"Don't you tell us he's dead, ma'am," Petty Officer Jennifer Coates said in a low voice that was filled with suppressed anger. "Don't you dare -"
"I'm sorry, but Lt. Roberts died a few minutes ago," the doctor said. "His injuries were simply too severe. Too much blood loss, shock - his system couldn't recover."
Coates sank onto the nearest bench, crying softly, while Mac and Harm stood there in shocked silence. Finally Harm spoke. "Thank you, Doctor. I'm sure you did all you could."
"I wish it had been enough," she replied. "If you'll excuse me, I have other patients that I have to check on."
"Just like when my mother died" Jen said, recalling her memories about her mother's death. "She's dead. Next."
Harm saw the tears in Mac's eyes, and felt as if he was screaming inside, but he held it together - knowing that his falling apart wouldn't help Coates - or Mac. "We need to contact the Admiral," he told Mac as he watched her try to comfort the young woman who had done so much to try and save Bud - only to fail in the end. "So that he can let Harriet know."
Mac nodded in agreement, wiping a tear from her face. "Why don't you go and do that? I'll stay with Jen." As he turned away, she called his name again. "Harm?" He stopped, looking at her. "Are you okay? You've known Bud longer than anyone else -"
"I don't have a choice, do I? I'll go call the Admiral and then make arrangements for you and Coates to return to the Seahawk."
Mac looked for a moment as if she might argue his decision for her to remain here - but even though she opened her mouth, she closed it again, nodding her head jerkily in silent agreement.
Once he got around a corner, Harm leaned against the wall and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. *Bud's dead*, his mind told him, and still he refused to believe it. It didn't seem possible that the enthusiastic young officer that he'd met so long ago could possibly be gone. That his son would grow up without his father.
At least little AJ and Harriet would know what happened - know that Bud had died a hero, trying to save a little boy. They wouldn't have to live with the uncertainty that Harm and his mother had lived with for years.
"Are you okay, sir?"
Harm opened his eyes to see a young seaman standing nearby, eyeing him with concern. "Yes," he lied. *I'm not sure I'll ever be 'all right' again.* "Thank you, seaman," he said, moving on down the corridor toward the comm room. This was going to be one of the most difficult calls that he'd ever had to make.
After getting a ship to shore line to JAG HQ, Harm waited for it to be answered on the other end. "Judge Advocate General's office. May I help you?" Jason Tiner asked, and Harm thought he detected a hint of wariness in the young man's tone.
"Tiner, it's Commander Rabb. I need to speak to the Admiral, ASAP."
On the other end of the line, Harm could almost feel the young man's reaction to his serious tone. "Commander?"
"Now, Petty Officer."
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir."
Harm took another deep breath as he waited, glad that he was turned away from the other occupants of the room. It wasn't going to take much for him to break - and he didn't want it to happen in front of strangers.
"You have news, Commander?" Adm. Chegwidden asked immediately.
"Yes sir. Bud -" Harm had to stop as his throat closed on the words, as if he thought not saying them would make it somehow less real. Clearing his throat, he tried again. "Bud - didn't make it, Admiral."
"Dear God," Chegwidden sighed.
"Col. Mackenzie is going to return to the Seahawk, sir. I'd - I'd like to request permission to accompany Bud's body back, Admiral." Harm wasn't sure where that request had come from - but the moment he said it, he knew that it was what he needed to do. He owed Bud that much, and more.
"Request granted, Commander. Bring him home." He hesitated for a moment. "I'll get Chaplin Turner and take care of - uh - notifying Harriet. I'm sure she'll appreciate knowing that you're with him."
"We'll talk when you get back, Harm," the Admiral said, sounding suddenly old and exhausted. "I have to go."
Harm heard the connection go dead and hung up the phone on his end. Lifting a hand to his face, he quickly wiped away the moisture that had escaped from his eyes before leaving the comm room.
He escorted Mac and Jen to the COD that would return them to the Seahawk, managing to evade Mac's attempts to find out how he was handling things. They shared a long embrace, both hurting deeply because of Bud's death, but unable to do anything about it. "I'll try to call Harriet tonight," Mac said over the noise of the helicopter beside them.
"I'm sure she'll appreciate it," Harm agreed. "See you back in Washington."
"Look after Coates. She's pretty shaken up by all this."
"I will. I think she blames herself. Thinks she could have acted more quickly -"
"It wasn't her fault. When it's your time -"
"That's what I told her, but I'm not sure she was listening." A lieutenant stuck his head out of the helo, telling her that they had to lift off, and Mac nodded at him. "I have to go. Take care. And keep in touch."
"I will," he said, releasing her hand from his without being aware that he'd been holding it before stepping back and away from the helo so that it could depart the deck.
Harm was assigned a small sleeping space on the ship to change and rest while awaiting the transfer of Bud's body, trying all the while not to think about what was going on back home.
In his mind's eye, he could picture the Admiral and Chaplain Turner pulling up into the driveway of the house in Falls Church. Would little AJ be watching out of the window as he had on that fateful day so many years ago? Watching, waiting for his Dad to come home - only he wasn't coming home. Not in a way that a three year old could possibly understand. Even at six, Harm hadn't fully understood what he'd been told - that his dad was missing and might never be home.
Mikey Roberts would answer the door when the knock came, but Harriet would be close behind, and upon seeing the Admiral and Chaplain, she would know what they were going to say. Would she collapse in tears? Or would she be strong and keep it together for her son's sake? Would she ignore him, or hold him to her as her last link to the man she loved?
Harm sank onto a nearby chair as tears rolled down his face, crying both for Harriet and little AJ - and for another mother and son who had once lived through a similar experience. It wasn't fair. After his experience with that land mine the other day, Harm should have been the one lying dead in the ship's morgue - not Bud. Harm didn't have anyone. His mother had moved on with a new life - he'd be missed, but at least he wouldn't be leaving a family behind to continue without him.
His mind flashed back to a conversation that he and Bud had had just before the latter's deployment on the Seahawk.
"If something happens, sir -" Bud had begun, and Harm had immediately tried to laugh the subject off, not wanting to consider the idea that anything might happen to his friend.
"What could possibly happen, Bud? You'll be on a carrier at sea. You know how to keep away from the edge of the deck - you've served on one before. Nothing's going to happen."
"I know, sir. But - if it does - will you take care of Harriet and AJ for me?"
"I won't need to -" Harm had begun, but seeing the seriousness on Bud's face, he had given in. "You know I will. As if they were my own. AJ's my godson, after all."
"Thank you. It means a lot to me that you'll be there for them."
Now, months later, Harm buried his face in his hands, leaning forward in the chair, trying not to give in to the despair he was feeling. Harriet and AJ were going to need him. Yes, they had Mikey. And Big Bud - such as he was. And Harm was sure that Harriet's parents would be there for her. But he had made a promise to Bud - and by God, he was going to keep that promise.
A knock came on the door, and Harm quickly wiped his face before standing and calling out. "Enter!"
A young - they *all* seemed young to Harm at the moment - petty officer opened the door. "Excuse me, Commander, but the Captain wanted me to inform you that Lt. Roberts' body will be leaving here in half an hour for the first leg of his trip home."
Six months later
Falls Church, VA
The last six months had been difficult for those serving at JAG in Falls Church. The loss of Lt. Bud Roberts should have brought them all closer together, but they seemed to be splintering instead. Various levels of guilt - earned or not - kept them from recovering fully. The Admiral felt responsible for having sent Bud out to the Seahawk to begin with. Sturgis felt guilty that he had pushed Bud into physical conditioning which gave him the option of taking the billet. Jen Coates, who was now assigned to JAG, felt that she could have done more to save him.
Harm felt guilty for a myriad of reasons. He'd always suspected that Bud's decision to enter law school and transfer to JAG had happened after their first meeting on the Seahawk all those years ago. If they hadn't met, then Bud would still be alive. And Harm believed that somehow Bud and Harriet would have found each other no matter what - that the two of them had been fated to meet and to marry. He had promised Bud before Bud's deployment to take care of Harriet and little AJ if anything happened.
At the time, it had been a promise that he hadn't expected to have to keep - but Bud's death, so quickly after Harm's own brush with a land mine - had shaken Harm to the core. He'd spent the last six months keeping his promise to his friend, being there for Harriet and little AJ, who had formed a strong attachment to him upon Harm's return with Bud's body.
At least three nights a week, he had dinner at the house, doing whatever repairs that needed done, spending time with a fatherless little boy, letting him *be* a little boy as Harm had never been. He'd been quietly supportive of Harriet when she had informed her mother that instead of leaving the Navy and going back to Florida with them, she planned to stay in the Navy and that she and AJ were going to stay in Falls Church.
"Hey there," Mac said, bringing Harm out of his thoughts.
He looked up and smiled as she entered the office. "Hey yourself," he responded.
"You know, I was thinking that maybe we could get some Chinese take out this evening and go over the Donaldson case," Mac suggested. "We have to be ready for opening arguments tomorrow, and I'm still not sure how best to approach this thing."
Harm pulled out a piece of paper from the folder in front of him and held it out. "How about this?" he suggested, sitting back as she scanned the typed words.
"Not bad. When did you do this?"
"Well, we could still get the take out and discuss the witness list," Mac continued, and Harm gave her an apologetic look. "You have other plans, don't you?" she asked.
"Yeah," Harm admitted. "I promised Harriet to help her with some things around the house. And she said that she thinks that AJ needs to see me. Sorry, Mac. Can I get a rain check?"
Mac's smile didn't quite reach her eyes as she answered. "Sure. If you change your mind, or if something changes - the offer's open."
"I'll remember," Harm said.
"I, uh, have some things to look over on the Baker file before I turn it over to the Admiral. I'll talk to you later."
Harm watched her go, trying to figure out why the conversation was troubling him. Finally he turned his attention back to the research he was doing for a case and put it out of his mind.
Harriet was in the break room getting a cup of fresh coffee when Mac entered. "Harriet," she said, picking up the coffee pot.
"Hello, ma'am. Need a pick me up, huh?"
"Yeah," Mac said, frowning at the weak brew. "But this isn't it."
Harriet put some cream and sugar into her cup, aware that the Colonel was watching her. "Really? I thought Tiner's coffee had gotten much better."
"Oh, it has. But not enough for a Marine," Mac said with a grin. "I've been meaning to ask, Harriet, how are things going these days?"
"I have good days and bad days. Days when I can think about Bud and remember the happy times, and then days where -" she reached up and brushed a tear away from her cheek. "I'm sorry. I haven't been sleeping well, lately. I've had some strange dreams." *Especially the last one* Harriet's mind reminded her. Harriet shut down that thought, knowing that the dream in question had been the reason for her needing some coffee to clear out the cobwebs and stop her from daydreaming about a certain Commander.
"No, I'm the one who's sorry," Mac said quickly. "I can't help but notice that Harm's been spending a lot of time with you and AJ."
"I don't know what I would have done without him, ma'am. He's been such a help, especially with AJ," Harriet gushed. "I always knew he was good with kids, but he's gone through this himself. He knows what AJ is going through and he's determined that AJ won't go through what he did. Big Bud was visiting last week and told AJ that he was the man of the house and needed to take care of me, and I thought that Harm was going to throw Big Bud out."
Mac nodded. "I think that's something that Harm regrets more than a lot of things, that he never really had a childhood because of what happened to his father." She stirred her coffee before speaking again. "Do you really think it's fair to him, though, or to you and AJ to keep him around so much?"
"What do you mean, ma'am?" Harriet questioned, confused by the turn of the conversation.
"Should you be leaning so much on someone else to take care of AJ?" Mac wondered. "What happens when Harm finds someone else and moves on with his life? And there's his career to consider as well."
Harriet felt herself begin to frown. While she had experienced an occasional twinge of guilt for taking up so much of Harm's time, it was usually gone when she saw how happy he seemed to be whenever he was visiting and spending time with AJ. "His career?"
"If I've noticed how much time you're spending together, surely others have as well. The fact that you're a junior officer in the same command - I mean, *I* know that nothing's going on, but to someone who doesn't know you and Harm very well -" Mac let the sentence trail off as Harriet considered her words.
"I'd never thought about - I mean, he and I have been strictly professional here in the office, haven't we?"
"Most of the time," Mac acknowledged. "But I saw the two of you by the elevators last week and he took your arm as you got in. And if someone with an axe to grind decided to make an issue of it, it would be Harm who gets into trouble, since he's senior."
"Did Harm mention to you that he's bothered about it?" Harriet asked.
"No, of course not. I'm just hoping to keep things from escalating. People *do* talk, Harriet."
"Have you mentioned it to him?"
Mac shook her head. "You know how selfless Harm, if I were to suggest that he pull back a little, he'd refuse to consider it. He won't be concerned about himself or how something will impact him."
"So you think I should stop spending so much time with him? Would that help?"
"It can't hurt. And it has the added bonus of you learning to handle things yourself instead of leaning on someone who'll eventually decide to marry someone else and won't be able to be around as much."
The idea that Harm might get married to someone bothered Harriet, but she pushed it aside, not wanting to dwell on the reason. "I guess you're right, ma'am. I really hadn't thought about it like that before." Harriet turned away. "Excuse me, I have some filing to finish before the end of the day."
"Harriet, I didn't mean to upset you," Mac said, causing her to stop for a moment. "I just thought it was something you needed to think about."
"I will, ma'am," Harriet said quietly before leaving the break room. Sitting down at her desk, she glanced over at Harm's office. She could see him sitting there, his attention focused on the computer screen. Was Mac right? Was she hurting him by leaning on him when she should be standing on her own two feet? She had plenty of people who would help her: Big Bud, Mikey, the Admiral, her parents. Even Mac. Was she being unfair to expect Harm to be there for her and AJ so much, to put his own life on hold to do so?
Taking a deep breath, she stood up and crossed to his open doorway, knocking timidly on the frame, causing him to look up. The smile he gave her caused her chest to tighten painfully, making it difficult to draw a breath.
"What can I do for you, Harriet?" he asked.
"Are you busy, sir?" she asked, hoping that she didn't sound as nervous as she felt.
"For you? Never." He turned away from the computer to give her his full attention. "What's up?"
Harriet moved closer to the desk, her movements stiff. "It's about - dinner tonight, sir."
"What about it?"
"I was just thinking that - well, if you have something else that you'd rather do, I'd understand, sir. I can't expect you to spend all of your time with me and AJ."
Harm was frowning, and Harriet easily read the confusion on his face. "Harriet, there's nothing I'd rather do than spend time with you and AJ this evening. Besides, I thought you needed someone to help with removing that wallpaper in the dining room so that you can repaint?"
"Are you sure, sir?" she said.
"I'm sure," he replied. "You don't really expect me to let my godson down, do you?"
"No, sir. Of course not."
"Then I'll see you at nineteen hundred as agreed." She saw him hesitate. "Unless - you're getting tired of having me around," he suggested.
"Oh, no," Harriet quickly assured him. "Not at all."
"Good. See you later, then."
By the time Harm was due to arrive, Harriet had convinced herself that she'd made a serious mistake by not letting him know that she wanted him to get on with his life and let her stand on her own two feet. Mac had been right. She'd been leaning too much on Harm, expecting him to be there for her, when she had to no right to expect him to be there.
She knew that he and Mac had been getting closer before Bud's death, but she hadn't heard Harm mention anything about having a date with the other woman in the last six months - and that was probably because he was spending all of his time with her and AJ. Considering his past, Harriet had no illusions as to why Harm was still hanging around. It all had to do with AJ, just as his relationship with Annie Pendry had been more about her son Josh than it had been about him and Josh's mother.
After her dream last night, though, Harriet had been letting her imagination play little games, even knowing that he wasn't interested in her in that way. He saw her as Bud's widow and AJ's mother. Someone that he had promised to help. She could think of a couple of ways that he could help . . .
Realizing the direction of her thoughts, Harriet felt her cheeks grow warm and looked up as the front doorbell rang. Before she could reach it, she heard AJ's voice.
"Hey there, Champ!" came Harm's reply, and Harriet's cheeks warmed further at the sound of his voice, hearing the genuine caring for the boy in it. "Were you a good boy today?" he asked.
"Yep," AJ said quickly as Harriet came into the entry hall. Looking at the plastic bag in Harm's hand, he said, "You brought me something?"
"Ice cream," Harm told him. "Which you'll get when you eat everything on your plate at dinner."
AJ turned to look at his mother. "Mommy! Unca Harm brought ice cream!"
"So I heard," Harriet said. "Why don't you go wash up for dinner while Uncle Harm and I put the ice cream into the freezer?" AJ ran up the stairs, leaving the two adults smiling at his eagerness. "You're spoiling him," she accused Harm gently, taking the bag from him without quite meeting his blue-green gaze.
"I figure he can use a little spoiling," Harm suggested, seeming to sense her uneasiness and misunderstanding the reason. "But I won't do it again if you say I shouldn't. I know he's your son -"
"It's okay, Harm," Harriet reassured him. "Let's go into the kitchen. Unless you want a drink before dinner -?"
"No. I'm fine," he told her, resting against the counter as she put the ice cream into the freezer. "What can I do to help?" he asked.
"I have it under control," she assured him, indicating the table in the corner of the room, set for three. "I just have to take it out of the oven and get the salad out of the fridge."
"I can get the salad," he offered as AJ returned, showing them both his clean hands for inspection before going over to the table and climbing into his chair.
After dinner, the three of them adjourned to the dining room, where Harriet had been trying to remove some old, faded wallpaper with the intent of repainting and papering as well. She had gotten most of the old paper off, but some near the ceiling was being particularly stubborn, and Harm had volunteered to help.
While Harriet gave her son a bath, Harm tackled the project, surprising Harriet when she came back downstairs to find holding the once-recalcitrant paper in his hands.
Harm spent the next hour with AJ, reading and helping him read one of his books, and promising to take the boy up in his airplane with Harriet's permission when the weather warmed again. Once he was tucked in bed, his prayers said, Harm and Harriet went to the living room, where they sat on the sofa before the fireplace, glasses of wine nearby.
"You don't mind my offering to take him up in Sarah, do you?" Harm asked. "I guess I should have mentioned it to you first -"
"I don't mind. He does seem a little small, though -"
"You're welcome to come with us. I think you and he would fit easily into the front cockpit. Unless you don't trust my flying."
"Why wouldn't I?" Harriet questioned.
"You don't seem very enthusiastic," Harm pointed out.
"It's just -" Harriet focused on the glass of wine as she picked it up. "I'm not sure it's a good idea to talk about something that far in the future. I mean, you never know what might happen. You won't be here forever -"
"I'll be here for as long as you and AJ need me, Harriet," Harm said quietly, turning to look at her. "Okay, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," she insisted, standing up and moving over to the hearth. "I just - I told you earlier. It's not fair to expect you to be here. You have a life of your own to live. You should be looking for someone to spend your life with. Mac, maybe - I know you and she -"
"Harriet, that's not going to happen," Harm said after a deep sigh.
"You don't know that. You've been spending so much time with us that you and she haven't had a chance -"
"Mac and I -" he paused, moving to sit beside her, both of his large hands on the fragile stem of the wine glass. "We missed the boat. Timing was - wrong. I know now what I want. And Mac's not it. I'll always consider her to be a friend, but that's all."
Harriet felt that same tightness in her chest as she listened to Harm speak - and saw the look in his eyes. "And what do you want?" she asked, all to aware of how close they were sitting, how the heat of the fire seemed to make the room suddenly warmer - or maybe it wasn't the fire behind them at all, she decided. She felt herself lean toward him.
He lifted a hand from his glass to cup her cheek in his palm. "Something that it's far too early to even hope for right now," he answered.
"Maybe not so early," Harriet said softly, closing the distance between their lips. He'd kissed her on her wedding day, a nice, gentle kiss that had caused her - even deliriously happy as she'd been with Bud - to wonder what it would be like to be *really* kissed by those lips. She felt Harm's body tense and she pulled away, disappointed and embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have -"
But Harm put down his glass and placed his hands on her shoulders to keep her from getting up. "Harriet, you didn't do anything wrong. But I'm afraid it's too soon. Bud's only been gone for six months. And I don't want you to have any doubts about why I'm here. Right now, you think I'm here because of that promise I made to Bud. Or because I'm sympathetic to little AJ's being with out a father."
"You - you aren't?" Harriet asked, afraid to hope for more.
"No. I'm not. It started out that way, yes. But there's more to it. I always thought Bud was a lucky man. I just never realized *why* I felt that way." He smiled tenderly at her. "I'm not willing to rush this."
"What about your career?" Harriet wondered, and immediately bit her tongue as he frowned.
"What are you talking about?"
"People have noticed that we're spending time together," she explained.
"Mac mentioned it earlier. That's why I had decided to tell the Admiral that I'm going to transfer back to the IG's office. Then we wouldn't be in the same command, and no one would be able to complain about our being friends even though you're a senior officer."
"You planned to do that for the sake of my career?"
She nodded. "Yes. You're the senior officer. I'd get a reprimand, but you could end up being forced to resign or court martialed. I don't want that to happen. It would be a lousy way to repay you for everything you've done for us."
"I don't want repayment, Harriet," Harm said. "Are you sure that's what you want to do?"
"Yes. I think it's best for all concerned. But maybe Mac was right about something else - maybe I *should* start standing on my own two feet instead of always leaning on you, always expecting you to be here."
"Have you heard me complaining?" he asked.
"No," she said. "But you wouldn't. You're too nice to complain that we're taking up your time or interfering with your personal life."
"Harriet, why don't you let me decide what I want to do?" Harm suggested gently. "I enjoy being here with you. Spending time with you - and AJ," he added, causing them both to laugh softly as their relationship began a slow transition to another level. "And on that note, I think it's time for me to go home." He stood up, and then pulled her to her feet. "Thank you for dinner and a wonderful evening, as usual."
Harm was surprised when, instead of moving away, Harriet moved closer to him, her fingers grasping his to keep him from releasing hers. "You don't have to go, Harm," she said in a quiet voice. "I really wish you wouldn't. I know that AJ would feel better with you here. And I certainly would."
It wouldn't be the first time that he had slept in the guest room, Harm mused. But those times had usually been when little AJ was going through a rough patch, still having problems with his father's death. Somehow, though, Harm sensed that this was different. "Harriet, what are you saying?" he asked, needing clarification and knowing that she would give it to him. That was something refreshing about Harriet - her openness.
She released his hand, only to place both of hers flat against his chest as he looked up at him. "I'm saying that I'm tired of being alone. I need to feel that someone sees me as more than Bud's widow or AJ's mother or Lt. Harriet Sims. I want someone to hold me and touch me, to remind me that I'm still alive. And I don't want just *any* someone to do it. I want it to be you."
Harm covered her hand with his, knowing that he should refuse her. "Harriet, I -"
She shook her head. "Don't say no, Harm. Please. These last few weeks have been difficult, knowing that I was attracted to you, and feeling guilty about it. But I had a dream last night."
"Bud was here and he - he told me that it was all right for me to move on, to find someone to love me and who I could love. Someone who could be a good substitute father for our son. He said it was okay for me to want you in my life. Not just as a friend, but as much more than that."
Harm drew a ragged breath, still struggling with is conscience in this. "I don't want to mess this up, Harriet," he said. "It's too important."
"How would your holding me and making me feel like a woman mess anything up?" Harriet asked, sliding her hands up his chest to his shoulders. "This feels so right, Harm. Doesn't it to you?"
Harm closed his eyes, aware that he was slowly losing the battle. Having Harriet so close, and so willing was more than any man should have to resist. Opening his eyes, he found her blue ones wide and filled with a silent invitation. "Yes," he admitted. "It does."
Her fingers curved behind his neck, pulling gently, and Harm bent to capture her lips in a full kiss this time, not the chaste brotherly kiss he'd given her the day of her marriage to Bud - but a kiss given by a man to a woman that he wanted, desired, needed above everything else. Putting his arms around her, Harm pulled Harriet closer, molding her body against his, not at all surprised at how well she seemed to fit against him. His hands moved down to her hips, cupping them and pressing her even more tightly to him, leaving her in no doubt as to how much he wanted her.
When the kiss ended, he lifted his head and saw her eyelids flutter open. "Wow," she said, smiling. "Is that gun in your pocket, Harm, or are you just glad to see me?"
Harm chuckled softly in response to the old joke. "Why don't you find out?" he suggested, surprised at his boldness. It had been ages since he'd been this aggressive with a woman. Even with Renee, he'd let her call the shots, make the decisions in the relationship for the most part. But with Harriet, Harm felt that he could be himself.
"Mmmm," Harriet murmured, her hands moving from his shoulders, slowly down his fabric covered chest - and then past the top of his jeans to drift lighting over the outline of his manhood. "I don't think that's a gun," she noted with a naughty grin. "But I think I need more research before I can be sure. *Hands on* research." Harm felt his entire body blush at the thought of Harriet's hands touching him, and heard her soft laughter before he pulled her back into his arms for another kiss, his fingers brushing the outer contours of her breasts through the sweater and bra she was wearing. He felt her body shudder at the contact, and smiled against her lips before leaving them to kiss his way down the line of her jaw and neck to end up at the top of the soft, gray-blue fabric. "Oh, Harm," she sighed deeply, running her fingers through his short hair.
He knelt before her, bringing her nipples to hard peaks through their covering as he circled them with his fingers. Leaning forward, still looking up into her face, Harm sucked first one and then the other into his mouth, dampening the material while his fingers slipped underneath to release the catch of the bra. He saw her eyes flutter closed and felt her knees give way.
Carefully, Harm lowered her onto the rug before the fireplace, and stretched out beside her, watching the glow of the flames against her skin. When he felt her fingers against the heated flesh of his back under his shirt, Harm leaned over her and gave her another kiss, one leg across hers, feeling her lift her hips up, trying to increase the point of contact with his body.
When she reached for him again, her fingers tracing the outline of his erection, Harm struggled to maintain some control. It had been a long time since he'd been this eager and needy with a woman. Her hand left him, and Harm bit back a disappointed groan - or thought he did. When he saw Harriet's pleased smile, he knew that he hadn't been successful at the attempt, and watched as she pulled her sweater and bra over her head before pausing as if uncertain that he would like what he saw.
Harm smiled and lifted his shaking hands to her breasts, cupping each one as if it were made of spun glass - or the purest gold. "God, you're beautiful, Harriet," he said, his voice barely audible. His thumbs moved over the still-erect nipples, drawing a gasp of pleasure from Harriet's lips. Wanting to hear it again, Harm repeated the action - only this time he used his tongue to circle the dark nubs. He could feel Harriet working on the buttons of his shirt, slipping them each from their moorings until it was hanging open between them. Releasing her for a moment, Harm let her push it off his shoulders and to the floor beside her sweater, before he pulled her body close to his, reveling in the feel of her soft flesh against his.
Harriet moaned softly as she felt the dark hair on his chest against her hyper-sensitive skin. It had been so long since she had been this close to anyone - and being with Harm was a dream come true. Her fingers drifted down to tangle in the hair on his chest, following the trail down to the button of his jeans, which she managed to release with more ease than she had expected. She could feel Harm holding his breath as she slowly lowered the zipper and reached inside to touch his hard member. His groan caused her look up and into his eyes, causing him to give her another kiss that left Harriet even more desirous of having this man in her life.
"I want you, Harm," she said. "I need you. Now." Standing up, she unfastened the skirt she'd been wearing and pushed it to the floor along with her panties and slip.
Harm grabbed her hips and pulled her against him as he rose to his knees, his hands on her hips as he buried his face between her breasts. Harriet sank back to her own knees, capturing his mouth with hers, pushing him back onto the carpet and draping her body over his. Ending the kiss, Harriet wiggled down, tugging at his jeans, giggling as she realized that his shoes were still on. Removing them, she tossed them gently across the room before sliding his jeans and boxers off to reveal his manhood. It was hard and ready for her, and Harriet closed her fingers around it, stroking gently. Harm's eyelids fluttered down over his eyes. "Damn, Harriet," he sighed. "That feels good."
"At least I know now that it's true," she said.
"What's that?" he questioned, opening his eyes to look at her.
"That a man with big feet is usually well-endowed in other areas as well." Bud hadn't been a slouch in the size department, but Harm was, well - the only word Harriet could come up with was *gifted*.
"So you're not disappointed?" he asked.
"Not so far," she told him, moving back up his body. Another kiss, and she sat up, straddling his hips and lifted up, her hand guiding himself toward her, only to stop as Harm's hands fell on her waist, holding her there. "Harm?"
"Are you on the pill, Harriet?" he asked.
"No. I stopped taking them before Bud left. We *were* talking about another baby, remember?"
"I don't suppose you have anything on hand?" he wanted to know. "I didn't expect to need any protection when I came over here tonight -"
Harriet released him and rolled over onto her back. "I guess not. I don't have anything - well, there might be something up stairs, but it's been a long time since Bud and I used them, and -"
Harm pulled her close. "It's okay."
"I'm sorry. I should have thought about this before -"
"Are you regretting it already?" he asked, and Harriet lifted her head to look at him.
"No. Never. I just - I hate to have gotten you so worked up -"
"I'm not the only one who's worked up," he reminded her, covering her mound with his hand, causing her to shiver and her nipples to peak even more. His finger slipped inside of her slick folds, finding her sensitive core like a heat-seeking missile homing in on its target, causing Harriet to moan softly. "Does that feel good?" he asked.
"Mmmm," she confirmed. "Heavenly. It's been so long since anyone else touched me."
Harm moved down Harriet's body, using his mouth and tongue to explore new places while his fingers continued to explore the tangle of blonde hairs low on her abdomen. When she felt him tracing the stretch marks on her body - a souvenir of her two pregnancies - Harriet gasped again, feeling her heart swell even more. "You have a wonderful body, Harriet," he murmured against her soft skin. "Soft and curved in all the right places."
When she realized where he was heading, and what he intended to do - Harriet sighed. While Bud had eaten her out on occasion, she'd always known that he didn't enjoy it that much. He'd never done it on his own, like Harm was about to do. She felt his fingers open her and spread her legs. When his tongue touched her, Harriet's hips lifted from the floor at the almost electric shock that flowed through her body, and she cried out softly.
One of Harm's large hands closed over her breast, and he said, "Shhh. It's okay."
"Better than - okay," she managed to say, lifting her head to meet his eyes as he lapped her from bottom to top, sucking it in between his teeth at the end. "Oooh, yes, Harm, that's it." She felt two fingers enter her body, slowly moving in and out, mimicking the action that the two of them had planned to take. His fingers curved upward and Harriet felt her body begin to shake and tighten, drawing up like a spring until it was a tight coil. When Harm bit down, Harriet cried out his name over and over again, mindful of the little boy sleeping peacefully upstairs.
She floated like a feather on the gentle wind that surrounded her, drifting slowly toward the haven of strong, warm arms that held her to him, murmuring soft words in her ear. Harriet turned her head and captured his lips, tasting her juices on his face, and was relieved when he didn't pull away the way that Bud had always done. "Thank you," she said at last, still basking in the afterglow of her powerful orgasm. "That was fantastic. I love to be eaten to a come."
"I could tell," Harm said with a leering grin.
"And you're *very* good at it," Harriet told him. "Not that I've had much experience in that area," she said quickly, suddenly realizing how that had sounded. "I mean, there haven't been that many guys -"
She could feel Harm's chest rumble with suppressed laughter. "I understand, Harriet," he assured her, pulling her closer to his body, and Harriet felt his hardness against her leg.
"You need to come," she said, reaching down to wrap her fingers around him.
"No, I'm okay," Harm said, but she could feel the increase in his heart rate as she touched him. "I wanted to make you happy."
"You did," she assured him, kissing him again and rolling them over so that Harm was lying on his back and she was on top of him. "And making you happy will make me happy," she continued, kissing her way down his chest, pausing at his flat, tiny budded nipples to lick them, causing Harm to inhale sharply. Harriet smiled up at him before moving lower until she was looking at his manhood. It was longer and a little bigger around than Bud's had been, and Harriet concentrated on those differences. Eyes locked with Harm's she placed her tongue against the tip, lapping up the juices that were already leaking from the slit. "Mmmm," she said. "You taste good." She stroked him, causing more of the liquid to appear and then she licked that up as well, still moaning softly.
Opening her mouth, Harriet slowly sucked him inside, using her tongue to caress the sensitive head for a moment. Harm lifted his hips, seeking more of the contact, but Harriet placed her hands on either side of his body to keep him where he was. "You're killing me, Harriet," he gasped.
"Patience," she admonished softly, releasing him for a moment before capturing it again taking it all the way into her mouth. At least, as much as she could manage. There were still a good couple of inches that she wasn't able to get in. She wrapped her fingers around those inches and sucked on him, pulling back and then moving forward over and over again, stopping occasionally to run her tongue along the underside and around the head before repeating the process.
Harriet found his balls, and caressed them, feeling them draw tightly against his body as Harm inched closer and closer to release. Running her fingers lightly across the bulge beneath his balls, Harriet backed off until just the head was inside her mouth. It jerked, and Harriet swallowed everything he gave her while Harm writhed and gasped beneath her fingers, whispering her name as he ran his fingers through her hair.
This time it was Harm who initiated the kiss, again surprising Harriet. Bud, God bless him, had been a wonderful lover, but not really very adventurous. Tasting himself on Harriet's lips or tongue had never been anything he'd really enjoyed. But Harm seemed to have no problem with it. Lying on top of Harm's body, Harriet rested her head on his broad chest, feeling his heartbeat slow back to normal. "Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome," she replied. "I'll get an appointment and go back on the pill," she told him.
"No. I'll take care of it," Harm told her. "Next time it will be better."
Harriet smiled, glad that he wanted there to *be* a 'next time'. Closing her eyes, she said, "I could sleep right here." Snuggling closer against him, she sighed contentedly. "This is nice."
"Hmmm," Harm agreed. "But I think I should go home."
Frowning, Harriet lifted her head. "Why?"
"Because I'm not sure AJ's ready to find out that you and I are - together." It wasn't a question, but she could see the uncertainty in his eyes and moved up to kiss his lips.
"We are together. And I don't care who knows about it. I think AJ should get used to you being here. And tomorrow, I'll put in my request for transfer back to the Inspector General's office."
"What if there's not a slot for you there?"
"There is. I checked on it this afternoon after I talked to Mac." She looked up at him again. "About Mac, Harm -"
"I'll talk to her," he said.
"Don't hurt her. She really does care about you."
"And I care about her," Harm admitted. "As a friend. If I had felt the way about her that I feel about you -" He touched her face, "things would have been very different."
"Is it wrong of me to be glad they aren't?" Harriet wondered aloud.
"I don't think so." He gave her another kiss. "Why don't we go upstairs?"
"You're staying?" Harriet asked.
"I'm staying," he confirmed, rolling to his feet and helping her up before gathering their clothes. Slipping on his jeans, he watched as she put on her skirt and sweater. "I need to go out and get my sea bag and fresh uniform from the car, and then I'll make sure the house is locked up and meet you upstairs."
"Don't be too long," Harriet told him with an impish grin as she turned toward the stairs, leaving Harm shaking his head and grinning like a lovesick puppy.
"Wake up, Mommy. Breakfas' is ready."
Not really hearing her son's words, Harriet opened her eyes, suddenly wide-awake as she considered the possibility that AJ would wonder why Harm was in bed with her. Sitting up, Harriet glanced around to see the impression of Harm's head on the other pillow - but there was no sign of the man himself. "What, honey?" she asked AJ absently, wondering for a moment if last night had just been a wonderful, sexy dream. With Harm's arms around her, she'd slept better than she had in months.
"Unca Harm told me to come get you. He fixed pancakes!"
Harriet grabbed her robe and slipped it on. "Pancakes?"
"Yeah!" he tugged on her hand. "Com'on, Mommy! Unca Harm made coffee, too."
"Sounds good right now," Harriet mused, following her son out of the room and down the stairs.
Entering the kitchen a step behind him, she heard AJ say, "I waked her up, Unca Harm."
Harm was standing at the stove, putting another pancake onto the platter, and looked up at Harriet with a searching look. Apparently he was pleased by what he saw, and smiled at her. "Good morning."
"Good morning to you," she replied, taking in the picture he made in his dark uniform pants, white shirt and tie - wearing a bib apron that had "Kiss the Cook" printed on it. His uniform jacket was hanging neatly over the back of a chair at the table. "You didn't have to do this," she told him while AJ climbed into his chair and picked up his fork in anticipation of the pancakes.
"I know. But I wanted to." He kept his voice low. "Did you sleep well?"
"Wonderfully," she confirmed. "Thank you."
"I didn't do anything," he pointed out.
"You were there," she said with a smile, turning to get a cup of coffee.
"Unca Harm told me you had a bad dream and needed someone to sleep with you like I do," AJ said as they sat down.
"He saw me coming out of the bedroom this morning," Harm explained to Harriet.
"Oh. Actually, AJ, it wasn't a really bad dream, I just needed someone to be with for awhile because I was lonely."
AJ seemed more interested in the pancakes than in who his mother spent the night with. "Mmmmm," he said. "Good."
Harm waited for Harriet to take a bite of the pancakes before taking one himself. So far, AJ seemed okay with seeing another man come out of his mother's bedroom. "AJ helped me with the pancakes," he told Harriet.
"Did you?" Harriet asked.
AJ nodded. "I got the milk for Unca Harm."
"And he set the table as well," Harm added.
"Good for you," Harriet praised. Taking a sip of her coffee, she said, "AJ, would you be okay with Uncle Harm spending more time here with us? Keeping Mommy company when she's lonely?"
"Would you play baseball with me, too?" AJ asked Harm.
"You bet I would."
"And take me flying in your plane?"
"That's a given."
"Okay," AJ said, finishing his pancakes off, and washing them down with some milk.
Harm smiled as AJ got out of his chair when Harriet suggested that he go upstairs and wash his hands and face and brush his teeth before she took him to daycare. "Well, that went well, I think," Harm declared, picking up his and AJ's empty plates and carrying them over to the sink, where he rinsed them and put them into the dishwasher.
"How old were you when your mother became interested in someone else?" Harriet wanted to know.
"A lot older than AJ," Harm said. "I guess I was ten when she met Frank. It was another couple of years before they married."
Harm dried his hands and turned around, putting his arms around her. "I'm glad to hear it. I slept pretty well myself." He bent to give her a kiss, and then glanced at the clock. "I'd better go. I have an early court appearance this morning. See you at the office."
"Yeah," Harriet nodded. "You'll be here tonight, right?"
Harm's smile widened as he moved to retrieve his jacket. "You bet." He winked. "After a stop at the drugstore to pick up something."
Harriet felt her cheeks warm at the implication, and heard Harm's soft chuckle as he gave her another kiss. "Later."
She nodded and went to the front door with him, waving as he
got into the car before she turned toward the stairs, a smile
on her face. She had to shower and get dressed for work.