"How's Mattie, sir?" Jen asked when Harm arrived the next morning. "Clay and I saw what happened last night on the news."
Harm gave her a surprised look. "A newly engaged couple watching the news?"
She shrugged. "What can I say, sir? He's an ex-spook. And as a poly-sci teacher, he says that keeping up with world events is part of his preparation." She grinned. "Besides, I didn't say *where* we were when we watched it, sir."
"To much information, Jen," Harm said with a laugh. "To answer your question, Mattie's okay. Her friend Liz is staying with us until her father gets back from Iraq. Speaking of which, I need you to put me in touch with his CO over at Ft. Lee. I promised to try and expedite things on this end."
"Yes, sir." She spent the next few minutes filling him in on his schedule for the day - including a preliminary meeting with Admiral Krennick that afternoon which hadn't been on his calendar the previous day - before leaving the office.
Harm picked up his cup of tea, looking around the office. This afternoon, after the meeting with Krennick, he would start the process of moving back into his old office. She was due to take the oath to get her second-star tomorrow afternoon, and then be sworn in as the new JAG. The place was already a media circus, with reporters trying to trip someone up and get a scoop about how the personnel *really* felt about serving under the first female JAG. Tomorrow was going to be a hundred times worse.
Opening the first of the files that Jen had brought him, Harm set to work on the case reports he still needed to sign off on before change of command.
Near lunchtime, Harm glanced toward the open door of his office to find Clayton Webb standing there, eyeing him nervously. "Sorry. I was supposed to pick Jen up for lunch, but she's not at her desk -"
"She took some files downstairs," Harm said, standing up. "She'll be back in a minute. Come on in. I was going to call you last night, but -"
Clay nodded. "I saw. Things okay now?" he asked as they shook hands.
"Yeah. Sit down," Harm said, indicating the chairs. "Before anything else, I want to congratulate you on your engagement to Jen, Clay."
Clay looked surprised. "I thought you - didn't approve -"
"Hey. As long as Jen's happy. That's what matters. But if you do anything to make her unhappy - let's just say that she's like a sister to me, and -"
"Message received," Clay said with a smile. "I'm going to try my best, Harm. I was going to call you, too. I - well, I don't have a lot of friends. And even considering everything that's happened between us, I, uh -" he took a deep breath. "Would you consider being my best man, Harm?"
Harm sat there for a moment, stunned. "Sure. I mean, I'd consider it an honor, Clay. So have you set a date?"
"Not yet. Logistics are hell. And I know Mother's probably called Jen ten times this morning with suggestions."
Harm laughed. "She told me that you convinced her that the National Cathedral was out for the ceremony."
Clay groaned. "She's determined to make this wedding into major social event. I've been thinking about trying to convince Jen to elope."
"And disappoint your mother?" Harm questioned.
"I know," Clay said with a sigh. "I wouldn't do it. But it's nice to think about. Jen called AJ in Naples last night and asked him to come back to give her away."
"What did he say?"
"I think he'll be here. If for no other reason than to threaten to kick my ass."
"You should have expected it, Clay," Harm pointed out. "Jen means a lot to just about all of us. She saved Bud's life."
"There you are," Jen said, coming into the office.
Clay stood and went to her while Harm said, "We were having a chat while he waited. If the two of you don't have any plans for this evening, why don't you come to dinner? I know Mattie would love to see you."
"Shouldn't you ask the Colonel first, sir?" Jen asked.
"I'm the one who'll be doing most of the cooking. Say yes."
"We'll be there," Clay told him. "What time?"
Harm thought quickly. "Mattie has volleyball practice - Damn. I meant to tell you, Jen, that I need my schedule clear after three so I can pick the girls up after school and drive them to practice -"
"Your meeting with Admiral Krennick is at two-thirty, sir," she reminded him.
"Three?" Clay asked.
"Yeah. Volleyball practice is at the Y -"
"I can do it. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my light days. No afternoon classes."
"I don't want to impose, Clay -"
"It's no imposition," Clay insisted. "I'll be there at three -" he stopped. "Did you say 'girls'? Plural?"
Jen smiled at him, taking his arm. "I'll explain over lunch, Clay. Permission to take lunch now, sir?"
"Permission granted Petty Officer," he said, still smiling at the thought of Clayton Webb stuck in a car with two teenage girls . . .
"You didn't agree, did you?" Mac asked when Harm told her about Clay's offer to pick the girls up. Seeing Harm's smile, she rolled her eyes. "You're cruel, Harm."
"Hey, he volunteered, remember? Oh, they're coming to dinner this evening."
"I figure we owe him a meal."
"And guess what? He asked me to be his best man." He grinned. "Don't look now, but your mouth is open."
"Admiral on deck!" someone called, and through the door, Harm saw Jen rise to attention.
"As you were, everyone," Allison Krennick's distinctive voice called out. When she entered the office, Harm was already on his feet, but she waved toward him. "Keep your seat, Commander. Might as well get all the time you can in that chair before I take it over," she said, sitting down in one of the chairs in front of the desk. "You're looking good, Harm," she said with a smile. "Married life must agree with you."
He chuckled. "Never been happier, Admiral."
"It shows," she told him.
"Ready to take over?" he asked.
"Sounds like you're ready to turn the reins over, Harm," she noted with her trademark smirk. "I'm just about settled into the house in McLean," she told him. "In fact, that's why I came in today. Doing nothing all day isn't my style." Harm remembered that she had made arrangements to lease AJ's place in the suburbs while he was in Italy with Francesca. "Is everything ready for tomorrow?" she asked.
"Just about. Extra security will be in place by tomorrow afternoon for the ceremony in the front courtyard."
Allison nodded in approval. "Good. The ceremony is scheduled for 1400, so I'd like to be ready to hit the floor running up here by then."
"Not planning on wasting any time, hmm?"
"I can't afford to," she replied. "This office is gong to be under a microscope for the next several months. From the media, from Congress, from almost every watchdog out there - all because I just happen to be a woman - the first female JAG that the military's ever had. So we need to make sure every thing is done by the book. Every 'I' dotted, every 't' crossed just so. I don't want to give anyone any reason to doubt me *or* this office."
"Understood, ma'am," Harm agreed.
"As soon as the ceremony downstairs is over, I want to meet all of the senior staff. I believe I know most of them - Lt. Col. Grimes served at Pearl for a few months. He's a capable attorney. Nowhere near *your* caliber," she finished with a grin.
"But who is?" Harm asked, grinning. "Truthfully, Kren - Admiral," he said, correcting the slip-up quickly, "I'm looking forward to getting back into the courtroom."
"Getting bored reading reports and signing off on cases, Harm?" she suggested.
"A little," he admitted. "Never thought I'd miss it as much as I do."
"What's it feel like to kill your mother?"
Mattie saw Liz' face pale even more than it usual at the question and glared at the boy who had asked it. "Get lost, Patrick."
"Who's gonna make me?" he asked, nodding toward Liz. "She gonna push me down and bash my head in?"
Mattie heard Liz' gasp of horror as she confronted the boy, refusing to back down. "No, but *I* might if you don't shut that big mouth of yours and try to put yourself in her place." Mac had been teaching her how to kick-box, but until now she hadn't had any opportunity to use the skill. She wasn't even sure she could against a real opponent. But she was willing to try on this loudmouth if he kept talking.
Clay pulled his car up to the curb and looked around for Mattie's familiar face. When he finally located her, standing with a smaller, dark-haired girl, facing down a much bigger young man, he frowned and got out of the car to approach the scene.
"That's a little tough to do," the boy was saying. "I wouldn't want to kill my mother."
Just as he saw Mattie tense, Clay stepped in. "Is there a problem here?" He noticed Mattie's surprised look upon hearing his voice, but kept his eyes focused on the bully who was giving her and her friend a rough time.
"No," the boy said, obviously deciding that it wouldn't be a good idea to try and intimidate an adult. With a final glance at Mattie and the dark haired girl, he turned and moved toward the parking lot.
Clay looked at Mattie. "Everything okay?"
"You're a lifesaver, Clay," she told him, glaring after the boy. "*His*. Another minute and I would have found out if Mac's kickboxing lessons had paid off."
Shaking his head, Clay sighed. "And you would have gotten kicked out of school for fighting," he reminded her. "Tough to get into the academy with that on your record."
Mattie sighed as well. "You're right. I didn't know you were coming to pick us up. I thought Harm -"
"He had a last minute meeting with Admiral Krennick that he couldn't get out of. And Mac's in court. So I volunteered to play taxi-driver," he told her, looking at the dark haired girl, who still looked pale and uncertain. Smiling at her, Clay held out his hand. "Clayton Webb."
She gave him a shy smile in return, putting her hand into his. "L-Liz Logan."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Liz," he said. Including Mattie in his glance, he asked, "We ready to go? Harm mentioned that volleyball practice starts in half an hour -"
Mattie took Liz' arm to guide the girl toward Clay's BMW. "So, is it true?" she asked.
"Is what true?"
"That you and Jen are going to get married," Mattie said, getting into the back seat with Liz.
"It's true," he told her with a smile.
"Yay!" Mattie whooped in delight, causing Clay to flinch. She turned to Liz. "I'm the one who got them together in the first place. You'll like Jen, Liz. She's totally cool."
"And I'm not?" Clay asked, glancing at her in the rearview mirror.
"You're cool, but a different kind of cool," Mattie clarified without clarifying anything.
"Oh." He looked at Liz, who was sitting in the back seat, looking a little less distraught.
"Clay used to work for the State Department," Mattie told Liz, who looked impressed, and Clay gave Mattie an approving look for not telling her friend the truth.
"Really?" Liz asked, looking at Clay.
"Assistant to the Undersecretary of State," he confirmed. "Pretty boring job, really."
"More boring than teaching?" Mattie questioned, telling Liz, "He teaches political science now."
"There are trade offs," Clay said, answering Mattie's question. "At least with this job I'm not traveling all the time."
"Clay's been everywhere," Mattie informed her friend.
"Even to Iraq?" Liz asked.
"I've been there a couple of times," he told her.
"My dad's been over there for almost a year now," Liz said. "He's a Marine."
"Which reminds me, Harm told me that he spoke with your father's CO - he should be home before you know it."
"I hope so."
Clay pulled up outside of the Y and dropped the girls off. "I'll find a place to park."
"You're going to come in and watch us?" Liz asked.
"He's got orders, Liz," Mattie said. "And Clayton Webb always follows orders, right?"
"When they come from Harm and Mac, you bet. See you inside."
He watched them enter the building before pulling back out to find a parking garage. Liz Logan's dark eyes kept haunting him as he parked the car and walked back to the Y. Entering the gymnasium, he saw Liz sitting midway up the bleachers, a book open on her lap. As the girls came out of the locker room to practice, Mattie waved at Clay, and he saw her say something to one of her teammates before he climbed the bleachers to join Liz.
"You're not playing?"
"I don't play sports," she told him. "I used to, before my dad left. My mom didn't think they were important and it was too hard to get a ride everyday -"
"Maybe you should give it another shot," Clay suggested, watching the girls take their positions on the court.
"It's too far into the season now," she told him. "Maybe next year."
"Losing a parent's not easy, is it?" he asked, still watching as Mattie spiked the ball over the net, making a point for her side. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Liz turn to look at him.
"No. Did you -"
He nodded. "My dad died when I was around ten or so."
"Did you and he get along?"
"He wasn't home much. He worked for the government and traveled a lot."
"Like you did."
"A lot like I did. I used to wonder if maybe he stayed away because he didn't want to be around me. It wasn't true, but at the time, I couldn't help but wonder. Then we got word that he'd been killed and, well, then it was just me and my mother."
"Are you close?"
"Most people would think so."
"My mom and I weren't close," she sighed. "I think she hated me."
"I doubt that," Clay said, looking at her. "From my understanding, she had a problem with drinking too much. I can understand that as well." Seeing Liz' surprise, he nodded. "It changes you. Makes you do and say things that you wouldn't normally say or do. Skews the way you look at things. If it hadn't been for my friends, people like Harm and Mac -" he nodded toward the game, "Mattie. And Jen - I don't like to think about what might have happened."
"What about your mother? Couldn't she stop you?"
"Mother didn't know there was a problem. Or if she did, she pretended it didn't exist. What I'm trying to say is that you need to let your friends in to help, Liz. It's the only way you'll get through this. Handling problems on your own just makes them seem that much more insurmountable."
She gave him another shy smile. "Thank you."
"Taking the trouble to talk to me. All day long everyone - except for Mattie and her folks - they either ignored me or -"
"Or did what that bully did earlier?"
"Yeah. Poor Mattie's had to take up for me all day."
"I don't think she minds," Clay said, watching as Mattie spiked the winning point and was congratulated by her teammates as she looked up toward them. Clay gave her a "thumbs up". "What are you trying to study?"
Liz smiled. "Government. I'm having some problems with it."
"Just so happens that's my specialty," he told her. "Maybe I can help."
After dinner, Mattie and Liz went upstairs to do their homework, sharing Mattie's books, since Liz' were still at her house, which she said she wasn't ready to go back to just yet. Luckily, while she was shorter than Mattie, most of Mattie's clothes would fit her, so that wasn't a problem. Liz thanked Clay for helping her with her government assignment before they left the adults in the living room.
"I think you've made a conquest there, Clay," Harm teased his friend, and Jen picked it up from there.
"Should I be jealous?" she wondered, grinning when Clay looked a little flustered.
"I'm just trying to help the kid out. She's been through a rough time."
"Yeah," Jen nodded in agreement, rubbing a hand over his back. "I was just teasing."
"Hopefully her father will home tomorrow evening," Mac told them. "Thursday at the latest. She said this morning that she wasn't sure she wanted to go back over to the house until he was with her."
"Probably a good idea," Harm agreed. "That's not going to be easy for her anytime."
"Why don't we talk about something a little happier?" Mac suggested. "Like your wedding plans? Still no idea about a date?"
"We've narrowed it down to New Year's Eve or next June," Jen answered as Clay turned to look at her.
"When did we do that?"
"By *we* I meant your mother and I. She called this afternoon."
"She *agreed* to New Year's Eve?" he questioned.
"No. That was my suggestion. She insisted that it was 'far too soon' and that wouldn't have nearly enough time to get everything done before then."
"Which is why you suggested it," Harm guessed, smiling.
Jen returned his smile. "My original suggestion was Christmas Eve, and I let her 'talk' me into New Year's Eve."
"That's only -" Clay began, thinking.
"A little over two weeks," Mac finished. "Are you sure that's enough time, Jen?"
"Probably not, but Porter doesn't need to know I said that," she said. "I'm sure we'll settle somewhere around the middle of April. Around spring break. That way Clay will have a week off and I should be able to convince Admiral Krennick to let me take some leave time."
"I'm sure she'll give you whatever leave time you need, Jen," Harm told her. "Allison Krennick's by the book, but she's fair."
"She's seemed okay the few times I've met her," Jen acknowledged.
"Tomorrow's going to be hectic, I imagine," Clay pointed out.
Harm laughed. "Yeah. Between Krennick's getting her second star, being officially given command of JAG and the press conference, I can already see myself popping down almost a full bottle of aspirin."
"You love it and you know it, Harm," Mac said, picking up her cup. "Anyone ready for more coffee?" she asked.
Three other cups were raised, and Mac looked around at them. Jen stood up, taking hers and Clay's. "Why don't I help you, ma'am?" she suggested.
"Thank you, Jen," Mac said as they moved toward the doorway. "We'll be right back."
"You need someone to pick the girls up tomorrow?" Clay asked Harm.
"You don't have a late class?"
"My teaching assistant is taking tomorrow afternoon's classes. I wouldn't miss tomorrow's fireworks at JAG for anything," Clay told him.
Harm grinned. "If you wouldn't mind. Mattie doesn't have volleyball practice, but you could bring them home -"
"No problem. I'll be there."
"Turing into a family man, Clay?" Harm said, teasing.
"Might as well get in practice. Jen wants a big family."
Mac refilled the four cups, deciding to make a fresh pot while they were in the kitchen. "You're not upset that I'm going to marry Clay, are you, ma'am?" Jen asked as she watched.
"Upset?" Mac repeated, giving her a surprised look. "No. Whatever was between Clay and I was over a long time ago. I'm happy you two have found each other. I think you're good for him."
Jen smiled. "Porter says that same thing."
"Now *that* I don't envy you. At least Trish lives in California and doesn't interfere - except to ask when she's going to have another grandchild," she said, grimacing in frustration. "But Porter Webb - don't tell anyone this, but she managed to intimidate *me*."
"She did me, too, at first, ma'am. But once she realized that I wasn't going to go away and that Clay and I were in love - I stopped being intimidated." She grinned. "Maybe it's from dealing with officers for so long."
"Well, I still wouldn't want to be in your shoes. You know she's going to try her best to take that wedding over."
"I think we'll eventually compromise, ma'am," Jen said. "About the wedding - I have a *slight* problem that maybe you can help me solve."
Mac turned to look at her. "I'll do what I can, Jen."
"Well, I've been trying to decide who to ask to be my maid of honor. You know that Clay asked the Commander to be his best man?" Mac nodded yes. "Well, I've known you almost as long as I've known him - and well, you'd be my first choice, but - then there's Mattie. We were room mates and best friends, and well -"
"And you're worried that whichever of us ends up being a bridesmaid will resent it," Mac finished.
"Something like that, ma'am. What should I do?"
"It doesn't make any difference to me, Jen, I'd be honored to just be a bridesmaid."
"Then you wouldn't mind if I asked her to be my maid of honor?"
"I think she'd be delighted."
"Then I'll ask her."
"Before I forget, we're having dinner here on Christmas Eve. You and Jen are invited."
Clay considered the invitation for a moment. "That'll work. I usually spend Christmas Eve with Mother if I'm in town, but if Jen and I go over there Christmas Day things will be okay. Besides, I need to talk to Bud Roberts about being a groomsman. And I think Jen's planning on asking Harriet about little AJ being the ring-bearer." He shook his head. "I don't know how you and Mac managed to pull everything together in such a short amount of time, Harm."
"We didn't have my mother looking over our shoulders second-guessing every decision," Harm pointed out. "And we were set on a small ceremony. Neither of us have a lineage we can trace back to the Mayflower."
"Don't remind me," Clay said, burying his face in his hands.
"Don't remind you of what?" Jen asked as she and Mac entered the room, carrying the coffee.
Clay took his as he gave Harm a warning look. "Uhm, uh -"
"That Clay's family came over on the Mayflower," Harm said.
Jen's eyes grew as big as saucers as she turned to look at her fiancé. "Did they?"
"Thanks a lot, *friend*," Clay muttered, glaring at Harm as he sink into the sofa.
"Clay? Is it true?"
"They didn't come on the Mayflower," he hedged, and mumbled the rest of his answer.
"What was that?" Jen asked.
He exhaled. "They arrived in 1617," he said more clearly. "In Jamestown."
"Jamestown?" Jen questioned in disbelief.
"You mean Porter didn't mention her DAR meetings?" Mac asked, unable to resist joining in. "She mentioned it to me the first time *I* met her. All about how there was a Webb who was a spy for George Washington during the Revolutionary War."
"Oh, damn," Jen breathed. "Damn."
"It doesn't mean anything, Jen," Clay insisted. "Who cares when someone's family came here -?"
"Your mother, obviously," Jen pointed out. "She's *not* going to make me attend those meetings, is she?"
Clay managed a smile. "Jen, honey, I don't think my mother could make *you* do anything unless it's something you want to do," he reassured her as he slid an arm around her shoulders.
Harm sat back. "I don't know, Jen. If you decided to stay in the Navy and attend OCS after college, an affiliation with the DAR might look pretty good on your records."
"Are you enjoying yourself, Rabb?" Clay asked. "Because it's not too late for me to find someone else to be my best man."
Harm raised his hands in surrender. "Okay. Okay. I'm done. Not another word. I promise."
Jen sat there, still stunned by the realization that the man was planning to marry had roots deeper than she'd probably ever imagined. "Jen?" Clay said, taking her hand. "This doesn't change anything. You know that. I don't give a damn about -"
"I know. It's just - a shock. I didn't expect -"
Clay glanced at his watch. "We have to be going - I'll see you both tomorrow. Thanks for dinner."
"You don't have to -" Harm began.
"We didn't mean to cause any problems," Mac insisted as Clay held Jen's coat for her.
"You didn't, ma'am," Jen assured her with a smile. "It's okay. I just need some time to get used to the idea that I'm marrying into all of that."
Clay lifted his eyes toward the ceiling as Harm went to the stairs and called up to the girls. "Clay and Jen are leaving, girls, you want to say bye?"
Mattie and Liz appeared on the landing and came down the stairs, followed by Dammit. "Bye, Jen. Bye, Clay," Mattie said, giving them each a hug.
"Goodnight, Liz," Clay said, and was rewarded by another of her smiles.
"Goodnight, Clay. Jen."
"Clay's picking the two of you up after school again tomorrow," Harm informed the girls, and Liz's smile brightened at the news.
"I'll see you then," Clay told Liz, who nodded before following Mattie back upstairs.
Harm held out his hand toward Clay. "No hard feelings?"
Clay hesitated only a moment before taking the hand. "One of these days, Harm -"
"Thank you again for dinner," Jen said.
Mac and Harm stood on the porch as the couple got into the BMW and drove away before going back inside. "Brr. It's getting colder out there," Mac said, rubbing her hands together.
Harm wrapped his arms around her. "That better?" he asked.
"Hmm. You don't think we were too hard on Clay, do you?"
"He'll get over it. Jen had to find out sometime." She smiled. "I'd love to be a fly on the wall the first time she tells Porter she won't go to a DAR meeting with her."
"Wanna bet?" Mac asked.
"Let's make it interesting. If she doesn't go, you're on KP for a full week."
"And if she does?"
"Then I have to take care of dinner for that week."
"Which means pizzas and Chinese take-out," he teased.
"Is it a deal?" she asked, moving far enough away to hold out her hand to seal the deal.
"It's a deal. But let's seal it this way," he suggested, pulling her back into his arms and giving her a kiss.
"Ewww, gross!" Mattie cried. "Come on, guys! We have company!"
Mac started to laugh, resting her head against Harm's chest, and a moment later, Harm joined her.
Mattie and Liz just shook their heads at the crazy adults and continued into the kitchen to get something to drink.
"I, Allison Krennick., do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of Rear Admiral, Upper Half in the United States Navy. So help me God."
Harm and Mac stood at parade rest to one side of the chairs before the grandstand with the rest of the JAG personnel, watching as Edward Sheffield administered the oath to Allison Krennick. When SecNav congratulated her, Harm called the personnel to orders, and they saluted their new commanding officer, holding it until she returned the salute. Harm ordered parade rest again, and thought he saw a sparkle in Krennick's eyes at his little surprise.
It was then that Sheffield turned to the microphone to make the larger, more important announcement, the one that all of the reporters and camera crews were waiting for with barely concealed anticipation.
"Since it's so cold out today, and most of these people have work to do, I'll make this brief," he began, and a ripple of laughter ran through the gathered non-military guests. "When Admiral AJ Chegwidden made the decision to retire, we knew that choosing someone to take his place would not be an easy task. Admiral Chegwidden served with distinction as the Navy's Judge Advocate General for nearly 8 years. He helped to build JAG into something that is widely respected, with no small amount of help from a capable staff. I am proud to say that the President and Congress have found someone with an impressive record as an attorney, administrator and career Naval officer. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present Admiral Allison Krennick, the Navy's Judge Advocate General." Sheffield stood at the podium at Krennick's side as flashbulbs went off.
Finally he moved off, leaving her alone in the spotlight. "I've agreed to answer a few questions at this time, so - who wants to be first?"
"So, do you feel that you'll have a problem taking over JAG after the long tenure of the previous JAG?" someone asked.
"As I'm sure you're all aware, I served with Admiral Chegwidden when he was first appointed as Judge Advocate General," she informed him. "I have nothing but admiration for him. I hope that during my time as his adjutant, I learned enough from him to make me even half as good a commanding officer as he was. If so, I'll be a damn good one."
Harm saw Mac take a deep breath and hold it for a moment in response to Allison's comment.
"Less than a year ago, you were accused of sexual harassment by a male officer in your command. There have been other reports of sexual harassment around the Navy for the last few years, on board carriers, on land. Is that going to be something you'll be fighting with more aggressiveness?"
"More aggressiveness than what?" she returned. "The question sounds as if you believe my predecessor wasn't 'aggressive' on that issue. I'm not going into this with a personal agenda other than to uphold the UCMJ and the Constitution." She pointed to another reporter.
"But, as a female in a male dominated career, don't you see it as your - calling to uphold the rights of women in the military?"
"My 'calling' as you put it - is serving my country to the best of my ability. I'm a Naval officer first, a woman second."
Harm saw her glance in his direction and turned to the JAG personnel with him, silently signaling that they were free to return to their duty stations. He and Mac followed them inside, going directly to the conference room, where Nate Grimes, Bud, and Jason Tiner were waiting for them, along with Jen.
"How much longer do you think she'll be, sir?" Jason asked.
Jen had moved over to the windows along the wall. "She just left the grandstand and is talking to the SecNav," she informed them. "She's on her way into the building.
"Okay, people," Harm said. "It's show time. Places."
While Mac wasn't officially due to start back at JAG until the following Monday, Admiral Morris had agreed that she should be here for the change of command. She took her place beside Harm across from Harm at the conference table. Beside her was Bud, and across from him sat Lt. Col. Grimes. Jen sat beside the Marine and Lt. Tiner was across from her.
When the door opened, all six of them rose to their feet beside the table to stand at attention. Allison Krennick came to the head of the table. "As you were." She stood there for a moment, her eyes moving to each of them. "I believe I'm already acquainted with everyone here. Lt. Grimes, the last time I saw you, it was still Maj. Grimes. Congratulations."
"Thank you, ma'am," he said.
"Congratulation to you as well, Lt. Commander Roberts." Bud smiled at the mention. "And Lt. Tiner." She shook her head. "It's difficult to believe that the last time I saw *you*, you were just starting out as Admiral Chegwidden's yeoman. Now you're a JAG lawyer."
"Yes, ma'am," Jason said, also smiling.
Allison took a deep breath. "Commander Rabb has done an excellent job of running JAG during the interim between Admiral Chegwidden's retirement and my appointment to the position. I'd like to thank him, and confirm that he will remain on as my Chief of Staff. I'm sure that the next few weeks will be a settling in period for all of us as we get to know each other. As 'new kid on the block' so to speak, I fully expect that we'll have problems that need to be resolved, but I'm sure that we'll be able to handle whatever comes our way to maintain the reputation and integrity of this office." She sat down in the chair at the head of the table, studying one of the files there. "Lt. Col. Mackenzie, you're due to be back with us beginning next week, is that correct?"
"Do you have time while finishing your current duties upstairs to begin working on pre-trial for a case or would you prefer to wait until Monday?"
"Monday might be better, ma'am," Mac told her.
Allison nodded, understanding. Harm had informed her about the current state of affairs in the Mackenzie-Rabb household to give her a heads up in case either of her two senior attorneys needed to take time off with little warning. "Very well. You'll sit second chair to the Commander on this, then," she decided, handing a file to Harm and another to Nate. "You will be defending Marine Major Jack Gregson at his Article 32 hearing to see if he should be court martialed for mutiny against his commanding officer . . ."
Harm was just finishing up the daily reports when Jen Coates knocked on his office door. "Excuse me, Commander, there's someone here to see you."
He looked up to see a Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant standing just behind the Petty Officer. "Master Gunnery Sergeant Logan?" he questioned, standing and coming around the desk as the man snapped to attention. "At ease, Gunny. Thank you, Coates," he said. "Sit down, Gunny," he said. "You got here quickly."
"My CO thought I should be here, Commander. How is Lizzie?" he looked exhausted, Harm thought, as if he hadn't slept since getting the call about his wife's death.
"She's better than expected. The police want to talk to you, but they aren't going to charge her with anything. The autopsy confirmed her story. Your wife's blood alcohol level was nearly high enough to have killed her without anyone else's involvement."
Logan ran a hand over his face. "She told me that she would quit drinking. That was the only reason I left Lizzie with her instead of making other arrangements." He looked up at Harm. "It stinks, you know, sir? Having to choose your career over your family." Immediately he looked contrite at the words. "I'm sorry, sir."
"It's fine. I can relate, Gunny. It's never an easy decision. Especially these days. I'll be ready to leave here in another few minutes. Why don't you sit there while I finish up and we'll go see Liz?"
"Thank you, sir. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you and your wife taking her in."
"Let's just say I have a habit of taking in strays," Harm told him, going back to his chair and sitting down. "This won't take long. Just finishing daily reports for the new JAG."
"Admiral Krennick's a stickler for detail, isn't she?" Logan questioned, and Harm frowned, looking at him.
"You know the Admiral?"
"I served with her in San Diego for a few months before I went to OCS."
Harm tried to remember if he had mentioned Logan's name to the Admiral when he'd been telling her about Liz and her problems. He hadn't. "Gunny, how would you feel about a billet at JAG?" he questioned.
"We need someone with a law enforcement background for research and help on investigations. You're military police. The job would also entail keeping this place running smoothly."
"Pushing paper and lawyers around, sir?" Logan questioned.
Harm grinned. "It's got to be easier than pushing Jarheads around."
"I don't know, sir," Logan said with a grin of his own. "At least Jarheads follow orders."
"Look at it this way: it's a position that will keep you in the area," Harm pointed out. "After everything that's happened, uprooting Liz now would probably do her as much harm as it would do good." He looked at the man. "Would you be willing to consider it? If so, I'll go speak with the Admiral -"
"If she offers, sir, I'll consider it. I have some leave time coming, and right now, I think I need to spend it with my daughter."
"Agreed," Harm nodded, finishing the report and putting it into a folder before indicating that Logan should follow him to Jen's office to turn it in. "Is the Admiral busy, Coates?" he asked.
She glanced at the telephone. "Not at the moment, sir."
"Would you see if she'll see us?"
Jen picked up the phone. "Admiral, Commander Rabb would like to see you for a moment if you're not busy." She hung up the phone a moment later. "She said to go in."
Harm still paused at the door, knocking once with his fist on the frame. "Enter."
"Clay's nice," Liz said as she and Mattie did their math homework.
"Yeah," Mattie agreed. "If I wasn't totally in love with Mike Roberts, I'd be upset about him and Jen."
Liz smiled. "Didn't you say that Mike's older than you are?"
"So? Clay's fifteen years older than Jen. Mike's only about ten years older than I am. That's not so much. Of course, Harm doesn't see it that way." She looked up when she heard the garage door opening. "They're home." Dammit heard the sound as well, and ran out of the study to greet them. "Not a word about Mike, okay? Harm goes ballistic."
Liz made a show of pretending to close a zipper on her mouth in agreement. "What'd you get on number 10?" she asked.
"Do it again."
"I'm sure that's right -"
"I got something else."
"Then maybe you did it wrong," Mattie suggested, knowing better. Liz was great at math. Almost as good as Harm and Jen. But she started to erase he answer to redo the problem, only to stop and frown when she heard Dammit barking. "I'll be right back," she said to Liz. Dammit never barked unless she wanted out, and that wasn't her 'I want out' bark.
Entering the kitchen, she stopped just inside the door as she almost ran into the man with Harm and Mac. He was wearing a Marine uniform with Master Gunnery Sergeant's insignia on his sleeve - Harm quickly placed a finger to his lips, warning her to be quiet, pulling her to his side with one arm and indicating that the Gunny should go on ahead.
Mattie looked up at Harm and Mac, smiling at them as the three of them followed behind at a slower pace.
From across the entry hall, they heard Liz' father say, "Hello, Lizzie," in a quiet voice.
"D-Daddy?" Liz said, and then was in her father's arms, being held tightly.
"I'm so sorry, baby," he said, his voice ragged. "I'm so sorry I wasn't here for you."
"You're here now," Liz said. "And that's what matters. I wasn't sure you'd come back. M-mom said you wouldn't."
"I'm here, Lizzie. And I'm going to stay. "
She looked up at him. "You're staying?"
"Would you like that?"
Harm touched Mac and Mattie's shoulders, nodding back toward the kitchen and then moved in that direction to give father and daughter some privacy, using the opportunity of facing away from them to wipe a tear away that ran down his cheek while the two women in his life hugged each other.
"He said he was staying?" Mattie questioned finally, keeping her voice down.
"It was all Harm's doing," Mac told her.
Harm concentrated on making some coffee, hoping that Mac would explain so that he wouldn't have to try and talk past the lump in his throat.
He sighed in relief when Mac told Mattie that Gene Logan was going to take a couple of weeks leave to spend with Liz, finding them a new place to live in the area and then he would be reassigned to work at JAG as the new Gunny. When she finished, Mac suggested that Mattie go upstairs and make sure that the guestroom was ready, since Gene had agreed to stay there for a few days while he found that new place and took care of his wife's funeral.
Once Mattie left the room, Mac came over and placed a hand on Harm's back. "Hey, Flyboy, you okay?"
He nodded, not looking at her until she lifted a hand to his cheek and gently turned his face toward her. He managed an embarrassed smile for the tears. "Go ahead, make fun of me for crying."
"I won't," she said, wiping the tears away with her fingers. "You're entitled," she told him, turning him into her arms and holding him as he released the pent up emotion of the last few days. He was always like this. Strong, take-charge while things were going on. But once it was over, he tended to let go - just like he had after they were told that Bud was going to be okay.
After a few minutes, she smiled up at him. "You know, someone's going to have feed this crew - And since the only cooking Mattie or I do is by picking up a phone, I think you've got the job."
"Yes, ma'am," he told her, managing a smile. "I love you, Sarah," he said, giving her a kiss before pulling her close again. "Why don't you finish the coffee while I get dinner started?"