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What's Bugging You?   Part 2

By Timer:

Chapter 3: Confessions

Harm’s Lexus interior
On the way to Mac’s apartment
2115 (local), Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend

“It’s not that all bugs creep me out, Mac.”

Oh boy. I can hear the back peddling start. And he’s not gonna admit to being ‘scared’.

“Me either, Harm. Outdoors I’m fine with them. Well, I certainly don’t go looking to socialize and give critters like brown recluses, black widows and wasps their due respect. But I don’t jump up, squeal ‘eeek’, turn tail and run.”

“Ah ha, you admit you ran.”

If I give him this I think it’s gonna make it OK for him to admit to his behavior too.

“Yes Harm. I squealed and ran. Now, if you tell anyone else that, I will be forced to kill you. So, please don’t.”

He looks at me longer than he should have, considering he’s driving. “Your secret’s safe with me, Mac. As long as mine’s safe with you.”

“Always Harm.” I take his hand. “You can always count on me to cover your six, keep your secrets and save your soul.”

“OK. Great, thanks. Well,” I just heard the arrival of Harm’s alter ego. The one that’s about 8 years old. “I don’t mind bugs outside. Just like you.”

He gives me that ‘I want approval’ look that usually has exclusive residence on children under the age of ten.

I give him an encouraging smile.

“And even indoors I’m OK with most. Like flying things are OK.” Why am I not surprised? “Ants are OK; not great, not like I’d invite them in, but they don’t creep me out.”

“I feel just the same way, Harm.”


“Yeah, even when it’s a bee or, even worse, a wasp inside. It doesn’t freak me out like the crawly things do.”

“Yeah. But what do you do when you’ve got a flying thing in the house? I’ve never quite figured that out. I usually just leave, go see a movie or something and generally, when I come back they’ve figured out how to get out the same way they got in. Or whatever. They’re usually gone.”

Good god. This is the man who has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross not once but twice and he doesn’t know how to handle a flying insect?

Gently, gently I tell myself.

“I like to let flies and moths off easy. As soon as it gets dark outside, I turn off all the lights, then turn on one near my French doors. They can’t help themselves, they *have* to come to the light. Soon as they’re there, I turn on the porch light outside the doors and switch off the lamp. They’re bumping against the screen door in seconds. I crack the door open and out they fly.”

We’re at a red light. Harm turns with a look of astonishment. “You’re brilliant.”

I’m not gonna tell him otherwise, but I can’t believe he didn’t know this trick.

“OK. What about bees and wasps?”

“Well, that’s a dogfight, Harm.” Wow, that got his attention. “Yep, it’s me against them, Marine-o a insect-o.”

The look says, ‘cut it out and spill’ so I do.

“Hair spray.”

“Hair spray?”

“Yeah, sticks their wings together, or to their bodies and they auger in. Crash and burn, bye bye bogie.”

His look says he’s not totally buying this.

“No really, Harm. I’m not kidding. Buy some hair spray for the upcoming wasp and bee season. Get the aerosol kind, gives you better range than the pump ones.”

“Better range? I’ll remember that,” he says as we pull into a parking space remarkably close to my apartment.

Mac’s apartment
2140 (local), Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend

I walk into the kitchen as Harm drops his sea bag in the living room. “I’m gonna make us some ‘Sleepy Time’ herbal tea. Why don’t you take the first shower? You know where the fresh towels are, right? Plenty in the bathroom closet.”

“Sure you don’t wanna go first?” he calls from the living room.

I’m setting the tea kettle on the burner when I hear him say close to my ear. “Better yet, wanna conserve water?”

The kettle hits the burner a lot more forcefully than normal, seeing as though I’ve dropped it.

He rests his hands on either side of my waist and I can sense the strength of his body behind me.

His hands don’t move. He doesn’t press up against me. He lets me know it’s up to me. But he also let’s me know what he wants.

“I promise I’ll wash every inch of you. I’ll make sure none of whatever Jack sold me today is on you.”



“Harm, we’ve been in combat situations before. You know about the adrenaline rush. Don’t confuse that with anything else.”

Those sensuous big hands of his tighten their grip just enough to spin me around and pull us closer together.

“Mac, tell me you’re not equating spraying insecticide with getting caught in a bombing strike in Afghanistan are you? Pathological poachers or crazed militia in Appalachia? Spies in Russia? Assassins in Chechneya? This is *not* post-combat stress reduction. If I wanted you for that, don’t you think I would have asked you before now?”

He’s got a point there. He’s also getting one somewhere else. I can feel it starting to press just below my belly button.

“So why now?”

“I’m ready to let go, Mac. If you’re not, I’m ready to wait. But I need you to know how I feel.”

Is this insecticide-induced insanity?

“How do you feel, Harm?”

“Like I told you earlier, you’re the most wonderful woman on the planet.” He smiles. “And you aren’t afraid to face your fears. We’re both scared of roaches. We’re both scared of *us*. We faced one tonight. How ‘bout the other?”

A good Marine never runs out of fear. A smart woman runs toward what Harm’s offering just as fast as she can.

“I guess the tea can wait,” I say, reaching behind myself to turn off the burner.

“But we don’t have to anymore?” He’s so hopeful, earnest.

I take him by the hand and walk him toward the bathroom. “No, Harm. We don’t.”

Mac’s bed

We’re sprawled across a bed that is almost stripped as naked as we are. Whoo. Guess I don’t have to worry about missing my daily stint at the gym. I’m thinking another shower and clean sheets would probably be in order, but that would assume I could walk.

I don’t think I’d bank on that assumption.

“Maaac,” it’s almost a moan, just above a whimper.


“I don’t think I can move, but something’s really been bugging me for a long time.”

Did he have to use *those words*?

“What is it Harm? I’m not sure I can move either.”

“S’at’s OK. Just wanted to be sure you know I love you.”

I might end up liking roaches after all.

continued in Chapter 4: What A Difference A Day Makes

Chapter 4: What A Difference A Day Makes

Mac’s apartment
0630 (local), Friday of Memorial Day Weekend

I wake up tangled in the sheets one of us found the strength to pull over us last night before sinking into oblivion and, much more enjoyable, Harm’s arms and legs. I feel so wrapped up in him I’d swear he had more than two of each.

Woah, wait a minute. I’m not going down some weird roach comparison road here. Am I? Well, they do both have hard shells to protect them. Finely tuned antennae. An amazing capacity to survive. And I’m stopping right there.

I let my eyes drift over what I can see of him without moving.

I let my mind drift over what I know of him as a man, without dwelling on our difficult times.

I let my memory replay the last few months, going with slow motion on last night.

I’m the luckiest woman in the world.

As that thought brings a smile to my face, his eyes slowly open.

“Hey.” “Hey.”

“You’re beautiful in the morning.” He kisses me. “And I love the smell of sex in the morning. Come here.” He pulls me eagerly against his body.

“You’re handsome in the morning.” I kiss him. “And I think you’ve outdone Robert Duvall’s classic line, but Francis Ford isn’t our director today. Admiral Chegwidden is. And we need to hit the shower.”

A momentary look of disappointment is replaced by eagerness. “OK, let’s take a shower.”

Under the spray, his eager 8 year old and my latent 6 year old have a wonderful time snapping washcloths and diverting streams of water for a while. Then the randy teenagers show up and well, you know how *that* goes. If you don’t, you should find someone who’ll help you find out.

0755 (local), Friday of Memorial Day Weekend

In the elevator I’m trying to get his attention as he’s trying to cop a last feel of my six.

“Harm, you’ve got court most of the day. Get on the phone right now and call at least three exterminators to check out your building. Leave another message at the owner’s emergency number. It’s not normal to go from no bugs to something out of Twilight Zone in two days.”

“Yeah, OK. But I can stay at your place, can’t I?”

Oh my yes, can you ever.

“Of course Harm. But we don’t want to let them have the whole weekend to reproduce, do we?” Hey, he’s the one who spent yesterday in roach research, he should know this. “Besides, think of the other tenants in your building. Those roaches aren’t gonna just stay in your place.”

“Hey, what makes you think they *started* in my place? I think they came from somewhere else.”

Germany, Cuba, Asia, yeah, yeah, I know. Sometimes even the most dedicated warrior has to pacify.

“No doubt Harm.”

The elevator arrives. We arrange ourselves in appropriate business attitudes and walk into the bullpen.

“Sir, ma’am, so good to see you. I missed you yesterday.” Harriet has not lost one bead off her bubble despite having to wrangle two children and being pregnant with two more.

“Harriet, you look wonderful,” Harm is beaming his biggest megawatt smile at the oh-so-obviously-pregnant Lieutenant.

She titters. She actually titters. There are some things women born in the West will never be able to do. Never saw the need for it until right now. Maybe she could give me lessons?

“Commander, you’re too kind. I look like a beached whale and feel like an out of shape Sumo wrestler.”

“Harriet, you look like a queen carrying the future of the kingdom with magnificent grace.”

Harriet and I both drop jaws as he turns and walks to his office.

“Ma’am?” Harriet asks in a tremulous voice. I shrug. Was it the sex? Was it the insecticide? I hope this doesn’t turn into an ‘only the medical examiner knows for sure’ thing.

“Harriet, I wish we could have lunch, but I’m tied up in court all day. Maybe next week?”

“Sure ma’am, just give me a call.”

As I sit down at my desk my incoming e-mail signal beeps. Haven’t even set down my briefcase and it’s beeping at me. God I hate that thing. Should’ve had Bud dismember it when he removed the other bugs...jeez, was that just yesterday? My world has changed this much in 24 hours?

I scan my ‘unread’ file. From Harm? He’s sitting next door. I open it up. “Mac, will you be my queen someday?”

Thud. My briefcase hits the floor. He’s walking across the bullpen as the sound echoes by. A quick look over his shoulder. A smile. A wave you’d never know happened unless you know how he doesn’t let his hands wave around.

I swivel around in my chair, pretend to look out my window and try to breathe slowly enough that I won’t need to resort to a paper bag to avoid hyperventilating.

If this is a side effect of the pesticide, I need to get that bag of our protective garments and spent weapons out of his car and into a lab pronto. Then I need to figure out how to find a scientist greedy enough to synthesize it but not mad enough to go completely bonkers on me.

I turn around and read it again.

I try to come up with other interpretations. I Google ‘queen’. Forget it; 125,000,000 hits is far more than I’m ready to deal with.

I’m startled by a knock on my door frame. Looking up I see Harriet standing there; in her full queenly glory she nearly fills the doorway.

“Ma’am, you’re due in court.”

I am? Oh shit, yes I am!

“Right, thanks Harriet. Uhmm, what’s that case again?”

She does a credible job of hiding her astonishment.

“Buggs Electronics vs the US Navy, ma’am. You know, the one about the avionics on the Hornets?”

How could I forget? Buggs vs Hornets. Today, of all days. Which side am I on?

1500 (local), Friday of Memorial Day Weekend

The Admiral strides out of his office and Petty Officer Coates follows a half-step behind.

“Admiral on deck,” she intones proudly.

AJ looks over his command. A good crew; better than good. Some are great. Some are heroic. Some don’t realize how heroic they are. He thinks of Coates and Mac, who overcame what would have crushed most young people. He thinks of Bud, who nearly died then saved a little bit of them all by coming back to full duty. He thinks of Harm, who has fought against his own early loss and his inner demons to become a good man. Not yet great. No, AJ thinks. Harm won’t be great until he admits he has needs like everyone else.

Not that AJ doubts Harm could get his ‘needs’ met. Anytime, anyway he wants. But he suspects Harm is way too straight-laced for doing the pilot one night stand routine. Maybe twenty years ago, although he doubts it even then, but certainly not now.

Damn, AJ thinks to himself. If I’d had his looks at his age, anytime between 21 and now, I’d’ve been hard pressed to not take at least one willing woman to bed with me every night.

He snorts at his own thought.

And he suddenly realizes that Harm must have had to come to a decision about that issue a long time ago.

Why did I never consider that before, he wonders. The man is extremely handsome, then you pile jet jockey on top of that. He must have been swarmed by willing women wherever he was. Although that might sound like nirvana to some men, how many could handle it and not go nuts? Or become a total ass.

The Admiral begins to get a whole different perspective on Harm’s life. He realizes that while losing his father might be the bricks, being made to feel like an object rather than a person is the mortar in Harm’s wall.

These reflections taking all of about 20 seconds, AJ is still well within acceptable command attention time.

“At ease,” he intones. “I notice that the work schedule is up to date, the duty schedule is light and the weekend honoring our brave, fallen brothers and sisters at arms is at hand. With that in mind, I urge you all to use your best judgment on finishing what needs to be done for the week, securing your duty stations and having a very good weekend.”

A ripple of appreciation washes across the bullpen.

“Remember folks, fit reps are coming up. Use your best judgment.”

Jennifer hears him chuckling to himself as he walks into his office. She turns to look out into the bullpen. Every person out there is furiously clicking, typing, filing, copying, faxing away.

At this rate she figures the office will catch up on it’s three day filing backlog in about, she glances at the clock, two hours.

Guess that’s why he’s an Admiral, she thinks.

1630 (local), Friday of Memorial Day Weekend

I’m seriously dragging as I walk across the bullpen. With the exception of two 15-minute ‘comfort’ breaks and one 30-minute lunch break (boxed lunches delivered cold and stale from just 3 floors down -- military efficiency at its finest!) I’ve been in court all day.

Buggs vs Hornets. Oh yeah, I remembered, I’m on Buggs’ side. The irony is just killing me.

Despite how tired I am, I see him and he takes my breath away.

He’s on the phone, clearly not happy, but all I can see is the man I love. Hummm. Have I told him that yet? Number one on my agenda for tonight.

I walk to his door and knock on the frame. He waves me in, “But sir, certainly you understand how delaying treatment will only make matters worse. If you can’t get there ‘til Wednesday or Thursday,” he gives me a desperate look as his voice almost cracks at the word ‘Thursday’, “then the nest will have been able to increase its reproductive power.”

Reproductive power? It’s now a power? Oh Harmy. We may have made a little too much love for you last night.

“Yes I understand it’s a holiday weekend. Yes I understand it’s late in the day. I know you returned my call this morning, sir. But I was tied up in court all day.”

Doesn’t take much imagination to guess what the guy on the other end said as Harm goes into full bristle.

“NO, I’m a lawyer. For the United States Navy.”

I would have taken cover if I thought he could throw those porcupine quills.

“Yes, sir. I understand sir. Yes, you have a good weekend too, sir.” He sets the phone down forcefully, just short of a slam.

“Let me guess. No luck?”

“On the contrary. Plenty of luck. Just none of it good. What’d’ya say we blow this popsicle stand pretty lady?” By the time he’s finished that, he’s standing deliciously close to me. So much so that neither of us see the Admiral, at least until he’s blocked the doorway to Harm’s office.

We snap to attention.

“Colonel, Commander. I assume there is some reason you’re still here. I let the rest of the watch go at 1500.”

“Sir, I was in court until 1627.”

“Sir, I was in court until 1600 and wanted to button down a few things before securing for the night.”

AJ has his arms crossed over his chest, his classic ‘I will take no bull, don’t mess with me’ stance.

“Yes Commander, I’ll bet you do want to ‘button some things down’. Tell me, when exactly did you decide that I, as your Commanding Officer, didn’t need to know about your situation?”

I’d love to steal a look at Harm but I don’t dare. Why on earth would the Admiral want Harm to tell him about roaches in his loft?

“Sorry sir. Didn’t seem that important, sir. It’s really a personal matter.”

Somehow that seems to get AJ riled up even more.

“Commander, Colonel, follow me.” He charges out of the bullpen, down the hall, turns left and puts some sort of security device into some sort of security device reader I’ve never seen before.

Hey, Bud may have joked about nobody knowing ‘what’s beyond the last left turn’ but I think Harm and I are gonna find out.

concludes in Chapter 5: Buildings and Buggings and Boys, Oh My!

Chapter 5: Buildings and Buggings and Boys, Oh My!

Wow, who would’ve known this was in our building? Jeez, it’s like Star Wars. If I tell Bud about this he’ll explode.

Better not do that.

“Commander, Colonel, keep your eyes to yourself, your mind on my questions and first and foremost remember you can never tell anyone, *anyone* what you’ve seen here.”

Well, yeah, sure. But then why did you drag us down the dreaded ‘left corridor’? Hey, we weren’t doing anything wrong.

“I’m going to ask you some questions. I want short answers. Yes or no will do. Is that understood?”

“Yes sir.” Not sure how the Parris Island beat and the Annapolis beat ended up being the same beat, but I think it’s so sexy when Harm and I say ‘yes, sir’ at the same time while standing at attention. OK, call me a traditional Marine. I don’t care.

“Colonel, did you ask Lt. Roberts to help you get rid of a bug in your computer yesterday?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Commander, did you tell the Colonel yesterday morning that you thought you were being bugged?”

“Well, not exactly, sir.”


“I told the Colonel I thought I had bugs in my apartment.”

“And the difference being?” He’s so good at glowering sometimes he forgets it’s not necessary.

I look at Harm and he’s tipped his head to my side, got that quirky little smile he sometimes gets and turns his left palm up. Message received and read.

“Admiral,” I say. Given I’m his Chief of Staff I think he ought to get the news from me. “While it is true that the Commander’s loft has bugs, I can personally attest that they aren’t spy bugs.”

I see him take a breath, step a half a step back, reconsider what he’s heard and the context. Yes, there is a good reason the man is an Admiral.

I nod to Harm and we both bring our fists up next to the top of our heads, forefingers extended, wiggling.

“They’re these kind of bugs, sir.”

He sits down and motions for us to do the same.


“Roaches sir. I believe they’re German roaches, but they might be another kind, I’m not an expert, sir.”

“Then what was all this about you two buying chemical weapons?”

“Sir, I think I can explain,” Harm wades into the muck we’ve somehow managed to create.

“I did some research about roaches on the Internet...”

“You were researching roaches on your computer from your office.” Somehow when he puts it that way it sounds so incriminating.

“Yes, sir. It seemed important at the time.” Wait a minute, where is Harm’s backbone? And skills as a JAG lawyer? I see him gather himself and think ‘Get ready to watch this catapult off your deck, sir.’

“After scanning Internet sites for less than five minutes, I realized that the extent of my loft’s infestation was no normal occurrence. No nest could establish itself and replicate that fast. My loft harbored no conditions that would foster a nest’s growth. So I naturally assumed the roach’s appearance in my loft might have darker implications.”

AJ’s still skeptical but I’m rapt.

Somewhere in my head I hear Harm’s voice. ‘Hey, wake up Mac, I’m making this up as I go along and you might need to help.’

Harm stands up and walks around the conference table, taking the opportunity to kick my foot. I stifle my reaction (very well I must say), nod to indicate I’m on board then telegraph a micro burst of “you better not do that again, mister.”

As far as Admiral confrontations have gone, this one has gone pretty well. Looks like he’s buying our explanations, hasn’t asked any questions we don’t want to answer.

“So after the two of you determined Harm’s loft was overrun with roaches, where did you spend the night, Commander?”

Damn, thought too soon.

“I offered my couch to the Commander, sir. It was late, he had a sea bag and it seemed a reasonable solution to his housing dilemma.”

“Your couch.”

“Yes sir.”

“And can I assume that the Commander’s gonna be sleeping on ‘your couch’ for the rest of this long weekend?”

“I don’t know, sir. We haven’t addressed that yet.”

“Colonel. Are you telling me you let the Commander sleep on ‘your couch’ without first determining how long he intends to *keep* sleeping on ‘your couch’?”

Oh damn. I just got his code. This is not about Harm’s roaches.

“Commander. Have you adopted the habits of those insects that have infested your loft? Do you intend to scuttle away at first light?”

“No sir.”

“Very well. Good luck with the roaches. Have a good weekend.”

We snap to, turn and exit this room we’ve never seen. It’s not ‘til we get to Harm’s office that we feel safe saying anything.

“That had to be the weirdest meeting I’ve ever had with a CO Harm.”

He puts his hands on my shoulders, but maintains the proper military distance. “Yeah Mac. But wasn’t it great? He’s basically ordered us to spend the weekend together.”

Mac’s apartment
0800 (local), Saturday, Memorial Day Weekend

I feel something creeping up my side. I feel a warm rush of breath at my neck. I think I’m gonna like the way this day starts.

“The ittsy, bittsy spider went up the water spout,” Harm’s voice even at a whisper and sleep groggy makes me shiver. His fingers mimicking the words he’s singing render me helpless.

“Down came the rain and washed the spider out.” He whooshes the covers off us and rolls me on top of him in one smooth move.

“Up came the sun and dried up all the rain.” He’s grinning as he spider walks his fingers up my body.

“And the ittsy, bittsy spider came up the spout again.” Holding my head between his hands, he regards me with an amazing combination of mirth and seriousness.

“You know, Colonel, I think I love you more today than I did yesterday. I didn’t think that was possible. But it’s true.”

Yes, this is a most wonderful way to start the day.

“You know Commander, some people think actions speak louder than words.”

The look I get tells me no further encouragement is needed.

Later that morning

I surface from the sex-drenched sea I’ve been so happily drowning in long enough to know that it’s almost noon.

I grab the nearest part of Harm (hell, he’s all over me, any part I want is here. Wait, why do I want to get out of bed? What could possibly be more important than this?)

Oh yeah. The bugs.

“Harm, time to wake up.” I caress the side of his face, then rub his upper arm. God, he’s so gorgeous I can hardly stand it.


“Harm,” I kiss his cheek and his eyes slowly open.

“Am I dreaming?”


“I’m in your bed? We’ve made love, a couple of times, and now we get to spend a long holiday weekend together?”


“Then why did you wake me up?”

That’s it. No more Ms. nice Marine for this squid. “Because it’s almost noon. Because you have a loft where the enemy has taken hold. Because it’s .... unseemly to be lounging around in bed at 1147!”

He flips me over. Drat. Gotta remember he has an impressive height and weight advantage on me. Not insurmountable. Just need to be prepared. I wasn’t this time.

“Mac,” good thing I’m lying down ‘cause when he says it like that I just melt.

“The roaches can have my loft. I just want you.”

I like the sentiment. I like even more the way he’s following it up with kissing and such. But the Marine in me won’t let us leave a ... loft? ... behind.

But then Marines always know how to pick their battles, and right now the most pressing one is on top of me.

God, I love the military.

Mac’s apartment
1345 (local), Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend

We’re out of the shower, drinking coffee and have managed to keep our hands off each other for three minutes now. Major accomplishments I think.

“What about your answering machine?”

“Humm, what?” Harm’s got that ‘I’ve been rode hard and cleaned up nice, but can’t think right now’ look.

“Your answering machine. At your loft. For your telephone. Can you access it from here? Do you remember your code?” I’m thinking that if I break it into short sentences, he’ll be able to process the information.


On the other hand, I could probably just lead him back into the bedroom and have my way with him. I wonder if anyone would question my filing his request for terminal leave?

“Answering machine! Of course, Mac. How could I be so stupid?”

Damnit, he woke up.

Harm snatches my phone, punches in more numbers than any one human should be expected to remember, and listens.

And listens.

And listens.

“Holy shit, Mac. We’ve gotta get to my place right away.”

He’s headed for the door even as he says this.

I grab my purse, and the gun from behind my armoire, just in case.

Harm’s loft building, outside
1415 (local), Saturday, Memorial Day Weekend

We pull up to a scene out of a disaster movie. Harm’s building is surrounded by every type of vehicle that carries a flashing light. Those that don’t are in the second tier.

His building. Good god. The whole building is covered in some sort of wrapping. Like Christo got bored yesterday.

“Ma’am, sir, you need to move on. This is a police scene here.”

A kid not much older than a kid I could’ve had (scary thought that) is using his police uniform to try to influence us. Sorry kid, you are way outta your league.

“Officer, my name is Harmon Rabb, Jr. and I live in this building. I’m a Commander in the United States Navy, an active duty pilot during a time of war and a lawyer with the Judge Advocate General’s office. Would you like to rethink your recommendation to us?”

Oh, I get all gooey inside when he does that. No, seriously. I love it when he pulls rank and yanks the chain of weenies that richly deserve it. Like this one.

I see the callow kid swallow three times before he tries to speak. Harm, god is he good, just impassively watches the kid quickly go from pompous to pathetic.

I’ll let this go on another 30 seconds, then mercy will step in. At precisely 25 seconds Harm says, “The officer in charge?”

“Lt. Bigley, sir. Let me take you to him.”

As we approach a huddle of suits on the north side of Harm’s loft’s building, I see one break away.

“I told you to keep the press away, officer!”

“Yes sir, I have sir, I will sir, I understand sir.”

Enough of this abuse of subordinate officers. I clearly need to intervene and I do.

“Is it Detective? Special Agent? Or are you just a ‘State Department’ employee?” I address the offending officious man in no uncertain terms.

“Who are you?”

God, I hate pugnacious replies.

“Your worst nightmare if you don’t start talking about what’s going on here. For the record, I am Lt. Colonel Sarah MacKenzie, United States Marines, currently billeted as the Chief of Staff to the Judge Advocate General. My partner here, who owns the loft on the northeast corner of the second floor of this building, is Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr., United States Navy, two-time recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and also currently billeted at JAG. So are we gonna get answers or are we gonna strip blouses?”

Both Harm and whoeverheis raise their eyebrows at that.

Damn, I hate getting mad at civilians; they never get the inside jokes.

He folds. They always do. “It seems a sewer pipe has collapsed and it’s made this building uninhabitable for awhile.”

“The bugs?”

“Yeah, bugs, and well, ma’am, you really don’t want to know all the details, do you?”

I see he has pegged his squeamish meter.

“How long ‘til it’s ‘habitable’?”

“At least a week, maybe more.”

“Can I go in and get a few things from my place?” Harm asks.

“I don’t think you want to do that sir. We’ve started pumping in the gas and, well, no you can’t.”

Harm and I look at each other. “Hey Harm, there’s a mall not too far away, what’d ya say we go buy you some new clothes?”

Mac’s apartment
1600 (local), Saturday, Memorial Day Weekend

It’s so great to just be here with Harm. Stretched out on the couch. Not making out. Nothing overtly sexual. Just lying next to each other, sorta napping, sorta just drifting together.

My phone chirps and we both rouse from our semi-sombulent state.

“MacKenzie,” I answer.

“Colonel, I’m so glad I caught you. Harriet and I were wondering, we know it’s late notice and all, but would you like to have dinner with us tonight? Just at home. No big deal. Give you a chance to spend time with AJ and Jimmy before the twins arrive.”

Having held the phone away from my ear enough for Harm to hear most of this, he gives me his non-verbal assent.

“Bud, I’d love that. What can I bring?”

“Nothing other than the Commander, ma’am.”

Harm and I look at each other over the phone. Clearly we have been busted.

“OK, Bud, Harm and I will be there at what time?”

I figure just going with the flow is the best plan right now.

“Anytime around 1830 ma’am, and sir.”

Gee, I didn’t even need to tell him Harm was listening in.

“See you then, Bud.”

I disconnect as Harm connects with me.

“Mac, you know that people would find out about us, eventually. But I don’t want to keep ‘us’ a secret.” He shifts a bit under me, my left hip sinks between his legs as he pulls my chest higher to his.

He draws his legs a little closer together as he gathers me into his warmth.

“Mac. I want the whole world to know that we’re one. A package. A combo 2 for 1 deal. We’re together. Have been for years ‘though we never admitted it. Now we have. End of that part of the story.”

He’s saying this as he’s drawing very interesting pictures on my abdomen. And lower. And lower. And......

The Roberts House
Rosalyn, VA
1845 (local), Saturday, Memorial Day Weekend

“Harm, god, give it a rest!” I playfully slap his hand away from my waist. “You know too much will make you go blind.”

“Folk lore, Mac. Besides, I’ve already had night blindness and got it cured.”

Damn if he doesn’t have an answer for everything and I’m starting to lose control. WAIT A MINUTE! Jeez, we’re in Harm’s SUV parked right in front of Bud and Harriet’s house. It’s still light outside. And we’re making out like sex-starved teenagers? Apparently.



Guess we came to the same conclusion.

The Roberts home
2030 (local), Saturday

I set down my coffee mug and turn to Harriet. “Thank you for a wonderful meal, Harriet. May I help you pick up the plates?”

She pushes herself up. Good lord, what must it feel like to carry two babies?

“If you’d like to ma’am, but it’s no problem. I can take care of it.”

Harm jumps in. “Harriet, you’ve blessed us with a wonderful meal. You’ll soon be blessing us with two new people to love. Why don’t you sit down and let us take care of things for you?”

Harriet looks at me and I return in the best encrypted female code I know: “haven’t got a clue.”

Harriet and I are sitting in the family room, relaxing on the couch with cups of tea at our elbows as Harm and Bud clean up.

“Bud,” I hear Harm’s command tone.

“Yes sir?”

“Don’t ever let your wife down. Don’t ever let her worry about your love for her. Let her know every day, especially now, that you love her and cherish her and realize what she’s going through to make a family for you.”

Listening to this I seek Harriet’s hand and we share a squeeze.

She’s crying. Hell, I’ve got tears running down my cheeks too.

Instinctively I turn toward her and she gathers me into a hug. I’m nestled against her pregnant belly and it feels so good. Her hands start to soothe me. One stroking my hair; the other rubbing an arm.

“Colonel, it’ll all be fine. Just give him a little time. He’s not used to this yet. But he loves you. He wants a family. Heavens, Colonel, he just about came out and said it today. He wants you to have his children.”

Jump back from that. I sit up straight, wipe my face and attempt to regain my dignity.

“Yes, Harriet. The Commander and I have had some discussions about our future.”

“Really!? What kind of ‘discussions’?”

What I thought was a way to short-circuit just turned into ‘girls night out’.

“We’ve just been exploring the terrain. I think we’ll manage to negotiate the” -- I stop myself before I say ‘minefield’ -- “territory.”

“But ma’am, isn’t that gonna be a little dicey with the Commander staying at your place this weekend?”

How does she know this??? Who else does??? Damn.

She sees my questioning eyes.

“I worked the phones the last two days, ma’am. I took all the messages from the city departments, the exterminators, the building owner. The Commander won’t be able to stay in his apartment for at least a week. Lord, I don’t know if I’d ever want to stay there again after this. But he didn’t put in for emergency housing, and you guys came in together this morning, much earlier than he normally does. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out.”

I smile at her. “Don’t let Harm know you know. He’s kinda funny that way.”

“Yes ma’am. I know.”

As we sip our tea in silent conspiracy, Harm and Bud come in from the kitchen.

“All done. Need some more tea?” Bud’s bubbling again as Harm plops down next to me on the couch.

“Not for me sweetie, thanks.”

Harm pulls my mug from me, takes a sip and says, “I think I’ll get us some more.”

He walks into the kitchen, leaving Harriet, Bud and me open mouthed.

He did it. He announced we’re ‘us’. In the usual unusual Harm fashion he has proclaimed we’re a couple.

The three of us exchange glances. I shrug. What can I say? He’s always gonna do things a little differently.

“So, how do you all feel about watching a movie?” Bud’s starting to rummage through a box filled with tapes and DVDs.

“Sure Bud, what’dya got?”

“Well, I have a couple that I think you two,” he gives me a look, “would appreciate.”

“Like what?” Harm’s sitting back down next to me with a fresh mug of tea. What’s this? He’s putting his arm around me? Woah. OK. No mistaking this now. If we can avoid the neon sign I’ll be happy. Though I’ve always kinda liked neon.

“I finally got a copy of a classic sci-fi pic from 1955. Black and white, it’s from the ‘nuclear fallout’ genre. James Whitmore, James Arness, Fess Parker even has a small role. It’s called ‘Them’ and it’s about mutant giant ants that attack....”

I feel Harm shift. “What else you got, Bud?”

Bud lifts up a tape. “This is a good one. John Goodman, Jeff Daniels. ‘Arachnophobia’. A South American killer spider gets loose and...”

“Bud, we just watched that last week,” Harriet says.

Good. That way I don’t have to weigh in on the ‘no’ side.

“Oh, right. How ‘bout this? I got it for AJ but it’s one of those Pixar animation flicks that are as funny for adults as they are for kids. ‘A Bugs Life’.”

Harm’s fallen suspiciously quiet during this last bit.

He clears his throat. “Bud,”

“Yes sir?”

“How much do you know and what do you want to know that you don’t know?”

“I’m so glad you asked, sir! Tell me all about the roaches.”

Harriet and I roll our eyes, stand up (well, I give her a little hand with that) and move into the kitchen.

“You boys let us know when you’re done talking about bugs.”

“Yes sweetie,” comes the chorused reply.

‘Sweetie’??? Harm just called me ‘sweetie’?

Yeah, he did. And it didn’t bug me at all.

Finis, thanks for reading.


For those unfamiliar with his work, Christo is an artist who does massive installations using fabric. Wrapping buildings, a running fabric fence 18 feet tall and 24 miles long through Sonoma and Marin Counties in California, he’s the one that recently did the ‘gates’ in Central Park. Google ‘Christo’ for his web site with pics that’ll blow your mind!

Also, anyone who has spent time down South will recognize “tenting” a building to fumigate it. Drastic times call for drastic measures!

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