Harriet wasn't sure what woke her up. Glancing at the door, she saw that it was still closed. She had unlocked it before she and Harm had gone to sleep so that AJ could get in if he needed them - but the house itself was quiet.
Securely wrapped in Harm's embrace, she thought about settling back to sleep, but the sound of a car door closing caused her to frown. Slipping out of bed, she grabbed her robe and went to the window. Seeing the dark sedan in the drive, Harriet's eyes moved to the two people who had just gotten out of the vehicle and she gasped.
"Ohmigod!" Turning back to the bed, she shook harm's shoulder. "Harm! Wake up."
He blinked, and tried to pull her back against him. "Come back to bed," he muttered.
"I can't," she said, shaking him again. "My *parents* are here!"
That woke Harm up, clearing the cobwebs out immediately. He sat up. "Your parents?"
"They're downstairs at the door -" she said as the doorbell rang. "I have to get down there before AJ does," she said, rushing around, throwing off the robe and putting on a floor-length cotton nightgown before donning the robe again. "Get dressed."
"You sure you don't want me to sneak out the window?" he questioned as the doorbell rang again.
"Of course not. I just - I wasn't ready for this -"
Harm dropped his jeans and grabbed her shoulders to stop her headlong flight out of the room. "Harriet, ready or not, it doesn't look like we have a choice. Whatever happens, we'll handle it together, okay?"
She nodded and gave him a quick hug before turning toward the door again - just as AJ came out of his bedroom and the doorbell rang for a third time. "Coming!" Harriet called, still sounding a little stressed, Harm thought as he pulled on his jeans, shirt, and shoes to follow her.
"Mother! Daddy!" Harriet was saying as Harm crossed the landing. "This is a surprise."
"Gramma Lyda," AJ said, reaching his arms up for Lydia Sims to pick him up.
"Hello, AJ," Lydia said, bending over to give him a hug and kiss his cheek, but not to pick him up as her husband gave Harriet a hug.
Roland *did* lift AJ up into his arms, however. "Hello, Champ!" he said, and Harriet smiled as he used Harm's nickname for the boy. Until AJ pointed that fact out.
"That's what Unca Harm calls me, Grampa." He started to squirm as he saw Harm coming down the stairs. "See who's come to visit, Unca Harm? Gramma Lyda and Grampa."
Harm was aware of Harriet's parents' eyes on him as he crossed the entryway to shake Roland Sims' hand. "Commander Rabb," Lydia said, and Harriet rolled her eyes at the simpering tone of her mother's voice. "What a surprise finding you here so early in the morning."
"Unca Harm was here all night," AJ said. "He stays here now to keep Mommy from being lonely."
Harm gave the Sims a smile as he picked AJ up. "Why don't you and I go and get you dressed?" he suggested, ignoring Harriet's look that screamed "Coward!"
"Would either of you like some coffee?" Harriet asked her parents, struggling to maintain her composure. She didn't wait for an answer, turning toward the kitchen.
"Harriet, what's going on, dear?" Lydia asked. "We got a *very* strange telephone call last night from Bud's father. He said something about you being 'shacked up' with Commander Rabb."
"Your mother tried to call," Roland said. "But there was no answer so she left a message -"
"I didn't check the machine last night," Harriet lied. "We took AJ out to his favorite pizza place and when we got back, Mikey was here."
"For the same reason we are?" her father asked, and Harriet concentrated on making the coffee before answering.
"Mother, Daddy, there's something you should know - Harm and I - He's been here almost every day since Bud - and well, AJ adores him, and -"
Roland Sims came over and put his hands on his daughter's shoulders. "Are you in love with him, Harriet?" he asked, and she looked up at him.
"Then that's all I need to know. As long as you're happy, that's all that matters."
Harriet relaxed slightly, giving him a hug. "Oh, Daddy. Thank you."
"Of course we're happy, Harriet darling," Lydia said. "I always thought you should have gone after the Commander instead of Bud. He's *so* handsome -"
"Lydia -" Roland warned, but gave Harriet an apologetic look. "I'm going to have a talk with the Commander," he said. "I'll send AJ in for some breakfast."
"Don't worry." He gave her a kiss on the forehead, and then told Lydia, "Behave yourself."
"I *always* behave myself, Roland Sims," she declared, pouting.
Harm wasn't really surprised to find Harriet's father standing in the entry hall when he and AJ came back downstairs. "Unca Harm's going to take me flying in his plane, Grampa," AJ said.
"Sounds like fun," Roland commented. "Why don't you go on and see if your Mommy has your breakfast ready?"
"K," AJ said, running into the kitchen, leaving the two men alone.
"Mr. Sims -"
"I think we should talk, Commander," Roland said, indicating that they should go into the living room.
Once they were in the living room, Harm said, "Before you begin, Mr. Sims, I think you should know that I'm in love with your daughter."
Roland gave a half smile. "That's good to know, since she's in love with you."
"And I know it hasn't been that long since Bud died, but I really think that this is what he would want. For Harriet to be happy. For AJ to have someone around to help him grow up without having to be the man of the house."
"You're right. I think this is *exactly* what Bud would have wanted. I don't have a problem with this, Commander -"
"Harm," Roland amended. "But apparently Bud's father *does* have a problem. He doesn't like you very much."
"No, he doesn't," Harm confirmed. "He called you, didn't he? That's why you're here."
Roland nodded, sitting down in one of the arm chairs. "Yes. He said that Harriet was 'living in sin' with you and that he didn't think she was a fit mother for his grandson. He sounded as if he'd been drinking -"
"He had been. Lately, that's all he seems to do. He came by yesterday and seeing me here seemed to set him off. He made some wild accusations -"
"Such as accusing you of being here because you want a 'ready made family'?" Roland suggested.
"Yes," Harm admitted. "But that's not true. I'd want to be with Harriet even if AJ wasn't in the picture. But he is, and I want to be the best possible replacement I can for Bud. I don't want to take his place. No one can do that. But I want to be here for him, the way that Bud would have been had he lived."
"I do have one question - are you planning on making an honest woman of my daughter?"
Harm smiled. "Yes, sir. Once she's settled into her new job."
"Oh," Harm winced. "I forgot that you hadn't heard about it. She's transferring back to the Inspector General's office - away from JAG."
"So that there won't be any hint of fraternization," Roland guessed. "I should warn you that Lydia's wavering somewhere between horror at any hint of scandal and delight that Harriet's with you. She's always liked you."
"I know. Mr. Sims, I want you to know that I'm going to my very best to take care of Harriet and AJ. To do whatever it takes to keep them happy."
Roland held out his hand. "Sounds good to me. And you might as well call me Roland."
The sound of car doors closing outside sent Harm to the window. "Is someone else here?" Harriet asked, coming from the kitchen.
Harm turned to look at her. "My mom and Frank."
Harm greeted Trish and Frank Burnett at the door while Harriet rushed upstairs to get dressed. "I can't meet your mom looking like *this*!" she had insisted, indicating the robe and no make up on her face.
"Mom. Frank. I thought you'd call from the airport -"
"I sent flowers here for Bud's funeral," Trish reminded Harm. "I remember the address."
"She wanted to surprise you, Harm," Frank explained. "I hope you don't mind."
"No, of course not. Come in." He took their coats. "Harriet's upstairs getting dressed. There are her parents - Lydia and Roland Sims." To the Sims, he said, "My mom, Trish Burnett and -"
"Frank Burnett," Roland said, shaking his hand.
"Have I met you?" Frank asked.
"Not in person, no. I was heavily invested in Chrysler while you were there."
"Ah. Not now?"
Roland lifted his shoulders. "My broker's advice."
"Oh, please," Lydia sighed. "I hope you two aren't going to start talking business."
"I'm sure they will," Trish said with an understanding smile, looking around. "Where is that darling little boy that you told me about, Harm?" she asked.
"He's eating breakfast - would anyone like some coffee?" he asked, more for an excuse to get out of the room for a minute than anything else.
"That sounds wonderful," Trish said. "The coffee on the flight from California wasn't very good."
"I'll help you," Lydia offered, but Harm stopped her.
"No." He tempered the rejection with a smile. "I mean, why don't you stay here and get to know my folks? I can take care of it."
AJ was finishing his oatmeal when Harm reached the kitchen. "Who is that, Unca Harm?" he asked, watching Harm get cups and saucers out of the cabinet.
"My parents are here," Harm said, distracted as he looked for a tray. "Tray. AJ, do you know where your mother keeps the trays?"
AJ, his face covered with oatmeal, came over to the cabinet and pointed.
Harm opened the door and sighed with relief as he found the serving tray. Putting it on the counter, he grabbed a rag from the sink and cleaned AJ's face. "AJ, what would you say if I told you that I wanted to marry your mommy?"
"It would mean I would live here all the time," Harm said. "And that I'd be kind of like your dad. I wouldn't want to take his place, but -"
"But you just want to be there for the boy - like someone was for you," Frank Burnett said, causing Harm to meet his step-father's gaze over AJ's shoulder.
"Yeah," Harm said, standing up. AJ turned to look at Frank. Harm said, "AJ, this is Frank. My dad." Frank *had* been there for him, even though Harm had tried his best to refuse that help out of anger and what he saw as betrayal.
"Hello, AJ," Frank said, going onto his haunches so that he was on the boy's level as he held out his hand.
AJ looked up at Harm before stepping closer to Frank and taking his hand to shake it like an adult. "Hello."
Frank smiled and ruffled the boy's hair before standing up. "I thought you might need some help with the coffee -"
"I think I have it under control - if you wouldn't mind taking AJ out to the living room with you?"
"No problem. Come on, AJ."
"I'll be right behind you, AJ," Harm assured the boy. He poured the coffee and found cream and sugar, - he felt like there was something else he was missing, but couldn't figure out what it was.
"They'll need spoons, too," Harriet told him. "To stir the coffee."
He turned and saw that she had changed into a skirt and sweater, and put a touch of make up on her face. He opened his arms and she came into them. "Is everything okay?" she asked.
"Everything's fine," he said. "They're getting along, anyway. Your dad knew who Frank was -"
"He would." She pulled back and got the spoons she'd mentioned.
"You ready to face the music?" he asked, picking up the tray.
"Do I look okay?"
"You look beautiful," he proclaimed. "Now let's go."
By the time their parents left - heading for the same hotel and restaurant, Harm and Harriet were both more relaxed - and yet more tense at the same time. Roland and Frank had spent most of the day with AJ and talking business - and Lydia had practically planned Harm and Harriet's wedding while Trish sat back keeping her own counsel.
Harriet had been trying for an hour to tell her mother that she didn't want another huge, full-blown wedding, but hadn't been able to get a word in edgewise, when Trish had simply said, "You know, Lydia, having been in Harriet's position, and since she's already gone through one wedding along the lines you're dreaming of, I think she would probably prefer something a bit smaller, quieter. Am I right, dear?" she asked Harriet.
At that moment, Trish Rabb-Burnett gained Harriet's undying trust and loyalty. "Yes, you are."
"But Harriet. Darling," Lydia began. "It's not every day that you marry a *Commander* in the US Navy."
"Mother," Harriet said, emboldened by Trish' silent support, "I don't want a wedding. Besides, Harm hasn't even *asked* me yet -"
"Oh, he will," Lydia said with certainty. "I'm sure he will."
"When he does, he and I will make the decision about the wedding, Mother. It will probably be something small, with just family and close friends."
"Are you going to go along with this, Harm?" Lydia questioned, drawing his attention away from a discussion between Frank and Roland about which golf courses they preferred.
"Go along with what, Lydia?" Harm questioned as Harriet grimaced and clenched her teeth.
"Lydia thinks that you and Harriet will want a huge wedding when you decide to marry, dear," Trish explained quietly.
"And Harriet's being difficult as usual. Trying to deprive her poor mother of -"
"Bragging and boasting about how your daughter is marrying a handsome Navy Commander who, besides being a JAG officer is an aviator?" Trish suggested.
"Your situation isn't similar, Trish," Lydia insisted. "Your first husband was Navy."
"Yes," Trish confirmed with a small smile of remembrance. "And we had the full Navy wedding - at the chapel at Annapolis right after Harmon graduated. But when Frank and I married, while he wanted a big wedding, I insisted on a small ceremony on the beach in La Jolla. Just family and close friends. They were both wonderful events in my life, and I wouldn't choose to change either of them. But that was because they were such *different* events."
Lydia had finally seemed to understand Trish's point. In fact, Trish's more reserved attitude seemed to be influencing the younger woman.
When the four of them left, Harriet stood at Harm's side, waving until the rental cars disappeared around the corner before she looked up at him. "I like your mother."
"She's not bad, is she?"
"She certainly knew how to handle *my* mother," Harriet sighed. "I'm sorry about all the marriage talk -"
"I didn't mind," he told her. As they entered the house, AJ looked up at them
"Unca Harm, if you marry Mommy, will Auntie Trish be my Gramma?"
Harm looked at Harriet over the boy's head as he lifted AJ into his arms. "If you want her to, I'm sure she'd be delighted to have a grandson."
"Yay!" To AJ, grandmothers meant presents and being spoiled. So the more of them he had, the better.
Harm set the boy onto his feet, and he ran upstairs to his room, leaving Harm to put his arm around Harriet's shoulders and lead her toward the living room. "I think that all went very well, don't you?"
"Better than Big Bud thought it would when he called my parents," Harriet agreed, snuggling with him on the sofa.
"About marriage, Harriet -" Harm began, and Harriet turned to look at him.
"It's okay, Harm. I understand that you're not ready to take that step. I can wait -"
"That's just it. I don't *want* to wait." He grinned. "Do you think we could make all the arrangements by New Year's Eve?" he wanted to know. "Or is that too soon? Maybe we should wait a year -"
"No. I don't want to wait either. Our friends will understand. And so will most of our family. And those that don't, they'll just have to get used to it and accept it, won't they?"
"I like the way you think, Harriet," Harm said, taking her hand in his - her left hand. She had removed the wedding ring that Bud had placed there after that first night with Harm, and it had felt strangely bare since. "My mother brought something for me - I didn't ask her to bring it, but she did just in case I might want it -" he pulled a ring out of his pocket, and Harriet gasped. It wasn't very big, or ornate. It was a simple diamond set in white gold. "My grandfather gave this to my grandmother, and my father gave it to my mother. I thought - if you're sure about taking a chance on me, that you'll take it and agree to become my wife."
"If you'd rather have something new, I understand -"
"No. This one is perfect," she told him. "And yes, I'll marry you."
Harriet invited all of their friends over for Thanksgiving dinner: Mac, Admiral Chegwidden and Meredith, Jennifer, Sturgis, Tiner; Mikey and Big Bud. Surprisingly, everyone showed up, even though Big Bud wasn't very friendly and sat around grumbling and mumbling to himself, a drink in his hand the entire time.
As they all gathered around the table for dinner, Harm stood up and held up his glass. "I think we're all grateful to be here today, and my first toast is for those who aren't. To Bud." Everyone repeated the toast, and Harm met Harriet's eyes before continuing. "And on a happier note, I want to make sure you all keep your New Year's Eve open - because you're invited to a wedding."
Harriet held up the ring - which she had kept turned around until this moment. "We're engaged!" she told them.
AJ lifted his glass. "To Harriet and Harm: Happiness."
"I can't believe you people," Big Bud said, his words slurred as he managed to stand up. "You can't see what he's doing? He's stealing my son's family!"
"Dad," Mike said, reaching over to grab his father's arm with the intent of making him sit down. "Don't."
Big Bud pulled away, staggering slightly and causing his chair to fall back. Little AJ was sitting beside his mother and he looked ready to start crying. "Leave me alone. Don't you have any loyalty to your dead brother? He hasn't been dead a year, and this - tramp's already shacking up with another man and planning on marrying him for God's sake!"
Harriet placed a hand on Harm's arm to stop him from retaliating for the insult, but AJ ignored Meredith's attempt to do the same thing. "That's quite enough Master Chief Roberts," he declared in his best authoritarian voice. Dropping his napkin onto the table, he rose from his place and grabbed the man by the arm. "I think you and I need to have a little chat."
"You can't threaten me, Admiral," Big Bud said as AJ led him out of the room.
Mike started to follow, but Harriet spoke up. "Don't Mikey. Let the Admiral handle it."
"Is he like this often?" Meredith Cavanaugh asked. "Not AJ. I know he's a take charge guy. I meant Bud's father."
"All the time lately," Mike answered. "He's always been one to drink a lot, but it's been worse these last few months."
"It's understandable," Sturgis said. "The man lost his son."
Harriet squeezed Harm's hand, sending a silent signal. "Why don't we start eating?" he suggested.
Little AJ seemed withdrawn, his eyes going to the doorway through which AJ and Big Bud had gone. He seemed to have finally picked up on the tension around him, and picked at his food - even the cranberry sauce that he usually loved. Harm leaned closer to the boy. "Are you okay, AJ?" he asked. AJ nodded, but Harm could see the tears on his face. "You know, your Grampa Bud loves you. He's just worried about you. Sometimes adults express worry in ways that upset those around them. Can you understand that?" he asked. AJ nodded again, sniffling softly. Picking up napkin, Harm gently wiped the boy's cheeks, then his nose and put the napkin to the side. "Now eat. Mommy worked very hard to make dinner."
"You and Mommy worked," AJ reminded him, causing Harm to smile.
"Yeah. Me and Mommy worked," he agreed as the boy picked up his spoon. Looking up, he saw Mac watching him talking to the child, and he saw a quickly hidden flicker of regret cross her face before she smiled at him.
AJ and a greatly subdued Big Bud returned a few minutes later, with the latter man giving Harriet a grudging apology before digging into his food. The rest of dinner passed with Harriet and Harm answering questions about the wedding: what time, where, if they were going on a honeymoon.
He wandered upstairs to the guest room after dinner and fell asleep on the bed, after effects of the alcohol that he'd consumed. Taking advantage of Harriet's former father in law's not being there, Harm asked AJ what he'd done to calm Big Bud down.
"I just reminded him that he wasn't honoring Bud's memory by creating a scene in front of Bud's son, and that if he didn't straighten up and fly right, he might never get to see Little AJ again."
"Thank you. Harriet's hoping that he'll come around eventually."
"It could be awhile," AJ told him. "That's one very bitter man. And bitter men, when drunk, can be dangerous. I'd keep a close eye on him."
"We will," Harm said.
A few minutes later, Harm found himself standing with Mac. "You know, I still wasn't sure about this when I agreed to come here today," she told him. "But now, I know it's the way things are supposed to be."
"What changed your mind?"
"Watching you with Harriet and little AJ," she explained. "When she placed a hand on your arm to stop you from going after Big Bud - I knew. The only one you'd listen to in that case would be the woman you love."
"Still happy for me?" he asked.
"Yes. For all of you. Harriet's happy again. And it's clear that AJ loves you."
"So you'll be at the wedding?"
"I wouldn't miss it," she declared.
"That's good to know, ma'am," Harriet said as she joined them, sliding her arm around Harm's waist and pressing close to him. "Because I'd really like it if you would be my maid of honor again - if you want to. I mean, I'd understand if you're prefer not to -"
"I'd be honored, Harriet," Mac assured her friend. To Harm, she said, "Have you thought about who's going to be your best man?"
"Sturgis," Harm said. "He's already agreed."
"I'm sure your mother's delighted, Harriet," Mac said, recalling the way that Lydia Sims had mistaken Harm for Bud on their first meeting and how disappointed she'd been to be corrected.
"Delighted isn't the half of it," Harriet agreed. "I think she's probably already called half of the Eastern Seaboard to brag about her soon to be son-in-law." She gave Harm a teasing smile. "Not that I blame her. I feel like shouting it from the rooftops. You should see the envious looks I get when Harm picks me up at the IG's office."
"Excuse me, ladies, but you're embarrassing me."
"You're enjoying it and you know it," Harriet teased, resting her head against his chest.
Harm excused himself a moment later to speak to the Admiral about something.
"Little AJ said that Harm took you both up in his airplane," Mac said to Harriet.
"Last weekend," Harriet confirmed. "The weather was nice and he'd been promising to take AJ up."
"How was it?"
"It was great!" Harriet declared. "And AJ loved it, too."
"Is he going to keep flying, Harriet?" Mac asked. "I don't mean the Stearman. I mean Tomcats -"
"If he wants to, yes."
"And what if he goes down again?"
"Then I'll deal with it," Harriet said in an earnest tone. "Losing Bud taught me not to put off enjoying whatever happiness I can find."
"Have you discussed it?"
"He hasn't really said anything definite, but I think he's planning on cutting back on his flying for the Navy - because he doesn't want to leave me and AJ alone again. It told him that it's his decision."
"That's another reason why I know you're right for him," Mac said. "You won't worry every time he goes up in a plane."
"Oh, I'll worry," Harriet corrected. "But I won't let it destroy me. Or him. He trained most of his life to fly for the Navy. I can't and won't ask him to stop doing it."
Across the room, Harm was thanking the Admiral again for helping out with Big Bud.
"Don't thank me, Harm. Figure out how you're going to handle him. I don't think he's going to go away quietly anytime soon. In fact, I wouldn't put it past him to try and stop the wedding somehow."
Harm looked over to where Meredith was talking to Jennifer Coates as Harriet and Mac joined them. "Speaking of weddings, sir -"
The Admiral followed Harm's gaze. "I'm not sure we're ready for that step," he said.
"She hasn't been calling about going flying -"
"I know. She seems to have settled down a bit. She's less -"
"Flighty?" Harm suggested, and the Admiral's eyes narrowed.
"Adventurous than she used to be. Guess he figured out that I wasn't going to stop seeing her and gave it up."
"You think she was testing you?"
"Possibly. No way of telling without asking. And I don't think I want to go there." He looked into his empty glass. "Got anymore of this?"
Sensing that the Admiral had just shut down the line of conversation,
Harm smiled and took the glass. "Coming right up, sir."