By the time Christmas Eve arrived, Gene and Liz had moved into a small house a few blocks from Harm, Mac, and Mattie. The three of them - along with Clay and Jen - had attended Mrs. Logan's funeral, more as support for Liz than any other reason. Father and daughter had graciously accepted the invitation to the traditional Christmas Eve get-together and to attend the yearly Christmas service with the rest of the JAG family, and then to share Christmas dinner with the Rabbs.
Even Allison Krennick accepted the invitation to dinner, deciding there was no time like the present to get to know her staff better in a less formal setting. She made a heartfelt toast to Jen and Clay, who made the official announcement of their engagement and set a wedding date at the gathering. Just as Jen has promised, the wedding was scheduled for the middle of April, and would take place in Great Falls, at Porter Webb's home.
Clay asked Bud, and Gene - who he had gotten to know because of Liz - to be groomsmen, while Mattie was delighted to be asked to be Jen's maid of honor. Harriet eagerly agreed to be the second bridesmaid - as long as Jen didn't mind her being five months pregnant.
Jen said that she thought it might be good luck to have a pregnant bridesmaid, and claimed to have read somewhere that it would insure that her own marriage would be blessed with children. Harriet told her that there might be something to that idea, since one of her bridesmaids had been something like two months pregnant but hadn't known it until after the wedding - and she was pregnant for the fourth time.
During the evening, Mac happened on Harriet and Jen talking about something that seemed to surprise Harriet. "Ma'am," Harriet said, catching sight of Mac, "Did you know that Clay's mother is a member of the DAR?"
Mac glanced at Jen, who looked toward the ceiling. "I - think I heard something about it, Harriet," Mac said.
"Porter's decided that we should do a full search of *my* ancestors using the library there," Jen told Mac. "She believes she saw a 'Coates' listed in some papers once -"
"You went to a meeting with her, didn't you?" Mac questioned, hiding her smile.
"Well, she dragged me to the first, kicking and screaming - but it was part of the compromise for having something less than the social event of the year as wedding and keeping the guest list below five hundred."
"The *first*?" Mac asked, almost choking on her tonic water just as Harm passed by. "You went to more than one?"
Harm stopped. "Went where?" he asked, a smug smile already in place.
"With Mrs. Webb to a meeting of the DAR, sir," Harriet informed him.
"Really?" he asked Jen. "And you went more than once?"
"It wasn't nearly as bad as I'd thought it would be. And so far, I think I've got most of them fooled into thinking I'm more than just plain-Jane Jennifer Coates from Hagerstown."
"Don't sell yourself short, Jen," Harm told her. "Porter Webb's not the only one who had ancestors fighting in the Revolution," he confided with a wink.
"I thought your family was from California, sir?" Harriet asked.
"That's where they ended up. Both of my parent's families were here during the Revolution. I've just never taken the time to research that far back to find out particulars."
"I guess it *could* be possible that my family could have been here, too," Jen agreed. "But I don't know any family names beyond my grandparents - and I'm not sure about my grandmothers' maiden names."
"My mother traced my father's family tree back to the middle of the 1800's," Harriet told them. "She was all excited that she'd found out that his great-great-great-great grandfather died during the Civil War - until she found out he was shot for desertion," she finished with a grin, remembering her mother's chagrin and decision to drop the research like a hot potato.
Mattie and Midshipman Mike Roberts headed toward the kitchen, and Mac saw Harm's eyes following them. "Harm," she warned. "Leave it alone," she was already talking to empty space. She saw Harriet's eyes move to Bud, who was following Harm.
"Uh oh," Harriet sighed, looking at Mac for guidance. "Ma'am?"
"I suppose we'd better go listen in just in case things get out of hand," Mac sighed. "Excuse us, Jen."
Mattie was facing the counter putting something onto a tray, and Mike was leaning back against the center island, watching and talking to her. "Not bad," he was saying when Harm and Bud entered the kitchen.
"What's not bad, Midshipman Roberts?" Harm asked, and Mattie glanced over at him, rolling her eyes.
Mike, faced with Mattie's guardian and his older brother, both senior officers, went to attention immediately. "The fact that Mattie made the honor roll this last semester, sir," he answered crisply.
Harm was momentarily distracted by his pride in the girl's accomplishment. "I knew she could do it all the time. It was just a matter of convincing her of it."
"I knew it as well, sir," Mike agreed. "If she just applied herself to her studies. She's a little stubborn at times, sir," he said, giving Mattie a teasing smile.
"I do have to agree with you there," Harm said, his arms across his chest.
"Only because I've had you as an example," Mattie shot back at Harm.
"She's got you there, sir," Bud joined in, and Harm turned to give his friend a look of denial. "You *do* tend to be a bit -" He paused, looking for the word.
"You'd better say 'persistent', Bud," Harm suggested, one eyebrow raised as far as it would go, but he was smiling.
"Stop trying to intimidate him, Dad," Mattie said, picking up the tray of finger foods that she had been refilling. "Come on, Mike."
"Would you mind staying here for a minute, Mike?" Harm asked, and saw Mattie's expression. "I just want to talk to him, Mattie," he said.
Mattie looked as if she was going to refuse to go without Mike, but Mike touched her arm to get her attention. "Go on. It's okay." She met his eyes for a second before giving both Harm and Bud a look of warning before continuing toward the living room again.
"Alright. But if he's not back in the living room in five minutes, I'm sending in the Marines," she warned.
Mike stood there, looking at both older men. "Before you say anything, sir," he said to Harm, "there's nothing going on. I know Mattie's a minor and I'm not about to screw - mess up my life or hers like that. We're just friends. Not saying that if she wasn't a couple of years older -" he stopped, realizing that he'd probably gone too far.
"You have a year and a half more before you graduate, Mike," Harm pointed out. "And Mattie has high school to finish - and then four years at the Academy. It's going to be a long time before she's ready to even *think* about having a serious relationship with anyone."
"Particularly me, sir, isn't that what you're saying?"
"Mike -" Bud warned, but Harm raised his hand.
"It's not and I resent you implying that it is, Mike," Harm said. "You're ten years older than Mattie," he pointed out. "Six years is a lot of time -"
"I'm aware of that, Commander, but - I'm willing to wait. I think Mattie's worth it." Harm couldn't deny the look of determination on the young officer's face. "I think she's going to make one he-heck of an officer - even if she does want to be a pilot," he said, only half suppressing his smile. "But then, I guess we all tend to follow in our father's footsteps, don't we?"
For the first time, Harm found himself realizing that Mike Roberts had come a long way from the shy, uncertain kid with a huge chip on his shoulder that he'd first met when Bud and Harriet married. He was no longer Mikey Roberts, Bud Roberts' little brother. He was Midshipman Third Class Mike Roberts, who had managed to place in the top ten percent of his class every semester at the Academy. Placing a hand on Mike's shoulder, Harm moved to place his other hand on Bud's shoulder. "Not the two of you. You've both moved past your father and become your own men. Merry Christmas," he told them both.
As Harm turned toward the door, his eyes met Mac's and Harriet's and he gave them a smile. "I think it's about time for everyone to start for the chapel, isn't it?" he asked, moving past them and on into the living room.
After the service, Harm, Mac and Mattie drove to the Wall to spend a few minutes with Harm Sr. It was Mac's first time to go with Harm - the first time he had invited her. She had always thought it was a private time for him, a time that he didn't want to share. But after she had dropped Mattie off here last year, she had paused halfway back to her car and watched Harm show the girl his father's name, as if introducing them.
Now, it was her turn, and she smiled as Harm reached out to touch the letters carved into the granite, standing behind her, his other hand on her shoulder. "Dad, this is Mac. I think I've told you about her a few times."
Mac reached out to touch the letters as well, looking up at Harm. "We've already met," she explained. "I used to come down here whenever I was ready to give up on us and talk to him. I know it sounds silly now, but -"
"It doesn't sound silly," Harm assured her, and Mattie sighed.
"It's romantic," she said, her fingers joining theirs on the wall. "Hi, Grandpa Harm. It's Mattie."
Harm lifted his arm around Mattie, pulling them to his side. "Merry Christmas, Dad."
Mattie lifted a hand to the air, looking up. "It's starting to snow," she observed, watching the flakes melt against her skin.
"Looks like we might get a white Christmas after all," Harm said. "Come on. Let's go home."
"Did you really go to the Wall and talk to my dad?" Harm asked Mac later as they lay in bed.
"After they found you when you went down in the Atlantic. I went to thank him for helping me find you in time."
Harm pulled her closer. "When else?"
"While you were flying for the CIA and weren't returning my calls. I asked Clay once if he had heard anything about you, and decided not to do it again."
Harm smiled. "Wasn't very responsive, huh?"
"I got the 'need to know' speech. I felt - closer to you at the Wall than anywhere else."
"Well, it probably worked. There are times when someone was watching out for me during those days. I took a lot of chances that I wouldn't normally have taken. Flew too many missions in too short a time."
"And no one tried to stop you?"
"As long as the mission was completed and I told them I could fly, they didn't care." He was stroking her arm as he talked. "I asked Clay if he was behind what happened after I landed that C-130."
"He said that they could have kept me on, put me at a desk for awhile until things settled down, but he was worried that I was going to take one too many risks and then he'd have to tell you that I'd gone down - and he didn't want to be the one to have to do that."
"I'll have to remember to thank him for that," she said. "If he hadn't made that recommendation, you wouldn't have met Mattie or been there to come back to JAG and we wouldn't be together now."
"Oh, I don't know about that. I think we would have found each other," he said, pulling her closer to him. "Now sleep. Santa can't leave your presents until you're asleep."
Mac's hand moved from his chest and under the blankets to find him. "I think Santa's already left me my present," she told him.
"Think so?" he questioned. "Oh, Sarah. That feels good."
"That's the idea, Flyboy," she told him, sliding out of his arms and under the covers to circle the head of his cock with her tongue several times while Harm moaned her name. He put his head back when her lips closed around him and her fingers moved to gently stroke his balls.
Harm had long ago given up all hope of maintaining any control with this woman. All she had to do was to touch him, or kiss him and he was lost. "Sarah, honey," he said softly. "I can't hold out -" he started to say, trying to pull her up to him, but she threaded her fingers through his and held them at his sides as she continued her ministrations. "Almost there," he said as his vision began to blur and his hips lifted, thrusting up into the warmth of her mouth, giving a strangled cry of completion.
She swallowed every drop, licking him clean before letting him pull her back up to his side and kissing her deeply, tasting himself on her tongue. "Damn, woman," he said at last. "I thought you mentioned something about *your* present. I don't think you got much out of that."
"You'd be surprised," she responded, laying one leg over his. Harm's fingers found her wet and she whimpered with need as he rubbed a finger across her clit.
"Well, why don't we just see what Santa might have in his bag of tricks, shall we?" he suggested. "Have you been a good girl this year, Sarah?" he asked, placing light, biting kisses along her neck down to her breasts.
"*Very* good, Santa," she answered, her fingers raking his back as he slipped two fingers into her and began to move them in and out while sucking on her pointed nipples. "Oh, Harm," she sighed, whimpering again as he gave her nipples one final lick before blazing a trail down across her abdomen to the neatly trimmed thatch of curling hair above his fingers.
His tongue flicked gently at her clit, digging deeper to suck it into his mouth. Feeling her body jerk in response to the oral caress, he smiled as she moaned. Continuing to piston two fingers into her, he curved them up slightly to hit the right spot. He felt her body begin to tighten and bit down on her clit causing her to shake and cry out his name, her hands reaching down to cover his head as her orgasm hit, leaving her quivering and gasping for breath.
Harm slid back up her body to pull her into his arms, stroking her back and tangling his fingers in her hair while he waited for her to recover. When she opened her eyes, he gave her a long kiss and smiled. "Merry Christmas, Sarah Mackenzie-Rabb."
"Mmmm," was her only response as she settled against his side and fell asleep.
Snow covered the ground outside, with more predicted, but inside the offices of JAG Headquarters, things had settled into a pleasant routine by the end of January/early February. While Admiral Krennick and the staff were still getting used to each other, so far there hadn't been any problems arise that couldn't be handled by her Chief of Staff or the new Gunny, who had taken over permanently from Harriet, who had decided to stay home and take care of her children.
That decision had made it easier for Allison to 'sell' SecNav on Harm and Mac working in the same office, with Mac being there on extended TAD from Admiral Morris' office. On this morning, the staff, including the newest addition, Lt. Carrie Davis, had gathered in the conference room for the morning staff call.
"Before we begin," Allison said, "I'd like to thank everyone involved for the excellent work on the Blankenship case. Thanks to a first rate investigation by Commander Rabb and Lt. Tiner, and an innocent man was cleared of charges that could have cost him his life."
Lance Corporal Marcus Blankenship had been accused of espionage and sabotage of a military installation in Iraq because of his involvement with a local woman. Thanks to Harm and Tiner, who had gone to Iraq for a little over a week, they discovered that the woman was in fact a CIA operative pretending to be Al Quaeda who was actually a double agent and that it had been she who gave sensitive information that she stole from Blankenship in the course of their affair to other Al Quaeda cells, and that she had been the one to sabotage the munitions dump which had killed six coalition soldiers when it had exploded.
"Thank you, Admiral," Harm said, really wishing she wouldn't have mentioned it. Neither Mac nor Mattie had been pleased about the idea of his going to that part of the world - and he still hadn't told them about the close call that he and Jason had when their base camp had been hit with mortar fire, wounding several Marines and killing one. He and Jason's eyes met momentarily in shared remembrance of that night - which had the young Lieutenant's baptism under fire.
"However the Lance Corporal isn't out of the woods yet. He's been changed with having allowed the woman to get access to the material since it was classified and he was responsible for it," Allison explained. Picking up two folders, she announced, "Mackenzie and Davis, you'll defend. Grimes and Roberts will be trial counsel. Mackenzie and Grimes will be first chair." She looked at Harm and Jason. "I didn't put either of you on this case because you investigated it and might be needed as witnesses at the trial."
"Understood, ma'am," Harm nodded.
Allison gave out a few other cases, including one of a Chief Petty Officer who had allegedly had too much to drink at the NCO club at Norfolk and managed to run his car into his Commanding Officer's car which was parked near the club. The Chief was claiming that he wasn't drunk and that he simply lost control of the vehicle. "Lt. Tiner, you'll prosecute. Rabb, you'll defend."
Harm took the file and glanced through it, already planning his defense.
"If there's nothing else," Allison said, standing up. "You're dismissed."
Everyone rose to their feet - but Mac swayed and would have fallen face first onto the table if Harm hadn't caught her. "Whoa, there," he said, giving her a look of concern. "You okay, Mac?" he asked, forgoing protocol in the heat of the moment.
She shook the lightheadedness off and managed a smile, looking embarrassed. "I'm fine. I guess I just - stood up too quickly," she told him, standing straight. "My apologies, Admiral."
"You don't owe me any apologies, Colonel," Allison said. "But if I were you, I'd have that checked. It's the second time in a week that's happened. Let's get to work, people."
Harm stared at Mac as everyone else filed out of the room, followed by the Admiral. "The second time?" he questioned, watching her pick up her folders from the table. "This happened before?"
"Once. While you and Jason were in Iraq," she told him.
"And you didn't tell me?"
"I thought you had enough on your mind over there," she pointed out. "Like trying to avoid mortar attacks and snipers without me there to cover your back. Besides, it was nothing. Just a little dizziness. Probably an inner ear infection."
"Have you seen a doctor?"
"For being dizzy?" she asked, moving toward the door, leaving Harm no choice but to follow her.
"There has to be some reason for it," he insisted.
At the door to her office, she turned to look at him. "Harm, stop hovering. I'm fine. Really. Now that you're home, I'm not under the stress that I was. Between Mattie and me, we were both a couple of basket cases," she confided. "She was a little worried that you wouldn't be back before the adoption hearing next week."
"You're not fooling me, Marine," he said. "You're throwing chaff. Mattie knew I'd be back for that hearing. And if it was just stress as a result of my being gone, then why did it happen today?"
"Okay. If it will make you happy and stop your being a worry-wart, I'll make a doctor's appointment."
He folded his arms across his chest. "When?"
"Sometime this morning."
"You won't forget?"
She smiled at him. "I doubt you'll *let* me forget. Now get out of here so I can get to work, Commander."
Mac told him just before lunch that she'd managed to get an appointment during that hour, and he insisted on going with her. "Harm," she said with a sigh, "I'm perfectly capable of -"
"You don't need to be driving if you're having dizzy spells," he pointed out.
"I'm fine if I don't stand up too quickly. I doubt I'll be standing up while I'm driving."
"I have to take lunch anyway, so I'll drive you over. Let me get my cover and we'll go."
Jen approached Mac as she waited for Harm. "Giving in is easier, isn't it, ma'am?"
"Sometimes, Jen," she agreed.
"Ready?" Harm questioned, joining them.
"I'll leave any messages on your desk, Commander," Jen told him. "I hope everything's all right."
"I'm sure it is," Mac said. "Harm's just being overly protective."
"And you love it," he told her as they entered the elevator, giving her a wide grin.
It wasn't until the doors closed that Mac's lips curved up as well. "You're right," she told him. "But I *do* have a reputation to maintain, remember? Big, strong Marine here."
"Big strong Marines don't have dizzy spells," Harm pointed out equitably.
"You're really worried, aren't you?" she realized, touching his arm.
"Yeah, Mac. I'm worried," he told her, and Mac's hand dropped as the doors opened on the first floor.
"Well, come on, then. Let's go prove to you that I'm perfectly healthy and that there's nothing for you to worry about."
Dr. Preston looked at her patient as she returned to the examination room, noting the way that she and her husband were holding hands. Kelly would have given anything to find a man to look at her that way. Col. Sarah Mackenzie-Rabb was one lucky woman.
"Doctor, would you tell him that everything's okay," Mac said.
"You're perfectly healthy, Mac," she responded. "A little anemic, but that's to be expected under these conditions. I want you to get some iron tablets and vitamins. I'll give you a list."
"Vitamins?" Mac questioned.
"See? I told you that you weren't eating right," Harm said, his smile smug. "What caused her to become dizzy, doctor?"
"Well, the fact that she's pregnant probably has something to do with it," Dr. Kelly Preston told him with a smile of her own, aware that they had been trying for some months to have a baby.
"Pregnant?" Mac repeated, stunned, as her hand went to her stomach. "But -" she looked at Harm. "I didn't even think about it being the cause. I've been so worried about you, and all of the problems with Liz and -"
"I guess Dr. Crandall was right," he said. "He said that if we put it out of our minds - heaven knows we've had a lot on our minds these last couple of months. Mattie, Liz, the adoption -"
"Your going to Iraq," Mac added. "*And* the adoption."
"You're adopting?" Dr. Preston asked.
"Officially adopting our ward, Mattie," Harm clarified. "Her idea."
"Then double congratulations," she said with a smile. "Now, for specifics. From what you told me during the examination, I think you're around six to seven weeks along."
"I haven't felt ill," Mac told her.
"You might be one of the lucky ones who never gets morning sickness. But then again, it could start anytime."
"Wonderful," Mac sighed. "Something to look forward to."
"It shouldn't last more than a few weeks if it does happen. I want you to make another appointment for a month from now -" she held out a couple of prescription slips. "These are over the counter vitamins you should start taking. Considering your state of health, I don't foresee see any problems. Just continue your usual routine for now, remembering that it's not just you now."
"I will," Mac nodded. "Thank you. You have no idea -"
Dr. Preston smiled at them. "I think I do. I've known you for sometime, remember?" Giving Harm a wink, she said, "Take care of her, Commander."
"Believe me. I plan to," he assured her, helping Mac off of the examination bed and to her feet, keeping a hand to her back as they left the room, stopping by the front desk to make the requested appointment.
Harm kept his hand at her elbow as they left the clinic at Bethesda and moved toward the SUV. Once inside and the engine was running, Mac held out her hand and said, "Pinch me, Harm."
"What?" he asked, still smiling.
"Pinch me. I want to make sure I'm not dreaming. That I'm really pregnant." Harm gave the skin on the back of her hand a gentle tweak. "Ouch!"
"Still think you're dreaming?" he asked, taking her hand in his.
"No. Not anymore. We're going to have a baby."
"Yeah," he said, leaning in to give her a kiss. "I love you so much, Sarah," he told her, placing both of their hands on her stomach. "And knowing that our child is in there, growing -"
"And I love you, Harm," she replied, giving him a longer kiss. Drawing back, she looked around as if to make sure they hadn't been seen.
"Don't worry about it," he told her, drawing her eyes back to his. "If anyone asks what's going on, I'll just tell them that I'm kissing my wife and the mother of my child."
"I don't think that will cut much slack with the Admiral if we're not back at the office soon," she told him.
Harm gave a regretful sigh as he turned in his seat and put the vehicle into gear. "Okay. But tonight, we're going to celebrate."
"It's a date, Flyboy," she promised with a smile.
Jen could tell something was up the moment she saw them enter the bullpen. Harm's smile was wider than she'd ever seen it - and Mac, well, Mac was absolutely *glowing*. She watched as they both entered Mac's office before Harm came out a few minutes later, still smiling the same wide, delighted smile.
As soon as possible, she went to the door of Mac's office. "Excuse me, Colonel -?"
"I guess things went okay at the doctor's office, ma'am?"
"I'd say so," Mac answered. "I'd say more, Jen, but I think Harm and I need to talk to Mattie before we tell anyone else what's going on."
Jen smiled, certain that she knew what was going on already. "Yes, ma'am. You're right. But - is it okay for me to offer my congratulations anyway?"
"More than okay, Jen," Mac said. "I hope you won't have a problem with having *two* expectant mothers in your wedding party."
"Like I told Harriet, ma'am, I think it's a sign of good luck." She explained her theory to Mac. "I know it sounds silly, but -"
"No. No, it doesn't. Maybe that's where I went wrong. None of my bridesmaids were pregnant."
"Is everything okay, ma'am?" Jason asked, sticking his head into the office.
"Just fine, Jason," she assured the young man.
He looked at Jen. "I think the Admiral's looking for you."
"Oops," Jen said, grimacing. "Later, ma'am."
"Did you need something, Jason?" Mac asked.
"Just wanted to pick your brain about going up against the Commander," he told her.
"That's right. You haven't had to face him in court as lead counsel yet, have you?"
"No, ma'am. Knowing how good he is, I just want to find an edge, if you know what I mean."
"Why not ask Bud?" Mac suggested. "He's faced Harm in court and won. In fact, he won his first case against Harm."
"I plan to, ma'am. But he and Lt. Col. Grimes are already working on the Blankenship case."
"Which I'm working on as well," she pointed out. Shaking her head, she indicated the chair. "Sit down, Tiner." When he had done so, she looked at him. "The only thing you need to remember is that Harm tends to focus on diffusion of blame in most cases. He's good at finding scapegoats, at fomenting just enough reasonable doubt to win."
"From what I've read about this case, ma'am, Chief Simmons is guilty."
"That's up to you to prove, Jason," she told him. "Close off all avenues that the opposition might use against you. The bartender at the NCO club. Does he remember the Chief? How many drinks did he serve to the man? Did he appear to be intoxicated when he arrived? Does the Chief have a history of drinking too much and driving?"
Mac considered what she knew about the case. "You might check out the owner of the car that the Chief hit. Find out what his relationship with the Chief was like. If you can find proof that there were problems, you might have something besides DUI and destruction of private property."
"Thank you, Colonel," Jason said, standing up. "I'll do that."
"Thank you," he said again, leaving the office as Lt. Davis approached. "Yes, Lieutenant?" Mac asked the petite blonde who had only transferred to JAG just after Christmas. They hadn't worked together on a case, but Harm had told her that Davis was nothing like Loren Singer. Davis wasn't as driven and while she was friendly, she was still finding her way and uncertain about her abilities.
"I was wondering if we were going to interview Lance Corporal Blankenship today, ma'am."
Mac checked her internal clock. "I think we should. Let me tell Commander Rabb that I'm going out. Why don't you meet me at the elevator? I'll be with you in a moment."
Mac grabbed her briefcase, coat and cover before going to Harm's office, only to find him on the phone. He held up his hand, asking her to wait for a moment, and she realized that he was talking to the Norfolk brig about his new client. "Looks like I'm on my way to Norfolk this afternoon," he told her, putting his briefcase on the desk to put some papers inside. "Have to interview Chief Simmons."
"Lt. Davis and I are on our way to the Brig to interview Lance Corporal Blankenship."
He paused for a moment as if he might say something, and then smiled. "Be careful."
"What can possibly happen? I'm just going to interview a client."
"Humor me," he said, moving out of the office at her side, his coat over one arm. They informed the Gunny that they would be out of the office for the remainder of the day before joining Lt. Davis at the elevator.
Downstairs, he moved to one of the dark blue staff cars as Mac and Lt. Davis went to the one next to it. For a moment, something told him that he needed to stop Mac - that she shouldn't go to the Navy Yards and the brig there. But before he could form a reason she would accept, she was turning the car out into the main parking lot. Placing a hand to the back of his neck, Harm chuckled, deciding that Mac was right: he was just being too overprotective. Getting into his car, he started the engine and turned toward Norfolk.
Mac and Carrie were let into the interview room by a Marine Sergeant who told them that he would bring the prisoner in for them. Mac put her briefcase on the table in the room, opening it and removing a notepad and the Blankenship file. Carrie paced the room, moving closer to the high, barred windows. "Nervous, Lieutenant?" Mac questioned.
"I don't like small, enclosed places, ma'am," she admitted. "I've been working on it."
"You'd better hope you don't get an assignment on a sub, then. And shipboard isn't much better."
"That's why I went into Admin when I joined the Navy," Carrie explained. "I was lucky enough to be assigned land based billets."
The door opened again, and Lance Corporal Blankenship entered the room ahead of the guard, his hands and feet shackled. Remove the restraints, Sergeant," she ordered.
"I'm sorry, Colonel, but -"
"I don't think the Corporal's going anywhere as long as you're outside that door," she told him, refusing to give an inch. After several moments where she and the Sergeant fought a silent battle of wills, he removed the key from his belt and unlocked the restraints as ordered. "Thank you, Sergeant."
"Yes, ma'am," he replied, and left the room, closing and locking the door behind him.
"Thank you, Colonel," Blankenship said, rubbing his wrists.
"Lance Corporal Blankenship, I'm Lt. Colonel Mackenzie. This is Lt. Carrie Davis. We've been assigned to defend you." She saw Carrie place her own briefcase on the table and open it. "Sit down, Corporal."
Suddenly the Corporal began to shake, and fell to the floor. "Corporal!" Mac said, telling Carrie, "Get the guard, Lieutenant!"
Carrie went to the door, banging on it. "Help! He needs help!" she said when the guard unlocked and opened the door.
"He's not breathing," Mac announced, going to her knees beside Blankenship to begin chest compressions. "I need help, Sergeant," she said, maintaining the necessary count.
"I'll go get -"
"There's no time," Mac declared. "Get down here!" she ordered, grabbing his hand and forcibly pulling him to his knees. "Take over for me. I'll call -"
She got up to get her cell phone, only to stop as the sound of a gunshot filled the small room. Mac's eyes moved to Carrie, who was near the still open door, silently signaling for her to go through it, but Blankenship lifted the weapon again and fired it at Carrie, who cried out and fell to the floor as Blankenship, who looked perfectly healthy now, pushed the dead Sergeant aside and rose to slam the door, dragging a chair over to place under the knob, keeping the weapon trained on Mac.
"Why are you doing this, Corporal?" she asked. "You've been cleared of espionage and sabotage -"
"My career is still over, ma'am," he told her, moving to stand behind her but not close enough for her to reach him, keeping an eye on the door and the windows. "I was supposed to be cleared of everything. But my friends decided I was expendable. Well, I'm not going down without a fight."
"You're going down, Blankenship," Mac said. "For at least one count of murder and a second if the Lieutenant dies too. Let me check on her -"
"Sorry. I need you as cover. They won't risk shooting a Marine Lt. Colonel. Especially a female."
"If you think I'm going to help you get out of here or let you use me as a shield -"
"You don't have much choice in the matter, ma'am," he told her. "You're going to make a call for me on that cell phone."
"And if I don't?"
"I've already killed once. You think I won't kill again?"
Mac opened the phone. "Who am I calling?"
"Your boss. Let her know what's happened and that I want a helicopter with a pilot outside of this building in fifteen minutes. Then we're going to go for a little ride."
"You won't get it."
"Make the call, Colonel," he said, moving across to where Carrie lay on the floor, moaning in pain. "Or the Lieutenant dies now."
Mac pressed the number for Admiral Krennick's private line. "Admiral, it's Colonel Mackenzie . . ."
Harm was halfway to Norfolk when his cell phone rang. Taking it out, he opened it. "Rabb."
"Harm," Krennick said. "Where are you?"
"Halfway to Norfolk, Admiral." A cold chill ran along his spine because of something that he couldn't recognize in her tone. "Why?"
"You need to come back now."
"Apparently Lance Corporal Blankenship has decided that he's not going to stand trial. He faked an illness to get a hold of the guard's weapon. He shot the guard and wounded Lt. Davis."
Harm pulled to the side of the road, struggling to breathe. "And Mac?"
"She's all right for the moment," she assured him. "But Blankenship has asked for a helicopter and pilot to be in front of the Navy Yard brig in fifteen minutes."
"I'll be there in ten," Harm said, pulling back out and looking for the first place he could turn the car around. "Did he say why he's not willing to take his chances?"
"Mac mentioned something about his friends deciding that he was expendable."
"His *friends*?" Harm repeated. Turning the car, he told her, "I'm heading back, Admiral."
"I'll see you here, then."
"I'm going to the Navy yards," he told her. "They're closer to me."
"I thought you'd say that," she replied. "They'll be expecting you."
"I need someone to pick Mattie up from school, Admiral. I don't want her finding out about this from the media or -"
"I'll detail someone to take care of it, Harm," she told him. "Get her out."
Harm dialed another number. "Clay? It's Harm. Are you busy?"
"Not really. Why?"
"Good. Do you still have connections at the Company?"
"One or two. You have a reason for asking?"
"Mac's in trouble."
"Mac? What's wrong?"
"She's being held hostage by a Lance Corporal Harold Blankenship in the brig at the Naval Yards."
"He was suspected of espionage and sabotage in Iraq, but Tiner and I cleared him of the charges. He was still facing lesser charges, but told Mac that his 'friends' decided he was expendable. I need to see if he might be Company."
"I'll get back to you," Clay promised. "What about Mattie?"
"The Admiral's sending someone to pick her up after school."
"I'll call the minute I hear anything."
"Clay - we found out today that Mac's pregnant. If anything happens to her -"
"It won't, Harm. Just keep telling yourself that. I need to make a call."
Harm hung up and watched as the needle on the speedometer began to climb upward. The only thing on his mind was getting to Mac and getting her out of danger. But he needed a plan of action. Some way to get Blankenship away from Mac. Picking up the phone again, he dialed Krennick's number.
"I have an idea. It's risky, but I think it'll work."
"Where's that damn helo?!" Blankenship wondered, pacing the room as Mac, who was sitting on the floor beside Carrie, keeping pressure on the wound in her shoulder.
"I told you that they wouldn't send it," she said, mentally measuring the distance from where she was to the chair that was holding the door closed. If she could distract him, there was a good chance that she could pull the chair out so that someone could get into the room.
"They'd better!" he told her, pointing the weapon at her again. "Or they're going to be down *two* officers instead of one."
"Look, let me get some help for Lt. Davis. She's lost a lot of blood."
"She'll get help when I get what I want." The distinctive sound of a helicopter's blades reached them through the windows, and Blankenship looked around, giving Mac the opportunity she'd been waiting for. Scrambling to her feet, she reached for the chair, only to feel Blankenship's fingers grabbing her hair and pulling her back. "Not so fast, Colonel," he said. Mac refused to react to the pain in her scalp other than attempt to kick back toward him, to knock him off balance. But his hold on her hair tightened and he pulled her back against him, the muzzle of the weapon he held now against her head. "That wasn't smart, Colonel," he warned, releasing her hair and putting an arm around her waist, trapping her arms against her.
The door flew open, and several armed guards appeared, all with weapons trained on the two of them. Blankenship's hold on her tightened. "Clear the chambers, remove the clips and lower your weapons. Then move down the corridor to your right," he ordered. When the guards didn't do as he told them, he took a firmer grip on the weapon. "I'll kill her."
"Do what he says," Mac ordered the guards, remembering a similar situation in Afghanistan. If he thought he was getting what he wanted, he would lower his guard and give her an opening.
As the guards did as he asked and moved away toward the entrance, Blankenship moved Mac forward, looking down the corridor to the left, waiting to make sure no one was hiding in that direction, waiting for a shot.
"Don't try to be a hero, Colonel," he warned, pushing her in front of him down the corridor until they reached the front door, through which Mac could see a UH-1 sitting in the parking area before the building.
Blankenship stood at the door as the guards left the building. "I want a path cleared to that Huey," he told them. "If I see one gun pointed in my direction, the Colonel won't live to see another day."
The guards spread the word, one of them moving toward a large van, which Mac assumed was the Command Post. Peering out from the side of the post was a familiar face: Clay. Seeing him, Mac knew that Harm was nearby. Clay glanced toward the helicopter, and Mac did the same, trying to see the pilot - but his face was hidden by the helmet and visor he was wearing. Another glance at Clay sent her eyes momentarily up toward the roof of the building across the parking lot - where she thought she saw the barrel of a snipers' rifle.
Blankenship started moving in a circle, keeping the gun against Mac's head the entire time, warning everyone to stay back as he moved ever closer to the Huey. The movement forced a return of Mac's earlier dizziness, and she stumbled once, only to be jerked back to her feet by the Marine holding her captive.
Blankenship forced her up into the helo, the gun still at her head as he joined her and told the pilot. "Take us out of here. Now!"
The pilot nodded and went about his business without a word, starting the rotor turning. The helo would have to lift off directly into the line of fire of the sniper on the roof across the way, and Mac timed her movement at the optimum moment, totally relaxing against Blankenship, forcing him to drop her dead weight only a second before a bullet hit him in the center of his forehead. The momentum sent his body out of the still open door to the pavement below.
Mac was still on the floor of the helo when it settled back onto the pavement, and looked up to see Harm's aquamarine eyes as he removed the helmet he'd been wearing. "You okay?" he asked, his concern evident.
"Yeah!" she replied. "Playing White Knight again, I see."
"All in a day's work," he answered, helping her out of the Huey and onto her feet.
"Where did you learn to fly a Huey?" she asked.
"Same place that I learned to fly Hornets," he told her as Clay joined them.
"Are you okay, Mac?" he asked.
"I'm fine. Lt. Davis -"
"She's already in the ambulance and on her way to the hospital," Clay assured her. "Sergeant Nichols wasn't as lucky. Blankenship shot him in the chest at point blank range. Never had a chance."
"Damn," Mac breathed, leaning on Harm for a moment. "This is my fault. I asked the Sergeant to remove Blankenship's restraints. He didn't want to, but I forced the issue. If I hadn't -"
"Mac," Clay said. "It wouldn't have mattered." He glanced at Harm. "Blankenship was CIA," he confided in a quiet voice.
"He was -? He said his friends had -"
"He was going to be taken out one way or the other. He knew too much. So they were going to send a sweeper. His being arrested made taking him out more difficult. From what I can tell, they were going to wait until he got to Leavenworth to do anything. Didn't figure he'd panic that way," he said, watching as Blankenship's body was placed into a black bag and sealed.
"I thought you didn't do this kind of thing anymore, Clay?" Mac asked.
He nodded toward Harm. "Talk to your husband. He called and told me you were in trouble, asked me to use my contacts to get to the truth."
She gave him a hug. "Thank you."
"My pleasure," he assured her. "I need to go take care of a few things," he said. "Oh, and - congratulations."
Mac looked up at Harm. "I thought we weren't going to tell anyone until we told Mattie -" She stopped, a sudden thought causing her eyes to widen. "Mattie. Harm, if she hears -"
"Jen went to school and picked her up," he said. "She's waiting for us at JAG."
Colonel Waverly, commandant of the brig, approached the group, causing both Harm and Mac to rise to their feet and salute. Waverly returned it. "At ease. Lt. Colonel Mackenzie, you appear to be none the worse for wear as a result of this incident."
"I guess I was lucky, sir. How is Lt. Davis, Colonel?"
"The corpsman thinks she'll recover. Would you mind answering a few questions, Colonel?"
"Not at all, sir," she told him.
"Oh, Commander Rabb -" Waverly said as he and Mac moved away, "Good thing your plan worked."
"Thank you, sir," Harm said, watching Mac move away with the Colonel. The pilot who had flown the chopper in approached Harm to retrieve his helmet. "Thanks for the loan of the helo," Harm said.
"No problem, sir. I haven't seen many Navy pilots who know how to fly one."
"Commander Rabb has hidden talents," Clay noted, and Harm shook his head.
"I thought you had things to do?"