1000 Hours Local
JLSC San Diego
Cmdr. Sturgis Turner looked at the paper in his hands, then at the woman standing at ease before his desk. "Are you sure that you want to do this, Petty Officer?"
"Yes, sir," Jennifer Rabb answered evenly.
"Is this because of your marriage to Harm?"
"No, sir. I wasn't going to reenlist anyway. I had other plans."
"Working for Harm and John Harding in their office?" Sturgis questioned.
Jen smiled slightly. "Yes, sir."
"And is that still the plan?"
"For the time being, yes, sir," she confirmed. "Part time, anyway. His mother wants me to help at the gallery as well."
"Sounds like you have things under control as usual. I assume that you and Harm are also thinking about starting a family?"
This time Jen didn't bother to try and hide the smile. "That's on the agenda too," she admitted.
"Well, we're going to miss you around here. You still have a week's leave coming - so I guess that means you'll finish the next two before taking that time?"
"If you don't mind, Commander," Jen said.
"Oh, I mind. I hate to see you leave the Navy when your career is just really getting started. You were in the window for another promotion."
"I know. But I've thought about this, and it's what I want to do."
"I know. Dismissed." Jen straightened to attention, and then started to turn, only to stop at the sight of Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield standing in the doorway.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Sheffield apologized, looking from Jen to Sturgis.
Jen in her turn glanced at her CO, noticing that he appeared just as surprised as she did at the SecNav's appearance as he moved forward. "Not at all, sir," he assured the other man. "The Petty Officer and I were just discussing her decision not to reenlist."
Jen felt Sheffield's eyes focus on her and looked at him. "Is this true, Petty Officer - are you still using Coates or is it Rabb now?"
"It's Rabb, sir," she informed him. "I made the decision not to reenlist before Col. Mackenzie left San Diego."
Somehow Jen had the feeling that Edward Sheffield *did* see. It was a little disquieting.
"How is Capt. Rabb doing these days?" he asked.
"He's fine, sir," she said, ignoring the man's use of Harm's former Navy rank. "He's working in the private sector."
"So I've heard. Give him my best. And - my best wishes on your marriage, even if they are belated."
"I will. And thank you, sir."
Sheffield turned back to Sturgis. "If I might have a few minutes of your time, Commander?"
"By all means, Mr. Secretary," Sturgis said, and Jen left the office, closing the door behind her.
1400 Hours Local
Law Offices of Rabb and Harding
San Diego, CA
"What's the status on the Bartleson case?" Harm asked his partner.
"I talked to Mrs. Bartleson," John answered. "She's solid on her alibi."
"Do you think she's a viable witness?" Harm questioned.
"If you're asking whether the jury will believe that a mother would lie to protect her only son from a murder conviction -" he shrugged. "- it's a risk."
"One we might have to take if it comes down to it," Harm pointed out as there was a knock on the outer door of the office.
"I'll go see who it is," John offered, rising from his chair. "I'll be glad when Jen is able to be here to take care of greeting clients," he continued before leaving the office.
Harm turned his attention back to the papers spread out before him detailing the case of Master Chief Paul Bartleson, who had been accused and charged with the murder of a local drug dealer that he blamed for the death of his sister. He was still studying the file when the door from the reception area opened again. Expecting it to be John returning, Harm didn't look up. "Who was it?" he asked.
"Just me," came a voice out of Harm's past. Lifting his head, he went to attention out of ingrained habit.
"Mr. Secretary," he said, seeing the smile on Edward Sheffield's face. "Sir."
"Please, Harm. Sit down. Although it's gratifying that you haven't totally forgotten your military training." Sheffield sat down in the other chair.
"Old habits die hard, I suppose. To what do I owe the pleasure, sir?" Harm asked.
"Right to the point. That's what I've always liked about you. No playing games or beating around the bush. I'm sure that you've heard about what's happening back in Washington with regard to JAG?"
"If you're talking about the fact that Gen. Creswell is going to retire, yes, I've heard about it."
"I thought you might have. We're going to take a bit longer this time to find the next Judge Advocate General - and we need someone to take command of the office until we do. There have been a few names mentioned, but the President and I agree on only one of them. And that name is one that the others at the Pentagon and in Congress would be able to accept."
"There are any number of officers qualified to run that office," Harm told him. "Commander Turner has experience sitting in that chair -"
"As have you," Sheffield pointed out evenly.
"But I'm not in the Navy anymore," Harm replied. "I retired."
"That can be changed." Sheffield's matter of fact reply stunned Harm. "People have been called back to active duty from retirement when necessary," he continued. "Your friend Admiral Boone for one."
"Mr. Secretary, are you trying to tell me that I'm being recalled?" Harm wanted to know.
Sheffield smiled. "I would prefer to have someone there who *wanted* to be there and not someone ordered to be," he answered. "Why did you retire last year?" he asked.
"I was going to marry Col. Mackenzie," Harm answered. "She had been transferred to San Diego -"
"And you gave up a transfer to London as Force Judge Advocate and retired to be with her, since you were at your twenty," Sheffield finished for him. "You and the Colonel didn't get married - and now you're married to someone else. Someone who will shortly no longer be in the Navy and who therefore wouldn't be forced to choose between you and her career."
"That's true," Harm agreed. "Mr. Secretary, none of this negates the fact that I've already used my one chance to go back."
"Who says that you can't get more than one chance?" Sheffield asked. "If you give the word, I can start the paperwork that will return you to active duty within the week - as a Captain."
"Captain?" That gave Harm pause. "I wasn't a Captain long enough -"
"That can be easily handled. You'd be a Captain with all privileges of that rank," Sheffield reiterated. "*If* you say yes."
"For how long?" Harm asked, his mind working.
"That would be your decision. Once we find the right person to take over at JAG, you'd be free to retire again - or you could accept another assignment and continue your career in the Navy as though it hadn't been interrupted."
"For the second time, you mean," Harm pointed out.
"Trust me, *Captain*. I fixed it last time; I think I can do it again."
Harm's eyes widened. "*You* fixed it?"
Sheffield grinned. "You thought that Admiral Chegwidden did it on his own?" He shook his head. "He asked me to see if there was any way to smooth the way for your return and to 'clean up' the gap in your record so that it wouldn't adversely affect your future in the Navy."
"I had no idea."
"So, in a way, you owe me, Captain. Not that I'm looking for you to repay me by saying 'yes' to my current request."
"I can't say yes anyway, sir," Harm reminded him. "Not right now, at least. There are a lot of people that would be affected by my decision. People that I have to discuss it with -"
"Beginning with Mr. Harding and including your wife and your ward, I would think."
"You *will* discuss it with them, I hope? And let me know as soon as you can make that decision?"
"I'll call as soon as I do," Harm assured him as Sheffield rose from his chair. He rose as well, taking the hand that Sheffield extended.
"Any time. Just call my office and tell them who you are. My service will forward the call to me."
"One question, sir: if I say that I don't want do it, does that mean I'll get orders recalling me in the next mail?"
"You never know, Harm," Sheffield said, laughing softly.
"I'll show you out."
"That's okay. I think I can find my own way. I'll talk to you soon."
He listened as the man wished John a good day and left the office before turning to the window, seeing the limo with its waiting secret service agents.
"Didn't realize you had friends in such high places, Harm," John noted as he returned.
Harm glanced over his shoulder. "Didn't realize it myself until now."
Joining him at the window, they watched as Edward Sheffield got back into the limo and it pulled away from the curb before merging into traffic. "So, why was he here?" John asked. "I somehow doubt it was just to say 'hello'."
"He wants me to go back into the Navy."
"You can do that?"
"Apparently *he* can make it happen," Harm explained. "They need someone to run the JAG office in Washington until they find a replacement for Gen. Creswell."
"So it's official that he's going to resign?"
"Sturgis hinted as much the other day - and when Bud was here for the wedding, he said that scuttlebutt was that Creswell had 'volunteered' to retire quietly to prevent a further investigation into his support for someone like Vukovic."
"And they want you to replace him."
"Could be a trial run for the real thing."
"If I agree."
"Look, if you're worried about me - don't be. I have the contacts now, thanks to you, to go forward here. Jack's more than willing to do some investigating - and he knows the Navy. And once you're ready to come home, there'll be a place for you to hang out your shingle."
"Thanks. Of course, it still depends on Jen and Mattie."
"Jen would follow you wherever you want to go," John told him.
"You think so?"
"I know so. That woman is so much in love it shows when she just looks at you."
1730 Hours Local
La Jolla, CA
Jen was home when Harm arrived. Entering the house through the garage doorway, Harm found her standing at counter, peeling some potatoes. Coming up behind her, he slid his arms around her waist, pulling her back against him. "Hi," he said, burying his face against the side of her neck.
"Hi yourself," she replied, turning into his arms and sliding her hands up to caress the back of his neck. "I missed you."
"Not as much as I missed you," he said before covering her lips with his.
When the kiss ended, Jen sighed. "As much as I'd love to continue this, I need to get dinner ready."
He gave an equally regretful sigh before removing his jacket and rolling up his sleeves. "What can I do to help?"
"I have it under control," she assured him. "Why don't you go take a shower and change?"
He ignored her suggestion, moving toward the refrigerator to grab a bottle of water. "Where's Mattie?" he asked.
"Doing her homework."
He nodded, taking a drink of water and watching her work on the potatoes. "How was your day?"
"Pretty routine. Cmdr. Turner made a last ditch attempt to convince me to stay in the Navy."
"Speaking of Sturgis - did he happen to mention whether or not he knew that the SecNav was in town today?"
Jen turned to look at him. "He came by the office - but how did you know that he was here?" she wanted to know.
"He stopped in to see me," Harm told her.
"He did? Why?"
"What would you say if I told you that I have the option to go back on active duty - in Washington?"
"Go back into the Navy?" she asked. "You could do that?"
"Only if you and Mattie are okay with it. They need someone to sit in the big chair at JAG until they find the right person for the billet. Apparently, they think that *I'm* that person."
"What about John?" she asked. "The practice -"
"He and I discussed it. He said he'd be okay with whatever decision I make. Look, Jen, I know that I quit the Navy because of Mac -"
"That was a mistake," Jen told him, lifting a hand to his face. "I never understood how she could have asked you to give up your career. Especially considering how things turned out. You were good at what you did. Be it flying or in a courtroom. That being said, I'm glad you *did* come out here, though," she told him with a smile. "Because if you hadn't then you and I probably wouldn't have ended up together."
"Oh, I think we would have, one way or the other. I'd have come here to visit my mom and Frank -" he closed his eyes. "This will mean leaving them again," he said. "I'm not sure I can -"
"Trish will be the first to tell you that you belong in the Navy, Harm," Jen insisted. "That you shouldn't have left. She knows more than anyone how much it means to you."
"I guess you're right." He grinned. "You'd be okay with being the wife of a Navy Captain, then?"
"SecNav said that I'd return to duty at the rank I was when I left - and that was Captain. I think he plans to swear me in personally."
"Swear you in for what?" Mattie asked, coming into the kitchen. She gave him a hug. "Hey."
Harm returned the hug, looking at Jen over Mattie's shoulder. "Finished with your homework?"
"I can finish the last of it after dinner," she said. "I came down to see if Jen needed some help," she continued, swiping a stick of raw carrot from a nearby bowl. "Now, what's this about swearing you in?"
Keeping his arm around her shoulders, Harm told her about SecNav's visit and his offer to return to the Navy, watching her reaction carefully. "It would mean moving back to Washington," he told her. "And I know it's probably a lot to ask -"
"I only have a few weeks of school left," Mattie pointed out. "Would we have to leave before then?"
"From what I understood, they need me there ASAP," Harm told her.
"I have an idea," Jen said. "I'm sure that Trish and Frank would be delighted to have Mattie stay with them until the end of school. Then Mattie could come back to Washington and decide whether to come back here or start school there next fall."
"That's the perfect solution, Jen!" Mattie declared.
"It's a lot to ask -" Harm began, uncertain.
"You know they'd love to do it," Jen insisted.
"I'll call them," Harm said, then looked at Mattie. "You don't have a problem with my going active duty again?" he asked.
"A problem? No." She gave him another hug. "I think it's cool that you have the chance. And that the Secretary of the Navy wants *you* for the job."
"Not only the SecNav," Harm told her. "The President, too."
"*Way* cool!" Mattie declared.
"Then it's decided," Jen said. "We're going back to Washington."
While she was disappointed by the idea of not being close to Harm and Jen, Trish Burnett agreed without hesitation to let Mattie stay with her and Frank to finish out the school year. "A young woman her age needs stability," she noted. "Changing schools this late in the year wouldn't do that for her. And I'm sure she'll be a help at the gallery during her free time. When will you have to leave?" she asked.
"I don't know, Mom. I have to call the SecNav and tell him I'll do it. I should know more after I've done that."
"What about Jen?" she asked. "She has another two weeks before she can leave the Navy -"
"I'm sure that they can make some concessions. That's something else I'll discuss when I call him."
"Let me know."
"Of course I will," Harm promised.
"I'm glad this has finally come up, darling," Trish told him. "I know that you were starting to make a life for yourself outside of the Navy, but I also know that your leaving in the first place was a mistake."
"It was the right decision at the time, Mom, and I honestly, I don't really regret having made it. All of the heartache with Mac, it led me to Jen and I can't say that was a mistake."
"Nor can I. Good luck. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Lunch?"
"I'll pick you up," he promised.
Hanging up, Harm dialed another number, waiting for Sturgis to answer. "Hi, Sturgis," he said. "It's Harm."
"Harm. I was wondering if you were going to call."
"You knew that SecNav was going to see me," Harm realized.
"Knew? I'm the one who told him where to find you."
"Then you know -?"
"That he's offered to return you to duty and give you temporary command of JAG while they look for Creswell's replacement?" Sturgis finished. "Yeah, he told me. Said he wanted to give me a heads up and explain why they wanted you instead of me. I told him that I didn't need an explanation. You're the best man for the job, Harm."
"Do you mean that, Sturgis?"
"I know we haven't always seen eye to eye, Harm, but I can't deny the fact that you're a natural born leader. People just follow you without question most of the time. Even when I was in command after Admiral Chegwidden retired, most of the office looked to you when they had a question- not me."
"That's not true, Sturgis -"
"Yes, it is, Harm. That's the beauty of it - you're not even aware of it. As I said, it's natural for you to command."
"So we're okay if I take him up on the offer?"
"If I say no, that's going to make your being my temporary CO pretty difficult, isn't it?" Sturgis asked, and Harm laughed.
"I'll try to be fair."
"We'll see. I guess Jen and Mattie are okay with this?"
"You know Jen. She's flexible. Mattie's going to stay here with my folks until school's out for the summer, then we'll make plans from there."
"When will you be leaving?"
"Not sure yet. I need to call SecNav and give him my answer."
"Good luck. And welcome back. You should never have left, if you ask me."
"That's what everyone's been saying. Thanks."
He hung up the phone and made one final call - telling the woman who answered the telephone that his name was Harmon Rabb, Jr., and that the Secretary was expecting his call.
"Please hold the line and I'll connect you," she answered quickly.
Harm looked up to see Jen and Mattie standing inside the study door, listening.
"Edward Sheffield here. I hope you're calling to give me good news, Harm."
"That depends on whether you really think my returning to Washington is good news, Mr. Secretary," Harm replied.
"That's the best news I've heard in months, Captain," Sheffield declared, sounding more relaxed and at ease. It suddenly dawned on Harm that the man hadn't been nearly as certain of the outcome as he'd appeared to be earlier. "I'll get things started on this end - can you be here by the first of next week?"
Harm looked at Jen again. "The first of next week?" he repeated, seeing concern in Jen's dark eyes. "That could be a problem for Jennifer, sir. She has another week of duty here before going on terminal leave for a week -"
"I'll call Commander Turner and see that he makes arrangement to release her at the end of this week. What about your ward - Mattie, isn't it?"
"She's opted to stay her with my mom to finish the school year," Harm explained. "But she'll be joining us after that."
"Good. Call me when you get into town."
"Yes, sir." Harm hung up the phone. "Well, it's done. As of Monday morning I'll officially be back in the Navy."
"What about me?" Jen asked.
"He's going to pull a few strings, I think, get you released a week earlier," he replied, standing up and moving toward the two women in his life, putting an arm around their shoulders. "Are you sure you'll be all right here, Mattie?" he asked.
"I'll be fine," she told him.
"And you know that if you ever need me, all you have to do is call and we'll be on a plane out here, right? No matter what's going on." He saw the look on Jen's face, recalling Mattie's accident a year ago.
"I know," Mattie said. "But I'll have Grandma and Grandpa, and Uncle Jack and Cmdr. Turner and Varise. And John. I think between the six of them, I'll be okay."
"I still hate leaving you behind," he fretted.
"This is my decision, Harm," Mattie said. "And it's only for a few months. Look at it this way: at least we don't have to worry about freak snow storms, right?"
Harm shook his head and gave her a hug. "No, I guess we don't."
"Hey, I have an idea. Maybe I can talk Uncle Jack into flying back to Washington with me in Sarah after school is out."
"We'll discuss it," he told her. Her lessons were coming along, and she's already soloed in both Sarah and a Cessna. Now, she was just working on getting her hours in before she took her initial check ride to get her pilot's certificate. "Just don't get that certificate without letting me know. I want to be the first one to go up with you after."
"You know it."
"Dinner's ready," Jen told them.
"We have a lot to do before the weekend," Jen told Harm later as they lay in bed, wrapped in each other's arms.
"I think we just need to pack up the things we want to take with us immediately. The movers can handle the rest of it with Mom, Keeter and Mattie supervising."
"I know it sounds silly, but I'm going to miss this house."
Harm pulled her closer. "We'll come back to it after I retire for good."
"Are you going to stay in for the full thirty?" she asked, rolling over until she was laying half on him, and his fingers found themselves tangling in her long hair.
"I don't know yet. This is all still pretty new, Jen, honey," he said. "I'm still trying to accept that I'm going back into something that I've left twice now."
"It's fate," she told him. "The Navy is where you're supposed to be. It's what you do best."
He grinned at her. "Best?"
"Well," she amended, smiling as well, "*one* of the best." Harm's fingers were trailing across her bare back, moving down to cup her hips. "We need to find a house -"
"I'll start looking on the internet tomorrow morning," he told her. "I think we might find something suitable before the end of the week."
"We could always move back into the loft," she said. "You still own it -"
"And the lease runs out at the end of May. We'd still need a place till then. And it would need work for all three of us to stay there."
"Four," Jen corrected.
"Four?" Harm frowned, examining her face. "You, me, Mattie and who else?"
"The baby that I'm pretty sure I'm having," she told him. "I know we won't need the extra space for another seven or eight months, but -"
Harm stopped her. "Jen? Are you saying that - you're - that we're -?"
She nodded, smiling broadly. "I did one of those home tests, and it was positive. I was going to go to the doctor next week to confirm -" Her eyes searched his face. "You're not angry are you?"
"Angry?" He rolled them onto their sides and captured her lips with his. "Of course I'm not angry. I just hadn't expected it to happen so quickly. I mean, we've only been married a few months -"
"And I stopped taking the Pill right after the wedding," she reminded him. "And since you and I have been going at it like bunnies whenever we could -"
"Are you okay?" he asked, remembering the baby that he and Mac had lost.
"I feel fine. And I'm going to move the doctor's visit up so that I'll know before we leave."
"A baby," Harm said, running his hand over her still flat abdomen before pulling her close again. "Oh, Jen. I love you."
"And I love you," she said in return, snuggling against him.
Holding her, thinking about how happy he was, Harm remembered something Mac had said to him after she'd found out about him and Jen.
*"I guess - you'll get your family now. Jen's still young enough -"*
As usual, Jen seemed to be on the same wavelength. "What's wrong?" she asked, looking into his eyes.
"Just wondering if I'm a jerk to be so happy after -"
"After what happened with Mac?" she finished.
"Yeah," he confirmed.
"Harm, sometimes two people just aren't meant to have children together. Everything else might be perfect, but it doesn't happen. I had a cousin once who was married to a guy for three years. They tried to have a baby and it never happened. She was so unhappy that they finally divorced. Two months after she married someone else, she was pregnant."
"I have to wonder if I hadn't drug my feet for so long -"
"It might not have made any difference. And from what I've heard, you weren't the only one dragging your feet all those years. She never told you about her feelings anymore than you told her how *you* felt."
"I did tell her. Once. But not directly. Never directly," he sighed.
"When was this?"
He smiled at the memory. "At her engagement party. She and I ended up on the Admiral's porch. I told her that she had someone who cared about her."
"And she didn't break off the engagement immediately?" Jen questioned. Harm saw the teasing in her eyes.
"I told you that I wasn't very direct."
"Which was a good thing for me," she pointed out. "Because if you'd married her then, you and I wouldn't be here now, with you."
"Maybe you would be. If you're right, then Mac and I weren't fated to end up together or have the baby that we wanted together. The marriage might not have stood the strain - and I'd have found you after all."
"I like the way you think, Captain," she told him, moving closer again. "Now, why don't we change the subject?"
Her hand was moving over his hip, then forward. "What did you have in mind?" he asked.
"Do you trust me?" she asked him.
"With my life," he told her as her fingers found him.
Jen rolled him onto his back and climbed on top of him again, straddling his hips, still stroking him. "Feel good?" she asked.
"Oh yeah." She leaned forward to kiss him on the lips before sliding down his body to replace her hands with her mouth, causing Harm to groan. "God, Jen," he sighed. Looking down, their eyes met as she ran her tongue up his hardness. Harm reached down, intending to pull her up, but her hands found his, using his hands as a brace when she lifted away and up into position. "Jen, should we - I mean, the baby -"
Her smile removed all his doubts. "We're not going to do anything to hurt the baby, honey," she assured him, lowering herself onto him, replacing the heat of her mouth with another, hotter heat. "Oh, Jen, baby," he said, releasing her hands to cup her breasts. She responded by tossing her head back and continuing to lift herself up and down.
"I'm close, honey," she said. "So - close."
"So am I, Jen, baby," he gasped, moving one of his hands down to her core, moving his fingers against her. He watched as her body arched back and her mouth opened in a silent cry. "That's it, Jen," he said, feeling her body tighten around him, pulling him with her as she found release.
Harm grabbed her hips and emptied himself into her before she collapsed onto his chest, gasping for breath. Wrapping his arms around her he murmured "I love you Jen" into her ear.
"I'm about to leave for work," Jen said, coming into the study where Harm had been on the computer researching available rental houses in the Falls Church area. "Any luck?" she asked, coming around to peer over his shoulder.
"I've found a couple of possibilities," he answered, picking up some papers from the printer. "I printed them out for you to look at."
Jen studied the printouts. "This one's not far from Bud and Harriet," she told him.
"I know. Just a block away, I think. Four bedrooms, a study, two living areas, a formal dining room and a breakfast nook. Two and a half baths -" now he was reading from the paper, having pulled her down onto his lap. "Two car garage *plus* a shop in the back yard."
"Sounds perfect. Probably expensive."
"Well, considering the BHA for the DC area, I think we could swing it."
"I guess it won't hurt to call and talk to them about it- see if it will be available starting this weekend."
"If we have to, we could stay in a hotel for a few days," Harm said. "Did you make that appointment?" he asked.
"Yes. Dr. Monroe said that she could work me in during my lunch hour."
"Call me as soon as you know, okay?"
She smiled. "You know I will. But I'm sure it will be positive. I just *feel* pregnant. I can't really explain it -"
"I trust your feelings," he told her, spreading his fingers across her stomach before giving her a kiss.
Jen finally ended the kiss with a reluctant sigh. "I don't think Cmdr. Turner will appreciate my being late on my last week," she said, slowly slipping out of his arms and back onto her feet. "I'll talk to you later. Tell your mom hi for me."
"I will," he promised, watching her leave the room before turning his attention back to the computer screen before picking up the telephone to place a call.
1250 Hours Local
The Garden Restaurant
La Jolla CA
"I have to tell you - I had some reservations about your going back into the Navy -" Trish Burnett said over lunch.
She continued without missing a beat. "But after seeing you - seeing how happy you seem to be - I know that it's what's best for you."
"And that's always been important to you, hasn't it Mom?" Harm asked.
"Of course. It's the reason why I never actively tried to dissuade you from going to the Academy or flying. You're enough like your father for me to know that it's what you had to do - that it was the only thing that would make you happy. And even when you couldn't fly - you seemed to enjoy being a lawyer. I'm glad you've been given this opportunity to go back."
"So am I, Mom," Harm said, glancing at his watch, not for the first time.
"Am I keeping you from something, dear?" she asked pointedly.
Harm grinned. "No. Jen had an appointment and is supposed to call -" his grin widened as his cell phone began to buzz, drawing his attention. "Excuse me, mom?" he asked, standing up as he took the phone out of his pocket.
He moved away, toward the doors onto the outer patio. "Hi, Jen."
"Hi," she replied. "How's lunch going?"
"Okay." He was trying to gauge her news by her tone, but found it difficult. "Jen, what did you find out?"
"It was positive."
"Yes!" Harm declared, causing several diners around him - including his mother - to look at him, first with disapproval which seemed to modify into something else as they saw his grin. "Are you okay?" he asked, still worried.
"I'm fine. The doctor said that there aren't any problems and he doesn't foresee any. He did tell me to visit a doctor as soon as I get back to Washington. And I will. Now, go tell Trish that she's going to be a grandma, and I'll talk to you later," Jen told him. "I have to get back to the office."
"I love you," Harm told her.
"And I love you."
"Good news?" Trish asked as he returned to the table.
"I think you could say that. Jen's pregnant."
His smile widened even more as she reacted to his news. "Pregnant? Oh, Harm, that's wonderful! Does Mattie know yet?"
"The doctor just confirmed it. We didn't want to tell anyone until that happened. We'll tell her tonight."
"I'm so glad for you, Harm," Trish said, obviously delighted. "We have to celebrate this - When are you and Jen going to leave?"
"Saturday morning. She's getting an extra week of leave - SecNav pulled some strings."
"Then you're all coming to dinner on Friday night. A combined farewell and congratulations on the baby party."
"Mom, you don't have to -"
"I want to," she insisted.
2100 Hours Local
La Jolla, CA
Harm looked up from the brief that he was just finishing up for John to use in court next week to find Mattie standing in the doorway. "Hey," he said. "I thought you were still finishing your homework?"
She'd been delighted by the news that she was going to be a big sister when they'd told her about it earlier, full of questions about when it would be born and what they wanted it to be. After dinner, she had gone to her room to do her homework, leaving Harm to finish up on some lingering paperwork for the soon to be defunct partnership of Rabb and Harding and Jen to clean up the kitchen.
"I'm finished," Mattie told him, coming into the room. "Can we - talk, Dad?" she asked, and Harm heard a tinge of uncertainty in her tone.
"Sure," he said, closing the folder he'd been working from to give her his attention. "What's up?"
She came to sit on the edge of the desk near him. "Would you mind if I decided that I wanted to go with you and Jen instead of staying here in California?"
"Mind? Of course I wouldn't mind. But I am a little curious about why you've suddenly changed your mind. I mean, you were so sure that you wanted to stay to finish the year in school and everything -"
"I know," she said slowly. But, well, I just -"
Harm reached out and lifted her chin so that he could see her face. "What's wrong, Mattie?" he asked.
"You'll think I'm just being silly," she told him.
"No, I won't. What's wrong?" he asked again.
Mattie sighed. "I don't know. I just - I guess I'm worried."
"Worried about what?"
"That if you and Jen go back there without me, you'll decide that you don't need me around with the new baby and all . . ." her voice trailed off. "I mean, this baby is *really* yours. I'm just your ward -"
Harm felt a pain in his heart. "Mattie," he said, taking her hand in his, "you couldn't be more my daughter if you *were* my daughter. And Jen feels the same way. I guess the idea of adoption kind of got lost during the last few months, didn't it?"
"I didn't want to bring it up - first Mac left, and then you and Jen were planning the wedding, and -"
"And *I* should have remembered on my own. I'm sorry, honey. Tell you what - I can have the papers filed before Jen and I leave for Washington - and we'll come back out here for the court date if necessary - but I don't think we'll have to go through that. You're old enough for the court to take your wishes into account now. And if you tell them that you want to be our daughter, then you will be." He saw her smile. "But just so you know - even without an official document, you're my oldest child - and that's never going to change. Ever." Her eyes were shining now with unshed tears as he pulled her into a hug. "It's your decision whether to go with us or stay here, but either way, you'll always have a place to come home to, wherever Jen and I are."
Mattie sniffled, hiding her face against his shirt - and Harm felt some suspicious dampness in that area from the tears that she wouldn't want him to see her shed. "You mean it?" she asked, her voice muffled slightly.
"Have I ever lied to you, Matts?" he asked her.
She finally lifted her head to look up at him. "Once."
He'd lied to her about where Tom was after she'd woken up after the accident. "For your own good," he reminded her. "But this time, I'm not lying. I love you, Matilda Grace Rabb. And that is *never* going to change. Are we clear on that?"
She nodded, and then hugged him again. "We're clear, Dad," she said. "And I can wait till the end of school to start the adoption -"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "We'll get it done ASAP. No more putting it off. I'll start it, and John can finish it up. Okay?"
"Okay," she said, sniffling again.
"Why don't we go see if Jen wants to share some hot cocoa?" he suggested.
Mattie shook her head. "I need to get to bed. I have a test first thing tomorrow."
"Okay." He gave her another hug before releasing her. "Night, Matts."
"Night, Dad," she said before leaving the room. A moment later, Jen appeared in the doorway with a cup in her hand. "I guess you heard most of that," he said, coming over to join her.
She nodded. "Yeah. I was bringing you a cup of coffee -" she indicated the cup "- and heard you two talking. Do you think the court will agree to an adoption with her staying here and us in Washington?"
"I think so, once they're made aware of the circumstances. It was Mattie who decided to stay here to finish the year, better than changing schools so late in the semester. I don't see any problems."
"You're a good dad," Jen told him.
"You think so?"
"You're great with Mattie. The kids at the youth center adore you, too. How did they take it when you told them you were leaving?" she asked.
"They were upset, but said they understood why I was going. And you know what? A few of them said they were considering going into the service because of me."
"See? You're a good role model, too."
Harm took the cup, setting it onto the desk before pulling Jen into his arms. "Have I mentioned that I love you, Jen?" he asked.
"Oh, once or twice, but I wouldn't mind hearing it again," she replied.
Harm leaned down, brushing her long hair aside to place several kisses on the sensitive skin of her throat. "I. Love. You," he said, punctuating each word with a kiss.
"Why don't we go to bed and I'll show you how much I love you?" she said in a suggestive tone, her long fingers trailing down his chest until they came to rest on the buttons of his jeans. "Or do you have more paperwork to finish first?"
"Nothing that can't wait till tomorrow," he assured her, reaching over to turn off the light on the desk before following Jen out of the office and down the hall to their bedroom . . .
1000 Hours Local
La Jolla, CA
"Thanks, John," Harm said, looking over the papers he'd brought over before signing them. "I appreciate your coming over here to do this."
"No problem, pal," John Harding assured him, looking around the office at the partially filled cardboard boxes. "I know you've got a lot to get done before you and Jen leave on Saturday."
"It's not much, really, just a few little things that we want shipped to be there as soon as we get settled," Harm explained. "The house was furnished when we got here, so most of it will stay."
"Place belongs to your step dad, right?"
Harm nodded. "Yeah. He was renting it out before Mac and I needed a place here and offered it to us."
John folded the papers and put them into his briefcase. "This should be pretty cut and dried. I know the judge who'll handle the case. I can explain things to him, and he'll talk to Mattie and your folks - probably Commander Turner and Jack as well, since they're old friends who can vouch for your character." He grinned. "Unless you think they'll make things worse?" he asked.
Harm laughed. "I think they'll be on good behavior. Keeter's on his way over to help me with some stuff around here. You want to hang around? We're going out to lunch -"
"No. I have to meet with Lt. Crowley at noon. He couldn't get away while on duty, so we have to meet during his lunch break."
The doorbell rang. "Speak of the devil, that's probably Keeter right now," Harm said, moving out of the study and down the hallway to open the door with John close behind.
"Hi, buddy," Keeter said.
"Come on in, Keeter," Harm said, stepping aside. "John was just about to leave."
"Not gonna stay and help us, then?" Keeter questioned.
"I would, Jack, but I have an appointment."
"I've heard that before. It's an old lawyer's trick to keep from having to do any physical labor," Keeter teased.
"You've caught me, Jack," John replied, smiling as well. "I'm a wimp. And proud of it. I did my time as a moving man to pay my way through college and law school. Never again." He turned to Harm. "I'll get those papers filed this afternoon. And thanks for the brief on the Hanson case. It'll help."
Harm nodded. "No problem. See you on Friday night."
"I'll be there with bells on," John promised.
"What are we doing first, Harm?" Keeter asked once John was gone.
"I was packing up some things in the office," Harm told him. "Files and such that I need transferred ASAP."
"Sounds good to me, ol' buddy," Keeter agreed. "So, how's it feel, knowing you're going to be a dad?"
"I'm already a dad," Harm reminded him. "But it feels pretty damn good," he confirmed with a grin. "I'm just going to have to relax a little. I've already called Jen three times this morning to make sure that she's okay."
"It's understandable that you're a little worried," Keeter said. "After what happened with Mac and all." He pulled a cardboard box over to a file cabinet in the corner. "I'm sure Jen understands."
"Yeah. She's been really patient about it."
"Think you'll get any opportunities to fly Hornets again?" Keeter asked.
"I doubt it. I'm not qualified anymore - and now that I have to family to worry about, I'm not sure I want to take that kind of chance."
"You're becoming a stick in the mud, buddy," Keeter declared, but he smiled when he said it.
"Speaking of flying, Mattie's probably going to try and convince you to help her fly Sarah back to DC after she finishes with school."
"I told her we'd discuss it when the time comes," Keeter informed him. "She called me yesterday."
"Look, Keeter, I don't want you to feel obligated -"
"Hell, Harm, I don't mind. Besides, she could use the experience."
"She won't be able to count the hours with you in the back seat," he told Keeter.
"Yeah. But I have an idea about that, as well. Like I said, we'll discuss it when the time gets closer."
"What about the FBO?" Harm asked, referring to the aircraft service center that Keeter was running out in Ramona.
"I can find someone to keep an eye on things for a week or so. I'm not indispensable. I've hired good people to work for me. They can handle it."
"Such as Barbara?" Harm questioned. Barbara Hamilton had a plane she kept stored at Ramona, and had started working weekends for Keeter soon after he purchased the business. Their mutual love of flying had led to their beginning to keep company once Harm and Jen got together and Keeter no longer had to 'pretend' to be interested in Jen.
Keeter grinned again. "Yeah. Barb's on top of things. And it doesn't hurt to have her around for the pilots to look at."
Harm shook his head. "We're both cradle robbers. Barbara's what- twenty five?"
"Thirty. But don't tell her I told you."
"She looks pretty good for thirty."
"She looks *damn* good for thirty," Keeter corrected him. "Every time I see her in those tight jeans and tee-shirt -" he sighed. "But she's more than that. She's smart."
"Not your usual type, huh?" Harm teased. Keeter's 'type' had always been tall, blonde or brunette, and brainless. Barbara was barely five foot four, with red hair and smart as a whip - and her father had more money than his only child could spend in three lifetimes.
"Nope. You know, I thought at first that she was just a spoiled rich girl who just wanted to hang out at the airport because she had nothing else to do. Figured she'd get bored and go somewhere else eventually. But so far, she seems to be really enjoying herself. She can fly as well as anyone I've seen, can tear an engine down and isn't afraid of a little dirt or oil doing it. I've never met anyone like her. I tell you, Harm, I think I'm caught this time."
"Jack Keeter, caught by a woman?" Harm said, laughing. "It's about time, ol' buddy. And I can tell you from experience, don't wait too long to make up your mind where it's going."
"Don't worry. I won't. You'll be one of the first to know when I do figure it out. After all, you're the only one I'd ask to be my best man."
0730 Local Time
San Diego Int. Airport
"You behave, okay?" Harm said to Mattie as he told her goodbye. "Don't give Mom and Frank a reason to regret agreeing to this."
"I'll be on my best behavior," Mattie promised. "I'm going to miss you," she told him, hugging him tightly.
"I'll miss you. But I'm just a phone call away. Anytime, day or night. And Jen and I will be counting the days till the end of school so you can join us."
"So will I," Mattie confirmed, turning to hug Jen. "Take care of him."
"I always do," Jen said. "You take care of yourself."
"I'll make sure she calls every day," Trish told her son. "Don't worry. We'll be fine," she continued, slipping an arm around the girl's shoulders. "I think we can handle having a teenage girl around. After all, we survived your teenage years, remember?"
"And I doubt Mattie will be running off to Southeast Asia without telling anyone," Frank added, drawing a wry grin from Harm.
They said their goodbyes to Trish and Frank before heading for the security area to check in for their flight. When they flashed their military IDs (Harm's had arrived by special messenger the previous day from SecNav's office) for the screeners, both were waved through with only a cursory inspection. After retrieving their carry on bags, Harm and Jen turned to look at Mattie, who was still standing, watching them with Trish and Frank. They waved again, and then turned the corner toward the boarding area.
One chapter in Harm's life was closing - and a new one was about to begin . . .
To be continued in "JAG2: Return to Duty"