"I love you, darlin'," AJ said quietly as he and Mac lay together in his bed. He felt the sudden tension in Mac's body the moment he said the words. Frowning, he waited a moment for her to respond to the admission, and when none came, he said, "Mac? Did you hear me?"
"I heard you, AJ," she said, pulling away slightly.
"Aren't you going to say anything? Even a 'that's nice' would be good. *Something* to acknowledge my feeling for you."
"Every time a man says that he loves me, something happens to him, AJ," Mac told him. "Usually something bad."
"What are you talking about?"
"Chris, John, Dalton, Mic - even Clay. All of them told me that they loved me. And ended up either being hurt terribly or dead. I don't want -"
"That's a bunch of bull, darlin'. I think I can handle whatever comes my way. And I'm not going to back down." He captured her face between his palms, looking into her haunted brown eyes. "I love you. And I think you love me. Am I wrong?"
"No," she admitted slowly. "You're not wrong. I guess I'm just afraid to believe that things will work out."
"They will," AJ assured her, pulling her back into his arms and resting his chin on her hair. He felt Mac's fingers close around him, and closed his eyes. "God, darlin', every time you touch me I want you more." Rolling them over, he lifted his upper body with his arms, looking down into her face, then down farther to watch her breasts as they hardened from contact with the hair on his chest.
Just as he was about to enter Mac's waiting body, Dammit barked and a moment later there was a knock on the front door. "Damn," AJ groaned, dropping and rolling onto his back. Giving Mac a quick kiss, he said, "Stay here. I'll find out who it is and get rid of them."
Mac giggled at his eagerness and watched as he pulled on a pair of warm ups before padding out of the room. She stretched languorously, wishing that she could just accept what AJ offered and not worry about how things could go wrong. She knew that he wanted something more permanent between them. He'd hinted more than once about marriage. Dammit's bark changed subtly, and Mac decided to find out what was going on. She grabbed AJ's robe and put it on, wrapping it tightly around her nude body before moving to the door.
She was surprised to find Meredith Cavanaugh standing just inside the house, while AJ was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, listening to her.
"AJ, I took a chance that you'd be home. I needed to talk to you."
"I think we've said everything that needed to be said, Meredith," AJ told her.
"But - I've gotten some help, AJ," she told him. "I - think I might be ready to - try again. And I'd like to do that with you. If you want to."
AJ shook his head. "No. I'm not interested, Meredith." He put a hand on the doorknob. "Now, if you don't mind -"
But Meredith was nothing if not determined. She moved a step closer to him. "AJ, I'm sorry for what happened. I'm sorry that I hurt you. I can make it up to you -"
Mac decided that it was time to let Meredith know that AJ had someone new in his life. Someone who would never do what she had done to him. Stepping out of the bedroom, she called AJ's name. "AJ, what's taking so -" she stopped, pretending to be surprised to see Meredith. "Hello, Meredith."
Meredith's eyes widened and her mouth opened in shocked surprise. "M-Mac. This is a - surprise."
Mac moved to AJ's side, putting her arm around his waist and her head against his shoulder, smiling contentedly when he put an arm around her shoulders. "I'm sure it is."
The older woman frowned, clearly recognizing AJ's robe, before she asked him, "How -how long -?"
"Just a few weeks," AJ answered, looking down into Mac's face, his look filled with gratitude for her assistance - and love.
"Once AJ was out of the Navy," Mac said, "There was no reason for us to keep how we felt for each other hidden."
"You used me, didn't you, AJ?" Meredith accused. "You were never in love with me. I was only a - a replacement for *her*!" she said, pointing at Mac.
"You're wrong, Meredith," AJ said, his eyes narrowed. "I loved you. But I can't trust you. And I have to be able to trust the woman I plan to marry."
Meredith's eyes widened again at his words, and Mac felt AJ's hand dig into her shoulder, probably in the hope that she wasn't going to disagree with what he'd said.
"M-married?" Meredith repeated, her eyes moving to Mac's as if looking for confirmation.
The fingers tightened on Mac's shoulder again. Mac lifted her face to look at AJ, then to Meredith. "Yes. We're going to get married," she confirmed, surprised that her voice was as strong as it was. Inside, she could feel butterflies flapping inside of her stomach.
"I see. Well, I'll leave you alone, then. Goodbye."
AJ closed the door behind her, and then leaned against it, keeping Mac close. "I'm sorry you had to go through that."
"I made the decision, AJ," Mac pointed out. "I could have stayed in the bedroom, hiding. But that's not my style. Besides, I wasn't going to leave you to face her alone."
"Didn't think I could handle her?"
"Didn't think you should *have* to handle her," Mac corrected.
"I won't hold you to it, Mac," he said.
She didn't have to ask what he was talking about. "I've never said we wont' *ever* get married, AJ," she said. "Only that I don't want to do it *now*."
"Fair enough. But you have to remember that I'm not getting any younger - and I'd like to be able to enjoy life with you as my wife. I'm too old to play house, darlin. I want some stability. I want to be able to wake up every morning knowing that you'll be here."
Mac felt the tears forming in her eyes, blurring his face. Reaching up, she smoothed the mustache with her thumbs, searching for the right words. Ultimately, the words were easy: "I love you, AJ. And yes, I'll marry you."
His arms tightened around her, and he lifted her into the air, his smile wide. "Hoo-rah!"
Harm and Jen entered the house, and while Jen hung up their coats, Harm went to light the fire he'd set earlier in the fireplace. Jen sank down beside him, enjoying the warmth that reached out to them. "Thank you for taking me with you," she said.
"I wanted him to meet you," Harm answered, leaning back against the sofa and pulling her back against him. The furniture was mostly from Harm's old apartment - meant to be replaced with the carte blanche gift certificate that had been a wedding gift from Harm's mother and stepfather.
"I know you usually don't take people with you when you go to the Wall on Christmas Eve," Jen noted.
"Only if they're important to me. Sergei, Mattie." He smiled against her dark hair. "You."
"You say the sweetest things," Jen sighed. She knew that despite his objections, he was disappointed that Sergei wasn't going to be able to be there since Galena, his wife, was seven months pregnant. "Do you realize that by this time next week, we'll be married?"
"Hmm," Harm agreed, turning her so that he could see her face, and then groaned as the phone began to ring.
Jen hid her own frustration with worry. "I wonder who would be calling this late on Christmas Eve?" she asked aloud, rising to get the phone. A frown appeared as she told Harm, "It's AJ's cell." Answering, she said, "Hello?" somewhat uncertainly.
"I'm sorry to disturb you and Harm, Jen," AJ said, and Jen heard the tension in his voice. "But I just got a call that Mac's had a car accident."
"Oh no. Is she okay?"
"I don't know yet. I'm on my way to the hospital."
"Where did they take her?" Jen asked, and saw Harm stand up to join her.
"What's wrong?" Harm asked. Jen lifted a hand toward him as AJ answered.
"Sleepy Hollow," AJ said. "Pennington."
"We'll meet you there," Jen offered.
"You don't have to -"
"I think we do," Jen insisted. "We'll see you there. I'm sure she's okay."
"God, I hope so," AJ muttered.
Jen hung up the phone, turning concerned eyes toward Harm. "Mac's had a car accident," she told him.
"My God. What happened?"
"AJ doesn't know. Someone called him and told him that she's at Pennington Hospital in Sleepy Hollow."
Harm moved to turn off the gas into the fireplace. "Let's go."
They found AJ sitting beside Mac's bed. Her eyes were closed, and the first thing they noticed was the bruising on her face. Jen gave AJ a quick hug when he rose from the chair.
"How is she?" Jen asked.
"Sleeping. She was awake when I got here."
"What happened?" Harm questioned.
"She was driving back to JAG after interviewing a witness in Baltimore," AJ explained, looking tired but relieved.
"Tonight?" Harm said in surprise.
"I think she wanted to hit the ground running after the holiday on the case she's working," AJ said. "Anyway, she lost control of the car on a patch of ice and ran it into a tree."
"Then she wasn't in the Vette," Harm realized.
"No. It was a government issue vehicle. Thank God it was or she'd be dead."
"What happened to her face?" Jen wanted to know. The bruises looked painful.
"The airbag hit her in the face when it deployed. Otherwise, the doctor says she'll be fine. They're keeping her overnight for observation, since she lost consciousness."
"Wise precaution," Harm nodded as Mac's eyes opened.
AJ reached out and took her hand in his. "Hello, Sleeping Beauty," he said, leaning over her. "You have company," he told her, moving slightly so that she could see Harm and Jen.
"You didn't have to come down here," Mac said slowly.
"You're our friend," Harm said. "You *and* AJ. Of course we came when he called."
"How are you feeling?" Jen asked her.
Mac managed a smile, wincing slightly. "Other than the bruises on my face, I feel fine. I don't know why they're keeping me."
"Because they're doing their job, darlin," AJ replied.
Mac smiled at Jen. "I guess you'll have to find someone else to be a bridesmaid, Jen."
"Why?" Jen wanted to know. "If you're okay -"
Mac lifted her free hand to her face. "By next week, I'll be black and blue."
"Makeup can hide anything," Jen told her. "You're still going to be part of the wedding."
"Very sure," Jen stated.
New Year's Eve
Mac and AJ decided not to announce their engagement until after Harm and Jen's wedding, since Mac didn't want to draw attention away from them. Her decision was reaffirmed when she saw the look on Harm's face as Jen entered the chapel on AJ's arm. The look on his face was all the proof Mac needed about his feelings for the young woman. He'd *never* looked at her that way - but AJ had - and once AJ delivered the bride to her groom, he sent Mac a look that nearly caused her to blush. Of course, with all the makeup she was wearing, it would have been almost impossible for anyone to see the blush.
He looked so damn handsome - not to mention sexy, Mac thought, half listening to the words that Chaplin Turner was saying. Jen and Mac had convinced AJ to wear his dinner dress uniform for the first time since his retirement, since Harm, Bud, Keeter and Sturgis were all wearing theirs. Mac hadn't been the least surprised when Harm had suggested a double ring ceremony. She had always suspected that her friend was a romantic - a fact that he tried his best to keep hidden away from the general public.
After the ceremony, Mac left the chapel on Jack Keeter's arm, and then watched as Bud gave the order for the honor guard - all JAG personnel in dinner dress - to draw swords and form the traditional arch over the happy couple. Even though she'd been warned, Jen seemed surprised when Bud lowered his sword when she passed and slapped her on the six with the flat side, saying "Go Navy."
The reception, held in a restaurant that Carla's parents owned, lasted until midnight, except for Sturgis and Varise, who left soon after the ceremony. The bride and groom toasted each other with champagne, and then left for an 'undisclosed' location for their honeymoon.
Only a few people knew that they were returning to the new house in McLean - even though it still needed a *lot* of work. Then, the next day, they drove up to a small bed and breakfast for their honeymoon.
"Okay, what are we talking about here?" Harm asked Bud as he looked toward Sturgis. He had been left in charge while General Cresswell, Mac, Lt. Mayfield and Lt. Vukovic went to San Diego for a JAG conference. As a result, he now had to mediate between Bud and Sturgis regarding a plea bargain.
Before either attorney could speak, Sgt. Morris knocked on the door. "Yes, Sergeant?" Harm asked.
"I'm sorry for the interruption, Commander, but there's a Tom Johnson on the telephone. He says that it's important."
Harm frowned, wondering why Tom would be calling him - unless something had happened to Mattie. "Excuse me," he told Bud and Sturgis, then picked up the phone. "Tom, it's Harm. What's going on?"
Jen answered her cell phone, smiling as she realized that it was Harm. "Hello, there," she said, only to frown when she heard Harm's voice.
"Jen, I'm on my way to Blacksburg. I'll stop by to pick you up -"
"Blacksburg?" she questioned. Then, "Something's wrong with Mattie."
"Tom just called," Harm said, and Jen heard him unlock the Vette's security system. "She's had an accident."
Jen heard the fear in his voice, and pushed aside her own. The last thing either of them needed at the moment was for her to fall apart. "We'll take the Lexus from here," she said. "I'll meet you at the house. It's a little closer to the highway."
"Stop talking on the phone and watch the traffic, Harm. We don't need you having an accident, too."
She hung up the phone, and looked into AJ's office. He was looking back at her, his reading glasses perched low on his nose. "What's wrong?" he asked, rising from his chair to come into the reception area.
Jen grabbed her purse. "Mattie's had some kind of accident. Harm's on his way out to Blacksburg and is going to pick me up on the way. I told him I'd meet him at the house and we'd take the Lexus."
"Good idea," he agreed, looking outside at the snow that had piled up. "The Vette's not a good choice in this weather. Let me know what's going on, okay?"
"I will," she assured him, moving toward the door.
"And be careful," he called out after her.
Jen didn't take the time to acknowledge his concern as she went to the SUV parked on the curb and got inside. For the first time since Bud's accident, she found herself praying that Mattie was okay. If she wasn't, Jen didn't want to think about how it would affect Harm.
"You need to find Tom," Jen told Harm a few weeks later as they sat outside Mattie's room. He was holding her hand tightly in his, and at her words, the grip tightened slightly. The doctors weren't hopeful for Mattie's recovery, and Jen knew that every day that went when by and Mattie hadn't woken up the chances that she would come out of the coma dropped. Tom had been there upon their arrival, and had been there one time since then, but after hearing the less than happy news about Mattie's chances, he'd vanished.
Jen hadn't seen him that second time, since she'd been downstairs getting Harm some coffee since he refused to leave Mattie's side. But Harm had told her that he'd smelled alcohol on Tom's breath.
"I know," Harm said. "AJ and Mac both reminded me that as an officer of the court, I'm required to report that he's drinking and practically abandoned Mattie again. But I can't," he sighed, glancing into the room behind them where Mattie lay still against the white sheets. She was still attached to a ventilator that was ensuring that she stayed breathing. "I don't want her to get lost in the system right now."
"She won't get lost, Harm," Jen said, and waited for Harm to look at her. "She has you."
"She has *us*," Harm corrected, squeezing her hands again. Silent communication flowed between them. "Are you sure, Jen? It won't be easy. Especially if the doctors are right about -"
"We'll handle it, Harm," she told him. "Go find Tom. I'll stay here and keep an eye on Mattie. If anything happens, I'll call."
He stood up, pulling her up as well and into his arms to give her a brief hug. "I won't be long."
"Take whatever time you need. We'll be okay." She knew that he needed to be doing something instead of just sitting and waiting. "Find him."
"How did I get lucky enough to find you?" Harm asked, holding her close.
"I'm the lucky one," Jen told him.
Jen arrived late at the hospital, and wasn't surprised to find Harm's Vette already in the parking lot. All of his spare time lately had been spent here. When he wasn't on duty, he was at Mattie's bedside. Tom had agreed to let Harm repetition the court for custody of Mattie - and Tom, realizing that he wasn't nearly where he needed to be, wasn't going to challenge him for it.
The papers had been filed the next day, leaving Harm and Jen waiting on two fronts: at the hospital and with the courts. Harm was sure that the court would give them custody of the girl, but he was more worried that she might never come out of her coma - or if she did, that she would be unable to function. He had never voice those concerns, but Jen knew him well enough to know they were never far from his thoughts.
She entered Mattie's room to hear him talking softly to the girl in the bed, and for a moment, Jen thought that Mattie had woken. But one glance at the monitors told her otherwise. Moving forward, she placed a comforting hand on her husband's shoulder, causing him to turn around and smile at her. "Hey," he said, standing up.
"How long have you been here?" she asked.
"An hour, I guess. I was able to secure early."
"Any change?" she asked, reaching over to touch Mattie's hand.
"None," Harm said with a deep sigh.
Jen looked at him. "Why don't you go get us some coffee?" she suggested. "Move around a little? I'll stay here."
Harm nodded. "I won't be a minute."
Jen put her coat down onto the back of the chair and glanced at Mattie's face - only to see that her eyes were now open. "Mattie?" she said, then "Harm!"
He had been almost out the door when she called out, and turned back to see what was wrong.
"Her eyes are open," Jen told him.
Seeing those blue eyes for himself, Harm felt a soaring sense of relief. "Mattie, can you hear me?" He thought he saw a response there, but she couldn't talk because of the ventilator tube in her throat. "I'll get the doctor," he told her, but Jen had already gone, so he stayed beside her bed, taking her hand into his. "Blink once if you can hear me, Mattie," he said, and was even more relieved when she closed her eyes and opened them. A silent prayer wafted upward. She was responding to his voice, anyway. "Can you squeeze my hand?" he asked, and waited, seeing the fear in her eyes when she was unable to do as he asked. "It's okay," he told her. "At least you're awake. We'll handle the rest."
Harm and Jen waited outside while the doctor examined Mattie and removed the ventilator. "You were right again," Jen said to him. "Just like you were with Bud. She's okay."
"She's awake," Harm corrected. "It still remains to be seen whether or not she's 'okay'." But in his heart, he was sure that Mattie would recover. He pulled Jen into his arms and finally let go a little - dropping into a nearby chair, with Jen taking the one beside him. "Sorry," he apologized.
"It's okay," she assured him, and then managed a smile. "At least I was here this time instead of coming along after and seeing you crying." After he and Mac had gotten the word that Bud was going to be okay, Harm had broken down then as well. They had been sitting in the corridor when Jen had returned. Seeing Harm crying, she had mistakenly thought that Bud had died, and had run away.
But Harm had followed her, catching up with her on the fantail and letting her know that Bud was going to be okay, that it had just been a delayed reaction; a letting go once he knew that the danger had passed. Jen was the only other person besides Mac to have seen him cry.
And here he was again. When the doctor came out, Harm quickly wiped the moisture away and stood up to face him. "How is she?"
"Remarkably well, all things considered. She's a lucky girl."
"What about the paralysis?" Harm questioned, remembering the fear in Mattie's eyes when she hadn't been able to move her hand.
"That's still an unknown, but she can move her head - and that's a good sign. Once the trauma to her spine has healed, she could make a full recovery. It will be slow going, however. She'll need some physical therapy."
"Thank you, doctor," Harm said. "Can we go in to see her?"
"I think you should. She was asking for you."
Harm took Jen's hand as they entered Mattie's room to find her lying in bed, the ventilator gone. "Hey," she said.
"Hey yourself," Harm replied.
"That's what you said the first time we met," Mattie remembered, and Harm knew that everything was going to be all right
One week later
Harm was still in shock at the bombshell that Gen. Cresswell had just dropped. He was being transferred to London as FJA - and he was going to make Captain. And Mac- Mac was going to San Diego to head up a joint forces JAG command.
"You okay?" Mac asked as they moved toward the bullpen from the conference room.
"Shocked. Surprised. Worried."
"Worried?" Harm questioned with a frown, following her into her office.
"About how this is going to affect AJ and me."
"Ah," Harm said, nodding. "I need to go make some phone calls myself."
"Call Jen first, because I'm going to call AJ."
Chegwidden Law Office
Jen heard AJ's cell phone ring, and smiled as hers rang as well. Glancing at the ID, she frowned when AJ said, "You're kidding!" from his office.
"Hello," she said, answering her own phone.
"Hello yourself. I got some news today and I thought you needed to know ASAP."
There was something different about his voice, Jen realized. He sounded excited. "What's going on?"
"Well, first, I'm being transferred."
"Transferred?" Jen repeated. She'd known it was possible, of course. Harm was in the Navy. Navy personnel could be transferred. "Where?"
"London. I'm going to be the Force Judge Advocate for Naval Forces in Europe."
"Wow!" A thought struck Jen. "Isn't that a Captain's billet?" she asked.
Jen thought she could almost see the smile on Harm's face as he answered. "It is. The board just met. General Cresswell said that frocking's been approved."
She felt tears in her eyes, knowing that he'd given up his dream of leaving the Navy as anything more than a Commander. "FJANFE is only a step away from JAG, Harm," Jen said.
"That's what Bud said," he told her. "I'm going to ask him to consider coming to London with me as my Assistant JAG," he said.
"I'm so glad for you, Harm," Jen said. "Have you told Mattie?"
"No. You're the first call I made. Mac was calling AJ -"
"I know his phone rang just before - Why did Mac call AJ to tell him about your promotion?"
"She didn't. She's being transferred to San Diego. They're starting a new joint JAG office there, and she's being put in command."
"With a promotion?"
"No. It's not a full Colonel billet right now. It'll come, though. Are you okay with this? I mean, I know how much you've been planning on working on the house and finishing it up. This means we'll have to leave it and move to London. And then there's Mattie -"
"Harm," Jen said, interrupting him. "We'll get things sorted out. When do you have to leave?"
"Four days. I'll try to get that changed, but -"
"No. Four days is okay. I'll get things rolling on this end. Will you be securing early?"
"Probably. I'll see you when I get home. I need to call Mattie and let her know what's going on."
Jen hung up the phone as AJ came from his office, shaking his head. "I guess you've heard the news?" he asked.
"Yes. Harm just told me. I have to figure out the logistics. Getting everything packed up - thank goodness we hadn't bought a lot of furniture for the house yet. And then there's Mattie - *four days*!"
AJ chuckled. "Can I assume this is your notice?" he asked.
"Oh, AJ," Jen said, realizing that this meant she would be leaving him without a secretary. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I'll be closing up the office here anyway," he told her.
"You're going to San Diego," Jen realized.
"It's where Mac's going to be," AJ said.
"I'm glad for her. And glad that Harm made Captain. He was so sure that he wouldn't."
AJ frowned. "Why? He's got a stellar record - he's a decorated hero. I don't know why -"
"There was a six month gap in his record, remember?" she said, fixing him with her dark eyes, her look slightly accusatory.
"No, there's not," AJ told her. Seeing Jen's confusion, AJ explained. "There was a gap until not long after he came back to JAG. When he, Mac and Bud went to The Hague with SecNav, the SecNav told me that he wanted that 'gap' to go away. So we worked it out and his record doesn't reflect his resignation. It simply says that he was TAD to 'another governmental agency' during that time."
"And you never told Harm?"
"I never thought he needed to know. Honestly, Jen, I never thought he'd doubt his ability to make Captain even if that gap *had* been there."
"Harm puts up a good front, but he's not as sure of himself as he pretends sometimes. Thank you."
"It shouldn't have happened at all," AJ sighed. "I've always said that Harm would sit in that chair at JAG someday. Looks like I was right."
"How did Mattie take the news?" Jen asked once she and Harm took a moment to breathe.
"She was worried that she wouldn't be coming with us. I told her that we weren't going anywhere *without* her. It is going to be a couple of months before she'll be able to make the trip to London -"
"I'll stay here with her until then," Jen offered.
He looked at her. "I'll get back when I can," he promised. "I wish we had more time to get this planned. Four days -"
"We'll pack things up and then I'll get a place near the hospital in Blacksburg," Jen said. "Once Mattie can travel, she and I will join you in London. That will give you time to find us a place there."
"I'm not going to like being away from you," he said.
"Nor I from you," Jen agreed. "But we'll have something to look forward to when Mattie and I get there."
"We'll celebrate," he told her.
"AJ wants everyone to get together at McMurphy's on the night before you and Mac ship out."
"Mac said that he told her he was going to move to San Diego."
"He is. He's planning a little surprise for everyone "
When Harm and Jen arrived from the celebration planned by Gen. Cresswell at the Willard, they found AJ and Mac already there. AJ was wearing a dark suit, and Mac was wearing a dark red evening dress. Harm was wearing his dinner dress uniform - with Captain's boards on the shoulders. Within moments, Bud and Harriet arrived, followed a moment later by Sturgis and Gen. Cresswell, who was curious as to why he'd been invited to the gathering.
"Because, General," AJ said, standing up at Mac's side. "I thought as Mac's CO you should be a witness to her marriage."
Mac turned to look at AJ, clearly surprised. "AJ?"
From a corner of the bar, Chaplin Turner appeared, giving Mac a smile. "Mac."
"Dad, you didn't tell me you were going to be here," Sturgis said.
"I can keep a secret as well as anyone, Sturgis," his father replied. "Are we ready?"
"AJ," Mac said again, still at a loss.
"I want us to go to San Diego as man and wife, Mac. A new beginning. Are you going to turn me down in front of all our friends?"
She sighed and shook her head before throwing her arms around him. "No. I won't."
"Then we're ready, Chaplin," AJ said.
"I will say that this is the first time I've married someone in a bar," the old man noted, but he chuckled and opened his Bible. "We are gathered here to celebrate the marriage of Sarah Mackenzie and Albert Jethro Chegwidden . . ."
Harm waited impatiently as the passengers filed into the terminal, looking for the two most important ladies in his life. He saw Jen first, and then, beside her on crutches, was Mattie. Working his way over to them, he first gave Jen a hug and kiss, then Mattie. "What are you doing on those?" he asked. "I thought you were still in a wheelchair."
"She *should* be," Jen told him. "But she insisted she was able to use the crutches for the flight. Her wheelchair should come in with the baggage."
"I'm okay, guys, really," Mattie insisted. "Just a *little* tired. But my therapist in Blacksburg said that I needed to stay *out* of the chair as much as I could. It's the only way to get my legs back under me as soon as possible."
"You don't want to push it, Mattie," Harm said, guiding them toward the baggage claim area. "God, it's good to see you guys!" he declared, grinning from ear to ear at the idea that they were finally all together.
"Same here," Jen said, seeing some chairs near the carousel. "Why don't we wait here, Mattie?" she suggested.
Mattie looked like she was going to refuse the suggestion, but instead gave in and dropped into one of the chairs, giving a deep sigh of relief to be off the crutches. "Okay," she admitted sheepishly, looking from Jen to Harm. "I might be pushing it a *little*."
"I'll go get the wheelchair," Harm told her. "Wait here."
He drove them to the house north of London that he'd leased. Luckily, it had last been rented by a family whose elderly mother was in a wheelchair, so the house was set up so that Mattie would be comfortable.
That night, as they lay in bed together for the first time in over a month, Jen told Harm, "I like the house."
"I'm glad. I looked for something similar to the one back in McLean since I know how much you like that one."
"Sturgis is really making a lot of headway in renovating it," she told him. "I went by there last week. He's almost finished the floors." Sturgis had agreed to rent the house and work on it for his rent, getting it ready for when Harm and Jen returned to DC eventually.
"That's good to know."
"This one's big enough, too. Room enough for us, and for Mattie. And we still have a couple of rooms left over."
"Guest rooms," Harm said. "In case my mom drops in for a visit."
"We could make one into a nursery," Jen suggested, and Harm turned to look at her, seeing the look on her face.
"Jen? Are you -?"
She nodded. "I found out just before Mattie and I left. I wanted to wait until I got here to tell you. Are you okay?"
"Okay? I'm great!" He drew her close for a long kiss. He had everything he wanted. A wonderful wife, a surrogate daughter in Mattie, and now a child on the way. Those things, and the fact that his career was definitely on track, caused Harm to smile.
His life had come a long way from everyone forgetting his birthday. He wasn't alone anymore. Life was perfect. Or as near to perfect as it could possibly be.