đHgeocities.com/jaghavenarchives/CLK_NegotRelation.htmlgeocities.com/jaghavenarchives/CLK_NegotRelation.htmldelayedx/rÔJ˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙ČЉ›D OKtext/htmlpQĚ "D ˙˙˙˙b‰.HFri, 17 Mar 2006 15:41:10 GMTMozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *.rÔJD  CLK_NegotRelation
Title: Negotiating Relationships - Part 1

By: CLK

Background: Late Season nine – Post What If - before the Webb fiasco.  This is what I feel should have been done with Season nine....oh well.

Rating: 
Adult for one short scene ( PG -13 version at: www.oocities.org/clkjag/)

Summary: What would happen if Harm and Mac's relationship were just a little different.


Chapter 1 

JAG headquarters
Hallway exiting courtroom
1130

“I should have known he was lying,” Sarah MacKenzie grimaced.

“He just couldn’t look me in the eye when he proclaimed his innocence.  I honestly thought he was just embarrassed.”  Mac shook her head as she and Harmon Rabb walked through the bullpen towards their respective offices.

“Well, to be honest, until Bud stumbled across that speeding ticket his alibi got when he was supposedly with your client, I didn’t think he was guilty either.”  Harm smiled at Mac trying to take the edge off the loss.

“Let me make it up to you.  Mattie and Jen are trying out some new dish for dinner tonight.  It’s supposed to be out of this world.  Why don’t you join us, say around 1830?”

“As long as they’re not using any of your recipes for meatless wonders,” Mac laughed heartily. Entering her office, she placed her briefcase and cover on the desk.

“Harty, har, har,” Harm joked, retreating to his exiled office.

Harm’s apartment
Near Union Station
2000

“Does he really think ANYBODY likes that stuff?” Mattie said, rolling her eyes at Harm on her way to the sink with the dirty dinner dishes.

Harm had managed to enjoy a pleasant meal despite being outnumbered three to one by females, all with an aversion to his now infamous meatless meatloaf recipe.

“Everybody is allowed at least one delusion in their life time,” Mac teased.  “In all fairness, you have to admit he does magic with Marinara sauce.” Mac patted Harm on the shoulder as she reached over to retrieve his empty plate.

“Even Marinara sauce loses its appeal when you serve it with tofu!” Mattie glared at Harm.

“Alright ladies, I think we’ve had enough fun with the pick on Harmon Rabb club for one night.”  Harm backed his chair away from the table.  Grabbing a dishrag, he came up beside Jennifer at the sink.

“House rules, those who cook don’t do dishes.”  Taking the sponge out of Jennifer’s hand,  “Those who eat, wash.”  He threw the wet sponge at Mac without any warning.

“Gee, thanks for the head’s up.” She barely caught the sponge as it came flying at her from across the kitchen. 

“Well, if we’re not on KP duty then I’ve got some laundry and ironing to do if I want my uniform to pass muster tomorrow.” Jen smiled meekly at her two superior officers.

“And, I’ve got a boatload of homework still,” Mattie chimed in, tossing the other dishrag on Harm’s shoulder as she headed for the door.

“Goodnight, thanks again for dinner, it was great.” Mac handed Harm a wet dish.

“Goodnight ladies, see you in the morning.  Let me know if you need any help with the homework.”  Harm called over his shoulder without looking up from the dish Mac had given him.

When Mac heard the sound of the door latching shut, she turned to Harm. 

“Now, remind me again, why we’re not using the dishwasher?”

“It started spitting water the other night and I haven’t had time to really take a good look at it.  It probably just needs a new seal somewhere.”  Harm continued drying the dishes accumulating in front of him on the counter.

Handing Harm the last of the clean dishes, Mac filled the teakettle with water. “Do you want coffee or tea?” she asked.

“Neither, thanks.  I think I’ll just have a beer.”  Harm put away the last glass and walked around Mac to the fridge. Opening and immediately closing the door, “On second thought, tea sounds great.”

“You can have a beer if you want, it won’t bother me, you know that.”

“I know, but you’re right, at this hour a hot tea would hit the spot.”  Harm casually draped his arm around Mac as she fiddled with the teacups, allowing it to linger just long enough to be noticed but not long enough for her to protest.

Watching Harm walk over to the sofa, Mac looked at her left shoulder where his hand had rested only a few seconds ago.  ‘What was that all about?’ she wondered.

Carrying the two cups over to the coffee table, Mac set the one down in front of Harm and then took the seat across from him.

“Have you given up on the idea of house hunting?” Mac inquired.

“For now.   Things seem to be working out fine with Jen and Mattie next door.  Social services doesn’t object to the arrangements.  As long as they’re okay with it, it’s probably best for everyone.  I get to keep the apartment I love, Jen gets an apartment and roommate she likes and all in a comfortable budget for me.

“How are things going with Tom?”

“Well, that’s the other thing. He seems to be doing well, considering.  The courts only gave me six months with Mattie while Tom tests his wings.  If things go well for him with her and the courts give her back to him there’s no sense in me getting a house.”

“What if they don’t?  Staying sober is one thing.  Raising a teenager and staying sober is another.  The courts may not feel Tom is ready for that responsibility, especially with the extra baggage their particular relationship carries with it.” 

“If the courts decide that this is going to be a more permanent guardianship and Mattie is going to stay with me till she goes to college…”

“Or Annapolis,” Mac interrupted

“Or Annapolis,” Harm grinned. “Then, it would definitely be time to go back to looking for a house.”

Harm’s thoughts wandered off briefly to a house with a backyard filled with children, all of which had big brown eyes like a certain Marine he knew.  He couldn’t help but wonder if any one of a dozen things had happened differently, maybe he and Mac would have that house. Maybe the fortune cookie was right, his desires did lie in the road not taken.

He looked over at Mac as she sat sipping her tea, wondering what she was thinking now.  He debated with himself if maybe it was time to make some changes.  He’d made a conscious effort to chat with Mac more often at work, and go to lunches together the way they used to.  She didn’t seem to react to his testing the waters by resting his arm around her shoulder.  Well, that was assuming that not decking him was the equivalent of not reacting.  He really had no idea what she was thinking.  She might have thought about decking him, but he hoped not.  Yes, he decided, it’s time.

“Hey, Mac?”

At the sound of Harm’s voice, Mac pulled herself out of her own thoughts.  She had been debating back and forth whether or not to make something out of his actions in the kitchen.  For some reason his behavior lately seemed, friendlier.  No, maybe, warmer was a better word.  She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but something was changing.

“What?”

“How would you feel about going to dinner and catching a movie Friday night? Uh with me.” 

Harm couldn’t remember the last time asking someone out was such a frightening experience.  There was something about wearing gold wings that gave you a tremendous sense of confidence, self-assurance.  With Mac, all the rules were different.  She held the power over him, over his heart.

Mac sat in silence, her cup frozen at her lips. ‘Did he just ask me out on a date? MacKenzie, be careful how you answer this, don’t blow it.’

Concerned with her prolonged silence, Harm began worrying that maybe he had rushed things and it wasn’t time yet to have moved forward.

“Maybe just forget I said anything, I didn’t mean to overstep…”

“NO.  It’s not a bad idea.” Still in shock, “You just asked me on a date, didn’t you?”

As dumb a reply as that was, it was all Mac could think to say.

“Yes.” Harm held his breath, “Interested?”

“Very.”

That one word was enough to start Harm breathing again and leave a large grin plastered on both their faces.



CHAPTER 2  

Mac’s apartment
Georgetown
1745

A pile of clothes was slowly becoming a mountain on Mac’s bed.  She had gone through almost every article of clothing she owned debating what was perfect for her first official date with Harm. She wanted to look just right.  Who was she kidding, she wanted to look so drop dead gorgeous that he would not only ache for her, but for the eight years he waited to say one little sentence.

She finally settled on a chocolate colored pair of slacks that hugged her hips just right without being too tight.  A matching short sleeve shirt was the perfect top with a scoop neck just low enough to tease, but still tasteful.  She threw on a black linen jacket to add just a touch of class.  It would also be good to have at the theater where the a/c is always too cold. Although, given her druthers, she’d much rather have Harm to keep her warm.

Harm stood at her door holding a small bouquet of spring flowers.  He wasn’t sure how long he’d been standing there, he didn’t want to be early and look anxious, but he didn’t want to be late either.  Looking at his watch, it was exactly 1801.  He knocked.

Jumping at the sound of the door, Mac quickly put her shoes on and went to let him in.

“Thought you might like these.”  He handed Mac the flowers and leaned in to kiss her on the cheek.

Stepping back to let him in, “Thank you they’re beautiful.” The corners of her mouth curled upward in modest delight.  “Do we have time for a drink or do we need to get going?”  she asked, filling a vase with water for the flowers.

“It depends on if you want to eat before or after the movie.”

“You’re kidding, right?”  Mac placed the flowers on the center of the coffee table.

“Thought so,” Harm chuckled. “We’d better go now if we want to finish dinner and still catch a movie at a decent time.”  He took the jacket Mac had picked up from the chair, and helped her slip into it.

Café Napoli
Georgetown
Later that evening

Harm hadn’t expected to be so nervous.  He’d hoped after all these years, having a real date wouldn’t be much different than all the other times they’d gone out to eat together.  Somehow, knowing romance was insinuated set a completely different tone to the evening and his nerves.

He’d chosen a little Italian restaurant not far from Mac’s apartment.  Having wanted to check it out for some time, now seemed as good a time as any.  His first dilemma came about after helping Mac out of the car.  It was normal for him to offer his hand, especially when she was climbing out of the vette, but now he didn’t know if he was expected to continue holding her hand or let go.  Not wanting to appear too eager, he opted for simply placing his hand at the small of her back, as he was accustomed to doing.

His next moment of indecision came all too quickly when the hostess walked them to their table.  Choosing the seat nearest Mac or across from Mac seemed to carry the weight of a life altering issue.  How did a simple dinner invitation become so complicated?  He sat across from her hoping she hadn’t noticed him wavering.

“This place is lovely, and the food looks delicious.”  Hiding behind her menu, and her smile, Mac was just as nervous as Harm.  She had been a little disappointed when he let go of her hand, but was hopeful things might change before the end of the evening.

As with any set of old friends having dinner, the conversation soon took on a life of it’s own and any looming implications of being on a real date fell by the wayside.

When they arrived at the theater, Harm helped Mac out of the car, only this time he kept her hand in his.   She tried desperately not to grin like an idiot at the thrill it gave her.  Through the better part of the movie they shared popcorn and drinks with Harm’s arm resting comfortably on Mac’s shoulder.  Occasionally he would find himself mindlessly doodling on her arm with his fingers.

Mac knew she wanted to take this slowly.  Granted eight years was already way past what any sane person might consider slow, but she wasn’t ready to trust her heart to Harmon Rabb just yet.  The only problem was, judging by the sensations created by his gentle touch, she wasn’t so sure she was going to be able to resist any overt gestures for very long, or at all. Thankful they’d chosen a comedy, she didn’t think she had the fortitude to survive a love story.

“I still don’t understand why you were willing to see this movie,” Mac laughed as they walked hand in hand back to the car.

“Explain to me exactly why you think I wouldn’t like a movie about a group of women posing naked for a calendar?”  Harm was baiting her and she knew it.

“Let’s just say I didn’t think mature women posing NUDE was your style.” 

“Ah, but the cliché is right, a good woman, like fine wine, only improves with age.”  Harm kissed Mac lightly on the lips before closing the car door.

“You better not be calling me old, flyboy!”  Mac was grinning from ear to ear and she didn’t care.  This night was a dream, and she prayed she’d never wake up.

The two chatted back and forth most of the ride to Mac’s apartment.  Whenever Harm wasn’t shifting gears, he was holding Mac’s hand.  She made sure he knew the gesture was welcome by leaving her hand open, palm up, until his hand returned to hers.

When they finally arrived at Mac’s apartment building, Harm couldn’t remember a time when the walk to her door had been so long.  The hallway looked never ending, as though it were an illusion created with mirrors.  Under normal circumstances the moment at the front door would be fraught with tension.  Tonight, the history of old friends had finally cut Harm a break.  Without hesitation or looking back, Mac stepped inside and immediately headed for the kitchen.

“Do you want coffee or tea?” she asked

“Neither, thanks.”

Mac looked up to notice Harm still standing by the open door, confusion clearly showing on her face.  She walked into the living room stopping only a few feet before reaching Harm.

Noticing her look of confusion was slowly becoming one of fear, Harm stepped closer to her.

“I, I’m afraid if I stay right now, I may not want to leave.”

In an instant Mac’s expression changed from one of fear, to one of indignation.

“Pretty presumptuous of you, don’t you think?”  Mac tried to disguise her growing irritation as teasing.

“No, Mac.  I didn’t mean it to sound that way. Honest. I need to get up early and take Mattie to school.  She has to catch a bus with the team for an early away game.  If I sit down with you over tea, one cup wouldn’t be enough.  I wouldn’t want to let tonight end. That’s all I meant.” He smiled, his eyes pleading for her to believe him.

“You up for breakfast after you drop Mattie off?” she smiled broadly.  Were they ever going to stop misunderstanding each other?

“I’d love to.” He kissed her softly on the lips. Much like that night under the Robert’s mistletoe.  “Good night, Mac.  Thank you.”

She closed the door and leaned heavily against it.  “Good night.”

A/N: I strongly recommend the movie Calendar Girls for a good laugh. If you can, see it with a friend.

Chapter 3

Later that night

Neither Harm nor Mac were able to get much sleep.  

Harm’s thoughts wandered from holding Mac’s hand, to kissing her soft lips, to carrying her off into the sunset.  The sunset was the part making sleep difficult.  He didn’t know how he was going to do this.  He needed to develop an entirely new strategy for being with Mac.  He could always balance his desire for Mac the woman, because she was off limits.  Now, those boundaries were blurred.  He was free to hold her hand, caress her shoulder, and kiss her lips.  The only problem being he wanted so much more.  He was going to have to find a way.  He’d be patient and caring and show Mac the love she deserved.  Even if it killed him.

Mac lay in bed staring at her hand.  She seriously considered never washing it again. Her mind raced with the possibilities for the future.  Could this really work?  She felt so at home with Harm.  This is how things should be.  She was sure of it.  She just didn’t want to make any mistakes.  Somehow she needed to find the strength to take this slowly.  No matter what, nothing would come between her and Harm again.

The next morning they met for breakfast and stayed together through lunch and dinner.  In only a few hours they had managed to regain the rhythm of old, only now, they were free to touch.  Whenever possible they held hands.  If they weren’t holding hands they walked arm in arm.  Any opportunity to steal a kiss was willingly taken.  In less than 24 hours they had developed a rapport shared by the most seasoned of couples.

Mac’s kitchen
Georgetown
2130

Mac carried some dirty dishes to the kitchen.  Harm came up behind her, setting some glasses on the counter next to her, he slid his arms around her.  Nibbling softly on her neck, he was thoroughly enjoying being able to kiss Mac at will.  He simply couldn’t get enough.

“I need to head home.  Mattie was spending the day with Susan after the game and they should be dropping her off any time now.”  He tightened his grip slightly, resting his chin on Mac’s head.

Mac hated to let him leave.  Today was by far one of the best days of her life.  She had never been happier. 

“You really should be home when Mattie gets home.”  She knew it was true, but she really didn’t want to let go, her arms resting heavily on the strong arms that enveloped her.

“You could come with me.  We could rent a movie on the way home.  I could make popcorn.”  Harm closed his eyes waiting for her answer.

“Tempting, but I probably should stay here.”  She was beginning to think taking things slow wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”  Harm didn’t let go.  “Walk me to the door?”

Loosening his hold on her, their hands slipped down into each other’s grasp as they approached the door.

Pulling her around to face him, “I guess this is good night.” He didn’t need permission to kiss her good night, yet somehow, he wasn’t sure if he should.  Any doubts were immediately erased as Mac’s face tilted up to reach for his. 

Their lips met, slowly, softly, a delicate exploration. 

The thought occurred to Harm, keep it light, end it here, take it slow, time to leave.  But the taste of Sarah MacKenzie was more than logic could reason away.  Before he knew what happened he had pulled her in closer, she let out a slow moan that tore through him.  Her arms wrapped around his neck and she pressed herself against him.  It was his turn to moan. 

All thought and reason fled in an instant.  His hands were moving swiftly about.  Mac’s fingers were roaming freely through his hair and across his neck.  He swept his tongue across her lips and she gave him the access he so desperately wanted.  Their tongues began a dance, a duel like no other.  They explored the previously denied caverns as though they were hunting for gold. 

Mac’s legs were slowly turning to Jell-O.   Lord could this man kiss!  She needed to slow down, back away, but God help her she wanted more.  Her hands dropped down to his waist and slid under the edge of his sweater.  She thrilled at the feel of strong, hard muscles.  Passion shot through her like a bolt of lightening as she felt Harm’s response pressing against her.  Air, she needed air.  Just as she pulled back Harm slid his hands down her back, coming to rest on her six, making her gasp.

Harm tried to regulate his breathing.  This was more than he’d bargained for in a good night kiss. 

“You’re killing me, you know that?”  He tried to smile.

Mac dropped her head into his shoulder.  “Ditto.”

“I’d better go.  I’m going to be late for a date with a cold shower.”  This time his smile reached his eyes.  He’d never wanted anyone more in his life, but she was most definitely worth the wait, no matter how long it took.

Harm’s apartment
Next day

Sunday had gone well for the new couple.  Mac had accompanied Harm for an early morning run, then joined him and Mattie for breakfast at his place.  Despite trying to conceal the new turn in their relationship, Mattie being the romantic teenager that she was, picked up on the change immediately.

“You definitely make the best pancakes south of the Mason Dixon line,” Mattie announced as she wiped her mouth with her napkin.

“Only south of the line?” Harm feigned wounded pride.

“Well, I might be willing to concede east of the Mississippi, but if you want me to include any more territory, we’re going to have to travel more first.”  Mattie dropped her napkin on the table and proceeded to the sink with her practically clean plate.

“If it makes you feel any better flyboy, I’ll concede best pancakes on the continental US.” Mac walked over to where he was standing in the kitchen and played with his shoulder affectionately.

Mattie had pretty much guessed something was up.  They’d been really really nice to each other, yet kept their distance.  Not that they were ever physically very demonstrative, but this was different. It was as if they feared they would simultaneously combust if they stood too close.  Watching that one small gesture, Mattie was sure.  Something had happened.  One of them finally woke up and smelled the coffee and she was delighted.

“I’m going back to my room.  I’m sure I can think up something interesting to keep me busy for a couple of hours so you two can make out in peace.”  Mattie winked at Harm as she headed for the door.

Harm’s mouth fell to the floor.  Before he had a chance to respond, Mattie had closed the door loudly behind her.

Mac on the other hand stood there trying very hard to bite back a laugh. 

“Where did that come from?” Harm asked incredulous.

“I mean, we didn’t do anything.  I haven’t gotten within five feet of you to make sure I wouldn’t slip up and ravage you in front of her.”  Harm honestly couldn’t figure out what gave it away.

“Ravage me, huh?” Sidling up close to Harm, she draped her arms around him. “Maybe staying away was your first mistake.”

Taking hold of her hand, Harm led Mac over to the sofa where she promptly nuzzled up beside him, his arms wrapped lovingly around her.

“You realize that if she figured us out over a plate of pancakes, the office will have us figured out before we’re off the elevator,” Mac smiled up at Harm.

“Yeah, so what do we do, just bring a bullhorn to the office, announce it to the world, and move on? It may be ridiculous, but I’d like to keep this between us for a little longer.  At least until it’s not so new.” Harm’s eyes asked Mac for reassurance he wasn’t being irrational.

“I know, I’d like to get a better handle on us too before I have to deal with the scrutiny at work.  Whenever we’re on a case together, or worse on opposing sides, we’ll be under a microscope. And that has nothing to do with just plain ordinary scuttlebutt.”  Mac began softly rubbing Harm’s arm.

“So, back to the problem, if Mattie sniffed us out, what do we do about the office?” Harm began caressing Mac’s arm in return.

“Well, we have to behave normally, which means, don’t avoid being near me or touching me any differently than you used to.  And it most certainly means don’t risk being near or touching each other the way we’d like to.” She gave Harm one of those ‘what I’m thinking should be illegal’ looks.

Harm rolled his eyes. 

The rest of the day had pretty much continued the same way.   They spent the better part of the day on the couch talking about strategy, about Webb, about Mattie, each other, and just about everything and anything that two old friends could think of.  Of course, this did not preclude making out as Mattie had suggested.  Truth be told, there was a lot more kissing and fondling going on than talking. Fortunately, knowing Mattie and Jen were next door proved to be better than having a chaperone for keeping themselves under control.

Chapter 4

JAG Headquarters
Monday morning

Walking into the bullpen with his usual aviator stride, Harm whistled pleasantly on the way to his office. 

Harriet Sims sat at her desk, her eyes subtly following Harm as he made his way to his office. Although everyone would agree Harmon Rabb was a pleasant man to be around, he was most definitely unusually chipper this morning.  Too busy to concentrate on it now, Harriet filed the information away for further investigation at a later time.

Much to her surprise, Harriet noticed Colonel MacKenzie arriving shortly after the commander.  Putting her pen down on her desk, Harriet watched her superior officer closely as she hummed on her way to her office. 

Mac humming in the office was unusual enough on it’s own to raise red flags, but arriving AFTER the commander.  That had to mean something, but what?

Harriet sat quietly staring at the blank space in front of her.  Something was definitely up and she was going to figure it out.  Carefully considering her options, Harriet decided infiltrating the ranks would be a good start.

With solid determination, Harriet approached Petty Officer Jennifer Coates’ desk. 

“Morning Jen.  Isn’t it just a gorgeous day outside?”  Harriet asked as nonchalantly as possible.

“Yes, ma’am.  Forecast says it will be sunny and pleasant all week.”  She smiled up at the pretty blonde officer.

“You know, we don’t get to spend much time together.  Would you like to join me for lunch out on the patio later?” Already Harriet was kicking herself for being so obvious.  ‘We don’t get to spend much time together,’ how unoriginal could she be?

“If the admiral doesn’t come up with something for me to do, I think that would be a wonderful idea, ma’am.”  Jennifer smiled truly pleased with the invitation.

“Good, then I’ll see you at 1145?”

“1145,” Jen agreed.

JAG headquarters
Outside
1145

Harriet contemplated her morning as she patiently waited for Jennifer to join her.   Every opportunity available, Harriet studied her two superior officers.  On the surface, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  Neither of them had done anything at all unusual or suspicious, yet they seemed so…happy. 

Mind you, having Mac or Harm happy wasn’t anything to be concerned about in and of itself.  She’d had plenty of opportunity to see each of them walking on cloud nine.  She just could not remember a single time in history when they were both so contented at the same time. 

“Sorry I’m late ma’am,” Jennifer interrupted Harriet’s thoughts.

The two ladies enjoyed each other’s company as they giggled and chatted over lunch.

“So, still no signs of tall dark and handsome on your doorstep,” Harriet asked.

“No. I don’t think they make them anymore,” Jen teased.

“I suppose sharing an apartment with a teenager probably doesn’t give you much opportunity.” Harriet had started her fishing expedition.

“Mattie’s great.  She’s probably the best roommate I’ve ever had.”

“But still, dating around teenagers can’t be easy,” Harriet continued.  “Even Commander Rabb must find it difficult to meet a nice woman with Mattie taking up so much of his time.”

“Teenagers are pretty independent.  She doesn’t really take up much of either of our time.  If anything, Colonel MacKenzie’s been spending more time with Commander Rabb than Mattie has.”  As bright as Jennifer is, for some reason she did not see the Pandora’s box she had just stepped into.

“I guess you’re right about teenagers.  I tend to forget my kids won’t need me forever.”

Trying to see if Jennifer was catching on or if she could press forward with her questions, Harriet paused to take a sip of her drink.

“At least I have Bud to keep me company when the kids get older.  I mean, if Mattie is off doing girl stuff, poor Harm probably gets left home alone.”  Harriet took another sip hoping Jen would take the bait.

“I wouldn’t worry about him ma’am.   Just this weekend he spent practically all of it with the Colonel.  At least I think he did.  I’m pretty sure he was with her all day Saturday, but I know Mattie said she was over Sunday for breakfast, and she was still there when we left after dinner so he has friends to keep him busy,” Jen volunteered innocently.

It took all the self-discipline Harriet had not to screech with joy at the implications.  Friends my foot.  They finally figured out where they belonged and those little stinkers weren’t sharing the news.

“I guess you’re right, but I still think we need to find you a good man,” Harriet said, changing the direction of the conversation in hopes that Jen wouldn’t catch on to what she’d done.

Sarah MacKenzie’s office
Later that day

Harm stood at Mac’s door contemplating the events of the afternoon as he waited for Mac to finish her phone call.

“Come on in, what have you got there for me?” Mac pointed with her nose to a file Harm was holding.

“Nothing, I just figured my coming to your office for the umpteenth time today would make more sense if I at least had a file to show you.” Sitting down in front of her desk, an impish grin danced across his face.

“Now, without making it too obvious, look over my shoulder and tell me if Harriet is still watching me,” he added.

Moving her eyes slightly, Mac took a long look out into the bullpen.  “Looks like it.” 

Standing up, Mac walked over to the filing cabinet. Opening a drawer, she pulled out any folder and turned handing it over to Harm. The corner of her eye never leaving the bullpen. 

Returning to her seat she leaned forward slightly.  “Okay, she’s watching us like wayward teenagers.  What did you do?”

“Moi? Why does everyone always assume I’m the one who’s done something?”

“Probably because you usually are.  Although, I will admit it was a little weird earlier today when Harriet followed me into the ladies room.”  Mac looked over at Harm.

“Really?  She followed me to the break room.  Kept going on about how hard it was raising a teenager alone.  Apparently she has a really nice new neighbor who’s single and Harriet thinks I should meet her.”  Harm’s eyes flashed to the ceiling in exasperation.

“How’d you get out of that?”  Mac wasn’t sure if she should laugh or panic.

“Didn’t have to.  I was so surprised at the thought of Harriet picking now to try and fix me up, I missed the cup and poured hot coffee all over my hand.  Harriet’s mother mode kicked in and she forgot all about the new neighbor,” He sighed in relief.  “What was so unusual about Harriet being in the ladies room?” he asked, remembering her earlier comment.

“Oh, being there wasn’t the problem.  She kept talking about what a nice man Clayton is.  I managed to mostly just nod until she finally asked me how things were going, if maybe it wasn’t time to think about a future with children.”

Harm was pleased to notice the color seemed to drain from Mac’s face when she spoke of a future with Webb. 

“So, what did you say to her?”  Harm asked, looking a little like the cat that swallowed the canary.  He could never resist a good opportunity to needle her.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have a coffee pot to spill,” she almost chuckled. “I told her I was late for a meeting with a client, and made a bee line for my office.” This time Mac chuckled openly.

Raising her eyebrows and shrugging her shoulders, “It was all I could think of on short notice.  Like I said, no coffee pots handy.”

“I don’t get it.  She’s been watching me all afternoon. Every time I come into the bullpen the eyes of Harriet are upon me.” He laughed at his own choice of words. “Do you think she could be onto us?”

Looking up into the bullpen again, Mac could tell Harriet was still paying more attention to them than the work on her desk.

“I don’t see how, but with Harriet, I just don’t know.” Sighing heavily, “I really don’t know.”

Chapter 5

A/N: I have no legal background so forgive any courtroom blunders.  See additional note at end of chapter.

Roberts’ Residence
Later that evening.

“I’m telling you Bud, something is definitely different.  Jennifer said Mac spent all weekend with Harm.”  Harriet insisted, following her husband around as he picked up toys in the family room.

“Harriet, the Commander and Colonel have known each other a long time.  They spend a lot of off work hours together.”  Bending over to pick up another toy, Bud froze in place.

“You don’t mean spent the whole weekend as in overnight do you?” Bud asked his eyes wide.

“Well,” Harriet shifted Jimmy from one hip to the other. “Jen, didn’t go so far as to say that.” Harriet frowned as if that thought hadn’t occurred to her before.

“Look, Harriet.  From what you’ve said, everything you’ve got is purely circumstantial and for every reason you give me to conclude they’re finally together, I can find a reason to conclude it’s still business as usual.”  Dumping the last of the toys into the basket in the corner of the room, Bud reached over to take Jimmy from Harriet.

“Why don’t you just stop worrying about it and let them get on with their own lives.”  Bud headed into the kitchen leaving Harriet to contemplate her day.

Bud made an excellent case.  Harriet had to admit she didn’t really have very much to go on.  Maybe it was finally time to do something about it, but what?  If her two dearest friends had finally let their guards down, it was up to Harriet to make sure they made love not war. Stomping into the kitchen with determination, Harriet had made up her mind.  Operation Make Love would begin!!


JAG Headquarters
Friday 1430

“Lt. Buckman, do you consider beating your wife to within an inch of her life the behavior of a loving husband?" 

“Objection, the defendants views are not on trial here.” 

“Your client opened the door in direct when he said no one could dispute he was a loving husband.”

“Over ruled, but tread carefully, Colonel.” 

Harm sat down, his face expressionless, but those who knew him could tell he wasn’t pleased. It had been against his better judgement to place Lt. Buckman on the stand, but the Lt. insisted on having his say.  Harm warned his client to answer only yes and no when on the stand.  As soon as he heard the elaboration on his relationship with his wife, Harm knew Mac would spot it and use it to her advantage.  As usual she was doing a fine job of it too.

“Is someone beating their wife, the act of a loving husband?”  Mac repeated.

“Loving husbands don’t need to beat good wives,” Lt. Buckman replied clearly.  Harm winced inside.

“Is your wife not a good wife? Is that why you have continually abused her until she is so broken she has repeatedly had no choice but to seek medical attention?”

“Objection, assumes facts not in evidence.”

“Sustained.”

“Even though it is illegal to strike, or intentionally cause bodily harm to a spouse, and even though our society considers any act of violence and most especially bludgeoning your wife, deplorable.  You feel…

“Objection, counsel is testifying.”

“I’ll rephrase.  You think you’re a good, loving husband? But you still think you’re justified in beating your not so good wife?”  Mac had approached the stand, her presence was obviously making the lieutenant uncomfortable.

“Objection, leading the witness.”

“Sustained. Colonel, if you have a point, get to it. I won’t warn you again.”

Mac hated abuse cases.  She was thankful she was getting to prosecute this one and didn’t have to defend the slime.  She was also thankful that despite being on opposite sides of such a distasteful case, there didn’t seem to be any additional stress on her and Harm’s new status. 

Lt. and Mrs. Buckman had been married for almost 17 years.  The abuse in the marriage was only apparent to friends and neighbors over the last four or five years.  As is the case with most abusive relationships, the violence had slowly been escalating making it harder for Mrs. Buckman to hide the damage from her friends.  It was especially so on her birthday.  For three years in a row he had beaten her so badly on her birthday that she required medical attention at the local emergency room.  The physician had been so infuriated at the varying stages of bruising during her last visit, that she’d written across the paperwork, Domestic abuse is a crime – report it.  Fortunately for Mrs. Buckman, and for Mac, she had a good friend and neighbor who had saved all the medical reports from her hospital visits as well as having taken and saved several incriminating photographs.  

Lt. Buckman finally made a critical mistake when he attacked Mrs. Buckman while she was working in the back yard.  One of the neighbors overhearing the crashing of patio furniture called 911.  Once Lt. Buckman had been arrested, the local authorities turned him over to military jurisdiction. 

Domestic abuse is such a difficult subject to combat.  It strikes people of any education or income level.  It’s not just the byproduct of poverty or drug abuse.  Mac was at least thankful that one thing had changed since she had to tolerate living in an abusive home.  When neighbors would call the police about the battles at her house, no matter how badly her mom was banged up, if she refused to press charges, the police couldn’t do anything about it.  To Mrs. Buckman’s advantage, today’s law enforcement has the authority to handle domestic abuse more aggressively.  When the police arrived on her doorstep, even though she insisted she was fine, the police took one look at her purple face and arrested her husband on the spot.  At least some things were changing.

“Okay, Mac, you ready to talk deal?”  Harm fished, knowing full well Mac had his client over a barrel.

“Yeah, right squid.  Why should I cut your guy a break?  I’ve got him dead to rights and you know it.” Mac’s tough Marine demeanor had not faltered in the slightest as they walked to their offices.

Following Mac into her office, “Forfeiture of pay, loss of rank, and he submits to anger management counseling.”

Mac sat heavily in her chair, a kink in her marine armor visible.  Harm thought he knew his marine well all these years, after less than a week of ‘dating’, he had discovered small nuances in her behavior that he had never noticed before.  He wasn’t totally sure if it was because she no longer felt the need to hide things from him, or if it was because he felt it his place to now look for them.  Either way, he could tell this case was weighing heavily on Mac.

“Dishonorable discharge, two years confinement, and obviously anger management counseling.”

“Mac, you know he wants to stay in the Navy.”

“He should have thought about that before he started beating the crap out of his wife.”  Mac had no patience for men who took out their frustrations on other people.

“Maybe I can talk him into the discharge but no additional confinement, time served.”  Harm just wanted this case over as much as she did.

“All right, no brig time.”  Mac hated that, she knew she had a solid case but she also knew getting this man help was critical.  If all he got was a couple of years in the brig, he’d just be someone else’s problem when he got out.

“Look, it’s almost quitting time.  What do you say we secure a little early, we can drive down to that Greek restaurant you like by the shore, get away from this place and relax a little.”  Harm could tell this case had been affecting Mac more than she wanted to let on.

Hiding her exhaustion behind a feigned smile, “That sounds lovely, but maybe another time.  I’d really rather just curl up on the sofa after a hot bath and watch some mindless movie.  Maybe have some sesame chicken.”

Sounding a little like a lost child, “Am I included somewhere in those plans?”

With a smile that reached her eyes this time, “most definitely.”

A/N: the incidents in the abuse case are reality based.  If you are, or suspect anyone is being physically abused - Don’t ignore it.  It doesn’t get better and it doesn’t just go away.  It will only get worse.

Chapter 6

Mac’s apartment
Friday night
1850 hours

Lying in the warm lavender scented bath, Mac could feel the tension literally draining out of her.  Despite her uncanny ability to judge time, she’d managed to lose track of how long she’d been soaking when she heard the knock on the door.

‘Damn.’  “Coming!”  She hollered from the bathroom as she stood up and grabbed a towel.

Harm had his arm in the air, prepared to knock a second time, when the door flew open.  Stepping inside, he closed the door behind him hearing Mac call out, “Be right back,” as he caught a flash of powder pink wrapped around glistening flesh racing back to her room.  That momentary glimpse of a wet, practically naked Sarah MacKenzie was already doing things to his body.  He needed to focus on something else.  The dentist maybe, proctologist would do it, Sec Nav, yeah that’s it.  Harm refused to allow his thoughts to wander back to Mac while he emptied the cartons of Chinese food and poured himself a drink.

“Sorry about that.” Smiling, Mac walked up to Harm and planted a soft kiss on his cheek.

Resisting the urge to turn her around and kiss her for real.  Harm handed Mac a plate, “No problem, I got you sesame chicken.”

“Did you have anything in particular in mind for tonight,”  Mac asked as she made herself comfortable on the sofa, attacking her dinner with gusto.

Harm didn’t mind giving Mac all the time she needed to feel comfortable in this relationship, but he really wished she’d stop asking loaded questions.   Deciding to stick with what she meant, and not what he’d like, Harm sat down next to her.

“I picked up a couple of old movies.” Setting his dish down on the coffee table, he went to get the videos he’d left on the kitchen table.  “I thought I’d let you pick.”  He handed her the movies and made himself comfortable beside her.

“Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell?”  Mac looked at him questioningly.

“That’s one of my mom’s favorite movies.  There’s a military reunion in Italy twenty years after WWII.  Gina Lolabrigita has been raising a daughter and doesn’t know which one of three men is the dad. She has to juggle them all so they don’t find out they’ve each been supporting the daughter all these years.  The father’s either Telly Savales, Phil Silvers, or Peter Lawford.  Shelly Winters and Lee Grant are great in it too. It’s actually a very funny movie.”

“You just want to watch Gina Lolabrigita for two hours.” Mac smacked him lightly picking up the next tape with her free hand, still eating with the other.

“Pocketful of Miracles?  Betty Davis!  Peter Falk?  Have you seen this one too?” Mac asked between mouthfuls.  She loved Betty Davis.

“I haven’t seen any of them since I was a kid, Mac.  It’s basically a Cinderella type story set in the 30’s after prohibition ends.  A bootlegger played by Glen Ford, and his girl friend, played by Hope Lange, pass a street beggar, Bette Davis, off as high society to impress her daughter who is coming back from Europe engaged to a Count.”

“Bette Davis it is,” Mac proclaimed enthusiastically.

When the two had finished their meal, Harm turned on the selected movie and snuggled up on the sofa with Mac. 

As it turned out, they watched both Pocketful of Miracles and Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell.  Despite her misgivings over Harm’s description, both movies were indeed lots of fun and exactly what she needed.  By the end of Mrs. Campbell, Mac had started to doze off a bit.   She’d pressed herself further back against Harm and was tightly gripping the arm he had around her waist.  Contented to be wrapped around the woman he loved, Harm drifted off to sleep as well.

Harm was dreaming of his Sarah, of a time when the two would be free to show their feelings in every way without the fears and restrictions from the years of mistakes and miscommunications.  He could feel the pleasure of being with her slowly surging through his body when he was rudely interrupted by a twinge in his back. Becoming stronger and stronger, the pain in his back was bringing Harm out of his sleeping state.  As the sleepy fog cleared from his brain, he was almost startled to find the warm enrapturing sensations were still flowing through him, especially to one particular part of him.  Opening his eyes he saw he was still holding Mac, he also saw, to his horror, the hand that had been carefully placed at her waist the night before was now very obviously grasping her breast.  To make matters worse, he’d been kneading that breast as though he’d been working on a loaf of bread. 

Instantly his hand froze.  Mac’s arm was still wrapped around his, trapping his arm against her.  Panic was beginning to replace his previous excitement.  If she woke up and caught him in his current position, he was probably one dead squid. 

Heaven, Mac was in heaven.  Wrapped in a blanket of loving warmth, she had never had sweeter dreams.  The warmth was beginning to penetrate her very soul.  She could feel the tingling slowly creeping throughout her body creating a small fire within her.  The fire was growing, threatening to overtake her, when suddenly the heat began to wane.  Mourning its loss, she let out a soft moan.

‘Oh lord.’  The ebbing excitement had just found a resurgence of power at the sound of her voice.  Desire shot through Harm like a 90 mile an hour fastball.  He had to get out of this predicament before she woke up, he just had to.

Shifting his weight slightly, he tried to put a little space between their bodies as he pulled his arm away from Mac’s strong grip. Even if she woke up, as long as his hand wasn’t anywhere conspicuous, he’d be all right.  That of course was assuming he could manage to keep himself under control before she noticed his obvious reactions to being so intimately entwined with her.

Immediately feeling the loss of body heat, Mac was jolted from her sound sleep.  It took a bit for her to realize she was still on the sofa with Harm, but not quite as ensconced as she had been the night before. She was overwhelmed by the strong yearning she felt to turn around and swallow Harm whole.  Harm was laying sideways, his back to the sofa, his front only inches away from Sarah. Scooting around to lay flat on her back, she smiled up at Harm.

“Morning, sailor.” Her voice came out low and sultry, mostly because she was still half-asleep.

“Morning.” Harm smiled back grabbing her right hand in his and laying it on her stomach.  Her hand had casually been lying dangerously close to his lower extremities.  The last thing he wanted was for her to notice what she was doing to him by just being near.

He very much wanted to lean down and kiss Mac like she’d never been kissed before.  He’d learned from experience though, to be very careful of when and where he kissed her, especially if he wanted to keep his pants on. 

“What do you say to me whipping us up some pancakes for breakfast?”  Food was usually a good way to distract Mac, this time was apparently no different.

Sitting up on the sofa, Mac stretched a bit.  “Sounds scrumptious.”

Harm headed to the kitchen to start on breakfast, while Mac headed into her room.   Before Harm had gathered his ingredients, Mac was back in the kitchen, standing behind him wrapping her arms around his waist.

“Thank you.”

“For what?” Harm paused a moment to turn and look at her. Something in her voice told him this was a serious thank you.  It was one of those subtle things he’d started picking up on, much like her behavior yesterday.  He only wished he’d learned to do this years ago, it might have saved them so much pain.

Stepping away and moving towards the fridge, “For last night, the movies, for understanding.”

Harm stood still, hoping she’d say more.  He was learning to detect more undertones in what Mac said and did, but he still had a long way to go in truly comprehending the significance of what she might be saying.

“Abuse cases are always so hard for me.  The pain and frustration of living with a drunken marine just emerges out of nowhere trying to recapture me.  I get so tired sometimes of fighting it.”  Mac took a gallon of milk out of the fridge and set it on the counter in front of Harm.

“Is that a hint?” Harm smiled, turning back to finish mixing the pancakes, hoping she’d keep talking.

“Guilty,” Mac chuckled. “I probably would have indulged in a small pity party if you hadn’t been here.”

Harm turned his head to see her face without stopping what he was doing.

“What ever you need, I will be here for you from now on, I promise.  You just may need to tell me once in a while what it is.” He stopped mixing the pancakes and looked Mac straight in the eyes.

“I know I can’t change the past.  I can’t take away the bitter memories of your childhood, and I can’t get back the years I’ve lost in my obsessions, or the time we’ve wasted when we could have been together.  I can however do everything in my power to make wonderful new memories until there’s no room for the painful old ones.”  He leaned forward and placed a quick kiss on her nose, then dipped his finger in the batter and gently placed a drop on her chin.

Mac stepped into his space and leaned up to press her lips on his just as the phone rang.

Rolling his eyes, Harm shook his head.  ‘Someone has really lousy timing.’

Moving slowly to the other room, Mac picked up the phone. “Hey Harriet.”

Chapter 7

Mac’s apartment
Same time

“Good morning, I didn’t wake you did I?” Harriet thought Mac sounded a little groggy.  She pulled the handset closer to her ear as if that might help her to decipher if Mac was alone.

“No, I woke up a little bit ago.”

“Oh, good. I know this is short notice, but I was wondering if you’d like to join your godsons and us for an impromptu little barbecue at our house?”  Harriet crossed her fingers.

“Sure, sounds good I’d love to.”  Mac shrugged her shoulders at Harm.

“I thought I’d see if Commander Rabb was free too, but he’s not answering his phone at home.  You wouldn’t happen to know where he might be, would you?” Harriet’s eyebrows inched up slowly, hoping she’d found him as well.

“If he’s not answering his phone, have you tried his cell?” Opening her eyes widely at Harm, Mac hoped he’d understand her signal to get his cell and turn it on.  She let out a small sigh when he did.

“No ma’am, I’ll try that next. See you around two o’clock, okay?”  Harriet had noticed that Mac hadn’t actually answered her question, but as Bud had so successfully pointed out the other night, it was all circumstantial.

“Sounds good.  Should I bring anything?”

“No ma’am, just yourself.”

“Thanks, Harriet.  See you at two.”  Mac hung up the phone just as Harm’s cell rang.

Mac listened to Harm’s side of the conversation, already aware of what Harriet was saying on the other end. 

“Gee, Harriet I had sort of planned to tinker with the vette today.”  Harm was sporting an impish grin.  He was getting even with Harriet for spying on them the other day and Mac knew it.

“Of course you’re right Harriet, my godsons are most definitely more important to me than my car.”  Harm was stifling a laugh.

“Two o’clock.  I’ll be there. Bye Harriet.”  Harm outright laughed as he turned his phone off.

“You’re terrible you know.  So you still think Harriet’s up to something?” Mac moved in closer to Harm again.

“Don’t know but I’m not taking any chances.” Harm kissed Mac on the cheek and wrapped his arms around her.

“So, what do we do till two o’clock?”  Mac’s eye’s twinkled with delight at teasing him.

Pulling away, Harm headed back to the kitchen.

“First, I’m going to feed you. I know better than to hang around a hungry marine.  Then, I’m going home to change before Harriet figures out I slept in my clothes.”

“Don’t you think it would be more of a problem if you hadn’t slept in your clothes.” Mac raised an eyebrow playfully.

“Never mind, let’s get moving so we can find out what Harriet’s up to.”


Harm’s apartment
Near Union Station
1300 hours

“Mattie Grace what do you think you’re wearing?”

Looking down at her self.  “Jeans and a shirt?” she replied with a slight frown and an expression that said, duh.

“I can see your bellybutton,”  Harm gasped in astonishment.

“Everyone has one you know.” Mattie was losing patience with her conservative guardian.

“You really shouldn’t flaunt yourself like that.  What you wear says a lot about who you are.”  Harm didn’t know what was worse; the underwear that wasn’t underwear or showing skin that apparently isn’t showing skin.

“I’m not flaunting Harm, you can only see my belly button if I move my arms a certain way.  It’s just the fashion.  At least I’m not wearing hip huggers AND a tube top like your generation.”  Mattie gave him that ‘I’ve just made my point dad, deal with it’ look.

“I’d still feel better if you wore a regular t-shirt.”  Harm knew he needed to trust Mattie’s judgement, but this was harder than he thought it would be.

“Why don’t we wait for Mac to get here and you can ask her opinion.” Mattie gleamed with her brilliant idea.  She knew Mac would back her up.

“Mac’s not coming here.”  Harm wiped the last spot on the counter once more before tossing the sponge in the sink.

“Why not?” Mattie looked puzzled. “I thought you two finally got your act together?”

“You said that, I never did.”  Harm knew he was walking a thin line with the truth, but all is fair in love and war.

“But...”

“Never mind but.  Go change your shirt, I’ll wait for you down in the car.”  Harm grabbed his keys and followed Mattie out the door.  He wasn’t sure who was going to be worse, Mattie or Harriet. 



Roberts residence
1600 hours

“See I told you!” Mattie grinned triumphantly. 

Mac made every effort to bite back a laugh.  “Keep in mind I had no way of knowing why she was asking me this.” Holding her hands up, palms out in surrender, Mac nodded defensively at Harm.

“Mattie’s right, Commander. In the seventies all the girls wore hip huggers and halters.  Most of them were very nice girls, and some are even grandmothers now.”  Harriet came to Mac’s aid, trying not to giggle openly.  She was beginning to get an idea of where she might find an ally brazen enough to take on Harm and Mac.

“Okay, ladies, I can see I’m outnumbered.”  Harm nodded in defeat. “I think it’s time for another coke.” He smiled and walked around Harriet to the cooler.

Harriet had asked Harm and Mac to finish making the potato and macaroni salad while she took turns with Bud standing over the grill. When Bud couldn’t take it anymore, he’d come in and switch places with Harriet.

Earlier that day, without thinking (yeah right) Harriet had spread some natural turkey fertilizer in the beds around the house. 

“Harriet, why did you decide to fertilize the shrubs NOW?”  Bud asked, his mouth hanging open.

“I didn’t have time after I planted them last weekend, why?”  Harriet looked completely innocent and unaware.

“Harriet, no one will be able to stay outside without a gas mask!”  Bud couldn’t believe his together wife had managed to do something so stupid that even absentmindedly he wouldn’t have done.

With a wave of her hand,  “oh well, you can cook outside but we’ll just have to hang out in the house.”  She walked away completely satisfied with herself. Containment would help.

So far Harriet had managed to find a multitude of reasons to keep Harm and Mac working side by side in the kitchen.  She’d watched the two carefully making sure her interest wasn’t detected.  They worked together with an ease and comfort that she hadn’t seen in years.  A comfort that after Paraguay, she thought she’d never see again.  She was sure, if there wasn’t something going on already, that now was the best time to strike.

Leaving Mac and Harm playing chef in the kitchen, Harriet slipped out quietly to go speak with Mattie.

“So tell me Mattie, you really seem to be enjoying staying with Harm?”  Harriet began.  She knew she’d have to get to the point quickly before Harm or Mac came looking for them.

“Yeah, except for days like today, he’s really cool.”  Mattie rolled her eyes.

“Do you get to spend much time with Mac too?”

“Not really, do you know what’s up with them?” Straight to the point, Mattie twisted her mouth curiously.

A glimmer of excitement appeared in Harriet’s eyes.

“What do you mean?” Harriet asked coyly.

“Well, it’s obvious they like each other, but they’re not dating.  I mean, what’s up with that?”  Mattie flipped one hand over in a gesture of confusion.

“It’s a long story.  Would you like to see them together?”  That twinkle in Harriet’s eye was growing brighter.

“Sure, you can tell he really loves her.”  Mattie didn’t know if that was supposed to be some sort of secret, but just because the adults were behaving like children didn’t mean she had to play along.

Rubbing her hands together enthusiastically, “Then I have an idea….”

Before heading back to the kitchen, Harriet sat AJ down on the sofa popping his favorite video in the TV.  Convinced he wasn’t going to be moving from that spot, she passed through the dining room on her way back to the kitchen.  Making sure no one was nearby Harriet leaned over and opened all the windows about two inches.

Pleased with herself, Harriet joined her friends in the kitchen just as Bud was coming inside with the burgers.

“Anybody hungry?” Bud asked with a broad grin across his face, happy to finally breathe fresh air.

Picking up the bowls of salad they’d been working on,  “Lead the way oh great grill king,” Harm said, as he and Mac waved an arm extending it before them palm up.

Harriet winked at Mattie.  “By all means Bud, lead the way.” 

“Harriet!”  Bud exclaimed, arriving in the dining room first.

“Rushing past Mattie to catch up to Bud, “What’s wrong?  OH, dear,” She frowned as she reached Bud. “I guess I forgot to close the windows.”  The aroma of turkey fertilizer had permeated the room as effectively as if they’d been standing outside.

“Guess we’ll have to eat in the other room, that’s okay Harriet, right?” Mattie asked casually.  Harriet was going to enjoy working with her.

“Sure, everyone into the den.”

Mattie darted off first grabbing the burgers from Bud.  “I’ll take those, you go have a seat on the sofa with AJ.”

Mattie set the burgers down and went to sit in the oversized easy chair.  Harriet headed for the loveseat carrying a large water glass.  

Just as Mac and Harm were setting the salads and plastic dishware on the table, Mattie popped up.

“You know, I should probably sit on the sofa with AJ.  Then I can help him so you adults can enjoy yourselves. You can take my seat Harm.”  Mattie was most definitely going to be a great asset, Harriet decided.

Mac made her way over towards Harriet. 

Before Mac had taken two steps Harriet let out a screech.

“OOH.  I can’t believe I did that!”  Shaking herself off.   “Now these cushions are soaked.  At least it’s just water. Well Mac, we can’t sit here now.”  Harriet shrugged her shoulders, her expression successfully bathed in embarrassment.

Looking at Harm comfortably seated in the oversized chair, “that chair there really is big enough for two people.  You don’t mind sharing with the colonel, do you Commander?”  Harriet’s embarrassment changed quickly into the ever-accommodating hostess once again.

Their mouths slightly opened, Harm and Mac glanced at each other and then turned back to Harriet.  By now, any attempt by Harriet at acting had been completely subdued by her Cheshire grin.

Standing up, “Here, Mac, you take the seat.  I’ll sit over there on the floor by AJ.  It’s closer to the food anyhow.”  Harm tried not to burst out laughing when he saw Harriet’s eyes practically pop out of her head. 

‘Okay, Commander, you want to play rough.’ Harriet glanced over at Mattie, who just shrugged her shoulders.  ‘I don’t give up that easily.’  Harriet looked over to Mac,  “Mind sharing?”


                                                        
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