JAG: The San Diego Series
Episode 2: Up in the Air

Rating: Over 13
Pairing: Harm/Mac at first; Harm/Jen (eventually)
Classification: Angst, Romance
Spoilers: My stories can contain spoilers of any episode already aired in the US
Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I did, the ending would have been *very* different.
Archiving: Usual drill. Archived at myjagfanfic @ Yahoogroups; and various other lists; http://jagficlady.com/ OR http://jagficlady.741.com/ Anywhere else, please ask I like to know where my stories end up.
A/N: I know. I seem to be stuck in a Harm/Jen rut these days. But the more I think about things, the more I'm convinced that no matter what DPB and the writers wanted us to think, Harm and Mac wouldn't have lasted very long. WARNING! DO NOT READ this if you're a Harm/Mac shipper and don't like Harm/Jen! Anyone who does and then sends me an email about it will be branded a Village Idiot and their email blocked.
Summary: This will be an ongoing series, kind of a virtual Season 11, focusing mainly on Harm's adjustment to retirement in San Diego. This chapter takes place almost immediately after Episode 1. Mattie's doing well with her therapy and Harm asks Jen's help with something involving Mattie since Mac's busy at work.


1100 Hours Local
La Jolla Therapy Center

Harm stood near the edge of the pool, watching as Lisa put Mattie through her paces. Mattie had been a good swimmer before the accident, in fact the swim coach in Blacksburg had wanted her on the team, but she had decided to go out for volleyball instead.

Finally, he heard Lisa, who was wearing a one piece black swim suit that revealed more tattoos that Harm had wanted to know she had, told Mattie to 'wind down' for a few minutes and climbed out of the pool to grab a towel. Keeping an eye on the pool, she approached Harm with a smile.

"She's doing really well," she told him. "I think this might have been the ticket to getting those connections between her brain and legs working again."

"That's good news. She seems a little more confident than she was," Harm confirmed.

Lisa used the towel on her hair before draping it around her neck. "I think she's finally sensing that she might just make it back after all. Everyone goes through a time when they believe they'll never be able to walk again. If they can work through that, then they can start getting better emotionally as well as physically."

"Mattie's an amazing girl," Harm told her. "When I first met her, she was running a crop-dusting business all by herself."

"Has she been in an airplane since the accident?"

"Other than the flight out here from Washington?" Harm asked, then shook his head. "No." He looked back to Mattie. "I have a Stearman that's being ferried out here this week, and I'm hoping that once it arrives, I'll be able to convince her to go up with me."

"She needs to. It's like riding a bicycle or a horse. If you fall off, you need to get back on as soon as possible."

"Believe me, I know what you mean," Harm said, remembering his own experiences. "But I can't force her to go up -"

"No, but surely there's some way - maybe if she sees you and someone else flying, and doing okay, she'll respond. She thinks the world of you."

"And I do of her," Harm answered, thinking about her suggestion. "I might have someone who could help. Thanks."

"No problem," she said with a wide grin that made Harm think she looked no much older than Mattie. "That's what I'm here for."


2100 Hours Local
Rabb-Mackenzie Home
La Jolla, CA

Since Mac's return from Washington on Wednesday morning, she had spent nearly all of her time at the office, working on the agenda of the meeting over the upcoming weekend.

But she had insisted her yeoman secure for the day at 1800, and on Friday evening, Harm invited her to stay for dinner when she came over to visit with Mattie. As he had on the previous occasion, Harm walked her out to her car after Mattie went to bed.

"I guess you're going to be busy this weekend," he began.

"Not really," she answered.

"I figured that you'd be at the office helping Mac with the meeting," he said.

"So did I, but Gen. Cresswell sent someone to help her with things, so she said there was no reason for me to come in."

"Well, that works out well for me," Harm said. "Jack Keeter's supposed to be here tomorrow with the airplane -"

"I know. I heard you mention it to Mattie a couple of times."

"And you saw her reaction to the news as well, I guess."

Jen sighed. "She's scared. Mattie went through something really horrible -" she paused, as if belatedly remembering that he'd gone through much the same thing once. "You want to get her back into the air, don't you?"

"Yes. Her therapist seems to think it will help her to fly again."

"She's right. I know it's not quite the same thing, but when I was sixteen, I wrecked my dad's car and was *terrified* to drive. But he insisted that I had to try again. Only this time, he found someone *else's* car for me to try it in," she finished with a wry smile.

Harm nodded. "I was thinking that if you wanted to go out there with us - then Mattie would agree to go to the airport anyway. And you could keep her company while Keeter and I fly for a little."

"I could do that," Jen agreed.

"And - maybe you'd be willing to go up as well?"

"In your airplane?" she questioned, clearly uncertain. "I've never - flown in a small airplane."

"First time for everything," he said. "Don't you trust me, Jen?"

Her dark eyes lifted to his, clear now as she answered. "With my life."

"Then you know I'd never do anything to put you into danger," he told her, lifting his hand to smooth a strand of her dark hair away from her face. Clearing his throat, Harm let his hand drop and he took a small step back when he realized how close they'd moved to each other. "I - uh -" he paused, trying to remember what he'd been talking about. "I'm hoping that seeing you go up will give Mattie the courage to follow your example."

"She does know that I've never flown," Jen told him. "I told her that I thought you and she were brave to do it."

"Will you do it, then? For Mattie?"

"I'll do anything that I can to help her, sir -" There was her grin again as she corrected herself. "Harm. You know that."

"Good. Why don't you come by around, oh, say, 1200 tomorrow? Keeter should be at Ramona around 1300 if he's able to stick to his schedule."

"I'll be here," she told him, reaching for the door handle at the same time that Harm did to open the door. For a moment, their hands touched before Jen pulled hers away with a mumbled, "Sorry."

Harm wondered for a moment if she'd felt the same thing he had - if her pulse had increased with the brief contact the way his had, then dismissed it, reminding himself that he was engaged to Mac. He loved Mac. Whatever was going on was merely - propinquity. Two people spending time together and both lonely. He opened the door, and watched her inside before speaking. "You'll be here tomorrow?" he asked through the open window.

She didn't look at him as she answered. "I'll be here."

Something in her voice worried him, and Harm dropped to his haunches, his hands still on the door. "I hope you're not letting Mattie and I monopolize your time, Jen. If you have something else you'd rather do -"

She finally looked at him. "No. I enjoy spending time with - Mattie," she said.

Harm pretended to ignore the hesitation, and stood up. "Call me when you get home."

"I will," she promised, starting the engine.

Harm stepped away from the curb and stayed there as she pulled into the street to drive away.

Just as he was about to enter the house, Mac's car appeared and pulled into the drive, causing him to backtrack and move to greet her. She opened the door and pulled out her briefcase, and Harm noted that she looked tired. "Hi," he said, taking the briefcase from her and pulling her close for a kiss that she returned, albeit tiredly.

"I wasn't expecting a homecoming committee," she murmured.

"Jen just left," he told her.

"Jen?" Mac questioned as they moved toward the front door.

"She came over to spend some time with Mattie, and I invited her to stay for dinner," he explained. "You're home earlier than I thought you'd be," he said, thinking that a change of subject might be a good idea.

"I decided that I needed to get a good night's sleep before the conference starts," she said, unbuttoning her jacket once they were in the house.

"Probably a good idea, since you probably won't sleep over the next two days. Jen mentioned something about Cresswell sending someone out to help?"

Mac nodded. "Yeah." She took a deep breath, looking around. "Is Mattie already in bed?"

"In bed, but I doubt she's asleep. You want something to eat?" he asked, but Mac shook her head.

"All I want right now is to lie down and sleep."

"Why don't you go say goodnight to Mattie, and I'll lock up before following?" Harm suggested, lifting her briefcase. "And I'll drop this in the study for you."

She gave him another, brief kiss. "You're sweet."

"I can think of other things I'd rather you think me than sweet," he told her, capturing her lips to lengthen the kiss, causing her to stumble into the wall behind her.

"Everything okay?" Mattie asked from her room, causing Harm to pull back from Mac slightly.

"Everything's fine," Mac called out, slipping away from Harm to head for the girl's doorway.

Harm sighed, wondering why he'd been so aggressive, knowing that Mac was exhausted as he took the briefcase into the study before locking the front door. Mattie was alone when Harm got to her room to give her a final goodnight kiss.

"She looked totally worn out," she said about Mac.

"I know. But you know Mac. She'll be good as new after a few hours sleep. And speaking of sleep - you need to get some. We have a busy day tomorrow."

"I still don't know why I have to go out there," she said.

"You need some fresh air. And the drive will do you good."

"Not as long as I know it ends at an airport," she sighed.

"If you'd rather not go, I'll just have Keeter get a cab -"

"No," Mattie said. "I'll go. Just because I'm a coward doesn't mean you have to be one."

"You're not a coward, Mattie," Harm insisted, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

"I'm terrified at the thought of flying," she told him. "All during that flight out from back east, I just *knew* something terrible would happen."

"But it didn't," Harm pointed out. "We landed without any problem."

"Yeah," she acknowledged. "But it was a big plane. And *I* wasn't in the cockpit."

"What happened wasn't your fault, Mattie," Harm said, taking her hand and then reaching out with the other to lift her chin so that he could see her face. "You weren't at the controls."

"No," she agreed. "But I convinced Gene to take me up for a little while, even though he wasn't sure that the weather would hold off long enough."

"It wasn't your fault, Mattie," he said again.

"Did you feel guilty after -" she began, and Harm knew she was talking about his ramp strike.

"Yeah," he confirmed, deciding that honesty was the best way to answer the question. "The review board found that my RIO had made the decision to punch us out too close to the deck. I thought I would have been able to bring that plane down in one piece even if my eyes *were* acting up - but it was my plane. I was the PIC. I was responsible for getting us *both* out of there safely if possible. And I failed. He died, while I lived." He watched her taking in his words. "I took a long time for me get the chance to prove to myself that I could have landed safely."

"When you saved the CAG's life," Mattie recalled.

"Like I told someone once, I was saving myself as well. He just happened to be in the plane."

"You don't feel guilty for what happened anymore?"

"Guilty?" Harm repeated thoughtfully. "Not now. But I did for a long time."

"How did you get it to stop?" she asked, her voice breaking slightly on the last word.

"I finally realized that while I was in control of the aircraft and almost everything else, the one thing that I *wasn't* in control of was my RIO. He's the one who panicked and made the decision to punch us out." Harm spoke slowly and clearly. "Mattie, the accident wasn't your fault. Gene shouldn't have gone up if he thought the weather could be a problem. He made the final decision. Not you."

"Were you really afraid to fly again after it happened?"

"Yes. But I knew that I had to do it. There wasn't any other option for me."

"Which makes me a coward, because I think there *is* another option. Besides, I couldn't fly anyway." She indicated her legs. "Not with these."

"You don't have to be able to walk to just take a ride in a plane with someone you trust." He leaned forward and placed a kiss against her forehead. "You get some sleep. We'll discuss it tomorrow."

"No pressure?" she asked.

"No. No pressure," he promised, standing up as she reached for the triangle to pull herself up and then down onto the bed. Harm tucked the covers in around her, then reached over to turn off the light. "But if you decide to do it, just remember, I'll be right there with you."

"Just like you've always felt your - dad was with you," she noted, smoothing a yawn.

He smoothed her curls, smiling. "Yeah. Like my dad was for me. Night."

"Night, Dad," she murmured, already halfway asleep.

When Harm entered his and Mac's bedroom, it was to find Mac sound asleep. Sighing, he removed his shoes and stripped own to his shorts before climbing into bed beside her and sliding an arm around her waist to pull her against his chest.

She snuggled up next to him, covering his hand with hers, but didn't wake up. So Harm kissed her shoulder and lay down as well, closing his eyes, forcing everything else out of his mind. Mac's working too much, Mattie's fear of flying, Jen's expression when their hands had touched - .

Harm sighed and opened his eyes, lifting his head to look at the clock, wondering again why the alarm clock was on Mac's side of the bed when she didn't need a clock in the first place.

Sighing again, he rolled over onto his back, staring at the play of moonlight and street lights on the ceiling. Why on earth was he fixated on Jennifer Coates? He was engaged - and was going to marry Mac. He was happy. Or he would be once she found the time to spend with him and with Mattie. Even if he wasn't, Jen was too young for him. There was at least fifteen years difference in their ages. He wasn't old enough to be her father, but he wasn't far off it.

He decided that it was just middle age finally hitting him, making him wonder about grass being greener or something like that. Or maybe he had too much time on his hands. Keeping busy would keep his mind from dwelling on things that it shouldn't. After this weekend, he'd start looking for something - maybe start working toward passing the California bar. That would keep him occupied for a little while, anyway. And maybe by the time he'd finished, Mac wouldn't be so busy at work and he'd be more concerned with planning a wedding than with anything - or anyone else.


0500 Hours Local

"You know," Harm said, watching Mac finish her cereal - which he'd insisted she do before leaving for the office, "I was thinking - the Fourth is a week from Monday."

She reached for her coffee mug, nodding. "Yes."

"What would you say to having anyone in your command who doesn't already have plans over for a get together?" She was looking at him strangely. "We could have a cook out in the back yard -" he continued, moving to look out over the patio and the built-in gas grill.

"I suppose we could," Mac said. "I'll mention it in the staff meeting on Monday morning, see how many are willing to come over. That's a really good idea," she told him, standing up to carry her empty bowl over to the sink. "It would create a family atmosphere among the staff. It could be just the thing to see who 'fits in' and who doesn't," she continued, coming over to join him at the glass doors. "But it could be a lot of work. At the moment, there are ten enlisted personnel and five officers on my staff."

"And how many are married?"

"Probably half of them. Maybe more. I'm not really sure."

"We'll handle it. I'll invite Mom and Frank over as well, if that's all right."

"Why wouldn't it be?" she asked, sliding her arm around his waist. "I'm sorry about last night. I know you wanted to -"

"Hey, it's okay," he assured her, interrupting her as he put both arms around her. "I understood that you've been working twenty-two hour days for the last week. I just worry that you're going to burn out."

"I'm a Marine, Harm," she reminded him. "We don't burn out."

"Is that so?"

"Nope. We recharge the batteries and keep going."

Harm laughed softly. "'Recharge the batteries, huh? Well, maybe you need a *full* recharge, Colonel." His hands found their way to her hips, pulling her into him so that she would know exactly what kind of 'recharge' he was referring to.

Mac giggled and framed his face with her hands. "If we had time - and I'm already dressed."

"You could always get undressed," he pointed out between kisses to the side of her neck.

"What about the conference?" she asked.

"Call and tell them to start without you," he suggested, his fingers finding the top button of her blouse.

"I would, but they can't," Mac said, and Harm took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Harm." Her dark eyes searched his face. "Are you angry?"

"No. A little frustrated, maybe, but not angry." He gave her a long kiss, ending it just as she leaned in to try and prolong it. Giving her a grin, he asked. "Any idea what time you'll be home tonight?"

"It'll probably be late. Is Keeter still going to use the guest room?"

"Yeah," Harm nodded, following her down the hallway to the study, where he watched her pick up the briefcase. "I got it ready yesterday. His flight back to DC is scheduled for Sunday afternoon."

"Hopefully, I'll get a chance to see him before has to go. If not, tell him I said hello."

"I will."

He went to the front door with her. "And enjoy your day with 'Sarah'."

"Oh, I will," he assured her. "I wish you were going to be there to go up with me, though." She hadn't gone flying with him since Paraguay - and Harm knew that, like Mattie, her bad experiences had made her wary.

"Maybe in a few weeks," she told him, placing a hand to his cheek before she kissed him. "Have a nice day."

"You too. Don't forget to eat lunch."

"We won't. It's being catered in from one of the local restaurants."

He stole one last kiss before letting her go.


1300 Hours Local
Ramona Airport

"Relax, Mattie," Harm said as he lifted her out of the Lexus and put her down into the wheel chair that Jen had gotten from the back and opened up.

"I'm trying to," she said, her voice quiet.

"Is this where you're going to be keeping the plane?" Jen asked, nodding toward the long hangar nearby with the FBO at one end.

"Yeah." He glanced at the numbers on the doors. "Right there, in fact," he said, pointing toward the one with the number 17 on it.

A young man came out of the office, a smile on his face that went all the way to his blue eyes. "Hi! I'm Cal Hicks."

"Harmon Rabb, Jr.," Harm said, shaking the young man's hand, impressed by his firm grip. "Harm."

"Oh, yeah. Mr. Rabb. You're expecting a Stearman in today, right?"

"That's right," Harm confirmed, then indicated Mattie and Jen. "This is my ward, Mattie Grace. And a friend, Jennifer Coates."

Bens shook both women's hands. "A pleasure to meet you," he said. "My dad runs this place during the week. I do it for him on the weekends. I'm taking flying lessons," he told them, addressing his comments to Mattie as he was obviously trying to impress her.

"Mattie was taking flying lessons too," Harm said.

"Really? That's cool! You still taking them?" he asked her.

Mattie barely glanced at him, and Harm saw that the strain of remembering what happened was wearing on her as she answered tersely. "You probably haven't noticed that I'm in a wheelchair."

"I noticed. But that wouldn't stop me. I'd find a way to fly anyway."

"I'm not you," Mattie told him, turning her chair away from them toward the shade. "It's hot out here," she said.

"I'm sorry," Cal said to Harm. "I didn't mean -"

"It's okay, Cal. She was in a pretty serious crash a few months ago. Her instructor was killed."

"Oh, wow," Cal said, looking to where Jen was now talking quietly to Mattie. "That's rough. I take that she hasn't gone back up yet?"

"Not yet. But I'm hoping it will happen once I get the Stearman out here."

"Where was it coming from?" Cal wanted to know.

"Blacksburg, Virginia. West of Washington, D.C."

Cal gave a low whistle. "That's a *long* flight."

"Yeah. A friend is ferrying her out for me."

A telephone began to ring inside the office, and Cal grimaced. "Excuse me. Probably my dad, checking up that I'm not goofing off."

1330 Hours Local
Ramona Airport

"He was supposed to be here thirty minutes ago," Mattie told Harm as they sat in the shade of the hangar looking up at the clear blue sky.

"He probably found a head wind," Harm told her. "When he called from his last fuel stop, he was still on time."

"Is that him?" Jen asked, pointing out to the east of the field.

It only took a moment for Harm to find the bright yellow Stearman, and as he did, he heard Keeter's voice come over the loudspeaker attached to the hangar behind them, announcing his intention to enter the 'pattern' and land.

Glancing at Mattie, he saw the fear on her face once again. When Jen had shown up just as they were leaving for the airport, Mattie had tried to suggest that she and Jen could stay at the house while Harm met Keeter. But Jen, following through on the conversation with Harm the previous evening, had told Mattie that she wanted to go out and meet the airplane, too, and that she might even be convinced to fly in it.

Jen and Harm hadn't spoken directly to each other much - except when he'd told her about the Fourth of July get together he was planning for the JLSC staff.

"That's a really great idea," she had said. "A lot of the people in the office are new to the area, and either don't have any family close by or don't have any close friends to spend the day with."

Her enthusiastic response to the idea had made Harm glad that he'd thought of it.

Now, he moved to take one of Mattie's hands in his, nearly wincing when her grip tightened as Keeter brought "Sarah" closer and closer to the runway. Once the plane had touched down, her fingers relaxed, and she gave him an apologetic smile when he flexed his fingers to try and restore the circulation.

Keeter taxied the plane up to the tarmac's refueling area, then got out of it as Cal came out of the FBO and moved toward that area as Keeter killed the engine, then jumped out of the cockpit to talk to the young man. Cal helped him pull a couple of suitcases out of the front cockpit, then started to refuel the plane.

As he approached Harm, Mattie, and Jen, Keeter took off the baseball cap he was wearing backward, and his gloves. "That is the last time I ferry anything across the country," he told Harm with a wide smile. "Talk about wearing a guy out."

The two men laughed and shook hands. "Getting too old, Keeter?" Harm teased, giving Mattie and Jen a wink. Keeter had met Mattie in Blacksburg when he and Harm had met to talk about his bringing "Sarah" out here.

"That'll be the day, Pappy," Keeter told him, recalling Harm's Patrick Henry call sign.

"My call sign was changed," Harm reminded him.

"But 'Pappy' fit so well," Keeter came back. "Don't you agree, Mattie?" he asked, turning to the girl.

"Don't get me involved in this," Mattie insisted. "Hi, Uncle Jack." It had been Keeter's idea for her to call him that soon after their first meeting in Blacksburg.

"I'm the closest thing Harm has to a brother other than Sergei, who he never sees, and since he's going to be your pseudo-Dad, I figure that I can be your pseudo-Uncle."

"Hi yourself, kid, he said now as he studied Mattie for a minute. "You know, Harm, every time I see her, she gets prettier. You're going to have your hands full before long, keeping the boys away from her."

"I keep a weapon on hand for just that situation," Harm said, knowing that Mattie knew that he was just joking.

Keeter turned his attention to Jen. "And who do we have here?"

"Jennifer Coates."

"Coates? Petty officer Coates?" Keeter asked.

"Yes, sir," she replied, shaking his hand.

"I'm not in the Navy anymore, Jen. Call me Keeter. Or better yet, Jack." He shook his head in Harm's direction. "You're one lucky guy, Harm. Surrounded by beautiful ladies."

Jen's cheeks reddened at the compliment, Harm noticed, but she was smiling. Harm frowned at his old Academy buddy. "What do you mean 'not in the Navy' Keeter?"

"I decided that it's time I stopped letting Uncle Sam tell me what I could and couldn't do. And nearly getting my six shot off too many times working for the Company. I put in my twenty. Told 'em what they could do with their regs and submitted my retirement papers. Figured I'd follow your example." He grinned and winked as he told the girls, "Harm's my hero and role model."

Harm shook his head as Mattie and Jen laughed. "And what are you going to do?"

"Not sure yet. Thought about putting in my app with a couple of private contractors to test fly. But now that I've seen what So Cal has to offer -" he gave Jen another smile, and Harm felt his frown deepen seeing her return it, "I might stick around here for awhile."

"That would be great for Harm," Mattie told Keeter. "He'd have someone around to talk to other than me and Grandma Trish."

Keeter turned to look at Harm, questioning her comment, but Harm shook his head. "Come on, buddy. Let's go flying."

"Hey. I just got *out* of that thing," Keeter reminded him. "And I'm hungry."

"I guess we could go find something to eat," Harm said as Cal approached them again.

"There's a little place here on the airport," he told them, handing Harm the fuel ticket for the airplane. "They've got pretty good food. I eat lunch there a lot."

"Is that supposed to be a recommendation?" Mattie questioned.

"You'd think so if you knew how picky I was," Cal replied evenly. "Mom says she's about ready to give up on making anything I like." He smiled at Harm. "While you're gone, I can check the air in the tires and the oil, if you'd like. She's a nice bird. I love flying in Stearman airplanes. It's a real rush."

"Maybe you can go up with me some time," Harm offered, earning a full on smile from the young man.

"Are we going to go eat or not?" Mattie asked, clearly a little jealous of the attention that Harm was giving to Cal. Behind her back, Keeter gave Harm the 'thumbs up' signal.

"You say that restaurant is just down here?" Harm asked Cal.

"Yeah. Happy Landings Café. Can't miss it."

"Thanks. See you in a little while, then."

"Jerk," Mattie muttered, wheeling her chair in the direction that Cal had pointed.

Ignoring her, Harm asked Keeter as they detoured to the where the Lexus was parked to put Keeter's bags inside before catching up with the girls, "How was the flight?"

"Long. Hit a nasty headwind on that last leg. The plane was sweet, though. Purred like a kitten the entire trip without one hiccup."

Keeter opened the door for Mattie, then held it for Jen, giving her another wink and grin as she passed him.

The interior of the small building was decorated with aircraft memorabilia, mostly vintage WWII aircraft, Harm noted with approval. As the others sat down, one photograph in particular drew his interest.

It was a grainy, black and white photograph of a Stearman aircraft with a group of men standing in front of it, smiling into the camera. He'd seen this photo before - his grandmother had had one just like it, sent to her by his grandfather after he'd finished his pilot training.

"What's so interesting, Harm?" Keeter called out.

"My grandmother had this picture," he said, pointing to one of the pilots. "That's my grandfather."

"Really?" Jen questioned, and Harm lifted the photograph off the wall to carry it to the table. "Which one?" she asked.

"Here," he said, then showed it to Mattie. The Stearman looked a lot like the one sitting outside of the FBO.

"Uh oh," Keeter said to Mattie and Jen. "I recognize that look. He's on a mission."

Jen giggled, causing Harm to look away from the photo to where she was sitting. He lifted an eyebrow in response, and she giggled more. "Sorry," she apologized.

"That's a neat picture, isn't it?" the waitress said as she joined them and saw them studying the picture, "Grandpa Rudy had just finished training in it."

Harm looked at the young woman. "Your grandfather is in this picture?"

"Great Grandfather. Yeah." She pointed to another man standing beside Harm's grandfather. "That's him."

Harm pointed to his grandfather. "Well that's *my* grandfather," he told her.

"Really?" She looked at him, then at the photo. "Wow! Just a sec." She disappeared into the kitchen area, and returned a minute later with an elderly gentleman with snow white hair and deep blue eyes. The moment he looked at Harm, he stopped in his tracks, leaning a little more on the cane in his hand.

"You're the spitting image of David," he declared, extending a hand. "Rudy Castle."

Harm stood up, taking the old man's hand. "Harmon Rabb, Jr., sir. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Believe me, son, it's my pleasure. Lucy," he said to the waitress, "get them something to drink and whatever they want is on the house."

"Mr. Castle, I can't -"

"Hey. It's the least I can do for the man who died saving my life, son."


1445 Hours Local
Ramona Airport

Lunch had been spent reliving Rudy's days in the Navy, before and after Harm's grandfather put his plane between Rudy's and a Zero that had been heading straight for him. They had talked about Harm and Keeter's flying experiences, and Rudy had invited them back anytime.

But it was Mattie that Rudy had had the biggest impression on. Harm noticed the look of determination as she rolled her chair up to where "Sarah" sat on the tarmac and looked up at the engine. Harm exchanged looks with Jen and Keeter as they followed her.

"Mattie?" Harm questioned, kneeling beside the chair.

"I want to go up, Harm," she said. "Now. Before I lose my nerve again."

"You sure about this?" he asked.

"I am right now," she answered, turning her head to meet his concerned gaze.

"Okay." He stood and lifted her from the chair to carry her to the aircraft. Keeter climbed up onto the opposite wing and helped him get her into the seat and fastened in securely. He handed her the headset and goggles, reaching into the back cockpit for his own.

Jen moved the wheelchair away from the plane, and was joined by Keeter as Harm climbed into the plane and got things ready. "You ready?" he asked Mattie through the intercom system.

"Let's do it!" she called back, and he could see from here that she was stiff with tension.

Harm called out "Contact!" and started the engine, watching the gauges before steering the airplane toward the taxi way. "Last chance to back out, Matts," he called again when he was ready to announce his take off.

"No," she replied.

So Harm called out his intent on the radio to take off, and set the aircraft hurtling down the runway and into the air . . .

"You okay up there?" Harm asked her after making a few slow and easy turns once they got away from the flight pattern.

"Yeah! Trying to catch my breath!"

He smiled, hearing a little of what he'd hoped to hear through the headphones. "You ready for a few maneuvers?"


"Hold on!" Harm turned the airplane and rolled it, and then did an inside loop, feeling the tightness leaving his chest as he heard Mattie's laughter again. "Having fun?"


"You wanna do a loop?" he asked.

"I can't -"

"Yes, you can. I'll keep the rudder where it needs to be. You take the stick."

He felt the resistance on the stick after a moment of hesitation. "I have it!" she called back, and Harm released the control to her. Seconds later, she sent the airplane into a perfect loop. "Okay, you can have it back now."

They flew for another half hour, laughing and enjoying themselves. It was when Harm told her that they were going to land that her laughter faded again. Harm knew that she was remembering the landing that she and Gene had made which had ended in Gene's death. "Breathe, Mattie," he called out. "Close your eyes if you want to."

"I'm - okay," she insisted, but Harm heard her take a deep breath just the same.

Once they touched down without incident, Harm could almost feel Mattie's tension disappear. Removing his headset and goggles, he climbed out of the airplane as Jen and Keeter approached. Standing beside the front cockpit, he looked into his ward's smiling face. "You made it," he announced.

"Yeah," she agreed, throwing her arms around his neck. "Thank you!"

"Hey, all I did was fly the plane," he told her, lifting her up into his arms. "You're the one who made the decision to try."

Jen had the wheelchair waiting. "I'm proud of you, Mattie," she said.

"Are you going to go up now?" she asked Jen. "I mean, that's why you can out here isn't it? You said you might decide to go up in Harm's plane."

Jen looked surprised at the idea. "I said I 'might'," Jen confirmed.

"No time like the present, Jen," Keeter said. "I'll take you up if you don't trust this guy," he teased, nodding toward Harm.

"No, I trust Harm," Jen insisted, looking from Mattie, to Keeter, and back to Harm. "Okay. I'll go up."

Keeter removed his jacket and would have helped Jen put it on, but Harm took it from him, making sure Jen's long hair was secured under the coat. "There. Come on. Let's get you strapped in." He ignored the speculative look in Keeter's eyes as they turned toward the plane.

"I'll stay here and keep Mattie company," Keeter called out. "Don't do anything drastic, Harm! Jen and I have a date for dinner this evening!"

Harm looked down at Jen as he found the seat belts for her. "Is that true?"

"He asked," she confirmed. "I figured why not? He's funny."

"He's also almost old enough to be your father."

"No he's not," she said. "Besides, I like older men. And it's only dinner."

"You don't know Jack Keeter like I do," he said, meeting her eyes before pulling back. "Are you sure you're not being pressured into this, Jen?"

"Are we talking about dinner with Jack or flying?" she asked.

"Right now, flying."

"I want to do this," she assured him, and Harm thought he detected excitement hiding behind the fear.

"Okay." He handed her the headset and goggles. "I'm going to get strapped in as well."

She nodded.


"That was great!" Jen declared once they were back on the ground. "I can understand why you do it now. It feels like - I can't even *begin* to describe it! There's a - a freedom about being up there -"

"A lady after my own heart," Keeter said, laughing at her enthusiasm. "Who knows? You might even decide to start taking lessons." He put an arm across her shoulders as he spoke. "I have just the person in mind to teach you, too."

"Really?" she said, looking up at him. "And who would that be?"

Harm spoke. "Let's get the plane into the hangar and then head back to La Jolla."

"Good idea," Keeter agreed. "I could use a shower."

"Yeah," Harm returned with a grin and lift of an eyebrow. "You could."


1630 Hours Local
Rabb-Mackenzie Home
La Jolla CA

"Nice place, Harm," Keeter said as he joined Harm in the kitchen after his shower. Jen had gone home when they had returned, agreeing to come back around 1800 to pick up Keeter, since he didn't have a car yet. He went to the patio door to look out over the view.

"Frank owns it," Harm explained. "We got a *really* good deal."

Keeter grinned. "I bet. How are they doing?"

"Not too bad. Mom stays pretty busy between the gallery and traveling with Frank. She said she'd like to see you again - since you're not leaving tomorrow -"

"I'll try to get by and visit with her," Keeter said. "I'll have to go back East and get my stuff."

Harm handed him a cup of coffee. "You're serious about having retired and moving out here, then?"

"Hell, Harm. All I'm doing these days is flying for the Company, never knowing when my luck's going to run out." He turned from the view. "You know what it's like."

Harm nodded. "Yeah. I didn't do it for very long, though. Wasn't cut out for that kind of work, I guess."

"No, I think you were one of the best pilots that the Airwing had. Hell, you flew more missions in a six month stint than most do in six years. *You* were just unlucky enough to get your face splattered across every TV screen in the world after a mission." Harm chuckled at his comment. "And, well, with you no longer in the Navy to save my six when it gets into a sling, I don't think I want to take those kinds of chances anymore." His eyes moved back to the patio. "I think it's time I grew up a little. Settled somewhere. Maybe get married eventually if I find the right woman. Like you did. You set a date yet?"

"No. Mac's pretty busy getting this JLSC set up. Since it's a pilot program, she's working blind. Lots of conference calls back to DC, lots of last minute meetings, reports that need to be filed *yesterday*."

"Doesn't leave her a lot of time for you and Mattie, though, does it?"

Harm sighed and lifted his shoulders. "It's her job. If we'd gone to London, then I would probably have done the same thing."

Keeter shook his head. "No. Not you. Yeah, your career was important - but not as important as family. I can't see you spending every waking moment working. If you'd gone to London, I bet you and Mac would have been married by now."

"Maybe," Harm said.

"No 'maybe' about it. You know if I was engaged to Mac, I'd pick her up and carry her to the nearest justice of the peace and seal the deal as fast as I could. Especially after spending nine years dancing around each other."

"That's not the way Mac and I do things, Keeter," Harm said.

Keeter shook his head. "How long are you going to wait for Mac to make the time? Another nine years?"

Harm laughed softly. "I don't think it will take that long. Once she gets the JLSC on track, she'll be able to take the time and do it up right." When Keeter shook his head, Harm chuckled once more. "I know. But I'm not you, Keeter."

Keeter finished his coffee. "I need to go finish getting ready for dinner."

"Keeter, about Jen -"

"What about her?"

"She's a little - young for you, isn't she?"

"It's only dinner, Harm."

"Jen's had a pretty rough life, Keeter."

Keeter looked at Harm. "What's your interest here, Harm?"

"She's a friend. She was there for me and Mattie when I needed her. I don't want to see her hurt."

"You think I would hurt her?"

"No. I just - never mind. Just remember that she's a pretty special young woman and deserves to be treated that way."

Keeter's hand dropped onto harm's shoulder. "Don't worry, buddy. I'll be a perfect gentleman."

Harm didn't look at him, but nodded, his eyes locked on the beach in the distance. Keeter left the kitchen, and Harm remained there, wondering why Keeter going out with Jen bothered him so much. Seeing her smile at Keeter, laugh at his jokes had caused a pain in Harm's chest - and it was a pain that he knew was wrong. If she could be happy with someone else - even with Jack Keeter - he should be happy for her.

So why wasn't he?


Harm was sitting on the front porch after putting Mattie to bed when Jen's car pulled up to the curb. He went still as he heard Jen's laughter reach his ears before it trailed off. The drivers side door opened, and Keeter got out, closing the door as Jen slid across the front seat.

"Night, Jen," Keeter said, and his voice carried through the calm night.

"Night, Jack. I had a good time."

"Good to hear. I *do* aim to please. We'll have to do it again."

"I'd like that. Night," she said again.

Harm thought he saw Keeter lean into the car window before speaking. "Night. Drive carefully going home."

Keeter stayed by the curb until Jen's car disappeared into the distance, then lifted his eyes to the starlit sky before turning toward the house. Harm waited until he was on the first step before speaking.

"Have a nice evening, Keeter?"

"Waiting for me to come home, Pappy?"

"No. Just out enjoying the night air," Harm said, reaching for his lighter to relight the cigar in his hand. "Want one?" he asked Keeter.

"Why not. I thought you'd given up the habit?"

"I still enjoy a good cigar from time to time. Getting low on my Havanas, though. And I don't have the connections to get more these days."

"Maybe Frank could help?"

Harm chuckled, watching Keeter light his cigar. "Maybe. I'll have to ask."

"You and he are getting along now, I guess?"

"Yeah. I guess having Mattie in my life made me realize how difficult I made things for him."

"Well, you thought your dad was alive," Keeter pointed out. "And as it turned out - you were right."

"Didn't matter. Dad gave up on ever coming back. I think he knew Mom would find someone else. His last letter tape said that he hoped she would if anything happened to him. And he found some happiness before -" his voice trailed off.

"Yeah," Keeter nodded, leaning forward, the cigar between his fingers. "You heard from your brother lately?"

"Galena's expecting their first baby soon," Harm told him.

"So you're going to be an uncle."

"Apparently so. I doubt he'll be here for the wedding unless it's in six months."

"Be a mistake to wait that long, buddy," Keeter said. "Why don't you just set a date in a couple of months, put it on Mac's calendar, and get things on the road?"

"That's what she suggested I do. But I don't like the idea of planning the entire thing without her. The last guy she almost married did that - and I know she wasn't entirely happy with what he set up."

"Did she tell you what she would have preferred?"

Harm grinned at the memory. "A simple ceremony in a field with some goats."

Keeter laughed. "Not sure you could pull off the goats. But the rest should be easy enough. Especially here in Southern California. And you've got me to help now. That should make things a snap!"

"That's a *huge* comfort, Keeter," Harm said as they both laughed.

Keeter sat back, puffing on the cigar. "You're sure that Mac doesn't mind my using your guest room?"

"I'm sure. Of course, she thinks that you're going to be flying back to DC tomorrow night."

"I might go back - just to get things packed up and ready to move out here."

"Did you ever think we'd end up leaving at the end of twenty, Keeter?" Harm asked.

"Me? Yeah. But you - had you pegged as a lifer. Thirty years at least. That they'd have to kick you out before you'd go. Guess love makes a man do strange things," Keeter mused.

"Yeah. I guess so." He sighed, flicking the ashes from his cigar. "You'll be back by a week from Monday, won't you?"

"Should be. Why?"

"We're having a little get together here for Mac's staff and family and friends. I think you're in one of those groups."

"Oh, don't worry. I wouldn't miss it for the world."


"What time is Mac supposed to be home?"

"Who knows? Whenever the conference ends for the day. She wasn't even sure when that would be."

"Well," Keeter said, standing up. "It's been a long day. I think I'll turn in."

"Thanks for bringing the plane out, Keeter."

"Hey, I really enjoyed it. Flying for fun instead of for someone else for a change. You going to bed?"

"No. I think I'll stay out here for awhile - finish my cigar. Maybe Mac will come home."

"'kay. Night."

"Night, Keeter."

Keeter paused in the open door. "Oh, and for the record - I *did* have a nice evening. Jen's a lot more mature than most women her age. She was good company. But she's not interested in me as anything more than a friend. So you don't have to worry."

"Who was worried?" Harm questioned, glad that the darkness hid the relief that flowed through him at Keeter's words.

"Whatever you say, buddy," Keeter replied, continuing into the house.


Keeter, Harm, and Mattie had Sunday lunch at Trish and Frank's before Jen came over to stay with Mattie while Harm drove Keeter to the airport.

As they waited for the flight to board, Harm thanked Keeter again for bringing "Sarah" out, and reminded him of the party in a week.

"Hey, it was my pleasure. And have you ever known me to miss a party, buddy?"

Harm shook his head. "No. Not if you knew there was one taking place."

"Don't even have to worry about an invite. I'll be there anyway. You remember that time you and I crashed that party that - what's her name? was having."

"The Captain's daughter," Harm recalled. "The only reason I went along was to keep you from making a total fool out of yourself with her. Ended up almost getting us both called on the carpet."

"Wasn't my fault that her boyfriend was so drunk he fell into the pool," Keeter remembered.

"He didn't fall in," Harm said. "You pushed him."

"Ooops. That's right." But the grin on Keeter's face was devoid of any guilt for the incident. "You know, she married that guy. They got divorced ten years later. I tried to tell her she was making a *big* mistake, but would she listen?"

They both shook their heads at the young woman's actions. "She wouldn't have been any better off with you," Harm pointed out.

"I wasn't offering myself long term, pal."

"You're hopeless, Keeter."

"I know. It's part of my charm. I'll be back at the end of the week - and I expect to see Mac this time."

"I'll tell her."

Keeter's face grew serious. "Harm, about, Jen -"

"What about her?"

"She needs to find friends of her own out here. New faces."

"I know. I've talked to her about it. She insists that Mattie needs her right now. And she's right. Until Mattie gets back on her feet and starts meeting kids her own age, Jen's the only non-family friend she's got out here."

"I don't think Mattie's the only one that needs her, Harm."

Before Harm could question him about the comment, the loudspeaker announced that the flight was boarding. "That's my call to get going." He held out his hand. "See you next weekend."

"Sure. Just let me know when to pick you up."

"Will do. Bye."

"Bye, Keeter."

Harm watched his friend go through the gate, then turned to leave the airport.


1800 Hours Local
Rabb-Mackenzie Home
La Jolla, CA

Harm asked Jen to have dinner with him and Mattie again - as long as she didn't have somewhere else that she would rather be, only to have her assure him that she was *exactly* where she wanted to be at that moment and accept the invitation.

They were just sitting down on the patio, having decided to eat outside, when Mac appeared in the doorway to find them laughing over a story that Harm was relating about him and Keeter and Sturgis in their Academy days.

"Sounds like you're all enjoying yourselves," she said, a tired smiled on her face.

"Hi, Mac," Mattie said, giving the older woman a worried look.

"Colonel," Jen said, standing up, but Mac shook her head.

"Sit down and enjoy your dinner, Jen."

Harm rose and went to Mac, pulling her into his arms for a hug. She had come home for a couple of hours in the early morning, just long enough to shower, change her clothes and catch about an hour's sleep before returning to the office. Now, he could see the exhaustion in her eyes. "You're earlier than I thought you'd be."

"Most of the attendees need to get back to their commands," she explained. "So we broke up early." When Harm pulled a chair out for her, Mac shook her head again. "No. I'm too tired to eat, believe it or not. Right now, all I want is a bed so that I can get horizontal and catch up on my sleep." She placed her palms against Harm's chest as she looked up at him. "You have dinner. I'll see you later."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure. Oh, I guess Keeter got off okay?"

"Yeah. But he'll be back next weekend."

"Oh?" she questioned, turning in the doorway.

"He decided to take an early out, too. He'll be settling here in the area."

"Wonderful," Mac sighed. "Someone to get you into trouble."

"You mean someone for him to keep *out* of trouble, don't you Mac?" Mattie asked.

"You could be right. I'm too tired to think about it right now." She lifted her hand over her shoulder as she moved into the house. "Night."

"Night," Harm called after her.

"She's working too hard," Jen commented, then sucked in her lower lip. "Sorry. It's not my place -"

"You're not just her yeoman, Jen," Harm pointed out. "You're her friend. Regs be -" he glanced at Mattie and broke off. "Do you have any idea how much longer it's going to be until the JLSC is completely set up?"

"It's hard to say," Jen told him. "SecNav and Gen. Cresswell keep adding things into the mix that the Colonel has to make work within the current framework. And if it doesn't, -"

"Then she has to rebuild the framework," Harm guessed, and Jen nodded. "Well, she'll have four days at the end of the week, and I'm going to make sure she *doesn't* spend them working."

"The Colonel's very lucky to have you around, Harm," Jen said, and before Harm could see her face, she focused her attention on the food in front of her. "This is really good fettuccini."

"Harm makes the *best* chicken fettuccini," Mattie chimed in. "It's one of my favorite things in the world."

Forcing himself to relax, Harm smiled at his ward. "I'm going to have to remember that."


Mac was still sleeping like a log when Harm joined her in bed later that night. Knowing that she was totally exhausted, he managed to push aside his need for her once again, while still wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close to his body, smiling as she snuggled closer, as though she knew that she had found safe harbor at last.

The only trouble was that Harm's traitorous mind whispered, *"But is it the right harbor?"*

When he woke later to feel Mac's soft fingers wrapped around him, Harm smiled and opened his eyes to meet hers. "You must be feeling better," he said, trying not to thrust up into her hand. Every time they had made love since his arrival, it had been hurried. He wanted this time to be different. Maybe to remind Mac of their first night after the coin toss.

"Much," she whispered, starting to slide down his chest.

But Harm stopped her, grabbing her upper arms and lifting his head to kiss her. "I love you, Mac."

"I love you too, Harm," she replied, placing a kiss against his collarbone, then leaving a trail of kisses along his chest, stopping along the way to visit various spots before he felt her warm mouth close over him.

"Oh, Sarah. Ooooh." His fingers dug into the sheets, enjoying her ministrations. It had been a long time since anyone had done this for him. Not since that first night, in fact. And before that - it had been even longer. He'd been surprised when she had seemed eager to pleasure him like this. And he knew that if he left her alone, she would take it to completion.

But Harm didn't want that. He wanted to bury himself inside of her warm body, to feel her wrap herself around him. "Sarah," he managed as he felt himself nearing the point of no return. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled, managing to free himself just in the nick of time, but her fingers found him again, and he smiled into her passion-filled eyes. "I want to be inside you," he said, capturing her lips with his as he rolled them over so that he was lying beside her writhing, needy body.

He trailed a finger down her neck, following it with his lips until they reached the summit of her breasts. Capturing one peak with his mouth, he gently rolled the other with his fingers, hearing her breathing begin to shorten. He moved his lips to the second peak as his fingers moved still lower to the dark triangle between her legs to find her wet and ready for him.

"God, Harm, please," she begged, practically pulling him over on top of her. "I need it."

"I need you, sweet thing," he assured her, entering her in one thrust before setting a slow, steady pace that soon had her fingers raking across his back and her hips moving to meet his in frustration. It was a good thing her nails weren't long, he thought, or his back would be bleeding by now. Sweat dripped from his chin to pool in the hollow at the base of her neck as he kept his upper body raised with his arms.

Suddenly Mac's legs wrapped around his and Harm found himself on his back, with Mac straddling his hips, lifting herself up and down at a faster pace than he'd been using. Her hands went to her breasts, rubbing them, pressing them together and pinching the nipples into hard points, and Harm knew she was close.

So he placed his fingers on her thighs so that his thumbs buried into that triangle. They slid easily into the hidden moist folds, easily finding the one button of hers that he enjoyed pushing. Suddenly Mac's body tensed and her mouth opened into a soundless "Oh", and her breathing became very short and rapid.

Harm grasped her hips and began to thrust up into her, prolonging her pleasure as he found his own . . .

She collapsed onto his chest, both of them sweaty and sated. Temporarily, anyway, he told himself. "I love you, Mac," he said again as he brushed his fingers through her tangled hair.

"Mmmm," was her response as she wiggled against him, causing Harm to gasp as her internal muscles squeezed him.

"Damn, woman." He lifted her head and gave her a kiss, then frowned as she winced. "What's wrong?"

"My back," she told him. "It's been bothering me the last few days."

He rolled them onto their sides facing each other as he reached around to rub the spot on her back that hurt. "Better?" he asked.


"Have you seen a doctor since you came out here?" he asked.

"No. They're not going to tell me anything different than the doctor at Bethesda told me, Harm. My chances of getting pregnant are pretty slim."

"I wasn't talking about getting pregnant," he said. "I was worrying about your being in pain again. Maybe they can give you something else -"

"All they'll tell me to do is to take things easier."

"And they'd be right," Harm said. "Do you think you'll have things situated so that you can take some time off in say - four months?"

"I wish I could say for certain," she sighed. "This weekend pointed out some changes that we need to make that means I'll have to work even harder over at least the next couple of weeks." She looked at him, her fingers resting against his chest, tangling in the curling hairs. "Why?"

"I thought maybe we could set a date for four months from now. If it's on your calendar, there shouldn't be a conflict, right?"

"There shouldn't be," she agreed slowly.

"How about the first weekend in November?" he suggested.

"I'll put it on the calendar tomorrow and we'll give it a go," she said.

"Good. Now that that is settled," he said, tossing back the covers. "What do you say to sharing a shower?"

"Sharing?" she repeated, pretending to be shocked by the idea. "Why Harmon Rabb, Jr. What *would* your mother say?"

"She'd probably tell me to go for it," he answered with a grin and lifted Mac out of the bed to carry her into the bathroom.

"This is Keeter's influence, isn't it?" she teased, and Harm shot her a playful grin as he put her down to turn on the shower.

"Believe me, Keeter would be the last person I'd share a shower with these days." Seeing Mac's raised eyebrows, he realized what he'd said. "Not that he and I - I mean, showers at the Academy are -" Suddenly Mac was laughing, and Harm realized that she'd known exactly what he was talking about.

"Sorry," she apologized. "I couldn't resist."

"Just for that," Harm decided, pulling her into the oversized shower stall with him and handing her the soap, "You can wash my back."


When he woke the next morning - after another round of love making before they had fallen asleep in each other's arms - Harm discovered that Mac had gone to work without waking him. She *had* left a note, apologizing and explaining that she had to get started on those changes she'd mentioned and wasn't sure if she would be home for dinner, and that she hadn't awakened him because she thought he might need his sleep after being so 'active' last night.

Harm smiled at the memory and placed the note on his nightstand before hitting the shower and putting on his running clothes, feeling more hopeful for the future than he had in some time.


Mattie was already in the kitchen when he got down there. "Mac said that you might want to sleep in today."

He poured a cup of coffee before turning to look at her, hoping that the heat in his cheeks wouldn't be noticeable by then. "Really?"

"She certainly looked happier and more rested than she has since we got here. So do you," she observed.

He chuckled, deciding to change the subject. "Did she tell you that we set a date?"

"No. When?"

"First weekend in November. That gives her time to clear her schedule, and me time to get everything planned."

"That's four months," she said. "Cool." She took another bite of her cereal. "When can we go flying again, Harm?"

Harm laughed at her question, delighted to hear it. "Maybe next weekend we'll get Mac to go with us."

"She doesn't like to fly."

"She's just had a few bad experiences, that's all."

"Yeah," Mattie agreed, putting down her spoon to count on her fingers. "Let's see: an emergency landing the first time you took her up in 'Sarah'. She got sick when she flew with you in an F-14. Then you and she had to punch out of a MiG in Russia -"

"Like I said, bad experiences."

"And then there was the last one that you haven't given me any details on, but admitted that you crash landed and both walked away," Mattie continued, and Harm lifted his hands in surrender.

"Uncle!" he cried, laughing. "I give up. So maybe it was more than a 'few'," he agreed.

"Thing is, none of those were your fault, were they?"

"Not really. Except maybe the first time. I was so excited that she was going up with me that I managed to overlook that fuel line being cracked."

"It might not have been when you did your check," Mattie pointed out. "I'm sure if it had been, you would have noticed. You're very observant, even when you're in a hurry."

"Well, even if she doesn't want to fly, it will still be a good way to get her out of the house and away from work for awhile."

"You're right about that." Mattie grinned. "As long as I get to go up again, that's all I care about."

"You're really over your fear?" he asked.

"Not 'over' it, exactly. The idea still scares me. But I finally understand that I have to learn to overcome that fear if I'm going to do what I want to do."

"Including walking again?"

"Especially that."

"Well, I'm looking forward to having someone to run with me in the mornings," he told her. "So don't take too long."

"Lisa doesn't think it will take long at all. I'm shooting for being able to ditch the chair by the time school starts."

"That's less than two months," Harm pointed out, grabbing a bottle of water out of the fridge.

"Don't think I can do it?" she asked.

"Not saying that. I just don't want you to set yourself up for a disappointment."

"Ten dollars says that I'm able to stand on my own before the first day of school," she wagered.


"I'll make it twenty if you're so eager to lose your money," was her reply, and Harm laughed.

"You spent too much time around Keeter this weekend. Okay. Ten it is." He bent to give her a quick kiss. "I'm going for my run."

"Have fun!" she called after him, causing his smile to widen. Getting back into the air in "Sarah" had been just what the doctor ordered, apparently. Mattie seemed happier and more confident. The air of determination that had been missing since the accident was back.

She was going to be okay. He was more certain of it than ever.

Now, he just had to make sure that he and Mac were going to be okay. Setting a date for the wedding was a beginning, but Harm had tiny, niggling feeling that their problems weren't over just yet.

The End Episode 2

To Episode 3

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