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Negotiating Relationships - Part 2


Chapter 8

JAG Headquarters
Admiral Chegwidden’s Office
Monday afternoon

“There’s been a friendly fire incident at Camp Pendleton,” the admiral informed them, clasping his hands on the desk.

“Isn’t that the second one this month, sir?”  A deep furrow set in Mac’s brow.

“Third. The local JAG office has failed to find any reason for the continued mishaps.  I’m sure you agree the idea of bootcamp is not to blow up our own men.  I expect you to get to the bottom of this, and quickly.  Understood?”

“Aye aye, sir.”

Harriet had been keeping a watchful eye on her two friends.  Noticing them lingering at the desk with Coates, she wondered if perhaps this wasn’t her next opportunity to encourage a little togetherness.

Waiting until Harm and Mac had returned to their offices, Harriet casually approached Jennifer’s desk.

“You look a little frazzled, everything okay?” Harriet asked.

“The Commander and the Colonel need to leave for Pendleton but I’ve just been informed the VOQ is closed due to flooding.” Jennifer was still looking at the phone as if it were going to miraculously speak and offer her some instant resolution to her newest dilemma.

“Flooded? In California?”  Harriet was honestly curious.

“A water main broke triggering a domino affect on several other over stressed pipes, flooding the VOQ, as well as some of the barracks’, and officer’s quarters, and a few other miscellaneous buildings.”

“Wow, sounds like they’ve got real mess over there. When did this happen?”

“This morning.” Jen looked up at Harriet.

“I’m sure there’s a list of hotels the base is using to house all those people, why don’t you let me take care of it for you.  You can just concentrate on transportation,” Harriet happily volunteered.

“Yes, ma’am.  They did give me a list of the three hotels they’re using.  I’ve called the first one, according to the desk clerk, they don’t even have a broom closet left to offer.”  If Jen weren’t so stressed, she would have found that comment rather amusing.

“Fine, you give me the list, and I’ll take it from here.”  Accepting the piece of paper, Harriet smiled to herself.  Operation Make Love, phase two.

Harriet hung up her phone, pleased with herself.  Deciding her plan might need a back up she dialed the hotel’s number one more time.

“Yes, this is Lt. Sims again.  Do you still have the other rooms available?  Wonderful, I need to make an additional reservation.”  This was going to be a great day, Harriet thought.

Arriving at the hotel, Mac and Harm practically dragged themselves into the lobby.   The first leg of their trip started with the last transport out of Andrews.  By the time they were done with their connecting flights, it was almost 1100 hours local time when they arrived at the hotel.

“I’m Commander Rabb, this is Colonel MacKenzie. We have a reservation.” 

“Yes, here it is.  MacKenzie Rabb. You got one of our last rooms,” the man smiled.

“One?” Harm raised an eyebrow at the man.

“Here you are, room 704.  The 6th – 9th floor is reserved for officers,” the gentleman announced handing Harm the key.

Harm and Mac looked at each other briefly before turning back to the desk clerk.

“I believe that should be two rooms.” Was all Harm said.

“No, it very clearly says here, one room for Mackenzie Rabb.”

“That should have been one room for MacKenzie and one room for Rabb,” Harm sighed.  “Please double check you don’t have another room for us.”

“No, I’m afraid not.  Shortly after this reservation was made someone took our last three rooms. We don’t even have anything on the enlisted floors.”  The clerk looked up unremorseful.

“Thank you,” Harm said through a forced smile.

“Just what we needed,” Harm said once the elevator doors closed behind them.

“I know,” Mac nodded.

“It’s been hard enough avoiding the appearance of impropriety, sharing a hotel room on a floor of officers is going to be a…challenge,” Harm sighed again.

The eyes of both officers looked up to the band of numbers above the door.   This wasn’t going to be easy.

Opening the door to the room, they were instantly relieved to find at least the room had two beds. They each placed their bag on a bed and began unpacking for the night.

“I don’t understand how Coates could have made such a mistake,” Mac commented placing a few articles of clothing in one of the dresser drawers.

“It’s not like her, it was probably an incompetent reservations person overwhelmed with the sudden influx of military,” Harm added, carrying his toiletries to the bathroom.

“Still, the reservations agent would have had to give Jen the confirming information.  Jen would have noticed they only gave her one room,” Mac questioned as she closed her empty suitcase.

“Unless…” Harm said, popping his head out the bathroom door. “Jen didn’t make the reservations.”

“You don’t think…?” Mac started.

“Harriet!” the two offered in unison.

The next two days were some of the most difficult Harm and Mac had ever spent together.   They were the pictures of protocol.  Never giving anyone the slightest reason to suspect anything.  The pressure of keeping their distance, at the office as well as in their room was immense.  The desire for even the slightest touch was beginning to consume them.  Even when they were alone in their room, they didn’t dare do as much as hold hands.  The possibility of being discovered by another officer was too real.  Especially with two full bird colonels only two doors down.

After some relatively simple investigation and comparisons, Harm and Mac were able to determine that similar incidents had happened at other bases across the country.  All incidents involving the same weaponry.   Something the local JAG office should have discovered as quickly as they had.  Two new investigations would stem from the trip.   One would look into the reliability of the new weapon being used, the other into the local JAG operations.

Harm and Mac were able to procure a commercial flight home and opted to travel in civies.  This way they could finally leave military protocol behind for at least a few hours.

Looking down at Mac’s hand enfolded in his, “Do you have any idea how much I have missed being able to do this?” Harm asked.

“Probably as much as I’ve missed you doing it?” Mac smiled.

Harm brought Mac’s hand up to his lips and kissed it lightly. “I’ve missed us.”

It was a simple statement but Mac knew exactly what he meant. 

“We have to tell the Admiral. I don’t think I could risk another assignment like that.  It would probably kill me to ever go another day denying us.” Harm wanted to say so much more.

“We should probably wait a few days.  It might not fare well for us if we mention a change in our personal relationship the day after we return from sharing a hotel room in California,” Mac pointed out.

“Agreed, but we tell him first thing Monday morning,” Harm insisted.

“Agreed.” Mac lifted the armrest between them and snuggled up against Harm laying her head on his shoulder. 

Harm immediately wrapped his arm around Mac.  Kissing her lightly on the top of her head, “Can we stay like this forever?” It was a ridiculous thought, but he really didn’t want to ever let her go.

Mac simply nodded her head yes before drifting off to sleep.

Despite not wanting to separate, Harm dropped Mac off at her apartment without going upstairs.  It was late and they both felt they’d tempted fate enough over the last couple of days.  Since tomorrow was Friday, they would just get through the day and enjoy quality time over the weekend.

JAG Headquarters
Friday morning
Break Room

“You’re sure everything is all set?” Harriet asked, phase three running through her mind.

“Positive, Mattie and I have our parts down.” Petty Officer Coates reassured Harriet.  Jen was learning to admire the matchmaker side of Harriet’s personality.

Mac came walking up the hall, the sounds of laughter drifting from the break room.  Just as she turned the corner into the room Harriet stiffened, she and Jen, falling instantly silent.   Startled, Mac turned around to see if maybe the Admiral had been standing behind her.  She wasn’t used to getting that sort of reaction from her friends.

“Did I interrupt something?” It was obvious but she thought she’d ask anyway.

“No, ma’am.  We were just finishing up. Excuse me.”  Jen made a hasty retreat.

“You know Jen has a pretty good sense of humor.” Harriet tried to cover.

“We need to find her a decent date, although if we do I’ll miss all the fun stories,” Harriet continued, hoping Mac wouldn’t catch on they’d been talking about her and Harm.  “I’d better get back to my desk before someone sends out a search party.”  Harriet smiled as she walked past the Colonel.

Mac had too many things on her mind to pay very much attention to what she might have stumbled into.

Later that afternoon

Jennifer Coates winked at Harriet as she made her way to Mac’s office.

“Excuse me Colonel,” Jen said, knocking softly on the door.


“You had these messages while you were away.  I thought you might want to take note of the message on top ma’am.  You’re landlord called to inform you that you’re building is being fumigated today.  He suggested you might not want to go home after work,”  Jen smiled, trying to look believable.

Slumping her shoulders, Mac let out a small sigh. “Thank you Jennifer, did he say anything about when I could go home?”

“No ma’am,”  Jen shrugged.

“Very well, carry on.”  Mac waved her hand to dismiss Coates. She never looked up to see Jen give Harriet the thumbs up on her way to her next stop.

“Tell Mrs. Benson if she needs an extra vehicle to give me a call. I know she’s got it covered but if you need me, I’m here… I know…. Have a nice night.  See you tomorrow.”  Harm hung up smiling.  He never imagined how much pleasure he would get from having Mattie around.

“Excuse me, sir.” Jen had been waiting for him to get off the phone.

“Yes, Jen.”

“Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be babysitting for the Roberts tonight.  I’m going to go straight to their house after work, and will probably spend the night so they don’t have to worry about how late they stay out.”

“That makes sense, but you do know if you decide to come home late, you call me and I’ll meet you outside so you’re not walking alone?” Harm often talked to Jen more like a father than a superior officer.

“I know, sir.  I just wanted you to know that I wouldn’t be home with Mattie tonight.”  She already knew Mattie wouldn’t be home either but no sense in letting anyone else in on the plans.

“Don’t worry.  A bunch of girls are going to the movies and then spending the night at Maria Benson’s.  Who knows what time tomorrow Mattie will be back.” 

“Very well, sir.  See you tomorrow.”  Jen returned to her desk, her part of the mission complete.

Chapter 9 

Mac’s office
Same time

Mac sat in her office contemplating her options.  Tossing her pen on the desk, she got up and marched over to Harm’s office.

“Any interest in joining a displaced marine for dinner?”


“My building is being fumigated today and the landlord suggests I not come home too early.”  Mac sat down in the chair across from Harm’s desk.

Harm’s eyebrow shot up suggestively.

“Well, when you put it that way.  I can see where choosing between me and a fumigated apartment might be a difficult choice.”  The corners of Harm’s mouth were curling up slowly.

“If you’d rather not, I’m sure I can go hang out with Harriet,” Mac teased.

“Harriet and Bud are going out.  Jen was just in letting me know she’ll be babysitting for them and spending the night.”  Harm smiled brightly when it dawned on him that he and Mac could be alone tonight without the fear of bionic ears next door.

“What’s the grin for?” Mac couldn’t help but notice the smile that had threatened to split his face open.

“Just thinking about a marine I know.”  He hoped a little of the truth would be enough.

Flattered, Mac sprouted her own huge grin.

“Then we’re on for dinner?” she asked.

“Yeah, but if you can’t go home to change, do you want to just do take out at my place?”  Harm suggested.

“Good idea. Let me know when you’re ready to go and I’ll follow you out of here.”  Mac stood up, she’d been in here long enough and didn’t want to draw too much attention to herself.  Especially with Harriet so watchful lately.

Nodding his head, “See you later.” Harm turned back to his computer screen as soon as Mac was out of his line of sight. 

Harm’s apartment
Near Union Station

“They’ve just left, have you got it all ready?” Harriet’s voice came through the phone to Mattie.

“Yes, I’m almost all done.  If you guys would quit calling to check on me, I’d have been finished half an hour ago!”  Mattie exclaimed.

“You’re sure you haven’t forgotten anything?” Harriet inquired for the tenth time.


“You remembered the bulbs?”  Harriet wanted to make sure.

“Yes, and the music.  I’ve got it all. Now let me go, Mrs. Benson has been waiting downstairs for me for almost ten minutes.” Mattie didn’t want to keep her friend’s mom waiting.  Fortunately, Mrs. Benson was a romantic at heart and didn’t mind helping out.

45 minutes later:

Mac stood next to Harm holding the Chinese take out while he unlocked the door.

Stepping into the apartment, harm flipped the light switch nearest the door.  Nothing happened.

“Hmm, bulb must have burned out.  Go ahead and set that stuff down in the kitchen.”  Harm walked into the living room intending to turn on the light by the sofa.

“Do you want me to find you something more comfortable to wear?”  Harm asked fidgeting with the lamp.

“Nah, I’m okay. Thanks.”  Looking over to where Harm was standing, “Is there a problem?”

“I guess this bulb is dead too.” Harm walked over to the floor lamp in the back of the living room.  “Aha, a light bulb that isn’t burned out,” Harm proclaimed happily.

“It doesn’t give off much light, does it?” Mac commented casually, unaware Mattie had replaced the normal higher watt bulb with a lower 40 watt.

“No, it should be brighter.”  Harm wondered what was up.  “Doesn’t matter, I’ve got some extra bulbs in the cupboard.”  Harm went into the kitchen.  Reaching into the cabinet under the sink he pulled out a box of 75 watt light bulbs.

Harm replaced the bulb in the entryway.  Surprised to find the new bulbs not working, he was reaching for the third bulb when the stereo came on.

“Since when does it do that?” Mac asked startled by the sudden symphony of music.

“Mattie must have been messing with it.  She discovered the timer on it a few weeks back by mistake, she must have set it off again.”  Harm was currently more concerned with why all of his new replacement bulbs appeared to be burned out.

“Okay Thomas Edison.  Dinner’s ready and I’m hungry.  There’s enough light to see the food and right now that’s all that matters.” Mac carried the cartons of food to the table.

“I don’t get it, why would all the new bulbs be burned out.”  Harm handed the box to Mac when he reached the table.

Taking the proffered box and shaking it slightly, “Sounds like the filaments are broken.  The box was probably dropped before you ever bought it,” Mac suggested, then turned back into the kitchen opening drawers.  “Where do you keep the matches?”

“What for?” Harm asked, tossing the bulbs into the trash.

“To light the candle on the table.”

Harm looked at the table more closely, his eyes falling on an oversized cranberry colored candle nestled in a floral centerpiece.  “Where did that come from?” 

“How should I know, this is your apartment, remember.”  Mac raised a box of matches in triumph.

Finished lighting the candle, Mac began dishing out the food. “Now, I’m really starved.” 

Still somewhat confused, Harm took a seat and began serving himself.  “You do realize something isn’t right here?”  Harm took a bite of his lo mein.

“You mean burnt out bulbs, mystery candles and self starting music?” For the first time that night, Mac actually noticed the song playing.

‘…When will our eyes meet, when can I touch you, when will this strong yearning end…’

“Since when do you have Barry Manilow in your collection?”  Mac asked, taking another bite of food.

“I don’t.” Harm answered quickly before recognizing the tune.

“This is ridiculous.”  Forcefully pushing off from the table, Harm walked over to the CD player. “Half my music is missing.  All that’s left are the easy listening discs. Hmm, I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know you have just been enjoying the musical orchestrations of the Time Warner series: Romantic sounds of the sixties, seventies and eighties. We must have just been blessed with the seventies.”  Harm carried the empty CD holders back to the table to show Mac.  He didn’t know if he should burst out laughing, or have someone keelhauled.

“I think it’s safe to guess, we’ve been set up.” Mac held up the CD cases.

Chuckling, Harm sat down next to Mac.  “Well, at least we know who the culprit is.”

“You mean culprits?” Mac replied, waving her fork at him.

“You think there’s more than one?” Harm raised a doubtful eyebrow.

“Well, if you think about it, one person could have made sure none of the lights worked, that the replacement bulbs were all dead, and that you had extra candles readily available, which by the way smells delicious.  The same person could have confiscated the rest of your music.  Would I be correct in assuming the missing CDs are probably not considered romantic?”  Waiting a moment for Harm to nod his head yes, Mac went on.

“That leaves us with soft lights, and romantic music.  None of which would have done you any good unless my landlord coincidentally decided to fumigate my apartment today.” Mac sat back crossing her arms in front of her, satisfied with her own powers of deductive reasoning.

“Which of course is all conducive to a pleasant romantic evening, if the neighbors on the other side of that wall are out for the evening with no hope of coming home before dawn.” Harm pointed to the wall behind them, the light bulb of recognition shining bright in his head.

“Colonel, I believe we are the focus of a well thought out conspiracy,” Harm smiled.

“No sense wasting the musical genius of Peaches and Herb.  May I have this dance?” Harm stood extending his arm in front of Mac.

“I’d be delighted, kind sir.” Mac semi-curtsied as she stepped into Harm’s arms.  Her mind lost momentarily listening to the words: ‘ reunited and it feels so good, reunited and it’s understood…’

“Someone went to a lot of trouble to create a romantic evening for us.” Harm spoke softly into Mac’s ear.  Tightening his grip on her waist, Harm relished the opportunity to hold her so close.  He’d been longing to do this for days.  Having been forced to keep his distance had worn heavily on him, making him want her all the more.

“Do you think Coates and Mattie thought this up themselves?”  Mac asked quietly.  She was enjoying being in his arms again.  They would have undoubtedly had a pleasant evening but she was most definitely thankful to who ever guaranteed it.

“Well, the light bulbs does seem very adolescent, and the landlord had to be Coates, but in order for the absent neighbors to work…”

“Harriet,” the two echoed.

Chapter 10

Harm’s apartment
Same evening

The two spent the better part of the evening dancing or curled up on the couch.  In all the years they had been friends, there was never a shortage of something to talk about, or total comfort in silence.

With the pleasant sounds of Chuck Mangione in the background, Mac laid across the sofa, her head in Harm’s lap.

Harm’s fingers delicately, brushed through her hair, occasionally lingering to twirl or caress any one spot.

“I think we need to tell Harriet,” Mac said, her eyes closed enjoying Harm’s ministrations.

“I was thinking the same thing.” Harm was taking in the peaceful look on her face.

“Learning to navigate this new relationship is challenging enough without stumbling across Harriet’s matchmaking efforts at every turn.” Mac had opened her eyes to see Harm’s reaction to what she’d just said.

“You’re right.  Even though the set up with the easy chair at her house was silly, our assignment at Pendleton would have been much easier if we could have retreated to our own rooms,” Harm added. “Although, I will admit, if I didn’t think it was possible to want you anymore than I already did, I know it now.” Harm’s stomach lurched when he realized what he’d just let slip.

“We won’t tell her how nicely tonight has turned out either.” Mac could sense Harm’s discomfort at what he’d just admitted, so she chose to ignore the confession, even though she felt the same way.

Relieved he hadn’t upset her with his dumb comment, he leaned over and kissed the tip of her nose.  “No we won’t tell her, and you’re right.  We can’t take any more chances of Harriet interfering and putting us in a precarious position.” Harm returned to caressing her hair.

“Then after we tell the admiral on Monday, we tell Harriet?” Mac confirmed.

“You know...” A mischievous twinkle appeared in Harm’s eye.  “It would probably serve Harriet right if we did a little ‘acting’ of our own.”

“What have you got in mind?” This could be interesting, Mac thought.

“Let me give it some thought.” Harm’s mind wandered off thinking of satisfactory ways to gracefully exact their revenge on Dolly Levi, AKA Harriet Sims.

Content to lay together talking and making plans for how to deal with Harriet, neither one noticed the late hour.

“Do you think they really fumigated your apartment?”

“I honestly don’t know.  It sounds legit, but I wouldn’t put anything past Harriet after Pendleton,” Mac chuckled.

“Would you like to stay here?” Harm asked timidly.

Mac hesitated staring into his eyes.  Boy would she like, but she really shouldn’t rush this. ‘Rush! Gees MacKenzie this has been going on for 8 years.  Yeah, but on a different level, sex can screw up any good relationship.  Once you’ve crossed that line, there’s no going back.’

Harm noticed the fight within her.  He hadn’t meant to make it so difficult.  “I’ll sleep on the sofa,” he added, hoping to make her choice easier.

“That wouldn’t be fair to you, I should probably go home,” Mac said reluctantly.

Harm really wanted to her to stay, even if it was on the other side of the apartment, but he knew she was probably right.  Getting back into a normal routine was most likely the best thing for them to do.

“Okay, I’ll follow you home.  This way if the fumigation was real, you can come back with me.”

“Harm, if the apartment is unbearable, I can drive myself back.”  Despite the intimacy of the situation, Mac was slipping into Marine mode.

“I know you could, but I’d feel better knowing you got home okay.” Harm smiled moving the hand that had been gently caressing her arm, up to cup her face. “Humor me, please?”

Harm resisted the urge to lean over and kiss her.  He knew, if she really wanted to go home, kissing her now would only make letting her go all the harder for him.

Together, the two rose from the comfort of the sofa and headed off to Mac’s apartment.

Mac’s apartment

“I knew it was part of the setup,” Mac huffed, stepping into her apartment.

“Maybe we need to cast a wider net?” Harm suggested.

“You mean trap all the spiders in their own web?”

“Exactly.” Harm flashed an impish grin.

Harm’s apartment
Next day 1300

Harm was standing at the kitchen sink when Mattie came bouncing in the front door.

“I didn’t expect you home so soon.  Did Mrs. Benson drop you off?” Harm asked, wiping the counter.

“Yeah, she had a few errands to run so this was a good time.  Are you just going to be hanging out?” Mattie sat down on a barstool across from Harm.

“No, I was going to leave you a note.  Sturgis and I are going to go play some ball and maybe get a drink later.” Harm was purposely not looking at Mattie.

“What about Mac?”  She had thought for sure that she’d find Mac here after last night.

“I’m sure she has plans.  I’m not her keeper.”  Harm was careful to only answer the truth.

“She’s not spending the afternoon with you?”  Mattie sounded panicked.

“I’m playing basketball with Sturgis today.  Do you want to watch a movie or something after I get home?” He and Mac had already decided they would stay home Saturday and Sunday night to throw Mattie and Jen off the scent and hopefully give them something to think about.

“What about Mac?” It wasn’t supposed to work this way, Mattie thought.

“You said that already.  If you want to invite her over to watch a chick flick with you and Jen I could find something else to do.”  Maybe he was laying it on a little thick, but they weren’t exactly subtle either.

“No, we can hang out here, that’ll be fine.”  Something wasn’t right, she needed to talk to Harriet.

Harm neglected to tell Mattie the other part of his plans for Saturday afternoon with Sturgis. 

Harm and Sturgis played a little basketball while Mac and Varese invaded the local mall.  Afterwards they met up for an early dinner.

Benzinger’s Restaurant
Late Saturday afternoon

“Well, I have to admit, I can’t believe how long it’s taken the two of you to come to your senses,” Sturgis commented shaking his head.  “I thought for sure after our little conversation a few years ago it would only be a short matter of time until Shaquil over here recognized how you felt.” Sturgis was looking at Mac but pointed to Harm before wrapping his arm around the new love of his life.

“Hey, it’s not my fault I’m a better ball player than you,” Harm announced proudly.

“No, it’s your fault you cheat,” Sturgis teased his old friend.

“Okay, boys, we get the point,” Varese interrupted, laughing at the men’s antics.

“I know, you can dress them up, but you can’t take them anywhere.”  Mac joined in the laughter.

“Sturgis, we need a little favor.  Since you’re so good at keeping secrets, until further notice, please don’t mention to anyone that we were here together with you and Varese,” Mac requested, waving her hand between Harm and herself.

Sturgis rolled his eyes.  “Not again.”

“No, this will probably only be a day or two,” Harm shrugged.

“Okay, a day or two,” he agreed, placing his hand on Varese’s.  “You’re just lucky I’m a sucker for a good love story.”

Next day

Harm had told Mattie he was going to go run a few errands.  That was the truth, he just neglected to mention it would be with Mac.  It had been hard for them to separate on Saturday night after dinner. They’d gotten really used to being together day and night in California.  Being able to finally show their feelings without reservation had opened a floodgate of tenderness that in only two weeks had become as basic to their lives as breathing and eating.

Mattie had been patiently waiting in her apartment for any signs of Harm’s return.  She had hoped desperately that Harm would come home with Mac.  When she heard the rumble of the elevator, she quickly threw on her sandals and ran out the door to meet him.

“Hey, where you going?” Harm asked, surprised to see Mattie standing in the hall.

“I was just coming over to see what you were up to when I heard the elevator.” It was basically the truth, she thought.

“Good, help me with this.  I’ve got a couple more bags in the car.” He handed Mattie a bag of groceries and shifted his dry cleaning to the other hand making it easier to unlock his front door.

He had run every possible errand imaginable in order to spend as much time as he could with Mac.  They’d even gone so far as to wash his car just to kill a little more time.

“You were gone a long time, did you get to see Mac?”  Mattie asked nonchalantly.

“It was such a nice day I decided to stop and wash the car.” It was a good thing his back was turned to Mattie so she couldn't see the grin he was unsuccessfully hiding.

“I’m gonna watch a ball game on TV, got any other plans?” Harm asked

“No, thanks.  I’ve got a history paper I’ve got to finish up.” Mattie helped Harm with the rest of the groceries and went back to her apartment.

“Are you sure?” Jen asked.

“I’m positive.  They haven’t seen each other all weekend,” Mattie insisted.

“Did he say if they had a fight?” Jen persisted, her brow wrinkled with concern.

“I don’t know.  I didn’t think to ask.  What could they fight about?  The setting was perfect, soft lights, romantic music, no place to go.  What more could they want?” Mattie asked waving her arms as she paced the floor.

“Calm down, maybe they just had a lot to do today,” Jen offered, shrugging her shoulders.

“I don’t think washing your car because it turned out to be a nice day ranks higher than hanging out with a looker like Colonel Mackenzie,” Mattie huffed, rolling her eyes.

“I have to admit, if I had my choice of hanging out with a hunk like the Commander or doing just about anything else short of winning the lottery, the Commander would win.” Pausing to contemplate if there was really such a thing as a sexy and smart enlisted man, or if maybe she was going to need to become an officer, she noticed Mattie reaching for the phone.  “What are you going to do?”

“I’m calling Harriet.”

Chapter 11

JAG Headquarters
Monday Morning

Mac was usually one of the first officers to arrive in the mornings.  Today was no exception.  When Harriet arrived, Mac was already busy working at her desk.  ‘The door was open so she couldn’t be in too bad a mood,’ Harriet thought.

Harriet wandered over near Harm’s office.  He still hadn’t arrived, but that wasn’t anything unusual either.  So far, it seemed like it was going to be a very routine Monday.

Harm flipped his phone shut just as the elevator doors opened. 

Mac hung up her phone taking a piece of paper off her desk and heading for the copy machine.

“Good morning Harriet.” Harm smiled as he walked past her desk.

“Morning Commander,” Harriet beamed.  So far nothing out of the ordinary.  Watching Harm make his way down the hall, she saw the officers pass each other by.

“Colonel,” Harm said stone-faced.

“Commander,” Mac replied icily.

Harriet’s eyes flew open.  ‘Uh oh.’

From her office, Mac kept careful tabs on Harriet’s activities.  Shortly after lunch, Mac noticed Harriet on her way to the ladies room.

“Hi. Harriet.” Mac smiled as she went to the sink to wash her hands.  “I don’t know what I got into that left my hands all sticky.”

Harriet pulled out a paper towel and handed it to Mac. “Did you have a nice weekend?” Harriet asked casually as she pulled out another towel for herself to dry her hands.

“It was pretty uneventful. I did have a lot of time to do some thinking though.”  Mac turned and leaned against the sink thoughtfully, slowly drying each finger on her hand.

“Spending those few days with Harm in California started me thinking.” Mac noticed the corners of Harriet’s mouth twitched trying to suppress a smile.

“You were right, its time I start thinking about settling down, raising a family.  I’m not getting any younger you know.”  Mac stopped wiping her hands to look Harriet in the eye.  She could see Harriet’s building enthusiasm waiting to explode.

“Clay is a good man.  He has a lot to offer.”  Tossing the paper towel in the trash, Mac started for the bathroom door.

“You were right Harriet, thank you.” Mac nodded her head and walked out the door not giving Harriet time to comment.

Before the door closed behind her, as she turned the corner, Mac was able to catch a glimpse of Harriet’s face. Had Mac told Harriet she’d won the lottery, Mac didn’t think Harriet could look more shocked. Seeing Harriet frozen in place, Mac almost felt guilty, almost.

Harm had been waiting all afternoon for an opportunity to bump into Harriet.  Finally he saw Harriet leaving her desk with a coffee cup in her hand.  It didn’t matter if she was getting a refill or just returning the cup, he only needed her attention for a couple of minutes.

“How’s it going Harriet?” Harm asked reaching around her for a coffee cup.

“Fine, thank you,” Harriet answered, rinsing out her cup.

“You know, after our talk last week, you got me thinking.”  Harm noticed Harriet visibly stiffen.  He wasn’t sure but he thought he saw her clutch the edge of the sink.

“The few short years until Mattie goes off to college are going to pass too quickly.  It’s not healthy to allow too much of your life to evolve around your children.”  Harm was almost finished making his coffee and yet Harriet hadn’t moved a muscle since he started speaking.

“It’s time I got out more.  If your neighbor is still interested, I’d love to meet her.” Harm flashed his flyboy smile and took a sip of the coffee.

Finally turning around, Harm could see all the color had gone out of Harriet’s face.

“That’s wonderful, sir.” Harriet tried to smile. “I’ll talk with her first chance I get and let you know.”

“Great, I’ll be waiting.” Harm turned and walked out of the room. As he left he could see Harriet’s smile still frozen on her face.  Harm couldn’t resist laughing to himself when he noticed her fists were clenched at her sides.  Poor Harriet.

Slightly dazed from the day’s surprising turn of events, Harriet didn’t even notice she’d walked to Commander Turner’s office until she found herself knocking on his door.

“Come in Lieutenant.  What can I do for you?” Sturgis asked politely.

“Well, sir.  I was just wondering if Colonel MacKenzie or Commander Rabb have said anything to you recently,” Harriet started uneasily.

Sturgis raised an eyebrow wondering if Harriet’s confusing inquiry had anything to do with his friend’s request to keep Saturday quiet.

“What I mean, sir, is has either of them mentioned being unhappy to you?” Harriet wasn’t sure what she was doing, this was definitely out of line, but she was already committed.

“Well, I played basketball with Harm on Saturday and he seemed just fine. I haven’t had much opportunity to see the Colonel today, but I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.  Is that what you wanted to know?”  Sturgis was starting to feel very sorry for Harriet.  He couldn’t remember ever seeing her look so... befuddled.

“Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.”  Harriet turned on her heel.  How could they have gone wrong?  And, oh good heavens, how was she going to fix it?

Mac’s apartment
1900 hours

“So how long do you think we should let her stew?” Mac asked finishing the last of her fettuccini.

“I don’t want to be cruel.  Harriet looked devastated when I told her I wanted to meet her neighbor,” Harm chuckled, picking up his empty plate and carrying it into the kitchen.

“Did you see her face when we barely said good morning.  She never caught on that it was you on the other end of my phone call so we could get the timing right,” Mac smiled following him into the kitchen.

“So, you think tomorrow will be soon enough to set her straight?” Harm turned to look at Mac.

“Yeah, let’s give the Admiral the heads up first thing in the morning and then we can tell Harriet.”  Having placed her dish in the sink, Mac reached out for Harm. Immediately his arms wrapped around her.

“Have you noticed how well we fit together?” Mac mumbled, her head resting on Harm’s shoulder.

“Oh, yeah.” Harm’s mind wandered off to that corner of his imagination where he and Sarah were linked perfectly together, the final piece in a breathtaking puzzle.

“You still with me, flyboy?” Mac asked, tapping his shoulder.

Recognizing that Mac must have been talking to him, “Sorry, what did you say?”

“I was asking when are you going to tell Mattie, but I’d much rather know where you were just now.” Mac smiled, backing away from him.  She reached for his hand to lead him back to the living room.

“No place special,” Harm lied.

“I don’t buy that for a minute.  Not with the far off look you had.” Mac sat down on the sofa, pulling Harm down next to her.

“Why don’t you pick out a fun movie.” Harm tried for distraction.

“Sure, after you tell me what’s on your mind.” Mac raised her hand to brush through Harm’s hair just above his ear, pausing to occasionally play with its tip.

“Maac, it was nothing, really.” Harm didn’t want to tell her he was daydreaming about making love to her.

Still somewhat unsure of herself in this new role in Harm’s life, Mac misread his discomfort, and automatically assumed the worst.  Harm could feel her entire comportment change as her fears settled in.

“Okay,” Mac agreed rather unconvincingly, her hand dropping and weight shifting away from Harm.

“Mac, it wasn’t anything bad, just…private.” How did he always manage to hurt her over absolutely nothing?

“Private?” Mac tilted her head, not totally sure how to react.

“I was thinking about what you said.  How well we fit.”  Harm hoped that would be enough.

“Why is that private?”  Mac’s brows curled into one question mark.

Hesitating a moment, “It can’t be any secret that I think you’re a very desirable woman.  I was just thinking…awe Mac.  I was thinking how great it would be when we finally make love.  There, you happy now.” Harm was turning several shades of red.

“Oh.” Mac leaned forward, her eyes dropping to an interesting spot on the carpet.

“See, why I didn’t want to say anything.  I’m sorry Mac. Really, you wanted to know what I was thinking.” Harm was getting nervous, maybe he was better off without her knowing the truth of how he felt.

“Things have been pretty good, considering, haven’t they?” Mac asked still looking at the floor.

“I think so.” He emphasized the ‘I’, not sure where she was going with this.

“You do understand why I’m trying to take this slowly?” Still leaning forward, Mac turned her head towards Harm.

Harm hadn’t really given any thought to why she would want to go slowly, he just accepted that it was the right thing to do.

“Well, it’s taken us a lot of years to get this far, I don’t see any need to rush now.”  It was the most neutral answer the attorney in him could come up with.

Not really sure she could explain to Harm why she was scared moving too fast would ruin everything, she tried a different question.

“But you wouldn’t object to moving faster?”  Mac hadn’t moved except for playing with her Marine Corps ring. 

“Is this a trick question?” Harm tried to lighten the mood a little.

It worked, Mac chuckled and sat up.

“No, I’m wondering if my being cautious is proving to be counterproductive.”

Looking at her a moment, Harm reached over and pulled Mac into in his arms.

“Are you asking me if I’m getting tired of waiting for you?”

“Sort of,” Mac answered rather quietly.

“Then, no.  If you want to wait, so will I.  For as long as it takes.” Harm kissed the top of Mac’s head.

“You’re really okay with that?”  Mac leaned into him.

“As long as I get to share my day with you and hold you like this once in a while, I’m very okay with it,” Harm smiled, tightening his hold on her.

Snuggling into his embrace, “Good, and tomorrow we’ll share that info with Mattie, Jen and…”

“Harriet,” he echoed with her.

Chapter 12

Harm and Mac had requested to see the admiral some time before the end of the day.  Shortly before lunchtime, Petty Officer Coates informed the two officers the admiral could see them.

Standing at attention before his desk, Harm and Mac waited for the admiral to acknowledge them.

“Take a seat.” AJ waved, looking up from his paperwork. “What is it now?” he asked a little impatiently.

“Well, sir. As you know, the colonel and I have been friends for many years,” Harm began.

“Best friends,” Mac interjected.

Smiling, Harm continued.  “Best friends.  We’ve also come to realize that time isn’t slowing down for any of us, sir.” Harm had practiced this speech in his head all morning and now he was struggling for the right words.

“The colonel and I both feel this would be a good time to explore the possibilities of being more than friends.”  Harm let out a long breath, then waited for the storm.

AJ clasped his hands together just looking at his officers.

“Am I to understand, the two of you are now a couple?” If they answered anything but yes the admiral was prepared to keelhaul them both.

“Yes, sir,” they replied in unison.

He panned from Harm to Mac, carefully looking each one in the eye.

“Very well, you know the drill, keep it out of my office. Dismissed,” he said nonchalantly, returning to his paperwork.

“Aye, aye,” the officers responded. Stunned by his curt response, they quickly turned to leave.

Before Mac and Harm had made it completely out the door.

“I expect to see a ring soon,” the admiral called out, never lifting his head from his work, a large grin plastered across his face.

Safely outside the admiral’s office, Harm and Mac tried desperately to hide their flustered expressions as they made their way back to their offices.

“He just gave us his blessing, didn’t he?” Mac said to Harm through one side of her mouth.

“For a minute, I thought he was going to make it an order.” Harm’s voice was equally low so as not to be overheard.

“Is there anyone who doesn’t expect us to get together?” Mac asked her face contorted in frustration.

Reaching his doorway, Harm leaned closer to Mac. “Apparently not.” Smiling broadly at her, Harm turned into his office.

Mattie’s apartment
Near union station
Later that evening

“If you need anything, I’ll be at Bud and Harriet’s,” Harm reminded Mattie.

“I’m all set, not much homework now that the year is winding down.  I’m sure if I run into trouble Jen can help.  You go enjoy your dessert with the Roberts,” Mattie assured him.

He kissed her quickly on the cheek. When he reached the hallway he opted to bypass the elevator and took the stairs two at a time.  He’d stayed home to have dinner with Mattie but was anxious to see Mac.  He knew it was silly.   He’d seen her at work just a few hours ago, but he needed to feel her near him.  Harm had called Bud earlier in the evening and suggested stopping over to visit.  Harm mentioned bringing ice cream, but intentionally neglected to mention he’d be bringing Mac as well.

Sarah MacKenzie’s apartment

Harm stood waiting outside Mac’s door with an extra gallon of Butter Pecan ice cream.  Even though he knew it had only been a few seconds since he knocked, it felt like it was taking Mac an eternity to come to the door. Finally the door opened in what seemed for Harm to be slow motion.  Mac looked lovely.  She was wearing a pair of form fitting jeans with a low cut, long sleeve red shirt. 

“Hi, sailor,” Mac cooed, standing beside the door.  “What ya got there?” She pointed to the bag in Harm’s hand.

“I picked up some ice cream to take over to Bud and Harriet’s and thought I might as well get some for us too.”  He kissed her briefly on the lips. “Better put this in the freezer before it melts.” Harm handed her the bag and followed her into the kitchen.

No sooner had Mac closed the freezer door than she felt Harm swing her about, wrapping his arms around her.

“I’ve been waiting all day to do that,” he said, his voice low and raspy.

“Yeah, me too.  Is that all you’ve wanted to do?” Mac inquired provocatively, tilting her chin up, and slowly licking her lips.

Harm didn’t bother answering.  His lips met hers in an instant.  His grip tightened around her waist.  Without any conscious thought, he’d spread his legs slightly to drop down closer to Mac’s height.  Shivers ran up Mac’s spine and down to her toes as the kiss deepened. 

Harm resisted the temptation to slip his hands under her shirt and feel the warmth of her back.  Slowly, regretfully, Harm pulled himself upright.

“We’d better get going or dessert is going to be a melted puddle in my car.” Harm stared into Mac’s eyes.  Every time they kissed, he felt himself on fire.  He didn’t know how much more of this he could take and still pull away.

Mac stepped back.  “Don’t forget where we left off.”  She smiled playfully turning to the front door.

Harm felt his desire flare back up at the saucy invitation.  Didn’t she have any idea what she was doing to him?

Roberts’ home
Somewhere in Virginia

“We didn’t expect to see you tonight, Colonel,” Bud said, accepting the ice cream Harm handed him. “I mean, not that we don’t want you. It’s always nice to have you, I mean see you. Right, Harriet?” Bud turned to his wife hoping she could help him remove his foot from his mouth, only to discover her smiling at him broadly.

“Let me take the ice cream, Bud.” Harriet reached for the bag and shook her head slightly at her two friends.  It would never cease to surprise her how her husband could have become such an accomplished litigator and yet fumble over his own words so often at home.  Lost in her own amusement, she hadn’t really taken hold of the reality that Harm and Mac had arrived together.

“Why don’t you two wait in the living room and I’ll serve up the ice cream.”  Harriet pointed to the other room.

Still feeling a little awkward at his verbal blunder, Bud announced, “Make yourselves comfortable, I’m going to help Harriet.”

Sitting side by side on the sofa, Harm placed his arm around Mac’s shoulder. 

“If you leave your arm there, we won’t have to decide who’s going to tell Harriet, she’ll figure it out for herself,” Mac smiled, her eyebrows slightly raised.

“That would solve our problem, wouldn’t it?”  Harm kissed Mac gently on the forehead.

“It might,” she replied, closing her eyes, no longer thinking about Harriet.

“Mmn,” he groaned, delicately kissing her eyes. Gently his lips trailed to her cheek slowly leaving feather-like kisses working his way down to her moist lips.

Before they knew what happened, the two were entwined in a passionate embrace.  Their lips meshed in a simmering heat.  The fire within threatening instantly to consume them.  Harm’s arms were pulling Mac closer, his tongue beginning a dance of love mirroring his hopes and desires. 

A cold reminder of where they were was thrust upon them at Harriet’s audible gasp accompanied by the loud crashing sound of dishes shattering on a hard surface.

Startled, Harm and Mac bolted from the sofa practically standing at attention.

Harriet stood frozen in place, her hands over her mouth, her eyebrows touching the ceiling in astonishment.

Despite his previously bumbling oratory display, Bud stood confidently holding two plates of ice cream, grinning like a Cheshire cat, before turning to his wife.  “Are you hurt, dear?”

Her hands on her mouth, still staring at the sofa where the couple had been ‘involved’, Harriet slowly shook her head no. 

By now, Harm and Mac had reached Harriet’s side.  Bending down to pick up the broken dishes, Mac looked up at Harriet.  “Are you sure?”

Harriet turned her head slightly towards Mac’s voice and barely nodded her head yes.

Concerned about Harriet’s lack of movement, Harm placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry Harriet, we didn’t mean to startle you.”  The sincerity of his apology was obvious in the softness of his voice.

Finally dropping her hands, a small smile slowly grew.  Looking the Commander straight in the eyes, “I guess you don’t want to meet our neighbor?” Harriet eeked out quietly before bursting into full blown laughter.

“No, thank you, Harriet,” Harm responded before everyone joined her laughing heartily.

Chapter 13

Roberts’ home
Forty five minutes later

“So you’ve been messing with me since the beginning.” Harriet glared at her two friends, then turned to her husband. “This is all YOUR fault.” She smacked him lightly on the arm.

Everyone had quickly assisted Harriet in cleaning up the mess before sitting down to fresh bowls of ice cream.

“My fault?” Bud asked, gaping at Harriet.

“Yes, if you had just believed me when I told you they’d gotten together instead of giving me some legalese about circumstantial evidence, I wouldn’t have made such a fool of everyone,” Harriet insisted.

Looking at his wife, then his two friends, Bud turned back to his wife and smiled.  “You’re right dear, it’s all my fault.”

Harm and Mac made every effort to hold back a grin.  Bud had become as good a husband as he was a lawyer.  He had definitely mastered the fine art of when to accept a plea.

Ride to Mac’s house
2205 hours

The rest of the short evening had gone well.  Everyone laughed off all the misunderstandings and mischief.

“Make sure Mattie isn’t holding anything breakable when you tell her,” Mac suggested, chuckling at the memory of Harriet’s face and the ice cream all over the floor.

“I think I might focus more on not making out while Mattie is anywhere within a 5 mile radius.” Harm squeezed Mac’s hand, a large smile on his face.

“I’d hoped we’d be home earlier so we could tell Mattie tonight too.” Harm commented looking briefly at Mac. “I guess tomorrow night will have to do.  Would you like to come over for dinner?”

“Who’s cooking?” Mac questioned playfully.

“I am, and I promise I’ll serve something everyone likes.”  Harm watched the road trying to catch Mac’s expression out of the corner of his eye.

“Okay, for Mattie,” Mac teased, this time she squeezed Harm’s hand.

They rode the rest of the way in comfortable silence.  Harm relinquishing his hold of Mac’s hand only briefly when shifting gears.  He’d made a mental note to himself to always use the Lexus from now on so he wouldn’t have to let go of her hand.  It had taken eight years for him to earn the right to hold her at will and he was going to do just that as often as possible.

The next few weeks progressed without any incident.  Mattie and Jen weren’t as shocked by the good news as Harriet had been.  The two young ladies stayed cool and calm.  Once they’d left the apartment after dinner, Mac and Harm could hear them screeching through the walls with delight for almost an hour.  Harm made another mental note, when the time came, they should spend their nights at Mac’s.

Slowly but surely word spread through the office grapevine.  The Navy Times had nothing on office scuttlebutt.  There wasn’t an officer or enlisted man by the end of the week that didn’t know Harm and Mac were officially dating.

Although the Admiral had sent them on several investigations together, they had not had the opportunity to appear against each other in court since going public with their CO.

With the one exception of a two-day investigation Harm did in Norfolk, the couple spent every single day together.  They’d developed a routine.  When Mattie was home for dinner, Mac would join them at Harm’s apartment.  Sometimes Harm would even let her help with the cooking.  On game nights, Harm would pick Mac up and they would ride together to Mattie’s games to cheer her on.

Weekends were pretty much their own. Not that they would have minded spending more time with Mattie, but at her age, Mattie’s social calendar was busier than the Queen of England’s.  Saturday and Sunday mornings they would meet to go running and then have breakfast together. After only a few weeks, they each had several changes of clothes at the other’s apartments, and had grown perfectly comfortable showering there as well. Saturday night had become stay at home night.  It was always spent at Mac’s, mostly since she had the larger TV.  They’d pick out a couple of good movies and try to keep their hands off each other long enough to get some idea what the movie was about.

In order to keep the relationship at the slower physical pace that Mac was comfortable with, Harm had set certain limitations for himself.  Under no circumstances would he ever allow his hands to roam under any part of Mac’s clothing.  The slightest sense of her bare skin, even someplace as innocent as the small of her back, could become unbearably tempting for him.  He also made every effort to limit any physical contact of their lower extremities.  Despite the barrier of multiple layers of clothing, the slightest friction between them could easily ignite the desire he was trying so hard to suppress. Lastly, under no circumstances would either of them sleep over the other’s apartment, no matter how late, they always went home.

JAG headquarters
Two weeks later

“Objection, counsel is testifying,” Harm shouted.

“I’ll rephrase.” Sturgis approached the witness again.

“In your opinion, isn’t good order affected by…

“Objection, the court is not interested in the witnesses opinion.” Harm was displaying none of his usually calm courtroom demeanor.

“I will decide what this court is, or is not, interested in, Commander.” Captain Sebring was not pleased with Harm’s behavior.  He was usually one of the better litigators and today he was pulling stunts like a freshman attorney.

“It’s getting late, court will adjourn until 0900 tomorrow.” Sebring banged his gavel heavily.

Latching his briefcase shut, Sturgis walked over to the defense table.

“Hey buddy, what do you say we stop and get a beer on the way home?” Sturgis could tell something was eating at Harm and if it had anything to do with his relationship with Mac, here wasn’t the place to discuss it.

“Thanks, don’t have time,” he replied curtly.

Catching hold of Harm’s arm as he attempted to walk away from Sturgis. “Is everything okay with you and Mac?” Honest concern was evident in Sturgis’ eyes.

“I told you, I’m late.” Harm didn’t mean to be so short with his friend, but he needed to hurry and he was in no mood to make idle conversation.

Passing Mac in the hallway a few minutes later his briefcase in one hand and cover in the other, he almost didn’t hear when she spoke to him.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?” Mac inquired after him.

“Mattie forgot to have me sign a permission slip so she can travel on the bus with the team to the tournament. I need to meet her at school before the bus is scheduled to leave.  I’m late.  Meet me at my place later.” He called to her as the elevator doors closed between them.

“So everything’s okay with you two?” A deep voice sounded from behind her.

“Yes.” She turned to look curiously at Sturgis. “Why do you ask?”

“He’s been acting like a bear all day.  Not much usually ruffles his feathers in court.  I thought there might be trouble on the home front.”

“Well if there is, it’s not my front.” Mac turned to look back at the elevator.

Sturgis smiled to himself at her choice of words, he hoped she was right.

Two hours later, when Harm came through his front door, he spotted Mac in the kitchen tossing a salad.  Placing his briefcase and cover to the side, Harm made his way directly to her. Taking her shoulders firmly in his hands, he turned her around to face him and kissed her soundly. 

It was obvious to Mac this kiss was more than a mere greeting.  Harm was hungry, no he was starved.  Not for food, and not really for her.   Something was amiss and he was drawing his strength to set it right from her.

“As much as I love the idea of your needing me that much the moment you come through the door.” She paused momentarily go give Harm a pointed glare. “What’s going on?” Mac leaned back against the sink, her arms crossed before her.

Turning away from her, he ran his hand through his hair gathering his thoughts. Not very long ago he would have avoided the question telling her it was nothing.  Now, they were past that.  Mac was so much a part of him he could no sooner shut her out than he could shut himself out.

“You’re going to tell me it’s silly.” Harm had stopped at the edge of the island to turn and look at Mac.

“Try me.”

“Jennifer had a date last night.”

Trying to hold back a smirk, “And?” Mac asked, biting her lower lip.

“I heard him at the door.” Harm was looking down at his shoes.  Mac was patiently waiting for the rest of the story.

“I was coming home from your place and the elevator was broken again so I came up the stairs.”  He paused to look back at Mac.

“They were so engrossed in a lip lock in the doorway, they didn’t hear me approaching.”

“And you’re concerned this is setting a bad example for Mattie?” Mac was having trouble understanding why he was so unsettled.

“No, Mattie wasn’t even home.  She was at Susan’s working late on a science project so she spent the night.”  Harm heaved a small sigh, “I think he was trying to force himself on her.”

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