Harm reached across the front seat and pulled her close, giving her a long, passionate kiss. "If I do, we'll never leave for dinner," he told her. "But later -" his statement was punctuated by another kiss, but this time, Mac returned the kiss measure for measure, smiling up at him when it ended.
"You're sure you don't want to walk me upstairs?" she asked again, her hand slipping between his leather jacket and tee shirt to caress the muscled chest. She smiled in triumph when he reached over to turn off the key and got out of the vehicle, coming around to open the door for her. Setting the alarm, he put an arm around her waist and they entered the building.
At her door, he used his key to her apartment and opened the door, stepping back for her to enter. "I'll see you at seven," he told her, only to have Mac grab his hand and pull him into the room before closing the door behind him. "Mac -" he gasped, finding himself pressed against that door, a warm, willing body plastered against his.
When she captured his lips in a demanding kiss, Harm gave up the struggle for control, gladly handing it over to her. She pulled him away from the door and pushed his jacket from his shoulders to the floor. His tee shirt was pulled over his head and joined it as Mac led him over to the sofa, where she slid into his lap, and straddled his hips before resuming the kisses along his jaw line and down his neck.
Her teeth grazed the muscles there, and Harm groaned softly, causing Mac to lift her head and smile at him. "You like that, don't you?"
Placing his hands on her hips, Harm lifted his. "What do you think?" he asked, moving his hands up her sides, stopping for a moment at her breasts before sliding her jacket off of her shoulders. Mac didn't give him a chance to remove her shirt as she reached down and pulled it off herself, tossing it across the room. Harm buried his face in the valley between her ample breasts, using his teeth to open the front clasp and peel away the thin covering from her skin. Arching her back, Mac let the bra follow her jacket, her laughter melting into sighs of pleasure when Harm's tongue made a trail between her breasts and around each one in smaller and smaller circles until he reached first one hardened bud and then the other. Her fingers curved around the back of his head, holding him there at her breasts as she ground her hips into him, hearing him groan as well.
Harm gasped, looking up at Mac, trying to catch his breath, only to have her cover his open mouth with hers. Moving her to the side, he pushed her back onto the sofa, her head resting against the arm, stretching out his long body to lie beside hers. Reaching down, he unfastened her jeans, lowering the zipper and slid the denim down past her hips with Mac's eager assistance.
When his hand covered her Mac drew in her breath through clenched teeth, releasing it in a moan of desire. "I need you Harm," she told him, her fingers working at unfastening his jeans and digging inside to find the object of her desire.
As her fingers closed around him and began to stroke him, Harm's eyes fluttered closed momentarily. "Sarah," he sighed, pushing his jeans down and raising himself over her waiting body. "My Sarah," he sighed again, maintaining eye contact as he filled her and began to move in a slow, deliberate rhythm designed to drive her wild.
"Yours," she agreed, sliding her arms around his back in an attempt to bring their bodies together, her short fingernails digging into his flesh when her efforts were frustrated by Harm's refusal to give in. "Harm, please -"
He bent his elbows just enough to capture her mouth with his, feeling her hands on his hips, urging him to speed up his movements, to put an end to the exquisite torture. Finally her legs lifted to wrap around his hips, and Harm broke the kiss, his breathing harsh and gasping as Mac's internal muscles tightened around him almost painfully.
This time he captured her cry of completion with his mouth, muting it into loud whimpers and feeling his own orgasm rising up, and broke the kiss, crying out her name over and over again with each move that sent his cock driving into her still shuddering body.
At last he collapsed on top of her, rolling quickly over to wedge between her body and the back of the sofa, pulling her to him. "I knew this would happen," he told her, kissing her temple as they lay there, tangled together. "I can't resist making love to you," he continued. "You're sexy as hell."
Mac smiled up at him. "You're not too shabby in that department yourself."
He grinned at the compliment. "I really need to go," he told her, smoothing her hair.
"You're sure of that?" she asked, her hand moving toward his hips as she smiled at him.
"I'm sure. And *this* time, I'm going," he said, giving her a kiss as he levered himself over her and to his feet, pulling his jeans up and fastening them.
"You're right," Mac agreed, sitting up as well. Harm extended a hand to her, helping her up. "But you're not getting away so easily tonight," she promised, running a hand down his chest before going to find her shirt.
"Believe me, Mac, I won't *want* to get away tonight." He paused, giving her that flyboy grin once more. "Oh, and bring your kit with you tonight. Because you might not make it home."
Jennifer was helping her new roommate carry some things from her older model Toyota when Harm parked the SUV and got out, carrying his overnight bag. Seeing her trying to juggle the boxes in her arms, he quickly approached her. "Here, Jen, let me help."
"Thank you, sir," she said, look at him through her eyelashes. "Mary's determined to move in totally today. She was living with three other girls and I think she's ready to have some privacy."
Harm grinned. "Sounds familiar."
"Yes, sir," she agreed, going ahead of him on the stairs. "How was Mattie's flying lesson?"
"She's about ready to solo - too bad she can't until she's 16, but she'll be ready."
"Is she doing okay? With her father?"
"I think so. At least she's made her peace with him and she seemed happy."
She led the way through the open door into her apartment. "You can just put them down there, sir." Once he had done so, she said, "You miss her, don't you, Commander?"
"Yeah," he admitted. "And it's Harm when we're not at the office, Jen."
"I figure I'd better set a good example for Mary, sir. She's a little bit of a flirt, I'm afraid."
"Ah," he nodded, looking around. "Where is she, anyway?"
"Still at her old place. She was getting the rest of her things to bring over. She should be here any minute."
"Well, I have to go. I - uh - have a date this evening," he told her, edging toward the door.
"A date, sir?" she asked, and then backed off. "Sorry, Commander. It's none of my business -"
"We're friends, Jen," he said. "It's okay. Can I trust you not to spread this around?" he wondered, needing to talk to *someone*.
She looked a little hurt that he had to ask. "Of course you can, sir."
"I'm having dinner with Mac,"
"Colonel Mackenzie? I thought she was seeing -"
"She was." Hearing his telephone ringing, he said, "I have to go. Remember -"
"Not a soul, sir," she promised.
Harm unlocked the door and ran inside, grabbing the telephone. "Rabb."
"Took you long enough to answer the phone," Mac said.
"Sorry," he apologized. "I was helping Jen bring some of her new roommate's things up from the car. Something wrong?" he asked, worried that she might be calling to cancel their date.
"Nothing except that I miss you."
"Is that so? I've only been gone for -"
"Twenty five minutes and thirty-two, make that thirty-three seconds," she answered. "I was thinking about going to take a long bubble bath - but it would be better if you were here to join me."
Harm laughed softly, picturing the scene - only instead of Mac's current bathroom, she was in the claw-foot tub at the house. "Sounds like a very good idea. Problem is, your tub's not big enough for two."
He heard her disappointed sigh across the wires. "Oh, well. I guess I'll just have to take it all by myself."
"I'll pick you up at seven," he confirmed.
"I'll be waiting," she promised in a breathy, sexy voice that sent a large portion of the blood in Harm's body to a specific area.
He stood there, holding the telephone for several moments after Mac hung up, trying to regain some control over his body. He'd always suspected that she would be a tiger under that Marine uniform, but the truth was almost - *almost* - more than he could handle.
Chuckling, Harm hung up the phone and dialed another number to make a dinner reservation at Orsati's for two. Once that task was accomplished, he began to make a mental list of the things he would need to get things arranged for this evening.
Over the course of dinner, Harm kept his promise and told Mac exactly what he'd had to do in order to find her in Paraguay.
"No wonder you didn't look happy to see me when you found me," Mac said.
"I was. I'd never been more relieved and happy to see anyone in my life. But I was a little busy," he reminded her holding her hands in his across the small corner table. "Getting *in* was one thing. Getting out - there were no guarantees about that."
She nodded, looking down at their hands. "I didn't really think about that. I guess I wasn't thinking much at all down there. I was mean and said some things to you that I shouldn't have said."
"You can't take all the blame for that. I said a few things that were a little ill advised as well. Sometimes my mouth engages before my brain. You should know that by now."
She smiled at him. "Yeah. I do. That's part of your charm." Her smile faded. "But what I said - I didn't mean it, Harm."
"After everything you'd been through, it's a wonder you didn't say worse," he pointed out. "Are you - still seeing that psychiatrist at Bethesda?" he wondered, lifting his eyes to try and read her reaction to the question.
"No," Mac sighed. "Do we have to do this now, Harm?" she asked, her dark eyes begging him for a reprieve.
He sat there, watching her before shaking his head. "No. But I'm not going to let it go away, Mac," he said. "We're talking now. I don't want that to stop."
As they were seated at their table, Meredith stared at another table across the restaurant. "Is that Harm and Mac?" she asked AJ.
"I doubt it," AJ said without looking around. "Mac's been seeing someone else the last few months."
"She's still seeing that man from State?"
"From State?" AJ frowned, about to correct her before he realized that she was talking about Webb. "Yes," he confirmed, studying the menu.
"I still think it's them, AJ," she insisted. "If not, then it's their twins."
"God save me if there are two of one of them, much less -" he fell silent as he turned around and saw his two senior officers sitting at a corner table, their hands clasped and looking as though they were the only two people in the room. "Good God," he sighed, shaking his head.
"I was right, wasn't I?" she asked, sounding vindicated. "It *is* them, isn't it?"
"It's them," AJ confirmed, watching as Harm lifted Mac's hand to his lips before he turned around. "Apparently the man decided to finally get his head out of his six," he said. "But it's going to make problems for me at the office."
"Why? The Navy wouldn't split them up just because they're seeing each other, would they?" Meredith asked, clearly seeing the situation through a romantic haze.
"As long as they're just dating, no. But if they take the next step and get married, one of them would have to leave."
"That's not fair," Meredith insisted. "But - Bud and Harriet are married, and they were both -"
"I used Admiral's privilege to keep them together," AJ explained. "Harriet was and still is technically under the command of the Inspector General. She's on extended TAD to JAG."
"Couldn't you work out something similar for those two? I mean - just look at them. They're so much in love -"
AJ reached across to take her hand. "You forget, Meredith, I might not be there much longer myself. It would be up to whoever takes my place."
"Are you really sure about this, AJ? I mean, retiring?"
"What's wrong? Don't want me around all the time?"
She smiled at him, still a bit shy even after they had spent the day talking about their plans and the future. "You know I do. I'm just worried that you'll get bored -"
"With you?" he said, laughing quietly. "Impossible."
"Are you ready to go?" Harm asked Mac as she finished her coffee.
"I was ready to go when we got here," she told him.
"I'll take that as a yes." Having paid the bill earlier, Harm now rose from his chair and pulled Mac's out for her, admiring once again the red dress that clung to her curves from the low-cut bodice that held up by thin straps to several inches above her knees.
When he had first seen her in the dress, he had been tempted to cancel their dinner reservations. But Mac had admitted to being hungry, and had practically dragged him *out* of the apartment for a change.
Now, he bent his head to her ear. "The way you look in that dress should be illegal," he whispered, glancing across the dining room. "Well, I'll be," he said, smiling.
"At your six o'clock. Meredith Cavanaugh - and the Admiral."
Mac turned slowly. "I don't believe it," she said. "We have to walk past the table to leave." She looked up at him. "Are you ready for this?"
"For what?" Harm asked.
"For the Admiral to find out that we're -"
"Seeing each other?"
"I'm thinking about having a banner made up to tow behind 'Sarah'," he told her with a grin, visualizing the image. "Harm loves Mac."
"That could get you in serious trouble," she suggested, a twinkle in her dark eyes.
"Okay. Harm loves Sarah. No questions there."
"You wouldn't - would you?"
"I'd keep my eyes on the sky if I were you," he told her, guiding her toward the other couple's table.
"They're coming over, AJ," Meredith warned him as the waiter left their table after taking their drink and dinner orders.
"Hello, Admiral, Meredith," Harm said, and AJ looked up at the couple. "It's nice to see the two of you together."
"Hello, Mac. Harm," Meredith said, smiling.
"Meredith," Mac returned, giving the Admiral a slightly uncertain look. "Sir."
"Mac. Harm. I'm surprised to see you here," AJ said. "I wasn't aware that the two of you were seeing much of one another outside of the office."
"It's a pretty recent development, sir," Harm explained.
"I'll see you both in my office on Monday morning."
"Yes, sir," Mac acknowledged, and Harm could feel her tension just through his hand on her arm.
"Have a nice evening," AJ said, sitting back down as the waiter delivered the drinks.
"It was nice seeing you again, Meredith," Harm said.
"Yes," Mac agreed. "Give me a call."
"I have a wonderful idea," Meredith said. "Why don't we have lunch on Monday? I'd like to hear how Chloe is doing."
"If you'll excuse us," Harm said, taking Mac's elbow. "We'll see you on Monday, Admiral."
"First thing," AJ nodded.
"Come on, Mac," Harm said, leading her away from the table.
"You frightened them, AJ," Meredith told him.
"Good. Maybe they'll think twice before sandbagging me like that again."
"They had no idea you were going to be here this evening," Meredith pointed out. "I think you owe them both an apology."
Seeing Harm and Mac leave the restaurant, AJ relaxed and smiled. "Let me handle those two, Meredith."
"That went well," Mac sighed as Harm started the engine of the SUV.
"Think he's angry?"
"What do you think? Of *course* he was angry. We've just given him a huge headache."
"Why? Harriet and Bud worked in the same office when they were just dating."
"But Harriet wasn't a lawyer."
Harm reached over and took her hand. "You're worried about one of us having to leave JAG, aren't you?"
"No," he told her. "It won't happen Monday. And when the time comes that it might - I'll be willing to move to another billet if necessary. Might even try my hand on the bench again," he said.
"You were a terrible judge," she reminded him, her smile taking some of the sting out of her words. "And it's not right that you should leave JAG -"
"Tell you what, why don't we wait until the time comes to discuss this?" he suggested. "I don't want seeing the Admiral to ruin my plans."
"Your plans," Mac repeated thoughtfully, small, secretive smile forming on her lips. "And what plans might those be?"
"It's a surprise," he told her, backing the vehicle out of the parking space. Seeing that her smile had vanished once more, he grabbed her hand again. "Whatever happens, Mac, we'll face it together."
He saw her lips curve into a smile again as he turned into the driveway of the new house. "What are we doing here?" she asked.
"Just wait," he told her, coming around to open her door and help her out. They climbed the steps onto the porch and Harm unlocked the front door, pushing it open and indicating that Mac should go in first.
After giving him a look of uncertainty, she entered the house, standing in the dark entryway. When Harm turned on the hanging chandelier, she looked at him, remembering at that moment that the light had come on in the bathroom earlier as well. "The electricity's already on. I didn't even notice it earlier -"
"The real estate company had all of the utilities on so that they could show the house properly. I'm going to change everything over to my name on Monday," he explained, holding out his hand toward her. "You with me?" When he saw her hesitation, he smiled. "Come on."
This time Mac took his hand and followed him up the stairs to the closed master bedroom door. He opened it and entered first this time, pulling Mac in after him, closing the door behind them both. Reaching beside the door, he flipped a wall switch, illuminating the room in a soft light that came from a lamp sitting on a small table beside a well-made king sized mattress on a metal frame. He had hung a heavy blanket over the double windows that overlooked the back yard to keep people from seeing in.
"You *were* busy this afternoon, weren't you?" she said, moving toward the bathroom and turning on that light as well. On the shelf beside the sink, Mac noticed a new toothbrush and paste, as well as a comb and brush.
Looking into the mirror over the sink, she saw Harm leaning in the doorway, watching her. "I thought we could - spend the night here," he told her, "Christen the house, so to speak. If you'd rather go back to your place or to mine -"
Mac turned to look at him, reaching behind her to lower the zipper of the dress, letting it fall to a puddle of red at her feet. "No," she said, stepping closer to him as his eyes widened in realization of exactly what she *hadn't* been wearing underneath that sexy dress. A red lace strapless bra barely covered her ample breasts, and a matching red lace garter belt held up thigh-high stockings that he had - erroneously - assumed to be pantyhose. There was nothing under the garter belt except for a triangle dark hair. "You're wearing too many clothes," she told him, pushing his jacket to the floor as she slid her arms around his neck.
Harm's hands slid across her hips, left bare by the thong. "If I'd known what you had on under that dress," he told her, nipping at the soft skin of her neck as he spoke, "dinner would have been *seriously* delayed."
A low, seductive laugh escaped from Mac's throat as she slowly removed his tie and tossed it over his shoulder in the general direction of the bed before turning her attention to the buttons of his shirt. "Why do you think I rushed you out of the apartment so quickly? I wanted to make sure you had dinner so you'd have the strength for what I have planned."
"So I'm not the only one with plans for the evening," he said, kicking his dress shoes off and pushing them out of the doorway before unbuttoning the cuffs of his shirt and helping her remove it, dropping it on the floor with his jacket.
He groaned when her lips found the tiny nubs on his chest, biting gently before soothing them with her tongue. "God, Sarah," he sighed, feeling her fingers unfastening his belt. Her hands slid down over him, caressing him through the fabric, her eyes shining up at him.
Without another word, Harm caught her mouth with his, demanding, pleading, taking before he grabbed her up into his arms and carried her over to the bed before finishing getting undressed. Joining her on the bed, he covered her body with his, entering her body in one thrust. He was no longer thinking coherently. His actions were fuelled by pure, animalistic lust, combined with a deep-seated desire to touch every part of this woman, to understand her, to be a part of her. To be one with her in every way possible.
His entire world broke into a million tiny pieces as he exploded, pouring everything into her. His mind, his life - his soul, before he collapsed totally exhausted. "I'm sorry," he said a moment later, rolling onto his side, pulling her with him.
"For what?" she asked.
"You didn't," she assured him, stroking his face.
"It's the last thing I want to do," he said. "I've hurt you so much in the past -" He rolled over onto his back.
"No more than I've hurt you." She turned his head so that she could see his face. "Harm, it's okay. Losing control isn't so terrible. Believe me, if you'd hurt me, you'd know. I won't break." When he didn't respond, she moved to lie on top of him, resting her head on his chest. "Put your arms around me, Harm," she said, and snuggled closer to his chest when he did. "It's okay," she whispered, "its okay."
Problem was, Mac wasn't sure which of them she was trying reassure: Harm, or herself.
Harm woke up, reaching over with the intent of pulling Mac closer, but she wasn't there. Blinking, he sat up and it took a moment for him to realize where he was. "Mac?" he called. Getting out of bed, he went to the bathroom, but there was no sign of her there, either.
Frowning, Harm opened the overnight bag that he'd brought over earlier the previous evening and took out the warm-ups and sweatshirt that he had packed inside. Pulling them on, he left the room and went downstairs, the smell of freshly brewed coffee drawing him into the kitchen, where Mac was leaning against the center island with a cup of coffee in hand. She was wearing his shirt from the previous evening, and while Harm admired the way it fell to just below her hips, he was also uncertain about seeing her again after what had happened.
"Good morning," he said, moving to the cup still on the counter and poured some coffee into it, not quite meeting her eyes as he spoke.
"Morning," she replied, and he knew she was watching him. He could feel her eyes on his back. "Harm, stop beating yourself up over it. Please? It was entirely my fault anyway. I pushed you too far, wanted you to lose control -"
He snorted in self-disgust. "Well, you succeeded."
She came over to him, placing a hand on his arm. "Harm, look at me."
Moving to stand in front of him, Mac looked at him. "I'm fine. Really. And I've - decided to go see Prof. McCool again." She saw the relief mixed with confusion in his blue-green eyes. "I thought I could handle it on my own. You know, gung-ho Marine. Tough. Able to handle anything that comes my way - Admitting that I can't - I've spent all of my adult life trying to maintain control, Harm. I have to control everything because if I *lose* control, I feel weak and I *hate* myself, and I hate the person who made me feel that way. It makes me that much more determined to regain control. Over me - and over the person who caused it." She lifted her eyes to his again. "Last night - last night, I went too far, and I'm sorry that it caused you pain."
Putting his barely touched cup of coffee on the counter, Harm said, "Come here," holding his arms open to her. Mac went into his arms, closing her eyes as they wrapped around her, rubbing her back in a gentle movement. "This is about what happened with Saddiq, isn't it?" he asked, his cheek resting against her soft hair, silently wishing that the bastard was still alive so that he could kill him for causing Mac so much anguish.
"You were right about what he was trying to do, Harm," she said. "He knew me. Knew everything about me. Knew exactly the right things to say to -"
"To what?" Harm asked.
"To get to me. To get under my skin." Harm stood there, holding her, letting her talk. "He wanted me. I could tell that he wanted me. He kept talking about how I'd never be a 'complete' woman as long as I continued to go against the Koran - He said I was barren, and a whore, -" She choked back a sob as she said the words. "When I realized what he was going to do - that he was going to kill all of those innocent people in that nightclub -" she burrowed her head deeper into his shoulder, forcing him to tilt his head to hear her next words. "I practically threw myself at him. I offered to do whatever he wanted if he would just spare those people's lives." Harm closed his eyes, dreading what she might say next. "He turned me down. Resisted me -" Harm suddenly understood her outburst of the previous evening, her anger at him for being able to remain in control, to resist what she had been offering him. "- and then the police arrived outside and he realized that I was wired. We struggled and I managed to get his weapon - my weapon. I fired once - Hit him in the shoulder and he fell. Then I saw his arm come back up - holding another weapon that he must have had on him and I fired again - the bullet hit right between his eyes."
"You had no choice, Mac," Harm said in a quiet voice. "If you hadn't taken the second shot, he would have killed you."
"I wish I could be as sure of that. Kershaw and the others, they were almost in the door when I fired the first shot. If I had held the second, they might have been able to capture him -"
"Or he might have killed himself with the second weapon, to keep from being taken captive, Mac," he suggested. "You couldn't take the chance. Look, I don't pretend to know what you're going through - but I know you. And I know that you could never kill someone in cold blood that way."
Mac sighed and stepped away from his arms, pacing toward the center island. Still facing away from him, she spoke softly through the tears that were starting to fall. "After I shot him the first time, I said, 'That was for Harm,'" she told him. "When I saw his arm come up, I said, 'And this is for Clayton Webb,' and killed him."
"Have you told Clay about this?" Harm wanted to know, standing behind her, wanting to hold her.
"Yes," she nodded, wiping her cheeks with her fingers. "I told him that I killed Saddiq because -" she turned to look up at him. "Because he hurt someone that I love." She smiled sadly. "Clay assumed that I was talking about him when I told him that."
"Were you?" Harm asked, suddenly uncertain that he was ready to have this conversation. But for Mac's sake, he'd let it continue.
"Yes," she admitted. Harm released the breath he'd been holding and started to turn away, but Mac placed a hand on his arm to stop him. "Harm, I *do* love Clay. I've made some mistakes with him, let things go farther than I should have, but I'm not *in* love with him." She placed a hand against his chest. "Saddiq almost killed Clay, and he could have easily killed you as well, Harm. But the person he hurt most, the person that I killed him for - was me."
Harm framed her face with his hands, gently wiping away the tears as he had on previous occasions before pulling her into his arms and holding her as tightly as possible.
"What bothers me is that he's still hurting people. Because of that night, I've hurt Clay - and I hurt you. Maybe he was right. Maybe -"
"No," Harm insisted, taking her by the shoulders and pushing her back enough so that he could look at her as he spoke. "He wasn't right, Mac. About anything. He didn't know you. Not the person you really are. You're a strong, wonderful, loving woman. You're not a whore. And I seriously doubt that you're - barren."
"I don't see any children running around calling me mom, Harm," she pointed out.
"Not yet, maybe, but - Little AJ's birthday's coming up, and uh, I seem to recall a promise?"
"Harm, as much as I want that - I'm not sure I'm anywhere near ready to -"
"I know," he said. "I know. But I'll still be here when you are. I'm not going anywhere, Mac. No matter how long it takes, I just want you to remember that I'm here for you. This is forever for me."
"I think it is for me, too," she said. "I just - I don't know if it's fair for me to expect you to wait -"
"Hey, you waited for me, remember?" Harm replied with a crooked smile. "I can wait, Mac. You're worth waiting for." He lowered his lips to hers, giving her a gentle kiss that will filled with all of the love and promise that he could put into it. "You know what you need?" he asked.
"What? Other than a good psychiatrist?"
"You already have that," he pointed out. "A bubble bath in that tub upstairs."
She smiled in approval. "I *do* like the way you think," she told him. "But only if you'll join me?" Her smile faded a little. "I promise not to make you crazy again."
"You can't help making me crazy, Mac," he told her, giving her another kiss. "You know, sometimes, giving up a little control can be good. As long as you don't lose yourself in the process. You go get the water started. I'll go get your bag out of the truck and meet you upstairs."
AJ was smiling when he entered JAG Ops on Monday morning. Petty Officer Coates returned the smile with a hint of confusion. "Did you have a nice weekend, sir?" she asked, following him into his office to give him his schedule for the day and his messages.
"As a matter of fact I did, Coates," he confirmed, trying to make up his mind about what he was going to say next. Meredith had insisted that she couldn't possibly get everything done without the Petty Officer's assistance, but after the last time, he was hesitant to involve her.
"Glad to hear it, Admiral. It's been awhile since I've seen you smiling so much, sir," she told him. "Your first meeting is at ten, after staff call," she said, and AJ nodded, scanning the schedule. "You have five messages - one of them from Prof. Cavanaugh."
He stopped, looking at her with suspicion. "You *knew* I'd had a nice weekend, didn't you, Coates?"
"Well, sir, Prof. Cavanaugh did sound a great deal happier than she did the last time I spoke to her over the telephone, and so I thought it was safe to assume that you and she might have - resolved any differences you might have had. Sir."
"Well, you assumed correctly, Coates," he told her. "She and I are going to be married, and she would like for you to help her with making the arrangements since time's short."
"How short, Admiral?"
"Two months," he said. "I expect all of your assistance to be done on your own time - and you're free to refuse if you want -"
"No problem, sir," she said quickly. "I'd be glad to help."
"Good. Get in touch with Meredith sometime today, if you would. And make sure that Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie come to my office when they arrive."
"Yes, sir. And congratulations."
He smiled again. "Thank you. Dismissed." The young woman turned to leave, but AJ stopped her. "Oh, and Coates - let's keep this between us until I make a more official announcement."
"You can count on me, Admiral."
Seaman Grant smiled as Harm and Mac arrived together the next morning. "Colonel, Prof. Cavanaugh called and left a message reminding you about your luncheon date," he said.
"Thank you, Seaman," she said, taking the message slip from him.
"Commander, Colonel," Jen called, approaching them. "Begging your pardons, but the Admiral asked me to send both of you in as soon as you arrived."
"We'll be right there, Jen," Harm said, seeing Mac's look of concern. "Can I stash these in here, Mac?" he asked, following Mac into her office with his cover and briefcase.
"Sure," she nodded.
"Suck it up, Marine," he said, winking at her. "Rule number one when facing the lion in his den: Show no fear."
"Come on," she told him, leading the way toward the open door of the Admiral's office.
Harm knocked on the doorframe, and heard the immediate response. "Enter! Close the hatch behind you, Commander."
Harm ignored Mac's look in his direction as he closed the door before joining Mac to stand at attention before the Admiral's desk. "Colonel Mackenzie and Commander Rabb reporting as ordered, Admiral," he said.
The Admiral's head was bent to his desk as he read a file that was open there, leaving his two senior officers standing before his desk. Finally, he looked up at them, removing his reading glasses, and almost as an afterthought, said, "Be seated." He sat back in his chair, studying them in silence as they sat in the chairs. Finally, he leaned forward, linking his fingers on his desk. "How much of a problem is this going to be in the office?" he asked.
"None, Admiral," Harm answered.
"It won't be, sir," Mac said at the same time.
"I hope not. Should I try to arrange cases so that you won't be opposing each other in court?"
Harm and Mac exchanged a look. "I don't see why that would be a problem, Admiral," Harm answered.
"We're both professionals," Mac added. "We should be able to keep the arguments in the courtroom."
"That's something else I'm going to count on. Keep the personal problems at home."
"Aye, sir," Mac said. "Admiral, I know this is probably a surprise -"
"A surprise?" he repeated, giving a short laugh. "Hell, I've been wondering if the two of you were ever going to manage to work things out and get together. The only thing I'm surprised about is how sudden it is. Mind if I ask - where Clayton Webb fits into this?"
"He doesn't, sir," Mac told him. "At least, he won't if he's ever in town long enough for us to talk."
"Then I have both of your approval to tell him to take a flying leap off of the nearest bridge if he ever has the nerve to come to me and ask for the two of you to use on a mission?"
"Good." He rose from the chair and came around the desk, leaning against the edge. "Have the two of you discussed where this might go?"
"We've discussed it, sir," Mac said.
"Eventually, we're planning on making things official," Harm confirmed. "But for the moment -"
"I've decided to return to counseling, Admiral," Mac informed her CO. "I think there are still some things that I need to work through."
"I can't say that I don't approve, Mac," he said. "Let me know when the appointments are so we can schedule things around them."
"I will, sir."
"One word of warning - don't make me regret letting the two of you remain in this office. And I hope I won't have to send a chaperone to the coffee room with the two of you."
"No problem, Admiral," Harm promised.
"You won't have any reason to regret it, sir," Mac said.
"Good. You're dismissed, Colonel."
Mac gave Harm a concerned look as she rose from the chair and left. "Yes, sir."
AJ folded his arms across his chest, studying Harm. "So you finally got up the nerve to tell her how you feel."
"Yes, sir," Harm answered, smiling.
"Any particular reason for the decision?"
"Just decided that it was time, sir."
"Well, that makes two instances where your sense of timing worked out right," AJ noted. "Um, I know that you and I have had a - stormy time of it this past year or so, Harm, but - I was wondering if - I was going to ask before everything went so crazy - but - Would you be willing to be my Best Man when Meredith and I get married?"
"You see anyone else in this room, Commander?"
"No, sir. I'd consider it an honor. When's the wedding?"
"Two months. Coates is going to be assisting Meredith in planning it. We're scaling things back quite a bit - and this doesn't go any further than this room, Harm, but - I'm retiring then as well."
"A little," Harm acknowledged. "You're not quite at thirty years, are you?"
"No. But I think I need to spend some time with Meredith without there being anything to distract either of us. Take it from an old salt, Harm, don't let your career get in the way of having a life. You can wait too long."
"I understand, sir. I won't. In fact, I'm considering options already." He frowned for a moment. "You're not going into private practice or anything, are you, sir?"
"Not right away. Maybe after Meredith and I do some traveling I might put up a shingle. Why?"
"Just - curious. You have any idea who they might get to replace you here?"
"Not a clue. I *was* planning on suggesting to SecNav that you become temporary JAG until they find someone, but considering the change in your and Mac's personal status, I'm not sure I could sell it to him."
"What if I were to transfer to the judiciary, Admiral?" Harm suggested. "Then you could suggest that Mac become temporary JAG -" his voice trailed off as AJ gave him a long look. "It *sounded* like a good idea -"
"It's not that I have anything against Col. Mackenzie. She'd make a damn fine JAG. But I'm not exactly sure that Admiral Morris would agree to you being on *his* staff full time after your first - and last appearance as a judge." Harm grimaced. "Now, if it were the Colonel, he'd take the offer in a heartbeat. If you and she want to discuss it, -"
"I'll mention it to her, sir. I just - Mac enjoys being at JAG -"
"And you don't, Commander?"
"I'll discuss it with her, Admiral."
"Very well. Uh, I hope I don't have to tell you that - I don't think we'll be able to keep the marriage plans out of the rumor mill. But the rest of it -"
"It won't go any further, sir."
"Thank you. Dismissed."
Harm stopped into Mac's office to pick up his briefcase and cover. "Anything I should know about?" she asked.
"Nothing that won't wait until this evening," he said. "I'll see you at staff call."
"You have nine minutes and forty seconds to get ready," she called after him, causing him to shake his head in amusement as he went toward his own office. Booting his computer, he accessed the military database and did a quick search for Allison Krennick.
The name came up quickly. She was a one-star, currently assigned to NLSO Pearl. Checking her date of last promotion, he discovered that she was very close to the promotion window. "Damn," he sighed, hoping that it wouldn't happen. The very *last* thing he needed was Krennick as JAG. That thought brought another, clearer thought. Maybe she'd changed. It wasn't very likely that she would have made Captain - much less gotten that first star - if she was still pulling stunts like the ones she'd tried with him.
Thinking quickly, he remembered someone who had been TAD to Pearl last year and picked up the phone, intending to dial the number. But Coates knocked on his door before the number connected. "Col. Mackenzie asked me to make sure you weren't late for staff call, Commander."
Harm glanced at his watch, wincing. "Thanks, Coates," he said, gathering the files he needed. "I'm right behind you."
He was still the last one into the room, giving everyone a smile of apology as he took his seat across the table from Mac. When they exchanged a smile, the Admiral cleared his throat to get their attention before beginning the meeting. "Commander Turner. What's the status on the Norwood court martial?"
"I believe Lt. Roberts and I are on the verge of plea bargain, Admiral," Sturgis answered.
Seeing the Admiral's gaze slide to him, Bud spoke up. "Yes, sir. Should have something by the end of the day."
"Rabb and Mackenzie - status of the Phillips case?"
"We discussed it, Admiral," Mac told him. And they had. While lying in bed on Sunday morning before bringing a load of things over from Harm's apartment in the afternoon. "I think this one is going to trial."
"Keep me informed." He opened a folder, studying it for a moment. "I got a heads up on this case just before staff call," he told them. "Lt. Commander Stanley Barris has accused his CO at Pearl, a one-star admiral, of sexual harassment." Harm felt a jolt of surprise as he heard the Admiral's words next words. "I believe you remember Admiral Krennick, Commander?"
"Yes," Harm nodded, explaining to Mac and Sturgis. "She was the Admiral's adjutant when he first came to JAG."
"She was a Commander then, wasn't she, sir?" Bud asked.
"Yes. She was selected for promotion to Captain just before you and the Colonel joined us," AJ explained, "and transferred to TSO Naples. When she got her star, she went to Pearl. She's requested that you defend her, Commander," he told Harm.
"I agree, Commander," he said, meeting the younger officer's worried gaze. "We'll discuss it after the meeting."
"Colonel Mackenzie, you'll sit second chair. Commander Turner, Lt. Roberts, you'll prosecute," he announced, handing Turner a folder. "This is likely going to be a high profile case," he informed them. "Admiral Krennick was rumored to possibly become the next JAG if she continued on track. Be ready for the press and - for political pressure as well." Looking over his glasses, his eyes looked to each of his officers. "Dismissed. Rabb, stay behind, please." He evidently saw the look that passed between Harm and Mac, and sighed. "It's up to you, Rabb."
"I think she should stay, Admiral," Harm said.
"Very well. Spit it out, Commander."
"I'm not sure that I'm the best person to be defending Adm. Krennick, sir."
"She specifically asked for you."
"Because she knows that I could conceivably be called as a witness *against* her, Admiral," Harm told them. "She's a smart lawyer, sir. She knows that as her attorney, I likely won't be called."
"What could you testify to, Harm?" Mac wanted to know.
Harm glanced at the Admiral before speaking again. "Allison Krennick - let's just say that - if I had wanted to push it, *I* could have filled charges against her for sexual harassment while she was here."
"That was eight years ago, Harm," AJ pointed out. "I doubt she would have gotten her first star if she was still following the same pattern."
"She never -?" Harm asked him.
"It would have scuttled her career and she knew it," AJ declared.
"What if, like me, no one else ever took it seriously enough to call her on it?" Harm wondered.
"Why *didn't* you, Harm?" Mac wanted to know.
"I handled it," he said. "It was more of an - irritation than anything else."
"And more than a little flattering?" Mac suggested.
"Maybe," he admitted.
AJ shook his head. "You're on the case, Commander. And I don't think it would be wise for me to hear anything more, since there's an outside chance that the prosecution could call *me* as a witness, since Krennick was my adjutant. Krennick should be here in the office tomorrow morning at 0900 hours."
"They're holding the Article 32 here, Admiral?" Harm questioned.
"This is going straight to Court-Martial, Commander. SecNav wants it close so that he can keep an eye on the proceedings. I'll see you both later."
Once he was gone, the room became quiet and Harm turned to look at Mac. "Mac, I swear, nothing *ever* happened between she and I."
"No. You 'handled' it instead of reporting her. Harm, how the hell is the Navy ever going to stop sexual harassment if everyone out there feels the way you do?"
"I wasn't threatened by it," he said. "I was able to laugh it off."
She shook her head at his words. "Who else knew about this?"
"Almost anyone who was working at JAG at that time. The Admiral suspected something, but - without a complaint -"
"He wouldn't act on it," she nodded.
"Maybe the Admiral's right," he sighed. "Maybe she's changed."
"I hope so. Because if she hasn't, we won't stand a chance in hell of getting her off on *this* charge," Mac declared. "We're due in court to hear motions on the Phillips case in ten minutes," she informed him and left the conference room.
Harm raised his eyes to the ceiling and sighed. "Why me?"