After making a report to Col. Waverly about the incident, Mac convinced Harm that he could continue on to Norfolk while she returned to JAG and reassured Mattie that she was okay.
"You're sure?" he asked, not liking the idea of leaving her alone after what had happened.
"I'm fine, Harm," she said again. "Really. Go do your job."
He looked around, regretting that they were in uniform and in public. "I wish there weren't so many people around so I could hold you."
"So do I," she said. "I'll see you later at home." As he turned toward the car, she said, "Harm?" he stopped, looking at her. "I'm glad you were here. Thank you."
He took her hand and brought it quickly to his lips before releasing it. "I love you."
"I love you."
Mac knew she was running on pure adrenalin - and that once again she owed her life to the man who was now getting into his car and driving away. Her White Knight. But this time, she couldn't find any resentment or anger for his need to play the hero. It was what he did - and he did it better than anyone she'd ever known. Even her Uncle Matt.
Unlocking her car, she placed both her and Lt. Davis' briefcases inside before sitting down and starting the engine.
Jason Tiner was the first one to approach her when she entered JAG Ops. "Colonel. Are you okay, ma'am?" he asked.
"I'm a Marine, Jason," she reminded him with a smile.
"How is Carrie?" he asked. "I mean Lt. Davis, ma'am," revealing far more than he'd probably intended to with the question.
"I think she'll be okay. I'm sure she'd like to see you once you're relieved of duty."
"I'd already planned on doing that, ma'am," he told her. "Mattie's waiting in the Admiral's office, ma'am," he added.
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
Jen was just coming out of Allison Krennick's office when Mac approached it. "Ma'am -"
"I'm okay, Jen," she said, wondering how many times that made that she'd said those words in the last fifteen minutes. "I need to see Mattie."
Jen moved aside. "The Admiral said for you to go right in as soon you arrived, ma'am."
Mac nodded and opened the door, entering the office, only to find herself grabbed in a fierce hug as Mattie leapt from one of the chairs before the desk. "Mom. Oh, thank God. I was so worried!"
Mac returned the hug before straightening to attention before the Admiral. "My apologies, Admiral."
"No need to apologize, Mac," Allison said, rising from the other chair. "Mattie and I had a very nice chat while we were waiting. She's a very intelligent young woman. You and the Commander should be very proud of her."
Mac looked down at Mattie. "We are, ma'am." To Mattie, she said, "Would you mind giving the Admiral and me a few minutes, Mattie?"
"Sure. I'll wait in your office."
"That'll be fine."
"Thank you again, Admiral," Mattie said.
"Anytime," Allison assured her with a smile that remained even after the girl left the room, closing the hatch without being told to do so. "What happened, Mac?" she asked.
Mac recounted the events leading up to Lance Corporal Blankenship's death in a professional, cool tone. "I feel that it's my fault that this happened, ma'am. If I hadn't insisted on the guard removing Corporal Blankenship's restraints -"
"You had no way of knowing that the man was a rogue CIA operative who had gone into business for himself, Colonel. He would have found another way."
"That's what Clayton Webb said, Admiral, but I still feel responsible for Lt. Davis being wounded and for the Sergeant's death."
"You could as easily have been on that list yourself," Allison pointed out. "You probably would have been if it hadn't been for Harm coming up with his plan to take the pilot's place and involving Mr. Webb. Would you like the remainder of the afternoon off?"
"I would say no, ma'am, but I'd like to go to the hospital to see Lt. Davis."
"Very well. Take the afternoon. And you might call Lt. Tiner and give him a sitrep on Lt. Davis' condition as soon as you have one," she said with a smile.
Mac hadn't realized that the Admiral was aware of the budding relationship between the two junior attorneys. "Yes, ma'am," she said now, going back to attention before turning and leaving the office. She saw Jason coming out of his office and called out. "Tiner."
"Yes, ma'am?" he asked.
"Mattie and I will be going to the hospital to see Lt. Davis when we leave here in a moment. Is there - anything you'd like me to tell her if I speak with her?"
He looked rattled for a moment before recovering. "Just that I hope she's okay and that I'll be by later to see her."
"I'll let her know," Mac promised, going into her office to find Mattie sitting behind the desk. "Hey," she said.
"You about ready to go?"
"You're leaving now?" Mattie asked, frowning as she looked at her wristwatch - a Christmas present from Harm and Mac. "It's only a little after 1500 hours."
"1513," Mac clarified. "And the Admiral gave me the rest of the day off."
"Come on. We have a stop to make."
Mac nodded, finding herself amazed again at Mattie's sensitivity. "Yeah. I feel responsible for what happened to her. And then we're going to pick up something for dinner. I don't think *any*of us are going to feel much like cooking tonight."
Mattie's eyes widened as far as they could go as she took in what Harm and Mac told her. "You're pregnant?!"
"Yeah," Mac said, uncertain about her reaction to the news. "Almost two months."
"That's *great*!" she declared, throwing her arms around each of them.
"You don't mind that you won't be the only child anymore?"
"I always wanted a little brother or sister," Mattie told them. "When?"
"Next September," Harm told her.
"This is *so* cool! Wait'll Liz hears this!" She stopped, looking at Mac. "You sure everything's okay? After today, I mean?"
"This is the last time I'm going to say this today," Mac sighed. "I'm okay. I'm fine. I wasn't hurt."
Harm and Mattie laughed at her frustration. "Think she's okay?" Harm asked Mattie, ducking out of the way when Mac tossed a throw pillow in his direction.
"I'm going to go call Liz," Mattie announced. "And then Jen, and then -" she looked at Harm. "Have you called Grandma Trish and told her yet?"
"No," he admitted. "But we'll do it later," he promised, pulling Mac close as Mattie grabbed the cordless phone and took off for her room. "I think she took it well, don't you?"
"Very well," Mac agreed, reaching for her cordless phone.
"Who are you calling?" he asked.
"The hospital. I want to check on Carrie's condition." She dialed the number and asked for the room where Carrie had been put after surgery, sitting back against Harm as she waited for someone to answer.
"Colonel Mackenzie. Yeah. I stopped by to check on Carrie - Lt. Davis."
"How's she doing?" Mac asked.
"Better. Just a minute. She wants to speak to you."
"How are you feeling, Lieutenant?" Mac asked, feeling Harm shaking with suppressed laughter as she asked the same question that she had just declared off limits for herself. In retaliation, she dug an elbow into his side.
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.
"I don't know of anyone who does. Listen, Carrie, I'm sorry for what happened -"
"It wasn't your fault, ma'am. I should have gotten out of that door as soon as I heard the first shot, but I froze. You had no way of knowing he was going to do what he did."
Carrie's eyes widened as the door into the room opened and Admiral Krennick entered the room. Jason went to immediate attention. "Admiral."
"As you were, Tiner," Allison said.
Into the phone, Carrie said, "Excuse me, ma'am, but the Admiral is here -"
"Okay. You just get better and get back to work as soon as possible, Lieutenant. I'm still looking forward to working with you on a case."
"Thank you, ma'am. Goodnight," Carrie said, hanging the phone up as Jason told the Admiral that she was doing better.
"Is that true, Lieutenant?" Allison asked.
"Yes, ma'am. Thank you for coming by, Admiral. You didn't have to -"
"Of course I did. You're part of my command. I would have been remiss in my duties if I hadn't. Has the doctor said anything about how long you're going to have to stay in the hospital?"
"He wasn't sure when he was here earlier, ma'am," she told her CO. "I'd think until the end of the week at least. They don't think there was any permanent damage to the shoulder, but I'll probably have to have some therapy once it's healed."
"Well, it's a good thing you're a lawyer, isn't it? And that it's your right shoulder since you're left handed."
"You noticed that, ma'am?" Carrie questioned.
"Of course I did."
"Ma'am, about what happened, it wasn't Colonel Mackenzie's fault. When Lance Corporal shot the guard, I was at the door. I could have gotten out, but I hesitated and -"
"Lieutenant is that the first time you've ever been in that kind of situation?"
"Yes, ma'am, but that shouldn't matter. I was trained to -"
"To expect your clients to start taking pot shots at you?" Allison finished with a smile. "That's something that doesn't happen every day, Lt. Davis. Unfortunately, it *does* seem to happen more often than not whenever Commander Rabb or Lt. Colonel Mackenzie are involved. Consider this to have been your 'baptism under fire', learn from it and move on. Don't dwell on it."
"Have you ever been in that situation, ma'am?" Jason asked.
Allison smiled as she recalled an incident. "Oh, yes. I was assigned to investigate a Chief Petty Officer who had gone UA. When my partner and I found him, he took several shots at us before my partner, who was a shiny new JAG lawyer and on his first real investigation, managed to sneak around behind the Chief and knocked him unconscious."
Jason smiled as well. "Let me guess, ma'am. Your partner was Commander Rabb."
"Then *Lieutenant* Rabb," Allison nodded. "I knew then he was going to be just a *bit* unconventional. Especially when he asked to defend the Chief and got him off with a reduction in rate and forfeiture of pay claiming mitigating circumstances." She gathered her overcoat and cover again. "I'll be going. I just wanted to see how you were doing, Lt. Davis." To Jason, she said, "Don't stay too long, Tiner. You have to work tomorrow."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, going to attention again before she left the room.
Carrie shook her head slowly. "I guess Commander Rabb's always done things like he did today," she said to Jason.
"He has as long as I've known him. At least Admiral Krennick knew what he was like when she came on board."
"He's a nice man."
"Yeah," Jason agreed. "Carrie, - I've been putting this off, because I wasn't sure I should do it, but - well, after today - I was wondering if, well, if you'd like to go to dinner with me."
"Now?" Carrie questioned, smiling shyly as she listened to his rambling lead in to the invitation.
"No. Sometime. After - after you get out of the hospital."
"I'd like that, Jason," she told him, and saw his sigh of relief at her answer. When he'd appeared in her doorway with an arrangement of flowers in hand, she had been surprised to see him. They had talked a few times, mostly over lunch, and during those times he had filled her in on the history of the people they worked with. Jason Tiner had started in the office as a Petty Officer, yeoman to Admiral Chegwidden nine years ago. He had told her that he 'knew where all the bodies were buried', and tried his best to explain some of the dynamics involved between Admiral Krennick, Commander Rabb, Colonel Mackenzie and Lt. Commander Roberts.
He had done his best to make her feel at home in the strange environment, to put her at ease. Carrie knew she was attracted to the young officer, and she wasn't sure that becoming involved with someone from the office was a good idea. But the moment she saw that little-boy smile, all of Carrie's resolutions and walls were breeched, and each time, they were more and more difficult to rebuild.
1145 Hours Local
Falls Church, VA
He entered the brick building without seeing anyone who recognized him - probably because very few of them had ever seen him in anything other than a uniform. When he asked the guard for a pass, he saw the recognition in the young man's eyes, and smiled, as he'd done at the gatepost, asking him to keep it quiet, he wanted to surprise everyone. The young Marine, who had barely managed to keep from throwing a salute, smiled and handed him the name badge, saying it was good to see him.
Entering the elevator, he pressed the button and stood there, facing the doors, waiting for them to open again. Still no familiar faces - but it was almost lunchtime here, he reminded himself, taking into account the time difference.
Pushing open the glass doors into JAG Ops, he moved toward the bullpen, barely moving into that area when a Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant challenged him. "Can I help you, sir?" he asked.
Glancing at the Gunny's name badge, he realized that this was Gunny Logan. "No, thank you. I have a meeting with the Admiral, Gunny."
He saw a flicker of recognition cross the man's face. "Excuse me, sir. Aren't you -"
"Admiral?!" a familiar voice called out, and AJ Chegwidden turned to see Jason Tiner standing in the middle of the bullpen, his mouth open in shocked surprised.
"Hello, Jason," he drawled, smiling at the young officer as they shook hands. "Lieutenant Tiner. I'm not sure I could get used to that. I've heard good things about your work since you returned to JAG."
"Oh, yes. Both Harm and Admiral Krennick have mentioned how well you're doing."
"I have good teachers, Admiral."
"Tell you what, Jason, call me AJ. I'm not an Admiral anymore." He nodded at the Gunny, extending his hand. "AJ Chegwidden."
"Master Gunnery Sergeant Logan," Gene Logan said, shaking his hand. "I'm sorry about not recognizing you, sir."
"Have we met?"
"No, but I've seen photos of you at Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie's house. My daughter is Mattie's best friend."
"Of course." He looked around. "Doesn't seem to have changed much. Except for the faces. Where is everyone?" he asked Jason.
"Commander Rabb and Lt. Colonel Mackenzie are in the Admiral's office," he explained. "Lt. Commander Roberts is interviewing a couple of witnesses for a case."
He smiled as he heard the woman's voice, and turned around to find Jen Coates standing there, staring. "Hello, Jen."
She threw her arms around him before stepping back, her eyes wide as she realized what she'd done. "Sorry, sir. I -"
"Do you hear me complaining?" he asked, a smile on his face. "I have an appointment with Admiral Krennick -"
"You're her mysterious luncheon appointment."
"I am," he confirmed. "I'll see you later, Jason," he told the young man. "And it was nice meeting you, Gunny. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other." He and Jen moved toward her office. "Being engaged seems to be agreeing with you, Jen. Even if you *are* engaged to Webb."
She gave him a familiar look. "Really, sir -"
He placed his hands on her shoulders, looking at her in much the same way that he looked at his own daughter. "Jen. Are you sure you want to do this? I've known Clayton Webb for a long time, and -"
"I'm sure, sir," she said, her eyes clear as she looked up at him. "I love him. He's not the same man you knew, AJ. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."
"He's quite a bit older than you are."
"All I ask, sir, is that you reserve your judgment until after you've seen us together."
AJ took a deep breath before nodding. "Okay. I'll give you that much. But if I'm not convinced that he's the right one for you, -"
She smiled again. "You will be, sir," she promised as the door to Allison's office opened and the two senior JAG attorneys appeared.
"AJ!" Mac said. "This is a surprise! We weren't expecting you for another couple of days," she declared as she accepted his hug.
"Things changed, so I decided to come a little early," he told her, holding her away to look at her. "How's the little one?" he asked.
"He's doing fine, sir," Harm told him.
He shook hands with Harm. "Harm. You're having a son?"
"Yes, sir," Harm acknowledged smiling, obviously pleased to see him. "We were about to leave for lunch - would you like to join us?"
"I already have a lunch appointment," AJ told them.
"Dinner tonight, then?" Mac suggested. "Mattie would love to see you."
"And I'm looking forward to seeing her," he said. "But how about tomorrow night instead? I'm still operating on European time," he reminded them.
"Tomorrow night at 1800 hours," Mac confirmed.
"I'll be there," AJ told them.
"It's really good to see you again," Mac said. "We've missed you."
"Better not let the Admiral hear you say that," he teased. "She might start thinking you don't like her."
"No fears there, AJ," Allison said, appearing in the doorway. "I'm not trying to win a popularity contest. Come in," she said, inviting him into her office.
AJ smiled at Harm and Mac. "I'll see you two later. And if you see Bud before I do, tell him I'll be in touch."
"Ma'am -" Jen said quickly. "Your reservation for La Tours is at 1215 hours."
"Thank you, Coates," Allison said, glancing at AJ. "We'd better go," she told him as he glanced at his watch. He nodded. "Let me get my cover." She reached over to take the cover from the rack next to the door, placing it under her arm. "As you were, people," she announced, leaving the area.
Jen, Mac and Harm stood there watching them. "Wonder why he came earlier than planned?" Mac wondered aloud.
"I don't know, ma'am," Jen answered. "But the Admiral knew he was coming two days ago. She told me to keep her lunch hour clear of any appointments for today, because she was expecting an old friend."
"Old friend?" Harm questioned, frowning. "AJ?"
"They've known each for the about the same amount of time that you and AJ have known each other," Mac pointed out. "And he *is* her landlord."
"Yeah, but -"
"Come on, Harm," Mac said, laughing as she turned them back toward their offices while Jen hid a smile at his confusion. "We have a case to start work on, remember?"
1800 Hours Local
Falls Church, Virginia
"I'll get it!" Mattie called out when the doorbell rang, running down the stairs and opening the door. "Admiral."
He smiled and accepted her welcoming hug. "Make it AJ. I got used to not being 'Admiral' in Italy." He stepped back, giving her the once-over. "Have you grown some more in the last nine months?"
"Almost an inch," she told him.
"I thought so," he said, catching sight of the dog sitting behind Mattie, patiently looking up at him, wagging her tail slowly. "Hello, Dammit," he said, and the dog's tail moved a little faster. Kneeling down, AJ held out his hand. "Come here, girl. Come here, Dammit." She didn't move, but she extended her head to sniff at his hand before her tail started wagging wildly and she barked as she came over to him. "Looks like they've been taking good care of you, girl," he told her.
"She's like another member of the family," Harm said as he and Mac came out of the kitchen. AJ stood up to shake Harm's hand. "Glad you could make it."
"I've realized that I'm not going to have to pay for many dinners while I'm here," he told them. "Tonight here, tomorrow at Bud and Harriet's, the next night, Tiner and Lt. Davis are taking me out - and then Jen and Webb have a night scheduled somewhere." He shook his head. "Al suggested I get one of those damn day planners to keep it all straight."
"Al?" Mattie asked, frowning at the unfamiliar name.
"Admiral Krennick," Mac explained. "Short for Allison."
"Oh. I didn't know she had a nickname."
"I would imagine she has a few that she's unaware of," AJ told her as they moved into the living room, giving Harm and Mac a knowing wink.
"You're probably right," Harm said with a grin. "Dinner should be ready soon."
"Would you like something to drink,?" Mac asked. "Coffee? Tonic water? Soft drinks?"
"Tonic water's fine," he told her.
"I'll get it," Mattie offered, leaving the room. Dammit sat there before AJ for a moment before turning and chasing after her.
"I think I've lost my dog," AJ sighed.
"They're just about inseparable," Harm explained. "She sleeps up in Mattie's room at night most of the time."
"You weren't thinking about taking her back to Italy, were you?" Mac asked.
"No. She'd end up in quarantine for some time. She's better off here," AJ said as Mattie came back with a glass of tonic water. "Thank you." Dammit moved to lie down beside AJ's chair.
"I think you need to check the oven, Harm," she said.
"Excuse me," Harm said, jumping up from the sofa and heading toward the kitchen.
"I see Harm's still doing the cooking around here," he noted.
"Why shouldn't he?" Mac said. "He's good at it."
"Where are you staying, Admiral?" Mattie asked, biting on her lower lip before amending. "I mean, AJ?"
"I hope you're not going to say you're in a hotel," Mac said before he could answer. "We could make room here -"
"I'm fine," he assured them. "Found a nice, out of the way place," he was saying as Harm came in.
"Dinner's ready," he announced, and Mac noticed a look of relief on AJ's face as he rose from the chair he was sitting in and offered Mattie his arm.
"Shall we?" he asked, and Mattie giggled.
Harm and Mac exchanged a confused glance as they moved to follow.
"He's not the same," Mac told Harm later.
"You're telling me. I don't think I've ever seen the man smile as much as he did tonight."
"I guess spending time with Francesca has been good for him."
"I guess so," Harm said.
Surprising Harm and Mac over dinner, AJ had informed them that Francesca had recently gotten married to a man she'd known for several years and was moving to Paris.
"Have you heard anything about where he's staying?"
"Mattie asked earlier and he evaded the issue. Definitely non-responsive."
"Well, I'm sure he has his reasons for not wanting to share," Harm suggested, turning toward her. "Speaking of responsive -"
"Were we?" she said, her smile teasing as she slid her arms around his neck. "I thought the word was 'non'-responsive."
"Oh, well," he sighed, moving as if to turn away, only to smile as she tightened her hold on his neck to prevent that.
"Giving up, Sailor?" she asked. "Or are the Marines going to have to storm this beach?"
"You think you can breech my defenses, Marine?"
"Without firing a shot," she replied, deftly rolling them over so that he was laying flat on his back and she was half on top of him.
Porter Webb's Estate
Great Falls, Virginia
The day dawned sunny and warm, a 'perfect day for a wedding' Porter had declared, grateful that it wasn't raining and that the plans for an outdoor wedding weren't going to have to be changed after all. She was flitting from room to room, guest to guest, and when she left the room that Jen and her attendants were using as a dressing room to go check on the caterers, Jen heaved a huge sigh of relief.
"Is she always like that ma'am?" Carrie, who had been drafted as a third bridesmaid on Porter's insistence that Jen needed at least four attendants, along with Jason to be a groomsman.
"She's not usually *this* bad," Jen said. "She's determined that this wedding is going to go off without a single hitch in all of her carefully laid plans."
"You know what they say about carefully laid plans," Harriet noted. "At least Clay didn't call Mac from jail this morning to bail him and everyone else out like Bud did."
"That's only because Harm knew better than to put them into that position if he wanted to sleep in his own bed tonight," Mac said, helping Harriet with her dress. "There."
"I still feel like a whale," Harriet sighed, looking at her reflection in the full-length mirror before giving Mac a look of envy. "I'm not that much farther along than you are and you can't even tell you're pregnant, Mac."
"That'll change, I'm sure," Mac said. "And *I* can tell," she said, turning sideways to the mirror. "I feel a *lot* bigger than I used to be."
"You were tiny to begin with, Mom," Mattie said.
"I was?" Mac questioned, and Jen, Mattie, and Harriet all answered in unison.
"Yes, you *were*."
Carrie finished braiding flowers into Mattie's hair and stepped back. "How about that?"
"Wow!" Mattie said. "You're really good at this, Carrie."
"I thought about becoming a hair dresser before I settled on the Navy and law school," she told them, appearing to be embarrassed by the praise the others gave her.
"Do mine next?" Harriet practically begged, taking Mattie's place in the chair in front of the Lieutenant.
"Are you ready to put your dress on, Jen?" Mattie asked, picking up the padded hanger that held the Italian lace and satin gown.
"I might as well," Jen said, taking off her robe to reveal the silk, strapless slip she was wearing.
"Getting nervous?" Mad asked, glancing in her direction as she and Mattie unfastened the tiny pearl buttons that ran down the back of the gown.
"Clay's going to hate these," Mattie told Jen, giving her a devilish grin.
"*You* try to tell that to Porter Webb," Jen said. As Mac and Mattie put the dress over Jen's head, she said, "I'm not really nervous, ma'am. It's just - suddenly it's all real, you know? In another hour or so, I'll be Mrs. Clayton Webb. Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Webb. I'm not sure I really fit into everything that goes with *being* Clay's wife. There's so much more involved -"
"So you're nervous," Mac said again, and Jen nodded.
"I guess I am." She placed a hand to her stomach. "I think I'm gonna hurl."
"Take deep breaths," Mac said in a calm tone while looking around for something to use in case it didn't work. She took a vase that Mattie brought over and sat it down close to Jen.
"That didn't work last time, ma'am." Jen reminded her, still pale.
"Try anyway." To Mattie, she said, "Start working on those buttons. Jen, you're in love with Clay, aren't you?"
"Yes ma'am," Jen answered, trying to take the breaths that Mac wanted her to take.
"And Clay adores you. You know that, don't you?" Mattie asked. "I mean, everyone can see it every time he *looks* at you."
"Really?" Jen asked.
"Jen, that man is so much in love with you that he doesn't know whether he's coming or going," Harriet declared.
"With that much love, nothing else matters," Mac said. "You've already won Porter over. That's the biggest hurdle any woman could face, having the approval of your mother in law."
Jen took a deep breath, her expression clearing. "Okay. Let's get this show on the road. Carrie, hurry and finish with Harriet so we can do something with *my* hair."