0945 Hours Local
Harm had just returned to the house after dropping Mattie off at school when he noticed that someone had left a message on the machine. He didn't recognize the number or the caller on the ID. Pressing the button, he listened.
"Mr. Rabb, I'm John Harding. An attorney working for Lt. Matthew Collins. You might have heard about him in the paper."
Harm remembered the name. Lt. Collins' Hornet had gone down in the bay while on maneuvers a few weeks ago. It had impacted a civilian tourist boat and caused injury to several civilians.
"The Navy is trying to say that Lt. Collins was at fault, and I'm not convinced that it is. The reason that I'm calling is that you were recommended as someone who might be willing to join the defense team as an expert in Naval aviation. If you're interested in trying to keep a young man from being railroaded, call me." He gave a telephone number. "Thanks."
Thoughtful, Harm poured a cup of coffee from the pot as the message ended. Heading toward the study, he started a news search for Lt. Collins' accident on the computer. He'd remembered the basics correctly. Collins had ejected from the damaged aircraft just before it went in, sustaining some injuries as a result of the low altitude punch out. Three people on the tourist boat had been hospitalized, and one of them was still in the hospital in critical condition. There was precious little about the crash other than that - with the standard "The Navy is investigating the incident," contained in the article.
One of the people on the tour boat had gotten video of the injured Hornet and Harm downloaded it to watch. Seeing something that didn't look right, Harm paused the playback near the end of the video, frowning, and then picked up the telephone to dial the number for John Harding's office.
1145 Hours Local
Law Office of John Harding
San Diego, CA
"Lt. Collins insists that the Hornet's control system malfunctioned," Harding told Harm two hours later in the man's law office. "To tell you the truth, Mr. Rabb, I've never handled a case in a military court."
"How did you get the case?"
John Harding grinned a bit sheepishly. "I used to date his sister," he explained. "It didn't work out, but we're still friends. She called, begging me to help Matt. I tried to tell her that I didn't have any experience with this kind of thing, but I'm sure you know what it's like. She was counting on me to help."
"And you didn't want to let her down," Harm guessed.
"No," John confirmed. "I was hoping that you'd be able to help me with the UCMJ and military protocols. And in the investigation into the crash itself. The Navy doesn't want to share much of whatever they're finding. I figure after twenty years you might still have some friends on the inside."
"One or two, maybe," Harm said. "How did you find me?"
"Luck. I have a younger brother who's in high school. He told me about you after you appeared at their Career Day assembly a few weeks ago. Apparently you did something I'd never been able to do: make him interested in a law career. Until your talk, he thought being a lawyer was dull and dry."
"I hope I didn't oversell it," Harm noted with a wry grin. After his talk at Mattie's school, the local recruiter had asked him to repeat the speech at a few other area schools. A bit like an 'unofficial' recruiter.
"Anyway, I called around and found out your number. Will you help me, Mr. Rabb? Will you help a fellow Naval aviator from getting the shaft for something that wasn't his fault?"
1330 Hours Local
Harm smiled and acknowledged Lts. Mayfield and Graves as he moved through the ops center, heading toward Mac's office. Jen stood up when he entered, smiling.
"Harm! This is a surprise." She glanced toward Mac's closed office door. "The Colonel's in a meeting, but I can see if she -"
Before Jen could finish, the door opened, and Lt. Vukovic appeared, laughing until he saw Harm standing there. "Harm. Hello, sir."
"Vic." Something about the man still grated on Harm's nerves, but Harm simply nodded pleasantly.
"Guess you're here to see Mac- I mean Col. Mackenzie," Vic said, and Harm, knowing that the younger man was trying to get him to rise to the bait, lifted an eyebrow.
"Actually, I'm here on business," he said, not surprised when Mac appeared in the doorway upon having heard his voice.
"Harm," she said, giving what Harm considered to be a look of warning to Vic. "This is a surprise."
"I had a meeting in the area and thought I'd drop by," he explained.
"Why don't we go into my office?" Mac suggested, standing between him and Vic. "I believe you have a case to prepare for, Lieutenant?" she said archly to Vic.
"Yes, ma'am," Vic agreed, nodding at Harm again. "Nice to see you again, sir."
Harm entered Mac's office. "You didn't tell me anything about a meeting in town this morning," she said, sitting in one of the chairs in front of her desk.
"I had a meeting with an attorney about being a consultant on a case he's working on."
"What kind of consulting?" Mac asked.
"Is your office handling the Collins case?" Harm countered.
Mac's eyes widened. "As a matter of fact, yes, we are. How did you get involved?"
"I got a call this from his civilian attorney, asking if we could talk."
"You didn't fly Hornets," Mac pointed out. "You flew Tomcats."
"I transitioned before I retired," Harm pointed out. "I'm not exactly sure what John Harding thinks I can do to help, but I think he's a little overwhelmed by military law. I figure it can't hurt to talk to the guy, anyway." There was a knock on the door, and Jen entered with two cups of coffee.
"I thought you might like some coffee," she explained.
"Thank you, Coates," Mac said, and Harm smiled at the young woman as he took the second mug.
"Do you need anything else?" Jen asked.
"No, I think we're fine," Mac said in a rather abrupt tone. "That will be all."
Jen left the room, and Harm sipped his drink. "Who's got the case?"
Mac answered in a quiet voice, her own cup in her hands.
She sighed and put down the cup. "Vic."
Mac sighed again. "You didn't agree to help, did you?"
"I looked over what his attorney has," Harm said. "I think he could use some help."
"Is this what you want to do, Harm? Fight the Navy? I seem to recall your making fun of Mic Brumby when he -"
"He was taking lawsuits against the Navy, Mac," Harm said. "This is a little more serious than a wrongful incarceration suit. Lt. Collins could end up in Leavenworth for the rest of his life if he doesn't have adequate representation."
"Why does that representation have to be *you*?" Mac questioned. "Why can't you let someone else handle it? I'm sure there are any number of qualified private sector attorneys out there who can handle this."
Harm frowned. "Why don't you want me to do this, Mac?" he asked. "It's perfect for me. As a former JAG attorney and Navy aviator, I think I can bring a lot to the table."
"You haven't been in a military courtroom in six months, Harm -"
"Not the first time," he reminded her. "I was out almost that long when I went back to flying. And then after -" he hesitated before continuing. "Paraguay." He sat forward. "Are you trying to protect me - or Vukovic?"
Mac's eyes widened as he asked the question. "Vukovic? Why would I need to protect him?"
"I don't know," he said, relaxing. "Worried that he can't handle being beaten in court by someone he thinks is 'past it'?"
"He doesn't think you're past it, Harm," Mac insisted, rising from her chair - only to pause and place a hand on the desk to steady herself. "Oooh."
In a flash, Harm was on his feet, supporting her. "Mac?"
She waved her hand. "I'm okay. Just a little - dizzy. Guess I stood up too fast." She sat down again, and Harm knelt beside her.
"You sure that's all it is?" he asked.
"What else could it be? I've been working hard, probably not getting enough sleep - existing on coffee and burgers at work -"
"Well, in two weeks, that will be over," Harm said. "You can take some time off and get some rest."
She reached out to touch his face. "I'm fine," she assured him.
"Why don't you secure early?" Harm suggested. "Come home. You can rest -"
Mac looked at her desk, with its piles of folders on the corner. "I can't. I'll be okay. It was just a passing dizzy spell, Harm."
"Maybe you should see a doctor. When was your last appointment?"
"I had a check up two months ago. I was fine," she told him.
Harm knew that he wasn't going to win the argument, and leaned forward to give her a kiss. "Okay. But at least promise me that you'll have Jen get you something more than a burger to eat."
"I didn't eat very much of the one she brought me earlier," Mac confided. "I just haven't been very hungry lately," she explained when he gave her a concerned look. "But I'll have her get something else and try to eat if it will stop you from worrying," she promised.
"It's not about my worrying, honey. It's about you taking care of yourself. It's not like you to not have an appetite," he reminded her with a half grin.
"I'm sure it's just the stress of the job getting to me," she told him, in an obvious attempt to reassure him. "You're going to take Lt. Collins' case, aren't you?"
"I'm supposed to meet with him and John Harding tomorrow morning before I give them an answer."
"I suppose knowing that Vic's prosecuting is just added incentive," she said with a small smile.
"It doesn't make me think about *not* taking it," Harm had to admit. "Might bring him down a peg or to, losing to someone with more talent and who doesn't treat him like he's the Second Coming."
"I don't -"
Harm lifted an eyebrow again, causing her not to finish her statement. "Yes, you do. But only because Cresswell does. I really thought the man was better at reading people. His belief in Vukovic makes me question that."
"Vic really isn't that bad, Harm. He just needs -"
"I know. A firm hand and someone to set an example." The telephone rang, and Mac grimaced as she slowly stood and moved to turn on the intercom.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but General Cresswell is on line one."
"Put him through," Mac said, looking at Harm.
He leaned forward to give her a brief kiss before watching her sit down at the desk to take the call. In Jen's office, Harm waved aside her concern at the interruption. "It's okay. I was about to leave anyway." He hesitated. "Jen, have you noticed Mac acting strangely lately?"
"She hasn't been eating much that I've seen, and I can't tell you how many times I've brought her something in and she hasn't touched it. I think her back's been bothering her. She keeps a heating pad in her chair most of the time," she confided in a quiet voice, her eyes fixed on the closed door.
"From now, bully her a little, okay? Tell her it's my idea so she won't take you to task."
"I will," she assured him with a smile that faded as she continued. "Is there a problem?"
"It's probably nothing more than you mentioned. But keep an eye on her for me?"
"Yes, sir," she replied, her smiled returning.
"I have to go if I'm going to make it back to pick Mattie up after practice."
"I might stop by after work, if that's okay."
"Fine with me." His eyes narrowed. "Why do you think I wouldn't be okay?
"I just don't want to make a pest of myself, I suppose."
Harm leaned forward, resting his hands on the desk. "Jen, you will *always* be more than welcome in our home. You're very important to - all of us." He hoped she hadn't noticed the hesitation. "Don't ever hesitate to come and visit. You're part of the family."
"Thank you," she said in a quiet voice, then tapped her watch. "You'd better go."
He grinned. "Yeah. Later."
1000 Hours Local
Law Office of John Harding
San Diego, CA
Lt. Matthew Collins reminded Harm of himself right after the ramp strike. The young man was on crutches, and moved in a fashion that told Harm the broken ribs weren't quite healed yet. He had spent most of the week after his accident in the hospital, and would have to go through some physical therapy to regain full use of his knee.
Collins shook Harm's hand eagerly, clearly in a state of awe. "I've heard about you, sir," he told Harm.
"Well, don't believe everything you hear, Lieutenant," Harm said, laughing. "I'm not nearly as bad as some would paint me."
"You're a legend, sir," Collins corrected. "I was on the Patrick Henry for a few months and I heard some of the old timers talking about you there. I'm glad you've agreed to help me."
"He hasn't agreed yet, Matt," John said. "That's what this meeting is about."
"I understand," Matt nodded, slowly sitting down in one of the chairs around the round table.
"How's the knee doing, Lieutenant?" Harm asked.
"Not good, sir. The doctors say that I probably won't be able to pass a flight physical, which will ground me anyway, even if the Navy doesn't toss me into the brig."
"Everything depends on you, Lieutenant," Harm said, recalling a similar belief after the strike.
Collins smiled at his confidence. "What do you want to know, sir?"
"First thing, you can drop the 'sir'. I'm not in the Navy anymore. Harm will do."
"And second, I want you to tell me everything that happened on that flight. Down to the last, smallest detail. Don't leave anything out."
1200 Hours Local
"Two times in one week," Jen noted as Harm entered her office. "How did we get so lucky?"
"I'm here on business this time," Harm told her, lifting his briefcase.
"The Collins case."
"Oh." He could see her mind working. "You're his attorney?"
"One of them. My - associate will be here after lunch." He glanced toward Mac's office door. "I thought I'd drag Mac away for lunch."
"Good luck," Jen told him. "On the case and on lunch. She's already down in the cafeteria with Lt. Mayfield and Lt. Graves."
"You're not having lunch?"
"I brought something," she explained. "It's in the break room." She grinned at him. "Besides, they're all officers. I'm just a lowly enlisted person."
"Enlisted maybe, but I don't buy 'lowly'," he told her with an answering grin. "Can I leave this here?" Harm asked, holding up the briefcase again.
Jen took it from him, putting it beside her desk away from the door. "There you are. Enjoy your lunch."
Even though it was crowded, he saw them the moment he entered the room. They were sitting at a corner table. Mac, Talia, Cathy - and Vic.
Mac had a plate in front of her, Harm noticed as he got a tray and paid for his food, and then moved across the room toward them, but she wasn't eating, merely pushing the food around with her fork. Vic was the first one to see him, and when their eyes met, Harm wasn't surprised to see challenge in the younger man's gaze that was quickly hidden.
Harm bent to give Mac a kiss on the cheek. "Room for one more here?" he asked, acknowledging the two female lieutenants with a smile.
Graves moved over, making room between herself and Mac. "I think we can make room right here, sir." She jumped up and grabbed one of the few empty chairs in the room and set it down in the spot. "There you are."
Harm had to smile at her enthusiasm. "Thank you, Cathy."
"You're here twice in two days, sir," Talia noted.
"He's here on business, probably," Mac explained, looking at him.
"At the moment, I'm having lunch," he told her, putting his tray on the table and sitting down with a glance at Mac's plate. "You're not eating," he said.
"I'm not really very hungry," she said, flicking her eyes toward the junior officers as she spoke quietly.
"What kind of business are you here about, sir?" Talia asked in a blatant attempt to try and draw attention away from the fact that Mac wasn't eating.
"Legal business." Harm met Vic's eyes again. "I'm part of Lt. Matthew Collins' defense team." He saw Vic's face move into a mask.
"Really? I'm not sure I'd bother," Vic said. "It's pretty open and shut from where I'm standing."
"Not from where I'm standing," Harm replied, picking up his fork, ignoring the young man's arrogance. "Now, why don't we find something else to discuss while we eat and save the business talk until later?"
"Sounds good to me," Cathy Graves agreed quickly. "Coates told me that Mattie's becoming quite a swimmer."
John Harding joined Harm and Lt. Vukovic in one of the conference rooms after lunch, giving him a chance to meet his opponent and discuss the particulars of the case. Vic was clearly sure of his case, insisting that Lt. Collins had failed to do his duty to keep his out of control aircraft away from inflicting damage on a civilian craft and injuring several people.
"Have you spoken to Lt. Collins, Lieutenant?" Harm asked.
"I've read the preliminary investigation report," Vic confirmed.
"Then you're aware that Collins is claiming that the aircraft's control systems malfunctioned?" John asked.
Vic shook his head and slid some papers across to them. "Not according to these."
Harm picked up the papers and glanced through them. "These don't prove anything."
"I think a panel will be the judge of that. Unless you're willing to deal."
"Deal?" John questioned in disbelief, but Harm lifted his hand.
"What're you offering?" he asked, ignoring John's surprised glare.
"Punitive discharge, five years confinement. Loss of benefits."
"Take it or leave it."
Harm picked up the report and tossed it into his briefcase, closing it. "Then we'll see you in court, counselor. And I'll expect a full disclosure - and no tricks."
"Let's just say that I'll be checking out any and all witnesses that you intend to put on the stand," Harm said, smiling as Vic's eyes widened in shocked surprise. "Let's go, John."
In the hallway, John shook his head. "I'm glad I called you, Harm. I'm already learning. Full of himself, isn't he?"
"Just a little," Harm said. "But that's his Achilles' heel. He can't imagine not winning a case." He looked toward the ops area. "Listen, John. You go on ahead. I'll be along later after I talk to someone."
Standing at the elevator, John grinned knowingly. He had arrived just as they were leaving the cafeteria, and had been introduced to Mac then. "Give her my best."
"I will." He turned and entered ops, and was surprised when he found that Jen wasn't at her desk. The door into Mac's office was partially open, and he moved closer to find Jen hovering over Mac, who was lying on the sofa across the room from her desk. "What's wrong?" he asked, crossing to their side.
"I got dizzy again," Mac told him.
"We were sitting in front of the desk going over the afternoon schedule and when she stood up, she almost fell," Jen informed him.
"I'm fine," Mac insisted as she tried to sit up. But Harm kept his hand on her shoulder, gently hold her down.
"Not so fast. Jen, find the number for Mac's doctor and see when she can be seen."
"Don't, Jen. I don't need a doctor, Harm."
Harm saw that Jen was torn about what to do. She wanted to do as Harm asked, but Mac *was* her CO. "Okay, I'll find the number and call," Harm declared. "Where do you keep your address book?"
"I'm not going to tell you," Mac said, slowly sitting up when he crossed the room, waving Jen's offered assistance away impatiently.
Harm took note of the heating pad that Jen had mentioned, and then gave Jen a silently inquisitive look.
"Center drawer," Jen said quickly, and then apologized to Mac. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but he's right. You *do* need to see a doctor. You look pale."
Harm confirmed that observation in silence as he dialed the number for Mac's doctor. When the phone was answered, he discovered that Dr. Gallison had an opening the next morning to see Mac. He confirmed the appointment and hung up, telling Mac, "Tomorrow morning at 0900."
"I have a meeting with General Morrison at 0845."
"I can postpone it, ma'am," Jen offered.
"You *will* postpone it, Jen," Harm said in a firm tone. "And don't bother arguing, Mac. You need to see a doctor about this."
Mac sighed heavily. "You're right. See if the General can reschedule for the afternoon, Jen."
Harm decided that it was the only concession that he was likely to get about the meeting, but he knew that he needed to try something else. "And you'll come home now."
"I can't, Harm," Mac insisted. "But I'll dial it back a little," she assured him. "And I'll secure at 1730 if not before."
"Are you sure you can drive home?"
"I'm sure." She nodded at Jen. "Thank you, Coates." Harm moved back to sit beside her in case she needed him. "How did your meeting with Vic go?"
"If I say he's an arrogant -" he stopped when he saw the look on Mac's face, "would that tell you anything?" he finished.
She smiled. "I think so. You know, people used to say the same thing about you."
"I was *never* that bad, Mac," he insisted. "I admit that I was self confident and that my ego tended to get the better of me, but I had the talent to back it up and the ability to admit when I was in over my head. I'm not sure Vic has those qualities." He sat beside her and took her hand in his. "Are you sure that I can't convince you to come home now, Mac?" he asked.
"I'll be okay. Jen's not going to let me do anything. By rights, I should be angry with her for disobeying my wishes and listening to yours."
"At that moment, she was being more than your yeoman, Mac. She was being a friend."
"I know. And that's why I'm not angry with her."
"Why didn't you tell me that your back was bothering you again?" he asked.
"Because it's part and parcel of the endo," she answered. "On my last visit, Dr. Gallison said that it wasn't getting any better. There was nothing you could do except worry and fuss over me."
"It's my job to 'worry and fuss' over you," Harm pointed out, and Mac gave him a sad smile as she lifted a hand to touch his cheek.
"Go home. I'll be along as soon as I get things finished up here."
He captured her hand and placed a kiss into the palm. "Okay. But if you're not out of here and secured by 1730, I'll come back here and *carry* you out," he threatened with a smile that only slightly masked how serious the threat was.
1630 Hours Local
Once Mattie was settled with her homework, Harm went to the study, intending to do some research for Matt Collins' case using the information that Vic had given to them earlier. But instead, he found himself researching Mac's symptoms in a medical database.
Dizziness, loss of appetite, back ache, and he knew that she had been on 'that time of the month' for several days, after having skipped the month before. And it had been pretty heavy from what he'd been able to discern. He wasn't sure if it was heavier than normal, though.
There were several possible answers, from an infection to the endo flaring up again; to the one thing Harm didn't want to even consider: that they had gotten their 4% miracle, only to lose it before they knew about it.
The need to talk to Mac was so strong that Harm grabbed the phone and dialed the number. When Jen answered, he asked if Mac was able to talk.
"She's not here," Jen said.
"No. She left about fifteen minutes ago. I think her back was really hurting just from the way she was moving."
Harm glanced at his watch. "Thanks, Jen. I appreciate your being there today."
"I didn't really do anything."
"It helps to know you're there. I'll call her cell and get an ETA. Thanks."
Harm hung up and dialed again, this time tapping the desk with a pen until Mac answered.
"Hello," she said. "I'm about half an hour out if traffic cooperates."
"How did you know I was calling to find out where you were?" he asked.
"I figured you called the office and Jen told you I'd started home, so you called my cell," she answered, and then gave him her physical location.
"How are you feeling?" he asked.
"Not much better. That's why I decided I might as well come home. I wasn't getting much done at the office. And I can work just as well on paperwork at home with my feet up."
"I'll get the heating pad plugged in," he offered.
"I might even be willing to rub your back if you'd like."
"Sounds wonderful. I guess a little pampering might not be so bad after all," she told him. "I'll see you when I get there."
"I'll be waiting," he replied, then closed the connection.
"What wrong with Mac?" Mattie asked from the doorway. She was holding an open book against her chest.
"She's not feeling well. She hasn't been eating during the day -"
"I've noticed that she hasn't been eating that much here, either," Mattie told him. "But I don't think she wanted you to know that."
Harm frowned. "How long have you noticed? And why haven't *I* noticed?"
"Oh, for at least a week, I think. And she eats when we're all together, but she usually grabs a power bar or something for breakfast and leaves, saying she'll eat it on the road."
He nodded, recalling his attempts to get her to eat breakfast with him and Mattie. She did it occasionally, on weekends, mostly, but on weekdays, the scenario that Mattie painted was more the norm than not. "Her back's hurting her and she's been getting light headed. So she's coming home early to get some rest before her doctor's appointment tomorrow morning."
"Early?" Mattie's eyes widened in shocked surprise at the news. "Mac *never* leaves work early. She must *really* be not feeling good."
"Yeah." He indicated her book. "You need some help with history?"
She grinned sheepishly. "I need to pick your brain about something," she confirmed.
Harm closed the browser on the computer and turned to look at her. "I'm all yours."
1730 Hours Local
Ignoring Harm's frown of disapproval, Mac set up her laptop in the bedroom, so that she could work from there. "I thought I was going to rub your back?" he asked, sitting beside her, an arm around her shoulders.
"You can do it later," she promised, lifting her face to his for a quick kiss before returning her attention to the laptop screen. "I have to get these budget requests finished."
Harm sat there for another moment before reluctantly pulling away. "I'll go start dinner. How about a cup of herbal tea?" he suggested, and earned a pleased smile from Mac.
"That would be perfect," she told him, wincing as she tried to get more comfortable.
"You need another pillow?" he asked, not wanting to leave her alone. He knew that he needed to tell her what he'd found on the internet, and ask her some questions, but he also knew that while she was working, she wouldn't focus on anything else.
"What?" she asked, glancing up at him. "No. I'm fine," she said.
As he passed Mattie's bedroom door, she asked, "How is she?"
"Tired. But still working."
"That's our Mac," Mattie said. "You think she'd mind if I went in and sat with her?"
"I said she's working," Harm repeated, his smile tight. "She probably wouldn't know you were there. But if you want go, go. I'm going to make her some tea, and then start dinner."
She came closer. "Lower altitude." He bent down so she could put her arms around his neck and give him a kiss.
"What was that for?" he asked when she released him and he stood back up.
"You looked like you needed a hug," she explained.
"Well, I did. Thank you."
"My pleasure," she said and turned to go toward the master bedroom.
Harm brought his notes on the Collins case into the bedroom with him, intending to work on them while Mac was working - but she wasn't in the bed. "Mac?" he called, looking toward the closed bathroom door.
Something in the tenor of her voice caused cold chills to move down Harm's spine, and he dropped his notes onto the bed to cross to the bathroom door. "Mac? Are you okay?"
"N-No," she said, sounding weak and frightened.
Harm opened the door to find her lying on the floor - blood everywhere, or so it seemed to Harm. "Mac! Oh my -" He knelt beside her, lifting her head into his lap, smoothing her hair.
"Something's wrong, Harm."
"Don't worry, honey. We'll get you to some help. Mattie!" he called out, trying to remain calm. Mac's fingers grasped his.
"Don't leave me," she begged.
"I won't. Mattie!"
She appeared in the doorway and stopped, gasping in shock. "Oh my God. What -"
"Call 911, Mattie. We need to get Mac to the hospital ASAP."
Mattie disappeared, and he heard her on the telephone, giving their address and Mac's name. "She's bleeding and on the bathroom floor . . . yes, she's conscious. I don't know. Harm?"
"Is Mac pregnant?"
Harm looked down into Mac's eyes, and saw the sudden realization. "She might be. Just tell them to get here as soon as possible."
Mattie appeared again a moment later with a pillow and blanket. "Here," she said, handing him the pillow before placing the blanket over Mac's now shivering body. "They said to keep her warm and watch for shock and that they're on the way."
"Th-thank you," Mac said through chattering teeth to Mattie, who leaned over to brush some hair from Mac's forehead.
"You just be okay." She glanced at Harm. "I'll go wait for the ambulance."
"Is there anyone I should call?" Mattie asked. "Grandma Trish and Grandpa Frank are still in the Bahamas -"
Harm glanced up at the girl's frightened face. "Let's not bother them just yet. It might turn out to be nothing." He felt Mac's fingers tighten on his and looked at her pale face.
"I hope so," Mattie said, heading out the door.
Mac's eyes focused once more on Harm. "I never even considered that I might be -"
"Why don't we wait until we know for sure?" Harm suggested, placing a hand to her lips, stilling them. "It might be something else. Let's not borrow trouble, okay?"
Mac closed her eyes, nodding her head, and a tear escaped to roll down her cheek.
When the ambulance was ready to leave, Harm wanted to go with Mac, but didn't want to leave Mattie alone with no way to the hospital. She touched his arm. "Go with her, Harm. I called Jen. She should be here any minute."
Harm gave her a quick hug, and turned to get into the ambulance with Mac, determined to stay with her through this. But once at the hospital, Harm had been asked to leave the examination room while they examined Mac.
He had kissed her pale cheek and assured her that he would be right outside, then left the room to find Mattie, Jen, and Keeter waiting for him. Mattie came directly to him, putting her arms around his waist and resting her head against his chest. "How is she?" Jen wanted to know.
"She'll be okay," Harm said. "They're doing some tests."
"What happened?" Keeter asked. "Mattie said that Mac collapsed in the bathroom and was bleeding. Did she hit her head?"
"No," Harm answered, shaking his head slowly.
"This has to do with her dizzy spells and backache, doesn't it?" Jen questioned. "I know she had an appointment with her doctor for tomorrow," she continued.
Harm nodded. "She was taking it easy tonight. I left the room for a few minutes and when I got back, she was in the bathroom." He felt Jen's fingers touch his arm and looked at her. "There was blood everywhere, but it hadn't come from her head." He saw Jen's realization clearly, and covered her comforting hand with his.
"I'm sure that she'll be fine, Harm," Keeter tried to reassure him.
"Do they have any idea what happened?" Mattie asked, looking up at him. "When the lady at 911 asked about her being pregnant-"
"There's a possibility," Harm acknowledged in a quiet voice, his own eyes moving to the glass window into the room where they were working with Mac. One of the doctors came toward the doors.
"You can come in now." He hesitated, obviously seeing the desire to join him in the faces of the others. "Just you for the moment."
Harm's embrace of Mattie tightened for a minute. "Stay here with Jen and Keeter." She nodded.
"Tell her -"
"I will." Harm followed the doctor into the room, moving to Mac's side. Her color was better, but she looked totally devastated. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm not sure," she replied, tears welling up in her eyes. "Harm. I'm so sorry -"
"Sorry for what, honey?" he asked, bending close.
"She suffered a miscarriage, Mr. Rabb," the doctor said, his voice matching theirs. "I'm sorry." Harm tried to hide the pain that the confirmation of his fears brought with it.
"It's my fault," Mac whispered as Harm took her hand in his.
"What? No, Mac. It's not your fault."
"He's right," the doctor confirmed. "These things just happen. Usually we never find out the reason. We need to take you up for a procedure -"
"A procedure?" Harm asked.
"A D&C," he said.
"Dr. Gallison should be here any minute," the doctor informed them. "And there will be someone in soon to take you upstairs."
"Thank you, doctor."
He gave Harm a sympathetic look. "You can stay with her until they take her in."
"Thank you." Harm smoothed Mac's hair back. "Its okay, Mac."
"No, it's not. I should have known."
"Neither of us really thought it could happen, Mac," he reminded her. "I think we can be forgiven -"
"No, *I* should have known. I had all the signs. I wasn't feeling well, I couldn't eat. I missed a cycle - I put it all down to working so much. I ignored it, kept pushing through it, refused to give in and now -"
Harm shook his head. "It's not your fault, Mac," he said again. "Look, we can try again. We got lucky once -"
"We had our shot, Harm," Mac said, her voice holding more sadness than he'd ever heard before, and it broke his heart. "Only one to a customer."
"I don't believe that. And neither should you. Mac, we've both had more than one 'miracle' in our lives. We just have to believe ---"
"I'm tired of believing, Harm," Mac said, closing her eyes. "I'm just - tired."
He would have continued the discussion, but two nurses came into the room to move Mac up for her surgery, forcing Harm to step aside until they started moving the gurney from the room, when he took her hand again.
"Where are they taking her?" Mattie asked when they passed.
"Fourth floor," Harm answered.
"Is she okay?"
"She'll be fine," Harm replied, both to Mac and the others.
"We'll see you upstairs, then," Keeter told him.
He found them in the waiting area when he was forced to watch them take Mac into the surgical area. Mattie came to him and put her arms around him, resting her head against his chest, seeking as much to comfort as to be comforted.
Harm pulled her close, cradling her head with one of his hands, closing his eyes tight at the rush of emotion flowed between them. "Mac's strong," he told the girl. "She'll get through this."
"Of course she will," Jen agreed in a quiet voice.
He felt Keeter's hand fall on his shoulder in silent support, and gave his friend a grateful smile because of it.
"How long will it take?" Mattie questioned as Harm moved them toward the seats along the wall of the small room.
"Not long," he assured her.
"Why don't you and I go find some coffee, kiddo?" Keeter suggested, extending a hand toward the girl, who looked at him then at Harm, as if asking whether or not she should leave him alone.
"Go on," Harm said, giving her a quick hug. "I could use a cup of coffee right now."
"I'll stay with Harm," Jen offered.
Mattie took Keeter's hand and rose to her feet.
Harm watched them go before running his hands over his face. "Have you called your mom and Frank?" Jen asked him, moving to sit in the chair that Mattie had vacated.
"No," he told her. "There's really nothing they could do. No reason to interrupt their trip."
"I'm sure that Trish would like to know what's happened."
"Right now, Jen, all I'm worried about Mac and how this will affect her. She's blaming herself for losing the baby."
"She's upset," Jen told him, placing a hand on his arm. "Give her some time."
"I know. Thanks for being here, Jen," Harm said, covering her hand with his.
"Where else would I be? You, Mattie, and the Colonel are the closest thing I have to a family." She hesitated for a moment before asking, "Are *you* okay, Harm?"
"Me? I'm not the one in there being put through a 'procedure'," he told her, standing up and moving across the waiting room to stare through the open door into the hallway.
"No. But I know how much you and she were hoping to have a baby. And I also know that you're totally focused on Mac right now - and you should be. But you shouldn't forget to take care of yourself, too. And I know you. You will."
He managed a small grin. "I'll think about me once I know Mac's okay and on the way to recovery."
"You can try again," Jen reminded him. "For another baby, I mean."
"I told Mac that. But she didn't want to talk about it."
"That's understandable. Like I said. She needs time."
Harm knew she was right. "Yeah. Time. They say it's the Great Healer, right?"
"That's the way I've always heard it," Jen confirmed.
He smiled again, taking a deep, calming breath. "You're very special, Jen. Have I ever told you that?"
"Once or twice," she confirmed. "But I don't mind hearing it again."
"Come here," he said, pulling her into his arms to hug her, telling himself that he was comforting her as he soaked up the comfort that she was offering him.
"Excuse me -?" Harm moved away from Jen to turn toward the door, where Dr. Gallison stood.
"Doctor. How is she?"
"She's resting. We'll move her into a room in a few minutes. I think she should stay here overnight at least."
"But she's going to be all right?"
"Yes. You're welcome to go in and sit with her if you want -"
"Thank you." He glanced at Jen.
"I'll let Mattie know when they get back."
"Dr. Gallison," Harm said, moving to catch up with the physician, "About Mac - will she - I mean -"
"You're curious about whether she'll be able to have another baby," Gallison guessed.
"I know this probably isn't the best time to ask -"
"On the contrary. Depending on her mental state, trying to have another baby after six weeks is probably a good idea. There's no reason why she can't keep trying. And there are always other options -"
"I know. I've tried to talk to her about them, but she's a little resistant."
"She has been when I've mentioned them as well," Lena Gallison told him, opening the door into the recovery area. "She's in here," she continued, leading him past the curtained off sections until she pushed one of the curtains aside. "You're awake," she said to the woman in the bed.
"Still a little groggy," Mac muttered, turning her head so that the kiss Harm tried to give her landed on her cheek. He put it down to her still being a little out of it from whatever they had given her.
"Hey," he said.
"You're doing fine," Dr. Gallison informed her patient. "They'll be moving you to a private room in another few minutes."
"A room?" Mac questioned. "I'd rather go home."
"You can go home tomorrow," the doctor told her. "Going home too soon could hinder your recovery and make getting pregnant again more difficult."
"Getting pregnant again?" Mac questioned in disbelief. "Don't kid yourself, Doctor. It won't happen. We've had our shot and I blew it."
"It wasn't your fault, honey," Harm said, frowning as she pulled her hand from his, causing Harm to glance up at the doctor's concern face.
"He's right, Mac," Lena said. "Miscarriages are something that we still don't fully understand. Sometimes they just - happen for no apparent reason. And a miscarriage doesn't always affect a woman's ability to carry another child. I've had patients who had a miscarriage and went on to have several other kids."
"Did they have endo?" Mac asked.
"Some of them. The point I'm trying to make is that you shouldn't give up. I can suggest a support group. Other women and couples who've lost a child the way you have. It helps to talk about it with others who've been through it."
"I've gone the psychiatrist route, Doctor," Mac said, closing her eyes. "It wasn't much help."
"We can discuss it later," Harm said, this time just touching her hand with his. "Once you're feeling better."
"All I want right now is to get back to work. If I can't have a baby, then I might as well concentrate on what I *do* have." Harm relaxed until she spoke again. "My career."
1100 Hours Local
La Jolla, CA
Harm had barely settled Mac into their bed when the front doorbell rang. "I'll find out who it is and be right back," he told Mac.
"Please stop hovering, Harm," Mac said. "I'm not an invalid. Don't treat me like one. I just want to put this behind me and get on with my life."
The doorbell rang again, keeping Harm from arguing the point with her. "I'll be right back," he said again, and left the room. Jen was at the door, in uniform, carrying a box. "Jen. This is a surprise."
"The Colonel didn't mention that she called and asked me to bring some paperwork over?" she questioned, giving Harm a grateful smile as he relieved her of the box.
Surprised by her words and the weight of the box, Harm frowned. "No. And if this is the paperwork -"
"Just some files that she said she needed to look over before her meeting with General Cresswell next week."
"Jen, she doesn't need to be working right now -"
"I feel the same way, Harm," she agreed, keeping her voice low. "But she's my CO. What was I supposed to do? Say no?"
Harm sighed, wishing that he had a free hand to run around the back of his neck, where the muscles seemed to be constantly tense these days. "Point taken. When is Cresswell arriving?"
"He's not. She's flying to DC -" Jen winced. "You didn't know."
"No. But I should be used to it by now." He got a better grip on the box. "Come on. Might as well take these in to her."
1300 Hours Local
"I'm surprised to see you here, Harm," Vic said as he joined Harm, John Harding and Lt. Collins in the conference room. "How is Mac - Col. Mackenzie?"
"She's recovering nicely," Harm assured the younger man, trying to hide the distaste that he felt for the Lieutenant. He felt John Harding's eyes turn in his direction, and smiled tightly. He had almost cancelled this meeting with Vukovic for the afternoon, but Mac had insisted that it would keep him from hovering over her - and pointed out the Jen was still there and could keep her from overdoing things.
He hadn't mentioned the previous night's problems to John or their client, not wanting to drag his personal life into the mix. "Mac had a miscarriage last night," he explained now to John.
"I'm sorry. If you'd mentioned it -"
"It was her idea for me to keep this appointment," Harm assured the other lawyer. He sat down across the table from Vukovic. "Shall we get started?"
Vic met his look for a moment before dropping his gaze to the papers on the table before him before pushing them across the table toward Harm. "Full disclosure, counselor. As requested. And a list of possible witnesses. We're also upgrading the charges to negligent homicide."
"What?" Lt. Collins burst out, obviously surprised by the decision. He sank back into his chair at Harm's silent admonition to be quiet.
"Laurence Dobbs died ten minutes ago of injuries sustained when Lt. Collins' aircraft struck the water near the boat that he was on." He looked at Collins. "Count yourself lucky, Lieutenant. The San Diego authorities wanted a crack at you. I assured them that we would handle it in-house."
"Well, in the interest of fairness, *Vic*," Harm said, pulling a folder out of his briefcase, "You'll want to look at this."
"What is it?" Vic wanted to know, glancing through the pages.
"It's a report by an avionics expert stating that the control system in the class of Hornet flown by Lt. Collins could be faulty due to a calibration problem." He leaned forward, keeping his voice soft, as if he didn't want the others hearing his next words. "If you think you'll have trouble with the technical bits, I'll be glad to explain them to you."
Vic glared at Harm for a moment, fully aware of the reasons for his attitude. "I think I can handle it, Harm. But it doesn't mean anything. I've heard about the report. The Navy has debunked it as false." He dropped the papers back onto the table, pushing them toward Harm again.
"And you believe everything the Navy says." It wasn't a question. Harm tossed the folder that Vic had given him into the briefcase and closed it with an audible 'click' before rising to his feet. The report remained in the middle of the table.
"You won't give the Navy a black eye," Vic said, "- not even to save your client. Not after spending twenty years in the Navy."
"You see, that's the difference between you and me, Vic," Harm replied in a dangerously soft voice. "I'm not in it for a win - or to protect the Navy. I'm in it for justice. Have someone explain that report to you, talk to the convening authority, and then get back to us."
Once in the elevator, John gave Harm a look of admiration. "You certainly know how to handle him."
Harm replied with a wry grin. "That's because I *was* him at one point in my career."
John shook his head. "I can't ever see you being more concerned with the win than in gaining justice."
"Everyone changes, John. If they're lucky and want to."
"I'm sorry about Mac," John said in a quiet voice. "How is she? And don't give me the answer you gave Vukovic. Even I could tell that you weren't being totally sincere."
The doors opened onto the main floor of the building, and Harm waited until they had passed through security and exited into the sunlight before answering. "She claims she's doing okay - insisted on her yeoman bringing some work over for her to take care of until the doctor releases her back to duty. But -"
"Loosing a baby's never easy. My mother lost a baby when I was in high school," John recalled in a somber tone. "She was pretty devastated."
"Mac tends to keep her feelings - buried," Harm said as he put his briefcase into his car. "But I do know that she's blaming herself for what happened."
"That's normal. My mom felt that way until she talked to a doctor."
"Psychiatrist. My dad even went for a couple of sessions, I think. Have you suggested something like that?"
"Her doctor suggested it before we came home - she gave us some names of counselors and support groups - Mac hasn't mentioned it since. But she's been trying to keep busy."
"Probably in an attempt not to think about it," John observed. "If you need to step back from the case, Harm, I'd understand -"
"Right now, I just need to keep busy myself, John. Thanks for the offer, though. I *am* going to check into some of the support groups tonight. Maybe I can convince Mac to go to one of them with me."
"Good idea. I'll let you know if the Lieutenant calls."
"He will. Captain Gordon's a fair man," Harm said, referring to the convening authority in the case.
1530 Hours Local
La Jolla, CA
"How is she doing?" Harm asked Jen as he entered the house. She was in the kitchen, putting Mac's "US Marines" coffee cup into the sink.
"Nearly recovered according to her," Jen told him. "She's determined to go back to work tomorrow."
He shook his head. "It's too soon. She needs to take some time off -"
"You know better than anyone else what she's like. And right now -" Jen broke off, looking uncertain.
"Right now what, Jen?"
She lowered her voice, glancing toward the office door before she continued. "Right now, I think she believes that her job is all she has left."
Harm frowned at the suggestion. Jen apparently thought she'd said too much, because she grabbed her coat from the back of a nearby chair. "I really need to get back to the office for what's left of the day. Being here with Col. Mackenzie means that the work has piled up on my desk -"
"Sure. Thanks for coming over and staying while I went to the meeting."
"How is Mattie getting home?" Jen asked, pausing as she headed toward the front door with Harm close behind. "I could stop by and pick her up -"
"No, Deb's mom is bringing her home."
"Speaking of mom - Have you called yours about what's happened?"
Harm shook his head. "No." Seeing her start to question his statement, he continued. "She'd only want to rush back here. She and Frank need some time alone before Mattie descends on them for a week after the wedding."
"She's not going to be pleased that you didn't call," Jen warned.
"You're probably right." He indicated the hallway. "You're not going to say goodbye before you go?"
As if on cue, Mac's voice came from the study instead of the bedroom, where she'd been ensconced when Harm had left earlier. "Jen? What's taking so long?" She appeared in the doorway, and paused upon seeing Harm standing with her yeoman. "Harm. I didn't realize you were home. How did the meeting with Vukovic go?"
"I gave him some information to take back to Capt. Gordon," he explained, moving closer to give her a kiss - which ended up on her cheek instead of her lips when she turned her head to speak with Jen once more.
"Are you leaving, Jen?"
"Yes, ma'am," Jen confirmed. "Since Harm is home, I didn't see any reason why I should stay -"
"Well, if you must - but I have some papers for you to take back to the office with you." Having said that, Mac turned back into the study, fully expecting Jen to follow.
Jen shrugged and moved past Harm to enter the study, taking the folders that Mac held out to her. "Let's see. This is the Dalby file. And this needs to go by special messenger to Gen. Cresswell . . ."
Jen left ten minutes later, after Harm helped her carry the files out to her car. He returned to find Mac still sitting at the desk, her attention fixed on the computer monitor. "You need to get some rest," he told her.
"I'm fine," she insisted.
He stepped closer to the desk. "Mac, you had a miscarriage -"
"I know that, Harm," she replied evenly. "But things don't stop just because someone gets sick. You know that."
"I'm sure that Gen. Cresswell would agree that you need to take some time -"
"I can't. There's too much to be done."
Harm moved around the desk and knelt beside her chair, placing a hand on her arm. "Mac, you need to give yourself time to heal - not just physically. Dr. Gallison suggested some support groups -"
"I don't need to see another psychiatrist, Harm," Mac said.
"I thought we could *both* go," he said.
The telephone rang, and Harm met Mac's eyes before reaching to answer it before she could do so. "Hello?"
"Col. Mackenzie, please. General Morrison's office calling."
Harm sighed and bit back the response that Mac wasn't taking calls before holding the phone out to her. "Gen. Morrison's office."
Mac took the phone. "Col. Mackenzie . . ." she turned back to the desk, picking up a pen. "Yes - No, I'm fine. I'll be back in the office tomorrow."
Harm took a deep breath, realizing that Mac was trying to deny what had happened - to pretend that it *hadn't* happened. That she hadn't gotten pregnant and lost the baby before she even realized she was carrying it. At the moment, he felt more alone than he'd ever been, even here just inches away from Mac.
"Yes," she confirmed. "I'll be in Washington next week for the conference."
Defeated, Harm rose to his feet and left the study, pausing once in the doorway to look back at Mac before continuing toward the kitchen.
His cell phone rang, and for a moment he considered ignoring it - until he glanced at the screen to find his mother's number. "Hi, Mom. Having fun?"
"You should have called me, Harm," Trish Burnett said, and Harm closed his eyes. For a moment, he considered trying to bluff his way past it - but he knew better than to try. They had worked too hard to rebuild their relationship.
"I didn't want to bother you, mom. You and Frank deserved some time -"
"Not as much as you deserved to have us there for you."
"How did you find out?"
"Jen called." Harm shook his head. "Don't be angry with her, Harm. She's worried about you. You should be grateful that you have such a good friend."
"I am," Harm confirmed, leaning his forehead against the cool glass of the patio door, his eyes closed.
"She said that Mac's already working again."
"She is. She's planning on going to DC next week. She's -" He ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it. "It's like nothing happened. She won't even talk about it."
"It's difficult for her, dear," Trish said, and Harm noticed that her voice sounded strained.
"Mom? Are you okay?"
"Just a moment," she said, and Harm was sure that he heard a suspicious sniffle.
"Harm, it's Frank. Trish is fine. We'll be home in a few hours. We'll see you then."
"Frank, don't cut your trip short because of this -"
"Trish wants to be there for you and Mac right now. And so do I."
"You're sure that Mom -"
"We'll explain when we see you. Take care, son."
Harm closed the phone and remained by the door for moment. Turning, he saw that the coffee pot was still turned on. Moving to the sink, he rinsed Mac's cup and filled it before returning to the study.
Mac was focused on the computer once more, and barely acknowledged his placing the coffee in its customary place on the desk. "Thanks," she muttered, picking it up and taking a sip.
"Mom and Frank are on their way home," he told her.
That got her attention. "What? How did they find out?" Her tone was faintly accusing. She had been the one to insist they not bother Trish and Frank when he had mentioned calling them the night before.
"I didn't call them," he assured her. "It doesn't really matter who called, does it? The point is, they know and they're on the way back."
"Why? It's not like they can do anything about it. It happened. It's over with and there's no reason to dwell on it." She reached across the desk for another file, which she opened before her.
"They're concerned," Harm told her. "The baby would have been their grandchild -" When he saw the tears in Mac's eyes, Harm melted and came around the desk, dropping to his knee again, taking her hand in his. "Mac, I'm sorry."
She pulled her hand away. "It's okay," she told him. "I'm okay. Really. I just wish Trish and Frank would have called before starting home for no reason."
"Mac, you can't keep pushing this away like nothing happened. You lost a baby. I'm the one who knows how much that meant to you, remember? The guy you're going to marry in less than three weeks? We'll be okay. We can try again when - you're ready, if you want. But even if you're never ready, we still have Mattie. And each other. Don't we?"
Mac looked down at her hands. "I don't think this is going to work, Harm."
"Nothing," she said, shaking her head. "I'm just tired. I think I'll go rest for a little while."
She let him help her out of the chair. "Let me know when dinner's ready."
"I will," he told her, going into the hall at her side. "You want me to tuck you in, Marine?"
She gave him a small smile. "I think I can manage." Lifting a hand to his cheek, she said, "You're one in a million, Harmon Rabb. And too good for me."
"I'll be the judge of that." He bent to give her a kiss that she ended before he was ready for it to end. With a sad smile, she turned and continued into the bedroom, leaving Harm standing there, at a loss as to how to help the woman he loved deal with her pain.
Continued in Part 2