Operation: Road Not Taken
Part 6
Nancy Eddy

Disclaimers in Part 1

After returning the truck, Harm drove Sturgis back to his place, and then stopped to pick up a salad from Beltway Burger before going home. He was surprised to find a strange car parked on the street as he pulled the SUV into the driveway.

As he got out of the vehicle, he groaned inwardly as he saw who was getting out of that other car. Waiting until the tall blonde was halfway up the walk, he said, "Admiral Krennick. What are you doing here?" he asked, noting that she was wearing civvies instead of her uniform.

"Relax, Harm," she said, her low-pitched laughter rolling through the darkness beyond the illumination of the porch light. "I'm not here for any nefarious purposes. I just - I don't know a lot of people in the area anymore and was at a loose end -"

"What if someone sees you here?" Harm reminded her, watching as a young blonde roller bladed down the sidewalk on the far side of the street, headphones against her ears.

"You're my lawyer," she told him. "Besides, we're both out of uniform. I'm sure your neighbors have no idea that I'm even *in* the Navy."

"Admiral -"

"We're off duty, Harm," she reminded him. "Surely you can call me Allison. Aren't you going to invite me inside and show me around?"

"I think you should leave," Harm said, not moving.

"You won't allow me to apologize for what happened? I know you felt uncomfortable around me - But I'm not the same person that I was."

"I accept the apology," Harm began, "but I still think that -" he exhaled with relief as he saw Mac's car turn into the driveway.

"See?" Allison said. "We're properly chaperoned."

Mac joined them slowly, looking at Krennick before turning her attention to Harm. "Am I interrupting something?" she asked.

"No," Harm said. "Admiral Krennick was just leaving."

"I was hoping for a tour of the place, Mac," Krennick told her. "But I don't want to intrude. I'll see you tomorrow morning."

Harm and Mac watched as the woman returned to her car and pulled away from the curb. "That was interesting," Mac said.

"She said she wanted to apologize," Harm told her.

"You don't think she means it?"

"If she had, why leave when you got home?" he wanted to know.

"Why don't we go inside?" Mac suggested, slipping her arm though his as she noticed the bag in his hands. "You haven't eaten yet?"

"I just left Sturgis at his place," he explained. "He helped me get the big stuff over."

Mac took his key and unlocked the front door, not surprised to see the couch and chairs from the apartment in the living room in front of the fireplace. She turned to look at Harm, who grinned and lifted his shoulders.

"I figured that we needed *something* to sit on until we get a chance to buy new furniture. And since we had room in the truck -" Pointing toward the kitchen, he said, "I'm going to get a fork."

"You want some coffee?" Mac asked, following him, stopping to inspect the refrigerator.

"Sure," he said, sitting down at the glass-topped table and opening the plastic lid of the salad container. "How was dinner?" he asked, keeping his tone light as he watched her getting the coffee maker ready.

"It went well," Mac answered with a deep sigh. "I felt a little sorry for Clay," she told him, watching the coffee brew.

"Sorry for Clay?"

"He just looked so sad when I left. So alone. At least he didn't drink tonight. That's something."

Harm ate another few bites of his salad, leaving the room quiet until she brought the coffee over to the table and sat down. "He came to see me."

"Who?" Mac asked. Suddenly, her eyes widened. "Clay? That's why he was late."

"Probably. He just wanted to let me know that he was stepping aside and that if I ever did anything to hurt you or make you unhappy I'd find myself back flying CIA missions."

"He can't do that," Mac insisted. "Can he?"

"He claims that he can. But I'm not going to worry about it," he told her, reaching over to take her hand. "Because I don't plan on doing anything to give him cause to make good on the threat." Seeing the tinge of sadness remaining even through her smile, Harm told her, "Look, if it will make you feel any better, I'll go talk to him, let him know that if he needs - whatever, we're both here for him."

"You'd do that?"

"Clay was a friend," he pointed out. "And I figure that I can afford to be generous." He lifted her hand to his lips. "I'll try to get over to Langley as soon as possible and talk to him."

Mac gave him a grateful smile as she picked up her coffee cup. "You know, I've been thinking - you're going to need a larger table for the dining room -"

"Yeah. And maybe a china cabinet to match -"

"I have both at my place," she said, running a fingertip around the rim of her cup, looking at him through her lashes. "And *my* living room furniture is more comfortable than yours," she pointed out.

"You're right there." He grinned. "I'll see if Sturgis can help this weekend. You're sure you want to move in, Mac?" he asked. "It's a big step, giving up the independence of living alone."

"I think we've managed all right so far, don't you?"

"Sorry I didn't warn you about Mr. Aswan today," he apologized.

"I understood why you did it. I was just surprised that you'd managed to keep it a secret. And then I made that stupid slip in front of Allison Krennick -"

"I wouldn't let that bother you. The entire office is going to figure it out sooner or later, you know."

"I know."

"Do you mind? Or would you rather that we kept it between us for the time being?" he asked, holding his breath until she answered.

"With a gossip mill like the one at JAG, we couldn't anyway. I'm just surprised that Harriet hasn't called to find out what's going on."

"Bud probably hasn't figured it out yet," he said.

"Bud does tend to be a little clueless, doesn't he?" She toyed with her now- empty cup.

"We could invite them over for dinner on Friday night," Harm suggested. "We should have this place in decent shape by then."

"You want to call her or shall I?"

"Why don't you do it?" Harm suggested, picking up the remains of his dinner as well as both of their coffee cups. "I'll refill the cups and meet you in the living room. We need to discuss which of us is going to give the opening statement tomorrow."

He turned around with the fresh coffee to see Mac staring at him, the cordless telephone forgotten for the moment. "You're willing to let me give the opening statement?"

"Why so surprised?" he asked, putting her coffee on the center island where she was standing. "We're a team, aren't we?"

"Yes, but -" she paused, looking at him. "You're not sure that she's innocent, are you?"

"I was leaning in that direction - until she showed up here this evening. I'm just - not sure I can trust her, Mac."

"Did you turn up any evidence to the contrary this afternoon?" Mac wanted to know.

"No. And I might be onto a lead that would confirm that Barris' record isn't exactly spotless -"

"I hear a 'but' in there somewhere."

"I can't just dismiss the way Krennick acted eight years ago."

"It's your *job* to forget, Harm. You're her lawyer."

"I know. And I'll manage. But I think it might be best if you give the opening statement all the same."

"If that's what you want," she agreed, nodding as she picked up the phone again and started dialing the Roberts' number while Harm wandered out of the kitchen toward the living room.

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

Across town, digital images came up on a computer screen and were printed out. The computer user waited with barely suppressed impatience for the printer to finish its task before placing the photos into a folder. Moving toward a closed door under which she could see a slit of light from inside, the young woman knocked once before opening the door.

"Wait until you see what I've got."

Her editor sighed, havening heard the words before. "Listen, Ginny, -"

"I mean it this time," Ginny Grainger insisted. "Look!" she placed the folder onto the middle-aged man's desk, covering up the copy that he was going over.

Realizing that he wasn't going to get any peace until he looked at whatever the woman thought she'd found, Stan opened the folder, examining the photos of the attractive blonde and the tall, dark haired man standing outside of a house. The woman's hand reached out once toward the man in one of the photos. "Who is this?" Stan asked Ginny Grainger.

"It's that case I've been telling you about, Uncle Stan -" she rolled her eyes as he glared at her over his reading glasses. "Sorry. It's not like there's anyone else around to overhear at this time of night. The blonde is Admiral Allison Krennick," she explained. Seeing Stan's questioning look, she continued. "That Navy Admiral from Pearl who's about to be tried by the Judge Advocate's office for sexual harassment."

"That's where I've seen the man before," Stan realized. "He's a Navy JAG. Real legal Top Gun, so I've heard. Commander Harmon Rabb, I think."

Ginny nodded. "He's her lawyer. They worked together at JAG eight years ago when she was a Commander and Admiral AJ Chegwidden's adjutant."

Stan frowned at her. "How do you know so much about this?"

"I have my sources," she told him. Seeing his look, Ginny sighed. "Okay. Okay. Remember that fluff piece I did last month about retired Navy personnel?"

"Yeah. Not a bad article. Fluff's your forte," he told her.

"Come on, Stan! I want a chance to do some *real* investigative reporting. Anybody can write sidebars and *fluff!"

"Who's your source?"

"The daughter of one of the guys I interviewed. She was in the Navy, too. Worked at JAG as a yeoman until she transferred out about the same time that Krennick made Captain and left DC."

"And she called you about the Admiral?"

"No. She's out of the Navy now, taking care of her dad here in DC. Her dad's cool. He was in Vietnam when Dad was there - I like listening to him talk about it. And I think it does him good, too. Anyway, I was over there the other day and she asked him if he remembered Krennick - we started talking and she told me some things that you wouldn't *believe*."

"Such as?"

"Do I get to write the story?" she asked.

"You will - if you can convince me that there *is* a story."

"My source tells me that back when Krennick and then Lieutenant then Lt. Commander Rabb were at JAG Headquarters, Krennick tried to put the moves on Rabb more than once. Krennick went so far as to try and arrange a "working weekend" for herself and Rabb at a beach house that Admiral Chegwidden had at the time."

"And your source knows this - how?"

"Krennick asked her to make the arrangements - and told her that the other JAG lawyers were going to be there, that Chegwidden wanted them to go on a retreat - but when she told the Admiral that she hoped he enjoyed his weekend at the beach, he told her that he wasn't going to the beach. At that point, she made a few discreet inquiries and discovered that no one *else* was going, either."

"Did she talk to Rabb?"

"He was out of town on a case. But my source claims that after that weekend, she watched closely and noticed that Rabb seemed - uncomfortable with Krennick at times."

"It's all hearsay, Ginny," Stan pointed out. "Nothing concrete."

"No. But if it's true, then the woman doesn't belong in the Navy."

"Ginny," Stan sighed, "she's a one-star Admiral. I doubt she got there by going around harassing junior officers."

"So you don't think there's a story," Ginny said with a sigh of her own.

"Without something more than your source's suspicion - I'd have to say no," Stan nodded, picking up one of the photos to study. Rabb *did* look uncomfortable - as if he were waiting for a cobra to strike.

"Stan, I've seen you send a story to press with a *lot* less than I've got!"

"But those stories weren't going to accuse a one-star Admiral of sexual harassment of a junior officer," Stan pointed out. Seeing Ginny's look of disappointment, he said, "Tell you what - keep digging. If you come up with something, it might be worth taking to JAG."

Ginny's smile split her pretty face. "Thank you, Uncle Stan!" she told him, running around the desk and giving him a hug and kiss on the cheek. Grabbing the folder from his desk, she ran out of the office, leaving Stan with the same feeling he'd once had early in his career after having covered a hurricane down in Virginia.

While he doubted that she would come up with anything, at least it would keep her out of his hair for a little while. And if she *did* find something, well, he'd cross that bridge when he came to it.

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

Later, after they had gone over the opening statement several times and discussed strategy, Harm and Mac sat side by side on the sofa, his arms around her and his chin against the top of her head.

"When you went to lunch with Meredith the other day, did she mention anything about the Admiral's plans after the wedding?"

Mac moved away to look up at him. "No. We didn't get that far - Why? Did he say something to you?"

"He doesn't want it to go any further, but - he's decided to retire."

"The Admiral?"

"He plans for them to do some traveling and then he might go into private practice. He said that being JAG doesn't leave him much time for a personal life."

"So there'll be a new JAG," Mac sighed. "So much for using 'Admiral's privilege' to keep us both at JAG."

"About that - I mentioned to him that I was considering a move to the judiciary -"

"What did he say?"

"Before or after he stopped laughing?" Harm asked.

"He didn't."

"No. But he did say that Admiral Morris probably wouldn't approve *my* transferring over there."

"I hear another 'but'," Mac said. "He suggested that *I* consider moving to the bench on a permanent basis, didn't he?"

"It's only a suggestion, Mac, and it's the last option I'll consider. I can find somewhere else - Maybe something at the Pentagon, or -" He paused. "There's more."


"The Admiral also mentioned that he wasn't sure that SecNav would be ready to appoint a new JAG by the time he retires, so he was going to recommend me to be the interim JAG until they found someone. And if that happens -"

"It will. SecNav likes you. I think he's part of the reason that the Admiral asked you to come back to JAG last year." She sat forward. "So. Where does that leave us?"

"I could turn it down," Harm said.

"Harm -"

"Mac, I've realized over the last few months that my career isn't as important to me as having a life with the person I care most about. I know how much your career at JAG means to you - I don't want to be the cause of your having to leave. I won't risk your someday blaming me for -"

"I'd still be involved in the law. And I - enjoyed being on the bench. There's a lot of power there - as long as I don't let it go to my head," she grinned at him, "like someone I know did -"

"I did not," Harm insisted, and returned the grin when Mac rolled her eyes.

"Then how come Adm. Morris doesn't want you on his staff full time?" she countered.

"Okay, maybe a little," he acknowledged. "You won't mind? I mean it, Mac. I'll find another way if that's what it takes to make you happy -"

Mac turned to face him, placing her hands flat against his chest. "You want to know what would make me happy, Harm?"

"More than anything else in the world, Sarah," he told her in a soft, quiet voice.

"Then take me to bed, Sailor. Now."

Another grin split Harm's face and he rose from the sofa. "Yes, ma'am," he said, pulling her to her feet.

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

As Harm and Mac got out of their cars at JAG the next morning, Harm moved close to her, nodding toward the entrance. "Looks like our friends from the press have finally decided to put in an appearance," he noted, referring to the knot of reporters and television cameras between the parking area and the front door.

"Ready to run the gauntlet, Marine?" he asked.

"Damn the torpedoes," she told him, taking a deep breath.

"Full speed ahead," he finished and they moved forward together.

"Commander Rabb," a reporter asked, "do you believe that Admiral Krennick is innocent of the charges against her?"

"Yes, I do," Harm said. "And Col. Mackenzie and I intend to prove just that. Now, if you'll excuse us -"

Harm caught sight of a petite blonde on the outer edges of the throng, watching him. Something about the girl was familiar, and he knew that he'd seen her before, but he couldn't quite place where.

Seeing his momentary hesitation, the crowd surged forward again, and Mac wound up taking his arm and pulling him into the building. "You okay?" she asked once they were safe inside and she was signing the security log.

"Yeah. I just - it was nothing," he said with a smile as he took the pen from her and signed his own name, glancing up at the Marine guard. "I think those people need to be a little farther away from the front of the building, Sergeant," he suggested.

"Yes, Commander. I'll take care of it, sir."

Still, Harm tried to remember where he'd seen the young woman, continuing to frown as the elevator rose upward. "Harm, what's wrong?"

He focused on Mac. "The blonde reporter out there - did you notice her?"

"Which one? I saw at least two or three blondes," she teased. "I'm surprised you focused in on only one."

Harm was too intent on solving the puzzle to take the bait. "I've seen her before somewhere."

"Maybe on TV -" Mac suggested.

"I don't watch that much TV, remember? Even when Mattie was around I found other things to do instead of vegetating on the sofa."

"So, where else do you think you might have seen her?"

"I don't know. Someplace totally unconnected with anything else, I would think."

"I'm sure you'll remember," Mac said as the doors slip open. "I need some more coffee."

"Tell you what - let me drop my briefcase and cover off in my office and then I'll bring you a cup?"

"Sounds good, Flyboy," she agreed.

Bud was crossing the bullpen as she moved toward her office, and gave her a huge smile when he saw her. "Colonel! Harriet told me the good news, ma'am."

"You hadn't noticed on your own, Bud?" Sturgis asked, joining them.

"No," Bud admitted, giving Sturgis a look of surprise. "You mean you knew, Sturgis?"

"Have ever since Monday. Everything going okay, Mac?" he asked her.

"Everything's fine, Sturgis," she assured him, continuing on to her office, both men close behind.

"You and Harm sure you don't want to discuss a deal, Mac?" Sturgis asked as Harm appeared with two cups of coffee, placing one on Mac's desk.

"No deal," Harm announced firmly. "The Admiral wants to take her chances in court."

"It's her funeral," Sturgis pointed out, holding out a folder. "Witness list. See you both in court." He turned to leave, pausing as he saw that Bud wasn't following. "Lieutenant?"

"Right behind you, sir," Bud assured him, lifting his shoulders as he looked at Harm and Mac.

"At least they're talking again," Mac told Harm, sipping her coffee. "This isn't nearly as good as yours," she said.

Harm put his cup down, bracing his arms on the desk as he leaned closer. "Well, I *did* try to get you out of bed in time to have a second cup at the house, remember?" he whispered. "You're the one who insisted on -" he stopped, wincing as he saw the look of warning on her face as she looked behind him to the door. Standing up, he picked up the cup again and turned with a smile to find Allison Krennick standing in the doorway.

"Morning, Admiral," Harm said before taking a drink of coffee - discovering that it was tepid.

"Harm. Mac. Looks like the two of you are in a good mood this morning. I hope that bodes well for my case."

"We have a couple of leads," Mac said. "Mostly about Lt. Commander Barris' prior COs. It seems that you were the only one who *didn't* give him outstanding fit reps."

"Which could still play against you," Harm pointed out. "I have a call in to a couple of those COs; I'm just waiting for them to return my call."

"Do you have any idea who Commander Turner is going to call as witnesses?" Krennick asked.

"We were about to look at the witness list when you came in, Admiral," Mac explained, opening the folder that Sturgis had given to her. "Lt. Commander Barris," she read, and then looked up at Harm. "Lt. Commander Meg Austin's on the list, too," she told him.

Harm's jaw tightened in response to her words. "I expected it," he said, glancing at Krennick. "Bud remembers her from when we investigated Diane Schonke's murder." He noticed the narrowing of her eyes as she looked at Mac.

"That's why you looked familiar, Mac," Krennick said. "You're the image of -"

"Mac knows about Diane, Admiral," Harm said firmly. "In fact, she was there when Diane's killer died."

"I see. Who else is on the list, Mac?" she asked.

"Alice Bailey?" she said, looking at Harm and Krennick to see if the name was familiar.

"Damn," Krennick sighed, causing them to look at her.

"She was a Petty Officer third class, assigned to JAG Headquarters a few months before Admiral Chegwidden took over from Teddy Lindsey," she told Harm. "Second generation Navy, her father was a Master Chief. I asked her to make arrangements for a - retreat weekend at AJ's beach house -"

"That retreat was cancelled," Harm reminded her.

"Only because you spent the weekend with AJ and that Gunnery Sergeant talking over 'old times'," Krennick pointed out.

"It wouldn't have happened anyway, Admiral," Harm said, and Mac felt a chill go up her spine at the tone of his voice. "So you're saying that former Petty Officer Alice Bailey was aware of your plans?"

"All I know is that I told her that the Admiral had planned a weekend retreat for the officers. Beyond that -"

"That wasn't very smart, Admiral," Mac said.

"I know. Back in those days, I didn't always consider the consequences of my actions. Thank goodness that changed. Do you think she could do some damage?"

"It depends on what she knows."

"She can't *know* anything. Whatever she says will only be hearsay," Krennick pointed out, "and therefore inadmissible."

"But it might be enough for the judge to decide the case merits a full court-martial," Mac pointed out as the intercom buzzed. "Yes, Coates?"

"I'm sorry for interrupting, ma'am, but there's a call for Commander Rabb on Line six. A - Leslie Corrigan calling from Pensacola."

"I'll take it in my office, Coates," Harm said, going to the closed door and opening it. "I'll meet you both in court."

Mac nodded before looking at Krennick again once the door closed behind him. "It's not just your career on the line here, Admiral."

Krennick turned to watch Harm through the window overlooking the bullpen. "I think Harm's career would withstand the hit - and if it comes down to it, I'll make sure everyone knows that he did nothing wrong. It was all my doing." She shook her head and turned back to Mac. "It was all about power, Mac. I saw Harm as a - rival for something I wanted."

"Becoming JAG," Mac guessed.

"At the time, he was the strongest candidate other than myself - But after I made Captain, I realized that if I worked hard enough, I'd get my stars before him, and he would no longer be a threat."

"So that's behind you," Mac said.


"Then why were you at the house last night?" Mac asked.

Krennick smiled. "I like watching him squirm." Seeing Mac's look of disapproval, Krennick sighed. "I know. It was a stupid idea, but I couldn't resist. I promise to behave myself from here on out, Mac. The only thing I want now is to get *this* behind me so that I can move forward." She smiled again. "Actually, I wasn't completely honest with you: it wasn't *totally* about the power. Harm's a damn good-looking man. I'd have to be dead not to have noticed it. And the fact that he resisted my advances only made him that much more attractive."

"He was a challenge," Mac guessed.

"Oh, yes. And he must still be - since office scuttlebutt has it that it's taken the better part of the last eight years for the two of you to get together."

"You know what they say about scuttlebutt, Admiral," Mac pointed out.

"Yes. That it's usually true." Mac's eyes dropped to the desk, and she heard that deep laughter again. "Don't worry, Mac. I'm glad for both of you. Harm needs someone like you in his life. Someone who won't let him walk over her."

"I don't know about that -" her internal clock told her that it was time to go. Rising, Mac picked up the folder and put it into her briefcase. "We have five minutes before court," she told Krennick.

"One of these days, you're going to have to tell me how you do that."

Mac simply smiled and indicated that the Admiral should precede her out of the office.

Harm entered the courtroom a step behind them, joining Mac and Krennick at the defense table. "Well?" Mac asked, leaning close.

"We hit the jackpot," he said, taking the yellow note pad from his briefcase and sliding it over so that she could read it.

Mac glanced at Harm after looking it over. "Should we change the opening?"

"No. Let's go with what we have. This will wait until she can get here."

At that point, Admiral Morris entered the courtroom, and everyone rose from their seats.

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

Krennick plead not guilty to the charge of sexual harassment, and a panel was seated before Admiral Morris recessed the court for lunch, informing both counsels that he would hear opening statements after the break.

As they walked toward Harm's office, Krennick asked, "Who is Leslie Corrigan?"

"One of Lt. Commander Barris' former COs, Al," Mac explained.

"She was a Captain at Pensacola until she got married a couple of years ago and retired. Barris worked for her there. She's willing to testify that he threatened her the same way he did you if she didn't give him a good fit rep. Unlike you, she gave in and gave it to him, but transferred him out of Pensacola ASAP."

"Damn," Krennick said, shaking her head. "Do you think that the members will believe her?"

"It's still going to be his word against yours - especially if Alice Bailey manages to make the members think you have a previous history - but Corrigan said that she would talk to some of Barris' previous commanders as well and see if she can't convince them to talk to us."

"I *knew* you were the right man for the job, Harm," Krennick told him. "Where are we going for lunch?"

"We?" Harm questioned.

"You wouldn't send me off on my own, would you, Commander?" she returned. "What if I'm late getting back or run into a reporter who insists on speaking to me about the case?"

"Beltway Burger?" Mac suggested.

"Sounds good to me," Krennick agreed. "Shall we go?"

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

Ginny slipped away from the others once they got the requisite 'no comment' from the defense team and Admiral Krennick - and moved toward her beat up little Toyota. The three officers got into the Commander's SUV, and Ginny waited only a beat before she followed them out of the parking lot to a Beltway Burger location.

Parking her car, she entered and placed an order for a cherry shake, carrying it to a table close to where her targets were seated in a booth, talking softly between themselves. Of course, the Admiral's voice tended to carry, pitched as it was and being so distinctive. Using her small digital camera, Ginny clicked a few photos, noting that the Commander and Colonel were seated on one side of the booth, with the Admiral on the other. The Commander's long arm rested easily along the rear of the booth behind Col. Mackenzie while they waited for someone to bring their order.

Even with the Admiral's voice, however, Ginny wasn't able to make out anything more than a couple of names - and even they weren't clear enough for the fledgling reporter to be certain of having heard. Except for one: Alice Bailey. Hearing the name of her source made Ginny careless, and she picked up her cup to take another drink of the shake - only to discover that it was empty, and the noise that the empty straw in the likewise empty cup made drew the attention of the officers. Ginny gave them an embarrassed grin, lifting her shoulders and getting up before leaving the building to return to her car.

"What's wrong, Harm?" Mac asked, seeing his eyes following the young blonde as she exited the store and moved toward the parking area.

"That reporter I noticed this morning," he said. "She was just here."

"A lot of people eat at Beltway Burger, Harm," Mac pointed out. "I'm sure it doesn't mean anything -"

Turning back to look at Krennick, Harm suddenly realized where he'd seen the petite blonde before that morning. "I'll be right back," he told Mac, leaving the booth and following the girl.

Krennick looked at Mac. "Care to explain what he's so keyed up about?"

"He said that he'd seen that reporter somewhere else," Mac told her, "but couldn't remember where." She watched through the windows as he moved toward the Toyota.

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

Harm could hear the engine in the decrepit old car as the blonde tried to start the engine. But it was a lost cause, since from what Harm could tell the starter was on its last legs. He tapped on the window, and she slowly turned to look at him, rolling the window down about an inch. "Yes?"

"Are you having a problem?"

"No, it's just a little finicky sometimes. Once the starter catches -" she tried again, and winced as the battery began to give out as well.

"Sounds like more than the starter," Harm noted. "I've seen you before, haven't I?"

"Probably," she said. "I'm a reporter. I was at JAG -"

"I mean before that. I saw you last night, rollerblading past my house."

"What if I was?" she questioned in a defensive tone. "It's a free country. I can rollerblade anywhere I want."

"Do you live in the area?" Harm asked, pinning her with a look that had rattled veteran reporters in the past.

"N-no," she admitted, and started trying the engine again, as if seeking a means of escape.

"Pop the hood," he told her.


"Open the hood and I'll see if I can help." He watched her bend forward to find the hood release lever, and a moment later the hood popped up. Harm moved around to the front of the car and lifted the hood, smiling as he heard the driver get out of the car and move to the side of the car. "Everything looks fine - is there someone who could come get you?" he asked, smiling at her with what Mac referred to as his 'flyboy smile'.

"My - editor," Ginny said. "Uncle Stan -"

He could tell that she wanted to bite off her tongue for having said the words. "You need to tell him to start paying you more so you can get this thing in running condition," he advised as he lowered the hood again. "You're lucky it broke down here where you can get help. If you were out of the city -"

"I know. Look - why don't we just cut to the chase here? You know I'm a reporter, Commander Rabb -"

"You know my name - what's yours?"

"Ginny Grainger."

"What paper do you work for?"

"The Falls Church Gazette," she answered, sighing as she did so.

"Why were you watching my house last night, Ms. Grainger?"

"I wasn't -"

"You just said that you don't live in the area. What other reason would you have for being there if not to keep an eye on me?"

"You're handling the Krennick case," she said. "I was hoping to get something that would make a good story."

"And you got photos of the Admiral and me standing in the yard," he continued. "Didn't you?"

"Yes." She fumbled with her purse, pulling out a cell phone that she opened and then frowned at. "Great. The battery's dead. I guess I forgot to charge it last night."

Harm took out his cell phone and held it out to her. "Why don't you call your editor and let him know that he needs to send someone to pick you up and then join us inside to have some lunch? I doubt a shake was enough -"

"J-Join you?" she repeated, ignoring the telephone.

"We could use someone in the press on our side in this - if you're willing to keep an open mind, that is."

"Are you offering me an exclusive, Commander?" she questioned.

"Possibly. Depending on whether we can come to a meeting of the minds." He took her hand and placed the cell phone into it. "Make your call. Then we'll talk." Harm turned and walked back toward the building, returning to the booth where Mac and Krennick were waiting.

"Well?" Mac asked him as he sat down, watching Ginny talking on the telephone.

"Her car won't start. She's calling her editor - who also happens to be her uncle." He picked up the plastic fork that had come with his salad. "And then she's going to join us for lunch."

"Have you lost your mind, Harm?" Krennick questioned. "A reporter?"

"She's a youngster who's playing at being a reporter," he told them. "Besides, she got pictures of you and me at the house last night."

"Oh," Krennick said as Ginny closed the telephone and headed back into the building.

She stopped beside the table, holding the phone out to Harm. "Thank you, Commander. Unc- my editor is on his way to pick me up, so -"

Harm indicated the empty place beside Krennick. "So you might as well sit down until he gets here," he said. When she hesitated, he said, "I guess the idea of an exclusive doesn't interest you, then." Ginny sat down on the edge of the seat. "Ginny Grainer, this is Admiral Allison Krennick and Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie."

"Ma'am," Ginny said, nodding at both women.

"Would you like something to eat?" Mac questioned. "Maybe another drink?"

"No, thank you, Colonel." She toyed with a napkin sitting on the table. "Did you mean it? About the exclusive?"

"Like I said, it would mean that you were willing to keep an open mind," Harm pointed out. "If you've already made up your mind -"

"No," she said quickly. "Stan always says that a good journalist should keep an open mind and look for the truth."

"Sounds like a good man," Krennick noted.

Ginny smiled. "He's the best. He was always there for my mom and I after my dad died. He was more like my father than my uncle. Problem is, he doesn't want to take me seriously as a journalist."

"Maybe we can help change that," Mac suggested.

Ginny looked around the table. "How?"

"The Admiral is innocent of what she's accused of doing, Ms. Grainger," Harm said.

"Not according to the people I've talked to, Commander," Ginny said. "At least - not nine years ago when she was still at JAG HQ as Admiral Chegwidden's adjutant." She glanced once at Krennick as she finished.

"Nine years is a long time, Ms. Grainger," Krennick pointed out. "People change. The person I was then is in no way the person I am now."

"Lt. Commander Barris has a history of threatening this kind of action if he doesn't get the fitness report that he wants from his commanding officer," Mac told the younger woman, whose light blue eyes perked up when she heard the accusation.

"Do you have something to prove that, ma'am?" she asked.

"At least one of his former COs is willing to testify to having given him high marks on his fit rep to keep him from making the accusation that he made against the Admiral, Ms. Grainger," Harm nodded.

Ginny grabbed her purse, pulling out a notepad. Writing quickly, she said, "Can I have the name of this former CO?"

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

After opening statements, Judge Morris took note of the time and asked Sturgis if questioning his first witness would take very long. When Sturgis answered in the affirmative, Morris informed them that he had a hearing on another case that afternoon. He dismissed court until the next morning at 0900 and left the bench.

"Nice job on the opening, Mac," Krennick said as they rose to leave the room.

"Hopefully, if Harm's plan works, it'll turn out to have been totally unnecessary," Mac said.

"I'll keep my fingers crossed," Krennick told them.

"I need to talk to Admiral Chegwidden," Mac said, looking at Harm. "

Harm met her look, momentarily ignoring Krennick's presence. "You're sure about talking to him now?"

"Better now than later, and I have an appointment at three," Mac reminded him. "I'll see you later."

"Okay. Let me know what she says about when I need to be there so we can juggle schedules."

"I will. I'll see you tomorrow, Admiral."

Krennick watched her walk down the hall before looking at Harm. "What was that all about?"

"Long story. Mac had some - problems a couple of months ago."

"Something to do with the terrorist that she helped to capture?" Krennick guessed. When Harm gave her a surprised look, she smiled. "Admiral Chegwidden mentioned something about it. Why don't you buy me a cup of coffee downstairs and we can talk about it."

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

"Colonel Mackenzie would like a moment, sir," Coates said into the intercom.

"Send her in."

Mac gave Jen a nervous smile and went over to the closed door. Opening it, she entered the office and came to a stop before the Admiral's desk.

"At ease, Colonel," he said, looking at her. "What can I do for you?"

"Commander Rabb said something to me about a billet opening up in Judge Morris' office, sir, and - well"

"You'd like to put your name in for consideration?" AJ finished.

"Yes, sir."

Removing his glasses, he looked up at her. "Can I assume that this has something to do with your relationship with the Commander?"

"Yes," Mac admitted.

AJ rose from his chair and came around to sit down in the other chair. "Mac, are you sure that you want to do this?"

"One of us will *have* to leave, Admiral. And of the two, I believe that I'm better suited to the bench - Harm belongs here at JAG." He gave up JAG once for me, sir, I don't want him to have to do it again."

AJ's nod was thoughtful. "I've been thinking since he and I spoke the other day - it's possible that Admiral Morris might be agreeable to your being TAD to JAG whenever he doesn't need you for a case. For awhile, anyway."

"Could you do that, sir?"

"Admiral's privilege," he pointed out with a smile. "I suppose that Harm told you about my future plans - or Meredith did -"

"Meredith didn't say a word, Admiral. And Harm only told me about it last night. I can't believe that you're really considering it, sir."

"It's time for me to make some time in my life for other things - for the people who are important. Meredith, Francesca. Me."

"Harm mentioned something about the possibility of his becoming the temporary JAG until someone else was appointed to the position -"

"During which time, if you make this change - you would be forced to return to the judiciary full time -"

"There wouldn't be any guarantee that I would be able to come back, would there?"

"No. Whoever takes my place would have to make that decision. But I'd do whatever I could to convince him to make the arrangements to keep one of the best attorneys available to this office."

Mac looked down at her hands, surprised at his praise.

"How are things otherwise, Mac?" he asked. "Did you and Webb get thing settled between you?"

"Yes, sir. He was really pretty nice about it," she told him with a smile. "Said he'd known all along that I belonged with Harm."

AJ rose from the chair and went back to the one behind his desk. "When do you want to do this?"

"As soon as Adm. Krennick's trial is finished, would be good, I think."

"Get me that paperwork and we'll put things in motion," he told her.

"Yes, sir," Mac said, rising to her feet at attention.


Mac left the Admiral's office and went to her own, grabbing her briefcase again as well as her cover before leaving the building. She had just enough time to get to Bethesda so she wouldn't be late for her appointment with Dr. McCool.

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

"How are things going today, Mac?" Dr. Vera McCool asked once they were seated.

"Better. It helps that I'm working on an important case -"

"The sexual harassment suit. I saw you on the news earlier while I was having lunch," Vera explained.


They sat there in silence for a couple of minutes before Vera asked, "Is there something you want to talk about?"

"I talked to Clay last night."

"And how did it go?"

"He stepped aside without argument," Mac said.

"Does that bother you?"

"Not really. I felt relieved more than anything else after we talked. I don't feel guilty about being with Harm now."

"Speaking of Harm - how are things there?"

"He's trying to bend over backwards to make me happy -" Mac stood up and moved to the bookcase, running her fingertip over the spine of the medical journals that were there.

"Why do you think he's doing that?"

"He's worried about me. Afraid of making a mistake that will cause everything to fall apart -"

"Could he?"

"I'd like to think not, but - it's taken us so long to finally be together, that we're *both* walking on eggshells. Especially after -"

Vera sat back, watching her. "After?"

Mac wandered back over to the sofa and sat down. "Harm's always been very - controlled. Emotionally, I mean. Probably because he lost his father when he was young -"

"What happened to his father?"

"He was in the Navy - his plane was shot down over Vietnam on Christmas Eve, 1969. He was MIA for over thirty years."

"And how old was Harm when this happened?"


"It's possible that you're right about him. That the loss of his father at such a tender age could have caused him to develop firm control over his emotions as defense against getting hurt again. But without meeting him, I can't say that for sure." She smiled. "But we're not here to investigate Harm's emotional state."

"It's all tied in together, though," Mac insisted. "I was angry with Harm for not being *able* to give in to how he felt - to wanting me. Every time he managed to turn me away, to let me go, it made me feel weak and I hated it."

"But that changed."

"Last weekend. I managed to break through that hold -" Mac looked down at her hands. "He - lost control. He wasn't violent - we were - making love and -"

"I think understand."

"Harm - He was so worried and upset by that loss of control. He was afraid he'd hurt me - he was ashamed of himself - Ever since then, he's gone out of his way to be sweet and pliant, and -"

"And that's not the man you fell in love with," Vera guessed.

"No. I fell in love with a cocky, egotistical flyboy who could make me so angry that I sometimes couldn't decide whether I wanted to strangle him or kiss him. Don't get me wrong. I love being with him, and I'm happy. I just - I want to know that he's happy too."

"Did you ask him about coming with you to one of these sessions?" Vera questioned.

"Yes. And he said he would. Just to let him know when."

"Why don't you bring him on Friday, then?"

"If we can both get away," Mac agreed.

"Okay. We have a while yet - why don't we talk some more about your childhood?"

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

Mac dialed Harm's cell phone when she left the hospital. "You're still at work?" she questioned.

"Yeah. I shouldn't be much longer. Had some paperwork that I wanted to clear up. You finished?"

"Just. I'm headed toward the car now."

"Okay. Why don't I meet you at your place and we'll pack what we can into the Lexus and leave the rest for this weekend?"

"I thought we were flying out to that bed and breakfast you were telling me about?"

"Forecast is calling for rain," he explained. "Next weekend it's clear, we're on," he answered, and she could easily picture the grin on his handsome face.

"Okay. See you at my place in say - an hour?"

"Sounds good to me."

Harm hung up from the call, smiling. Mac sounded like the session with Dr. McCool had been a good one. But the call had reminded him that he needed to call Mattie and let her know about the possible change in plans for the weekend. Finishing up his last report, he picked them up and grabbed his gear.

Jen was taking her purse from her desk when he came in with the files. "Did you need something, sir?" she asked, smiling at him.

"Just wanted to drop these off. I promised the Admiral that I'd have them in by the end of the day."

"Just leave them in my inbox, Commander and I'll see that he gets them first thing tomorrow morning."

He put the files where she told him to. "Jen - have you heard from Mattie?"

"Yes, sir. She called last night," she said, and Harm thought her expression was guarded. "Have you spoken to her since the weekend, sir?"

"No. I've been busy with moving - Why? Is something wrong?"

"She didn't say anything specific as far as any problems with her father, but - well, - I think she misses you."

"I'll call her," Harm said. "How's the new roommate doing?" he asked as they moved out of the bullpen side by side.

"Pretty well, sir."

"Good." They each signed out of the building and headed toward the parking lot. "At least the reporters have disappeared for the day."

"They'll be back tomorrow morning," Jen said. "See you tomorrow, sir."

"Tomorrow," he nodded, continuing to where he'd left the Lexus that morning as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number Mattie had given him.


"Hey, princess. How's it going?"

"Harm! I thought you'd forgotten about me already."

"Moving takes up a lot of time. And Mac and I are working on a big case -"

"Yeah," she said. "I saw you on TV this afternoon. They said that you and that Admiral used to work together at JAG."

"Ancient history," Harm told her. "And you didn't answer my question." He started the vehicle. "How are things?" When she didn't answer immediately, he said, "Mattie?"

"We've been arguing again," she told him slowly.

"About what?"

"Name it. I don't like the food he cooks, he gets mad at me for not cleaning my room - If I don't get away from here for awhile, I swear I'm going to -"

"To what?"

"Run away," she finished quickly.

"Mattie -"

"Don't worry. I won't do it. But I'll think about it."

"Have you seen the weather forecast for next weekend?"

"Yeah. It's supposed to rain. Guess that means no flying." She sounded *very* disappointed. "And that I'll end up spending the entire weekend here with him, watching the paint flake off the walls."

"Tell you what, let me talk to Mac - maybe we can think of something -"

"Talk to Mac? Then Jen was right? You two *are* together?"

"Yes. We are."

He wasn't sure what he expected, but it wasn't, "I'm glad for you," spoken in a small voice.

"Are you?"

"Sure I am. But it means that you really don't need me anymore."

"You're wrong there, Princess. I'll always need you around. I'll call later, okay?"

"I'll be here," she told him. "I'm *always* here."

"Bye," he said, hanging up as he turned the SUV out of the parking area and toward Georgetown.

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

He took his sea bag, the broken down boxes and packing tape out of the back of the Lexus after parking it on the street, and carried them up to Mac's apartment. She met him at the door, taking the boxes from him, putting them down on the dining room table before turning back toward him to give him a long kiss.

"I've wanted to do that all day," she told him, linking her hands behind his neck. She had changed out of her uniform and was wearing jeans and an oversize t-shirt that had "MARINES" written in across the front.

Harm lowered his head to capture her lips again. "So have I," he told her. Lifting his head, he sniffed the air. "What's that I smell?" he asked.

"A surprise," she answered, pulling away from him to take his cover and put it beside the boxes. "I thought we could have dinner here before going back to the house."

"You made dinner?" he questioned.

"No. But I found some veggie lasagna in my freezer and put it on to cook."

"*You* had a frozen veggie lasagna just - laying around in your freezer?" he questioned.

"I - bought it last summer," she said. "While you were gone. Guessed I thought it would be something I could fix if you returned one of my calls and accepted an invitation to dinner."

"Ah. Well, it smells good, anyway," he told her, picking up one of the boxes and the tape. "Might as well get started while we're waiting for it to be ready."

"I think we can just take the clothes and such tonight - the rest can wait until the weekend."

"Speaking of the weekend," Harm said, handing her the first box, "I talked to Mattie earlier - she was disappointed about flying this weekend, and I thought - maybe -"

Mac looked at him. "You want to ask her to stay the weekend with us, don't you?"

"Would you mind? I mean, I know she's -"

"Harm - Mattie's important to you. And I think what you've done for her is a wonderful thing."


"I think it's what Uncle Matt would have done for me if he'd been around after my mother left. You'd made a real difference that girl's life by being there when she needed you. We already have two beds over there - we'll have three with mine. Besides, she can help with moving."

Harm's fingers curved around her neck and he gave her a kiss. "Thank you."

"Nothing to thank."

He released her slowly and picked up another box while she went into the bedroom. "How was your appointment?" he called out.

"It went well - Oh, Dr. McCool suggested Friday afternoon - if you can make it."

Harm thought a minute. "I'll be there," he promised, mentally rearranging what was already on his Friday schedule. There was nothing there that couldn't be postponed until Monday. Going with Mac, helping her, was more important than anything else. Carrying two more boxes into the bedroom, he put them on the bed. "What did the Admiral have to say?"

"He told me to put in the paperwork and he'd take care of it," she said, closing the flaps on the box she'd been packing and reaching for another. "He also said that Admiral Morris would agree to my staying at JAG on TAD when he doesn't need me as a judge."

Harm grinned. "Really?"

"He said that he'd even go to bat with whoever takes his place to keep the arrangement. The only time I'd have to stay with the judiciary is if you become temporary JAG."

"And that wouldn't be for long," he said, going over to the dresser and opening a drawer.

"Probably not." She paused, watching him. "Uh, Harm -"

He reached a hand in the drawer and pulled out a lacy nightgown, and then gave her a long, considering look before tossing the nightgown toward her and moving toward the closet. "I, uh, think I'll go get my bag and change out of my uniform," he decided, ignoring the giggle that came from Mac's direction.

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

After dinner, which was surprisingly good, even by Harm's high standards, they loaded the boxes into the SUV. On the last trip, Mac checked to make sure everything was secure before locking the door and following Harm back down to the vehicles.

He was talking on his cell phone when he got out of the vehicle in Falls Church. "Is that right? What times does it hit the newsstands?" he asked, grinning at Mac and giving her a "thumbs up" and mouthing "Ginny". Mac opened the back of the SUV and pulled out the first box to take it inside while Harm balanced a second on his hip and followed, still talking. "Really? How did they find out? . . . Oh. Uncle Stan. I see."

Mac shook her head as he started to follow her with the box and pointed toward the study before continuing upstairs with the one she was carrying. She was unpacking it and stowing the contents in the half of the dresser that they had agreed would be hers.

Harm appeared in the door with another box. "I think this one goes up here," he said, putting it onto the bed and opening it.

"What did our intrepid cub reporter have to say?" she asked as he put the clothes into her side of the closet.

He grinned, remembering how she had razzed him about thinking that Ginny Grainger was barely twenty, only to discover that she was almost Mac's age - and that her father had been in the Navy during the later years of Vietnam when she was born. "Her article will be in tomorrow morning's edition of the Gazette," he informed her. "And she's already been contacted by a local news station about it." Seeing Mac glance at him in surprise, he explained, "Her uncle contacted them and 'leaked' the story that Ginny had been given an exclusive interview with Krennick and that she had some information that was very important to the case."


"She's going to talk to them tomorrow after the paper hits the newsstands."

"I'll keep my fingers crossed that it will be enough to make Barris back down and Sturgis rethink his position."

"You heard Krennick, Mac. She doesn't want him to just back down. She wants a full retraction of the accusation and her name cleared. And if it takes finishing the court-martial, then that's what she'll do."

Mac stopped folding clothes and looked at him.


"The way you were talking just now - About Allison Krennick. Is this the same man who was so worried about being alone with her last night?"

"After listening to her talk to Ginny today, and having a cup of coffee with her after you left JAG, I realize she was telling the truth: she *has* changed. She'd make one hell of a JAG, if they give it to her." Seeing the look she was giving him, he asked, "What?"

"Who are you and what have you done with my Harmon Rabb?"

"I like that," he said.

Now it was Mac's turn to ask, "What?"

"*My* Harmon Rabb," he repeated with a wide grin.

"Well, don't let it go to your head, Flyboy," she replied, grabbing a pillow from the bed and tossing it at him. "We still have a few boxes to unpack and you need to call Mattie."

Harm caught the pillow before it impacted with his face, tossing it back onto the bed as he took a step toward her. "And after that?" he asked.

Mac grinned as well, keeping her eyes fixed on Harm. "That's for me to know -" she said, picking up the pillow again. "And you to find out," she finished, shoving the pillow into his arms. With a soft laugh, she left the room and took the stairs back downstairs, hearing Harm's laughter and footsteps close behind.

His strong arms slid around her waist as she tried to get through the kitchen, pulling her around to face him. "How about a sneak preview?" he suggested.

Mac linked her arms around his neck, pulling his head down to hers for a long kiss that was designed to leave him wanting more.

But somewhere along the line, the power shifted, and she felt his arms close around her, pulling her close and lifting her from the floor and onto the counter of the center island. His long fingers slipped underneath the hem of her t-shirt to stroke the skin of her back before moving around to cup her lace-covered breasts.

Breaking the kiss, Mac gasped, "Harm -"

"Hmm?" he mumbled with his lips against her neck.

"I thought this was supposed to be *my* sneak preview?" she told him, smiling.

"Change in plans," he said, moving back enough so that he could grasp the bottom of her t-shirt and pull it over her head.

"What about the boxes?" she asked, trying to ignore the trail of fire that his fingertip left as it moved along the edge of the white lace over her sensitive breasts. "They're still out there, waiting to be unpacked."

"They'll be there when we're finished," Harm assured her, lifting her from the counter and letting her slide down his body to his feet. Mac swallowed a groan as she felt how ready he was for her. "Unless you'd *rather* unpack boxes," he said, starting to turn away.

Mac grabbed his arm to stop him. With a deft movement, she stripped his t-shirt over his head and tossed it aside to join hers. "I didn't say that, exactly," she told him, taking his hand to lead him back toward the stairs . . .

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

Sometime later, after Harm carried the last of the boxes into the house, he called Mattie while Mac started unpacking what she could. She picked up the phone on the first ring.


"You must have been sitting on that phone," he teased.

"I've been waiting for you to call," she replied. "And I didn't want the phone to wake *him* up."

Glancing at his watch, Harm found himself frowning. It was barely 2015. "He's asleep?"

"Yeah. Said he'd had a hard day at work," Mattie said quickly. "Did you talk to Mac?"

"I did. Would you like to come and stay here with us for the weekend?" he asked. "Saturday morning until Sunday evening?"

"Sure!" she replied eagerly. "I mean, you sure that Mac's okay with it? I won't be a third wheel or anything, will I?"

Harm smiled. "No. You won't be a third wheel. Listen Mattie, I'll need to talk to Tom, make sure that it's okay with him," Harm said.

"I'm sure it will be," she told him.

"And you're going to be working for your keep," he warned, making a mental note to call Tom Johnson at work the next day.


"Mac and I need another back to help move the rest of her things from her apartment over here."

"No problem," she assured him. "I'll just be glad to be out of this place."

"I thought you missed Blacksburg?" Harm questioned.

"I do. I just don't miss - never mind. I'll see you on Saturday morning."

"We'll drive out to pick you up -"

"I'll get a ride in," Mattie said at the same time, and they both laughed.

"We'll pick you up," Harm told her in a firm tone.

"Cool! I'll be waiting! Tell Mac I said 'hi'."

"I will." Harm hung up the phone and sat there as Mac continued to unpack some of the kitchen items she'd decided to bring.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"Mattie said to tell you 'hi'."

"And that's causing the frown?" Leaving the box on the counter, she brought the coffee pot over to the table sat down with him after refilling both of the cups there. "Harm?"

"I'm getting some strange vibes from Mattie. Like she's trying to tell me something by *not* telling me."

Mac reached out to cover his hand with hers. "You've got a lot of practice at deciphering that kind of thing," she reminded him. "Maybe she'll talk about whatever's going on this weekend. They might just be going through a rough patch, getting used to each other again."

"I know. When she left, I told her she'd always have a place to come if she needed it - but I want her to try to work things out - not just - run away."

"And if he's drinking again?" Mac asked.

"Do you think he might be?"

"It's a possibility. Tom's still in a fragile place in his recovery, Harm. The first year - Maybe - maybe having Mattie back was too much of a reminder of what happened to her mother -"

She watched the expressions that crossed Harm's face, ending with a look of determination. "If he is, Mac, I can't let her stay there. I'll go back to court and get custody again." His blue-green eyes lifted to her. "I know you didn't expect to -"

"We'll handle it," she assured him. Standing up, she moved to place her hands on his shoulders, massaging them, wincing at how tight the muscles were beneath her fingers.

"That feels good," he sighed.

Mac ran her hands down his arms, leaning forward to speak into his ear. "I think the rest of the boxes will wait. Why don't we go to bed?"

"We need to go over the witness list for tomorrow," he told her.

"We'll get up early and do it," she said, taking his hands and pulling him to his feet. "Right now, you need some TLC."

Harm gave her his patented smile. "TLC huh?"

"Um hmm," she nodded, leading him toward the stairs and up them, pulling him into the bedroom. When Harm would have pulled her close, Mac shook her head. "This time, you let *me* take care of *you*."

"Mac -"

"Shh," she said, placing a finger against his lips. "Just relax and enjoy it."


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