Trish, Jen, dear. I have one question for you. Are you in love with my son?"
"Yes, ma'am," Jen said, looking at him as she spoke. "More than you could possibly know."
"Very well. I'll be through Washington in another week. I might stop in if I have time. Tell Harm that I love him."
"I will, Mrs. - Trish." She hung up the phone. "She said to tell you that she loves you. And that she might drop by in a week."
Harm put his head back. "Wonderful."
"Your mom's a nice person," Jen insisted.
"I know. She's a remarkable lady. Raising me alone for the most part, putting up with all I put her through over the years -"
"She's your mother," Jen pointed out. "That's her job."
He turned to look at her. "Were you close to your mother?"
"Yes," she nodded. "When she died, I felt like I'd lost my only friend. Certainly my father didn't try to fill that role. If anything, he got worse after she died."
"Have you tried to talk to your father since -?"
"No. And I not ready to try again, Harm. You saw what he was like that night."
"It's your decision. I just thought I'd ask." He pulled her into a hug. "You ready to go to dinner?"
Her stomach growled. "I think that was your answer," she said as they laughed.
"What did you think?" Harm asked as they pulled away from the house in McLean the next morning. It was an old farm house - sturdy, but it needed the floors refinished and new paint inside and out, along with some minor plumbing and electrical work.
"I loved it," Jen declared, turning to watch as the white frame house with the wide porch disappeared around the bend in the road. "Yeah, it needs work, but - didn't you say that you did most of the work on your apartment when you first got it?"
"Yeah. But that was only a small apartment. This is an entire house."
"Look at it this way," she said, "you'd never be at a loss for something to do. And you were right about the family room being a good place for a study. We could convert the basement into a family room instead."
"Yeah, we could. But that still leaves us with another bedroom open."
"I thought we already discussed that," Jen said, putting her hand on his thigh. "I'm sure we could find something to do with it."
Harm captured her hand to stop her from moving it farther up and brought it to his lips. "Behave." When he had to shift the car again, he placed hers on the stick and covered it to do so.
Jen leaned across to tell him, "I know another stick I'd rather play with." Harm felt the heat in his ears and cheeks, and ignored Jen's knowing laugh.
"And while I normally wouldn't mind, I'd prefer to get to Blacksburg in one piece." He smiled. "But later, I'll take you up on that offer."
"Is that a promise?" she asked.
When Harm had called Mattie and asked her to meet him at the airport today, he hadn't mentioned that Jen would be with him. So when she saw Jen get out of the Vette, Mattie squealed and released Harm to give her a hug.
"Jen! He found you!"
"I was just in McLean," Jen said. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you what was going on, Mattie -" she began, but Mattie shook her head.
"Hey, all's forgiven if your being here together means what I *hope* it means."
"Well, if you mean that Jen and I are together - and planning on getting married, then yeah. You're right," Harm confirmed.
"Yes!" Mattie yelled, giving them each a hug. "I knew it would work out. I just *knew* it! So where have you been, Jen?" she asked. "And when are you getting married?"
Harm and Jen both laughed at her rapid-fire questions. "Why don't you two talk while I get 'Sarah' out of the hangar?" he suggested, bending to give Jen a quick kiss while Mattie watched before moving away from them.
"So spill, girlfriend!" Mattie insisted. "Where did you go when you pulled your disappearing act?"
"McLean," Jen explained. "I called the Admiral and asked if he knew of anyone looking for office help. I *tried* to tell him it was for a friend, but I've never been good at lying to him. He got me to admit it was for me, and offered me a job."
"I couldn't believe it when Harm told me what happened on his birthday. I didn't think you would *ever* get up the courage to let him know how you felt."
"Neither did I. I'm still not sure why I did it that night. But he just seemed so alone and down, I wanted to cheer him up. Then I chickened out and ran."
They watched as Harm pulled the yellow Stearman out of the hangar and turned her around to start a pre-flight check. "And he found you."
"Thanks to AJ and Mac," Jen nodded.
"So, when's the big day?"
"We haven't really decided that yet. We looked at a house in McLean today, though."
"A *house*? Cool!"
Jen started them going toward the airplane. She'd gone up with Harm once, when Mattie had begged her to come out here when they went flying. She hadn't intended to fly, but again Mattie had insisted she give it a try at least once, and Jen had been hooked.
When Harm had suggested spending the day here with Mattie, Jen had eagerly agreed with the idea. "Okay, ladies, who goes first?" Harm asked them as he took a pair of goggles and headset from the back seat.
"Let Mattie go first," Jen said. "I'll stay down here and watch."
"You sure you don't mind?" Mattie questioned. "He and I went flying last Sunday -"
"Go," Jen said again, shooing her toward the airplane. Harm helped Mattie into the front seat, then turned to Jen, giving her another kiss. "Have fun," she told him.
"Don't I always?" he asked before climbing into the plane behind Mattie.
Jen moved away as he started the engine and then watched the airplane as it taxied to the end of the runway and then took off. She smiled, wondering about the fact that the happiness in Harm's eyes when he was flying had been there all weekend.
After almost half an hour, the plane landed and returned to where Jen was waiting, already tucking her hair into her jacket. Mattie jumped to the ground, a wide grin on her face. "Awesome!" she declared. "How was *that* landing?" she asked Jen.
"Not bad," Jen said. "I guess that was you, then?"
"She had the controls during most of the flight," Harm confirmed, smiling like a proud papa, and Jen let herself imagine how much he would enjoy introducing their children to the air. Their eyes met, and she knew that he was thinking the same thing. "You ready to go?" he asked.
"Whenever you are," she answered, taking the headphones and goggles from Mattie.
He saw her safely buckled into the seat, then went back to the rear cockpit and got inside. Jen waved at Mattie, who was standing just inside the hangar doors. "Clear!" Harm called out, and started the engine again. Within minutes, the plane was airborne, and Jen turned again to see Mattie in front of the hangar, her hand shading her eyes as she watched them.
"You want to take it for awhile?" Harm asked.
"Why don't you fly for awhile?" Jen replied. "I'll enjoy just being a passenger."
"Whatever you say," he replied, and sent the plane into a snap roll . . .
Harm and Jen drove by the house again on their way back to Jen's apartment. He parked the car on the road and sat there looking at it in the gathering darkness. Jen put a hand over his on the steering wheel.
"You like it, don't you?"
"I guess it's the do it yourselfer in me," Harm sighed. "I keep thinking about what I could do with that living room floor. The wood is good, it just needs a good sanding and refinishing. And the kitchen doesn't need that much work - maybe a little updating -"
"Why don't you call the agent tomorrow?" Jen suggested. "See what you can work out?"
"Do you think you could be happy in that house, Jen?" he wanted to know.
"I could be happy wherever you are, Harm," she assured him. "And I think I'd enjoy helping you fix this place up. I'm not exactly a stranger to a hammer and nails."
"Then let's do it," he decided.
"Here?" Jen questioned, moving closer. "Why Harm -"
Suddenly realizing what she was talking about, Harm's eyes widened. "No. Not that. You know what I meant," he said quickly, and then saw the playful, teasing light in her eyes. "That will wait til we get back to your place," he told her. He had decided to spend the night in McLean, and leave for Falls Church from there the next morning. The idea of not being with Jen after the last two nights was unthinkable. "But I will call the agent tomorrow."
"Good," she said, sitting back in her seat, still looking at the house. "You know, I can see a swing on the front porch. And a row of hedges along the front walk -"
"No white picket fence?" Harm teased gently.
"I've never seen myself as being the 'white picket fence' type," she told him. "Maybe a split-rail type of fence, though?" she continued, a dimple appearing as she grinned.
Harm laughed and shook his head. "I'll see what I can do. Come on. Let's go."