Operation: Road Not Taken
Part 4
Nancy Eddy

Disclaimers in Part 1

After court was recessed, Mac picked up the files before her and turned to leave the room, only to find Harm standing there, looking like a little boy hoping for forgiveness. Even during the motion hearing, which Mac had won on points, she had barely glanced in Harm's direction, still angry with him for never having reported Krennick's harassment.

At least, that's what she *thought* she was angry about. Looking at him now, she wasn't so sure, and found herself smiling at his sheepish expression. "Okay, Flyboy. You're off the hook. But you'd better figure out how we're going to defend the woman."

"We'll discuss it over dinner tonight," he told her. "I'd suggest lunch, but -"

"I have a previous engagement," she said, nodding toward the elevators, where Meredith was just turning toward the glass doors into JAG Ops. "Hello, Meredith," she called, getting the other woman's attention.

Meredith turned and smiled at them. "Mac. Harm. It's good to see you. I know I'm early, but I thought I'd drop in and say hello to AJ before we leave."

"No problem. I have to put these files in my office and grab my cover."

Harm stood there, watching Meredith walk away, exhausted just after the few seconds in her company. "That woman has more energy -"

"She's just - enthusiastic," Mac said, giving Harm a grin as she turned toward her office while Harm went to his.

He could already hear the hum of the office scuttlebutt machine at the sight of Meredith Cavanaugh at JAG, heading toward the Admiral's office as if she hadn't been gone for several weeks.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Hello, Jennifer," Meredith said, a little uncertain about the reception that the young woman would give her.

"Prof. Cavanaugh," Jennifer said, and Meredith relaxed as she saw the welcoming smile. "It's good to see you, ma'am." She leaned closer for a moment. "The Admiral told me the news and I'd be more than willing to help in any way I can."

"Thank you, Jennifer. I don't know *how* I'm ever going to manage to get everything arranged in time."

"Just leave it to me, ma'am," Jen said. "Shall I let the Admiral know that you're here?"

"Please." She stood in the waiting area while the Petty Officer picked up the telephone, noticing that she seemed to be attracting a lot of attention.

"Go on in, ma'am."

"Thank you. I'll call you -"

"I have a different number," Jen said, quickly writing the number onto a message slip and handing it to her.

"You moved?"

"Yes, ma'am. I'll explain later," Jen said.

Meredith turned toward the door to AJ's office and went inside. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything," she said to him as he met her halfway to the door.

"No," he assured her.

"I was here to meet Mac for lunch, so I thought I'd say hello."

"I'm glad you did," he said. "Did you talk to Coates?"

"Yes. Did you talk to Harm?"

"I did. He said yes."

"I knew he would," she replied. "Now, I just hope Mac will do the same. After all, it was because of her that we met."

"I think we would have met with or without the Colonel's intervention," he told her.



Feeling a little more sure of herself, she said, "I have to be going. Will I see you later?" she asked.

AJ put his arms around her. "Try and stop me," he told her, giving her a kiss. "Enjoy your lunch."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Hey, buddy."

Hearing Sturgis Turner, Harm looked up with a guarded smile on his face. "Sturgis. What can I do for you?"

"Thought we might have lunch together, since Mac's apparently busy. I promise. Not a word about the Krennick case."

"Good. Because unless you're willing to talk deal, I won't hear anything else you have to say."

"Bud said that she was a bit of a - barracuda from what he remembers."

"A *barracuda*?" Harm repeated, pretending surprise. "Bud must be thinking about someone else. I always thought of her as a Dragon Lady myself," he said, laughing. "Let me finish up on these notes and we can go."

"Sure. I'll just go get my cover and - meet you in Ops."

Harm had called Tracy Manetti at her current billet - as SecNav's legal attaché, replacing Teddy Lindsay - and, telling her that he had drawn the defense for Adm. Krennick, had picked her brain about the woman. Tracy had told him that Krennick had seemed fair and that she herself hadn't seen any indication of harassment during her stay in Krennick's office last year.

"But that doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't happening, Harm," she reminded him. "Only that it could have been well-hidden."

Harm had agreed and thanked her. "What about this Lt. Commander Stanley Barris who's made the accusation? What do you know about him?"

"He's -" she hesitated, as if searching for words. "A moderately competent officer. Truthfully, I'm not sure how he managed to make it to Lt. Commander, Harm."

"Did you see any sign of problems between him and Adm. Krennick while you were there?"

"I'm sorry, no. The man does his job - usually on his own timetable, but it gets done. He also tends to ask junior officers to do tasks that he's been assigned by others."

Harm thanked her again for the information, only to pause when she spoke.

"As a matter of fact, Adm. Krennick *did* inquire as to how you might be doing once she realized that I knew you. She suggested that I send you her regards. When I returned from Pearl last year, with everything that was happening, I forgot to do so. I hope you can forgive me."

He assured her that there was nothing to forgive before asking if she would be willing to testify in Krennick's behalf if necessary. She was agreeable to the idea, and Harm told her that he would be in touch. Grabbing his cover, Harm closed and locked his office door before going in search of his old Academy buddy.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"You want *me* to be your Maid of Honor, Meredith?" Mac questioned.

"Please say yes, Mac. After all, if it wasn't for you, AJ and I would never have met." Mac hesitated, watching Meredith playing with the sugar packets on the center of the table. "Harm agreed to be AJ's Best Man," she said.

"He did?" Meredith nodded. "Okay. Yes, I'd be honored to be your Maid of Honor. Are you really getting married in two months?"

"I know. I'm terrified that it's not enough time, but neither of us wants to wait any longer. Thank goodness Jennifer's agreed to help again. That young woman's organizational skills are surprisingly good."

"Jen is definitely a gem," Mac agreed.

"How long before you and Harm -" Meredith began.

"Oh, we're nowhere near that point, Meredith. Eventually, yes. But right now, things are a little - unsettled. A lot's happened this last year."

"Mac, don't wait too long. Things happen and sometimes what you hope for disappears."

"It came back, though," Mac pointed out.

"Well, yes. But only because AJ's such a wonderful, special man. I still can't quite believe that I'm not dreaming. After what happened I wouldn't have blamed him for never wanting to see me again."

"He loves you. And that's what's important."

"You're right. Now, tell me all about Chloe. How is she doing?"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"You really sold it," Sturgis said, shaking his head. "I never thought I'd see the day when you'd part with that car."

"There are things more important in life. Sturgis."

"Such as Mac?" he questioned, and Harm grinned.

"Is it that obvious?"

"I think everyone in Ops could see it when the two of you got here this morning. Wanna tell me how *that* came about?"

"Long story, my friend. How's Varise doing?"

"Very well. She's performing here in DC tonight. Should be arriving -" he glanced at his watch, "in two hours and forty-five minutes."

"I'm surprised you don't have it down to the second."

"Thirty," Sturgis added with a grin of his own.

"*You* are hooked, Sturgis."

"Totally," he nodded, looking uncertain. "So hooked that I'm - thinking about resigning so that I can be with her."

"You'd be willing to leave the Navy?"

"She needs a manager. Right now, she's handling all herself. With my legal background, I think I could do the job. I'm not getting any younger, Harm. It's time I thought about the future, settling down."

"How soon -?"

"A couple of months, at least. I haven't mentioned this to the Admiral yet. I'm not sure I want to, since his marriage is back on if I'm not mistaken."

"Yeah. But you need to let him know, so he can find a replacement."

"Don't worry. I will. And I'll be here long enough win the Krennick case."

"What makes you so sure you're going to win?"

"Just a hunch. Krennick's been around for a long time. I'm sure there would be any number of people who could testify against her."

"Maybe. *If* she's guilty. You don't know that she is."

"What was that between you and the Admiral at staff call?"

"I wasn't sure that I was the right one to defend her, that's all. The Admiral convinced me otherwise."

"Hey, I thought we weren't going to discuss this?"

"We'll have to discuss it sooner or later."

"I haven't even spoken to my client yet," Harm pointed out.

"Fair enough."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

When he got back to JAG, Harm called and had the utilities at the new house changed into his name. As he was finishing the last call, he looked up to find Mac standing in his doorway.

"Hi," he said, still not totally certain that he was forgiven. "How was lunch?"

"Pleasant," she said, sinking into the chair. "And exhausting. When were you going to tell me that the Admiral asked you to be his Best Man?" she wanted to know.

Harm gave her a sheepish grin. "When have I had the time?" he asked in reply. "How did you find out?"

"Meredith told me when she asked me to be her Maid of Honor."

"Always a bridesmaid," he teased with a grin.

"Ah, but I've at least made it down the aisle once. Would have a second time but a certain flyboy I know decided to dump his plane into the ocean."

"You could have gotten married anyway," he told her.

"Without you there? It's only recently that I've realized *why* that was so important to me - that you be there, I mean. I was secretly hoping you would stop the wedding or something -"

"I might have. Or I might not have. I just wanted you to do what would make you happy - even if it was with Brumby." He gave her a smile. "You ever hear from him?"

"He sent me a Christmas card. He and his new wife."

Harm's eyes widened. "He's *married*?"

"I think his note said that she's a nurse. Have you heard from Renee?"

"I got a Christmas card from her mother. Apparently she and the mortician are still happy and enjoying parenting the twins," Harm explained.

"You must have really impressed her mother."

"I think she's just grateful that I didn't decide to ask Renee to stay here and marry me."

"That would make sense," Mac nodded. "I'm sorry about - earlier, Harm."

"I talked to Tracy Manetti earlier. She said that when she was at Pearl, there was no sign of anything going on with Krennick."

"She's pretty observant. I would think if there *was* something Tracy would have seen it."

"That's what I'm thinking. All we can really do now is wait for Krennick to arrive so we can talk to her."

"Well, I need to interview some witnesses this afternoon," she said, standing up. "I have an appointment with Dr. McCool for 1600 at Bethesda."

"What time will you be back?"

"I'm not sure. The appointment is for an hour, I'll probably just go home from there."

"Dinner?" he asked.

"I thought we were going to start moving some of your things into the house?" she suggested.

"We can do that."

"I'll pick up some Chinese," she offered, "and meet you at the loft to help."

"That'll work," he agreed as his phone rang. "See you then." He watched her leave and answered the phone. "Rabb."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

AJ indicated that Sturgis should sit down when Coates announced his presence. "What can I do for you, Commander?" he asked, looking at him over the top of his reading glasses.

"I'm not really sure how to ask this, Admiral, but -"

"Let me guess: It's about the Krennick case. And since she was my adjutant when I first became JAG, you want to know what *I* know."

"I've had some - reports, sir, that then Commander Krennick was 'vigorously pursuing' a junior officer on your staff. Were you aware of any such pursuit?"

AJ removed his glasses, tossing them onto the desk. "Commander, Allison Krennick was abrasive, ambitious, and determined to be the first female Judge Advocate General. She was also a damn fine officer who did her job and received high marks on every fit-rep I ever filled out for her. I never had any complaints from junior officers about her other than she was sometimes a little more of a 'hard-ass' than they liked her to be."

"So you don't know *which* officer Krennick might have targeted?"

"I gave you an answer, Commander."

"No sir, you said that you'd never had a complaint. Not that you were unaware of any possible harassment on her part."

"*Possible* harassment isn't proof, Commander."

"No, sir, it's not. But it could prove that she has a reputation for such things."

AJ pinned the officer with a narrowed gaze. "If I were you, Commander Turner, I would concentrate on finding proof of the *current* accusation and leave the past alone."

"Is that an order, Admiral?"

"Not at all. Just a - friendly suggestion. Now, if that's all, I have work to do," he said, picking up his reading glasses from the desk. "Dismissed."

"The Admiral does realize that I'm within my rights to call him as a possible witness in this matter."

"Do what you have to do, Commander," AJ said. Watching the door close behind Turner, AJ frowned, wishing that he had forced Harm to make a complaint at the time instead of letting it go. He'd never actually *seen* Krennick do anything wrong, but he'd heard the scuttlebutt just like everyone else had, that she was chasing after Harm without success. It was a good thing he was retiring, because he had an uneasy feeling that this case might just be enough to scuttle his career - not to mention Krennick's and possibly Harm's.

For a moment, he considered asking Harm to come to his office. But he also knew that Turner was waiting for him to do just that. Idly, he wondered who Turner might have spoken with. Sighing, AJ picked up his pen and turned his attention back to the reports in front of him, deciding that worrying about it wasn't going to make any difference.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Mac stepped into Dr. McCool's office, finding herself put at ease by the woman's smile. "I'm glad you came back, Colonel," the doctor said. "Sit down."

"Thank you," Mac answered, sitting on the sofa.

"May I ask - what changed your mind about more sessions?"

"Another change in my life, doctor." She took a deep breath. "Where do want to start?"

"Why don't we start with the change you mentioned," Dr. McCool suggested gently.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Harm was about to leave the office for the day when his phone rang. His mind still on the Krennick case and already planning what he was going to move over to the house this evening, he sighed heavily and reached across to grab the receiver. "Rabb."

"Hey there, Harm," a voice from the past said in his ear. Perky, chipper, with a faint Texas twang, he recognized it instantly.

"Meg! This is a surprise. How are things in London?" he asked, moving back around the desk to sit down. "And how's that Marine you married? Philip, wasn't it?" Meg Austin had been transferred to NLSO Naples from JAG, and then to a posting as legal attaché for the American Ambassador to England. A year after that posting, she had married one of the Marine guards at the embassy.

"It was. And he's fine, sir."


"You *do* still outrank me, remember?"

"You're a Lt. Commander now, right?"

"That's right. The reason I'm calling is that - Lt. Roberts called me a little while ago - asking about when Allison Krennick was stationed at JAG."

"I guess you've heard what's going on, then."

"Yeah. Lt. Roberts told me that you're defending her?"

"She asked for me by name."

"Is that a good idea, Harm? I mean, he's bound to find someone that will talk. There were a few people at JAG who really hated Allison Krennick. If he talks to one of them -"

"I know. What did you tell him?"

"That she was a good officer and that I never heard anyone complain about her."


"You never complained, Harm," she reminded him. "So I wasn't lying."

"Did Bud - Lt. Roberts happen to mention why they were asking?"

"He said that they were contacting people who had served with Adm. Krennick in the past - and that one of them had implied that there was a junior officer on Adm. Chegwidden's staff at the same time as Krennick that she was 'pursuing'."

Harm put his head back. "Okay. Did he mention whether or not they would call you to the stand as a witness?"

"No. I don't think they would call me all the way back to Washington, would they?"

"It's possible. It's a high profile case, Meg."

"I have to go. I just wanted to give you a head's up."

"I appreciate it. Meg, have you heard any other rumors about Krennick since she left JAG HQ?"

"No. Not a peep. Either she's cleaned up her act or she's gotten better at hiding it."

"Thanks. Hey, keep in touch. And tell Philip I said hello."

"I will, sir. Bye."

Harm hung up the phone, wondering how he was going to pull this one off. Grabbing his cover and briefcase, he left the office. The Admiral was waiting for the elevator when he got there, cover and briefcase in hand. "How are things going, Commander?" he asked.

"Fine, sir," Harm said, aware that Sturgis was watching them from bullpen. "If you'll excuse me, I think I'll take the stairs instead of waiting, Admiral. "I - could use the exercise," he said by way of explanation before turning toward the stairway door.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

When Mac arrived, he noticed that she seemed quiet, and as they shared the Chinese take-out, he asked how the session had gone. "Nothing to talk about, really. Dr. McCool did say that she'd like for you attend one of the sessions - if you wouldn't mind."

He put a hand on her arm. "Would *you* mind if I was there?" he questioned.

"No," she said. "I think it would probably be a good idea."

"Okay. Just let me know when and I'll be there," he assured her.

"How did things go after I left today?"

"I got a call from Meg Austin."

"Your former partner?"

"She's stationed at the American Embassy in London."

"Why did she call?"

Harm thought her voice was a little - green, and smiled. "You're not jealous of Meg, are you?"

"Of course not. Why should I be? Just because you and Kate Pike -"

Harm laughed. "One weekend. Remember when I told you that I didn't think of you as a sister?"


"I *did* think of Meg that way. Still do. Now that that is cleared up -"

"Why did she call?"

He told her about Meg's call, explaining that Meg *had* been witness to a few of Krennick's attempts to seduce him. "Nothing overt, and it could probably be explained as something else, but she's right about Krennick having made a lot of enemies over the years. Apparently one of them has pointed Sturgis and Bud in the right direction, but stopped short of giving them the name of the junior officer that she was harassing."

"Must have been someone that you *didn't* make an enemy of," Mac said with a grin. "That's a short list."

"Oh, is that so?" Harm questioned, lifting one eyebrow. "I'll have you know that I'm a really likeable guy. Ask anyone."

"Even Mic Brumby?" Mac suggested, and laughed when Harm reached across the space between them and grabbed her ribs. "No fair!" she cried as she squirmed to escape his tickling fingers.

"Brumby didn't like me because he knew the truth and wasn't ready to admit it," Harm said, his hands stilling and pulling her forward, into his arms.

"And what truth would that be?" Mac wondered, her arms now around his neck.

"That you and I were meant to be together," he told her, looking into her eyes as he said the words. "Fate. Kismet. "Destined -"

Mac's lips covered his, swallowing the remaining words.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Jen and her new roommate pitched in to help carry boxes and clothing down to the back of the Lexus, but even with the back seat folded down, Harm realized that he was going to be making more trips than he'd counted on. Standing on the curb after managing to get the back door close, he sighed.

"Looks like I'd better check into renting a truck tomorrow."

"You'll need one for the larger items, anyway," Mac pointed out. "The living room furniture, the desk -"

He looked at her. "Or - we could just - start over completely," he suggested. "Buy all new stuff?"

"You'd leave that bed behind?"

"Time for a new one anyway," he told her. "I would like to keep the desk, though. My grandmother gave it to me."

"Would it fit in the back of this thing?" she asked, pointing toward the SUV.

Harm studied the back of the vehicle. "Possibly."

"Then we'll do that," she said. "See? Problem solved."

"Let me go lock up and we'll take this stuff over to the house," he said.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Mac followed him over in her Vette, waiting for Harm to back the SUV close to the garage before pulling in beside him. While he used the remote for the garage door to open it, Mac went to her car and pulled out a box that Harm hadn't noticed.

"Where did that come from?" he asked. "I thought you didn't have any room in there for boxes?"

"I didn't," she told him with a smile. "Because this was already in there. I threw some things into a box before I left my place. Thought it would be a good idea to keep a few things here so I don't have to rush home in the mornings."

"Really?" Harm asked, grinning from ear to ear. "I like the sound of that."

"I figured you would," she said, giving him a sexy smile before going into the house via the door from the garage, which opened into the breakfast area off of the kitchen. "I'll leave the door open for you," she called back.

"Thanks! Just get back out here and do some work, Marine!"

She continued to smile as she climbed the stairs and put the box she was carrying on the bed and quickly unpacked what she could of it. The remaining items remained in the box, which she placed in the corner. Retracing her steps, she met Harm in the kitchen. "There you are," he said, putting the box in his arms down on the counter. "And here I thought I was going to have to go upstairs and find you," he said as he pulled her into his arms.

"Disappointed?" she asked. "I could always go back up -"

Harm dropped a kiss onto her lips before turning her around and giving her a quick slap on her six. "Work first. Play later."

"You're a harsh taskmaster, Harmon Rabb," she accused, but she was laughing as she led the way back out to the truck to grab an armful of clothes from Harm's closet.

An hour later, the sun was just beginning to set on the horizon as the last box was carried in and Harm closed the garage door. Standing in the kitchen, he surveyed the boxes scattered around the room. "Now we get to unpack," he sighed.

"I'll start in the bedroom," Mac announced, starting to slip away from his side, but Harm grabbed her arm, pulling her close.

"Why don't we start in *here* and work our way *up* to the bedroom?" he suggested.

She turned into his arms, trailing her fingertips along the sweat-dampened forearms, up, over his biceps and along his shoulders. "You're sure? We couldn't take a *teeny-tiny* little break?"

"Mac, if I take you to bed now, I won't want to get out of bed again tonight," he explained. "And there's a *lot* of work that needs to be done."

She laughed. "It's driving you crazy, things not being all neat and tidy, isn't it?" she teased.

"Well, maybe a little," he confessed.

Mac's hands slid around his chest. "Why don't we compromise? You pick which rooms are the most important, and we'll unpack those tonight."

"I'm not sure I *can* choose, Mac," he said.

"This from a man who lived in *one* room of that loft while he redecorated it? And who planned to live in *one* room here?"

"Well, if it had just been me, I would have let most of the boxes in the garage and unpacked them as I needed to. But it's *not* just me," he told her.

"Harm, as long as we have a bed and some way to cook, I'm fine," she pointed out. "I'm a Marine, remember? We're used to roughing it. Not like Squids who are too soft to go without creature comforts -"

"Creature comforts?" he questioned.

Mac backed away, already planning her escape. "I'm just surprised you don't expect mints on the pillows -" she turned and ran away, laughing, knowing that Harm was close behind.

"Come back here," he called, chasing her up the stairs, only catching up to her at the door to the bedroom. He tackled her and the forward momentum sent them onto the bed, both of them laughing.

Their laughter merged and modified into soft moans of pleasure as their lips met and clothes fell to the floor . . .

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Later, covered only by the sheet and Mac's prone body, Harm lifted her hand from his chest and brought her fingers to his lips one at a time. "Those boxes still need to be unpacked," he told her.

She raised her head to look at him. "I don't believe you," she sighed. "You're really going to unpack those boxes, aren't you?"

"Just a few of them," he said. "We can discuss the Phillips court-martial while we work," he suggested, drawing a hand up her leg, past her hip. "And after - We'll pick up where we left off," he told her. Sliding out from beneath her, Harm grabbed a pair of warm ups, and then tossed the ones she'd been wearing earlier toward her. "Come on, sleepyhead. Time to hit the beach."

"I wish it *was* a beach," she told him, pulling on the drawstring pants and tee shirt that he found on the floor.

"Only if you promised to go topless," he said with a leering grin, and ducked out of the room when she threatened to throw a tennis shoe in his direction. "Meet you downstairs."

Going over to the box in the corner, Mac found a pair of socks and slipped them on before following him down to the kitchen, where he was already tearing into the first of the boxes . . .

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

As they rode up in the elevator the next morning, Mac glanced at Harm. "You ready for this?"

"Don't have any choice," he pointed out. "Just do me one favor?"

"Only one?" she asked, reaching up to unnecessarily straighten his epaulet.

"Don't leave me alone with her?"

"What's the matter, Harm? Don't trust yourself?"

"I don't trust *her*," Harm said just as the doors opened and he came face to face with Admiral Allison Krennick.

"Hello, Commander Rabb," she said, her voice deeper and more gravelly than it had been eight years ago, if that were possible. This wasn't the woman from his fantasy at the Chinese restaurant, Harm realized. Allison Krennick *was* still attractive. In his little 'fantasy' she'd been far less so - her hair pulled back in a severe fashion, little make up - but the woman who stood before him had her blonde hair attractively styled and looked - 'damn fine', as Admiral Chegwidden might have said.

"Kr - Admiral," he said, immediately snapping to attention.

"At ease, Commander," she said with the same smirking smile that Harm remembered only too well before turning her attention to Mac. "You must be Lt. Colonel Mackenzie. Admiral Chegwidden was just telling me about you."

"Good things, I hope, Admiral."

"All of them, I assure you."

"You're early," Harm noted, glancing at his watch to make sure that he and Mac weren't late. "The Admiral - Admiral Chegwidden told us that you wouldn't be here until 0900."

"I came straight here from the airport," she explained. "Thought it would be a good idea to check in with the Admiral before meeting with the two of you. I was just on my way to find a cup of coffee," she said. "Is it - still just down this way?" she wanted to know, pointing in the general direction of the kitchen.

"Why don't I show you where it is, Admiral?" Mac suggested, giving Harm her briefcase. "Would you put this in my office for me, Commander?"

"Sure," he said, juggling it, his cover and his briefcase as he watched them walk away.

"Need some help with that, sir?" Bud asked.

"Uh, no, Bud. Thanks," he said, moving toward Mac's office to leave her briefcase beside her desk where she usually put it.

"So that's the intimidating Admiral Allison Krennick," Sturgis observed as Harm left the office and started toward his own.

"Yeah. That's her. Excuse me, Sturgis. I have some calls to make. I'll talk to you later," Harm said, making his escape while he could.

Sinking into his chair, he forced himself to open his briefcase and take out the notes he'd made over breakfast this morning about the Phillips case. He and Mac were due back in court at 1100 hours, and he wasn't going to be any good to his client if he wasn't prepared to argue his case.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"I suppose you're wondering why I requested that Harm represent me in this, Colonel," Krennick said as she sipped her coffee.

"Not really. Harm's the best attorney at JAG."

"Oh, come now, Colonel. Don't be modest. Even at Pearl I've heard your name mentioned. Your record's nothing short of amazing."

"I think that I should tell you that I'm not looking to sit in the Admiral's chair," Mac said.

"Why not? Someone with your legal talents, on the fast track -"

"All true. But I'm also wearing the wrong uniform, Admiral," Mac pointed out.

"So you've just - given up?"

"Not at all. I'm just being realistic. And starting to realize that perhaps there are things more important than my job."

"That's always a danger sign," Krennick observed. "Usually comes just before the fairy tale wedding and the happily ever after."

"That sounds a bit - cynical, Admiral." Realizing what she'd said, Mac winced. "Forgive me for speaking so plainly, ma'am."

"There's nothing to forgive. I prefer people who aren't afraid to speak their mind."

"Why don't we go to Commander Rabb's office -" Mac was saying when Coates appeared in the doorway.

"Excuse me, Colonel, but there's a call for you." She hesitated for a moment before continuing. "It's - Mr. Webb, ma'am."

"Thank you, Jen, I'll be right there," Mac said, sighing deeply.

"Ma'am," Coates said, nodding at Krennick before disappearing again.

"Why don't you tell me where the Commander's office is, Colonel and you can join us after you finish your call?" Krennick suggested.

With a feeling of impending doom, Mac led her out of the kitchen and pointed toward the hallway. "The door at the end."

"I thought that was a file room?" the blonde said.

"We ran out of room - it's a long story, ma'am. Excuse me. I have to take this call."

"Of course. I'll find my way, I'm sure. After all, I used to work here. I'll see you later."

Mac watched her go, then turned on her heel and went to her office. "Hello, Clay."

"Sarah. I wasn't sure you'd even take my call after the other day. Then I figured I might have more of a chance of catching you away from him if I called you at JAG."

"Clay, I'm busy. What did you want?"

"I'd like to see you tonight, Sarah. For dinner. I think we need to talk."

"Tonight?" Mac questioned, blinking. He was right, they *did* need to talk, but - "You're back in town?"

"Got in about ten minutes ago. I'll be tied up in debriefing most of the day, so how about if I pick you up at seven?"

"Why don't I meet you, Clay?" she suggested.

"Okay. Orsati's at seven thirty."

"Yes. I'll be there."

She hung up the phone and started out of the office, only to find her path blocked by Bud, asking a question about the Carmichael Article 32 that he was arguing that afternoon.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"My, my, how the mighty have fallen."

Harm heard Krennick's distinctive voice and froze before moving to stand up. "Admiral."

"I suppose being relegated to the file room means that you're no longer the Admiral's 'Golden Boy'," she sighed, sauntering into the room. "Relax, Harm," she said. "I'm not going to attack. I don't do that anymore. I *haven't* since I left here." She sat down in one of the chairs. "So, tell me how someone who was on the fast track to be the next JAG in a few years ends up working out of a cubbyhole like this."

"It's a long story," Harm said, smiling tightly as he sat down. "Where's - Mac? Col. Mackenzie?" he corrected, hoping that she wouldn't pick up on it.

She smiled. "Oh, she'll be here. The Petty Officer told her that she a telephone call from someone named - Webb, I believe. I told her to join us after she finished the call."

"Webb?" Harm repeated. "You're sure that's what she said?"

"Quite sure," she told him, studying his expression. "So," she finally said, crossing her legs. "What are we looking at?"

"That depends on what you have to say, Admiral."

"You're wondering if Lt. Commander Stanley Barris' claim is legitimate, aren't you?"

"Well -"

"I don't blame you, Harm. But I can promise you, it's not. As I said, after I left JAG HQ and the temptation that was Harmon Rabb, Jr.," she said, smiling at him, "I realized that I was never going to get where I wanted to be by continuing that pattern. Lt. Commander Barris is angry with me because I didn't give him the fit rep he expected to get. As a matter of fact, it was he who suggested that I might give him a better fit rep if he were to -" she lifted her hand in the air, allowing him to finish the sentence in his own way.

"Were there any witnesses to this?" Harm asked.

"Of course not, Harm," she said. "If there were, I wouldn't be here now, would I?"

Mac appeared in the doorway, giving Harm a look of apology. "Sorry it took so long," she said, just managing to close the door before moving to sit in the second chair. "What did I miss?" After Harm and Krennick caught her up, leaving out the part where the Admiral had mentioned Harm, Mac asked, "So your story is that Lt. Commander Barris offered to have sex with you in order to get a good fit rep instead of the other way around?"

"That's about it," Krennick confirmed. "Barris should never have joined the Navy. He's a screw-up who keeps coming out of whatever he does wrong smelling like a rose. Knows how to stroke the right egos and say the right things to the right people. Reminded me more than a little of Teddy Lindsey," she told Harm. "I'm sure you remember the type, considering that he nearly framed you for murder last year."

"To your knowledge, Admiral, has there ever been any other complaint filed against you for something like this?" Mac wanted to know.

"No," she said. "*My* record is - spotless."

"Then that's our defense," Harm decided. "We'll go with your previous service record."

"And if they manage to dig up something?" she asked. "Find someone who *claims* to know otherwise?"

"We'll cross that bridge when - and if - we come to it," Harm answered. "Is it also safe to assume you won't accept any deal that requires you to resign?"

"Quite safe, Harm. I have no intention of allowing Lt. Cmdr. Barris to ruin my career. I've worked too hard and too long to get this far to let him do that."

"Okay. If Barris has done something like this to previous COs, we'll find out," Harm assured her.

"Harm, it's nearly time for staff call," Mac told him.

"You didn't look at your watch, Colonel," Krennick noted, frowning.

"I have an - internal chronometer," Mac explained standing up from her chair. "I need to gather my files for the meeting -"

"Of course. I'll see you both later," Krennick told them, standing as well. "I have to go check into my quarters. I'll be back after lunch."

"That will be fine. I think we can meet with the prosecution then and see what they're willing to offer - if anything," Harm agreed, grabbing his own files and following them out of his office.

Krennick shook Mac's hand. "It was nice meeting you, Colonel Mackenzie."

"Same here, ma'am."

"Please. My friends call me 'Al'," she confided.

"I'm sure I don't have to remind you not to talk to any reporters, Admiral," Harm said.

"I know the way the game is played, Harm," she told him. Nodding at them both, she smiled. "Later."

"She didn't seem that bad to me," Mac told Harm as they moved toward her office. "I'm sorry I was late -"

"Krennick mentioned something about a phone call?" he asked as she found the last file buried in a stack of them.

Mac glanced at him. "From Clay. He's back in town and wants to see me for dinner tonight."


"Harm, why don't we discuss this over lunch?" she said. "We're going to be late."

"You *are* late," AJ drawled, standing in the doorway into the conference room, giving the two of them a pointed glare.

"Sorry, sir. Our meeting with Admiral Krennick took a little longer than we'd planned," Mac apologized. "It won't happen again, sir," she assured him as she and Harm moved past him into the room.

"I won't hold my breath," AJ muttered, closing the door behind them and moving to his seat at the head of the table . . .


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