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All the King's Horses Chapter 12

Title: All the King's Horses
Chapter: 12
Show: JAG
Disclaimers: None of this is mine
Setting: Season 8
Summary: After Harm intervenes in a moment of crisis, Loren attempts to put the pieces of her life back together.

1115 local time
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

   "I don't think we can come right out and say somebody else did it." Loren said, twisting a rubber band around with her fingers as she paced around her office. "Without another suspect to present to the members, it'll just seem like we're grasping at straws."
   "I agree." Harm said from his seat, tossing a tennis ball over his head and catching it a second later. "Our best bet is going to be showing how circumstantial the evidence is."
   Loren continued her pacing while Harm continued to toss his tennis ball into the air.
   "I'm just not sure that's going to be...enough for a..." She tried to stay focused on her train of thought but the movement of the tennis ball was distracting. She stopped pacing, causing Harm to turn his head slightly to look at her.
   "Would you knock that off. Sir." But she was grinning while she said it. Before Harm could say or do anything her hand shot out to catch the falling ball. "And get your feet off my desk."
   Harm grinned at her and swung his feet off the edge of her desk where he'd had them propped up. His feet hit the floor with a dull thud. He tried to school his features into a more serious expression but wasn't very successful.
   "Careful Lieutenant. That almost sounded like an order."
   Loren took a step towards him and tossed his ball back to him. The grin was still on her face. "I think I'll take my chances Commander."
   Mac stood in the doorway of Loren's office, watching them stare into each other's eyes. She waited for them to notice her but when they still hadn't after a couple of minutes, she sighed and cleared her throat.
   Startled, Loren took a step away from Harm as they both turned towards the door.
   Harm glanced at Loren then looked back at Mac.
   "Mac. What are you doing here?" He leaned back in his chair, a grin on his face. "Eavesdropping on our case strategy?"
   Mac shook her head. "I'm here to inform you I'm amending the charges against your client."
   At Harm and Loren's confused looks she continued. "Leslie Collins was taken off of life support an hour ago. Chief Petty Officer McCallister's facing second degree murder now."
   At Mac's words Harm sat up in his chair. He looked over at Loren, seeing his own shock mirrored in her suddenly pale face. He looked back at Mac but she had already left the room.
   Harm stood up. "I'm driving."
   Loren didn't argue, just grabbed her cover off her desk and headed for the door. Harm was right behind her.

   "Leslie's dead?"
   Loren watched Chief McCallister sit down hard in his chair, his legs no longer able to support him. If she still had any doubts about his innocence they vanished now at the look of sheer devastation on his face.
   "I'm sorry Chief." She said, the words sounding hollow even to her own ears.
   "I was going to marry her." He said numbly. He stared off into space, not really seeing anything. "Instead, I stormed off and left her all alone when she needed me the most."
   "What?" Harm asked, caught off guard by the unexpected comment.
   McCallister blinked and finally focused back on Harm and Loren. "That's what I was going to do that night." He laughed mirthlessly. "That was the whole reason I was talking to Petty Officer Janecks in the first place - I was asking for advice on a romantic way to propose."
   Harm ran his hand through his hair and glanced over at Loren. "Why didn't you tell us this before?"
   McCallister shrugged. "I didn't see the point. It wasn't going to change anything I was facing."
   He paused, a pained look on his face. "And it hurt, you know. To know that the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with thought so little of me that she thought me capable of cheating on her."
   "I understand Chief," Loren said, "but if we're going to be able to defend you properly we need to know everything, no matter how small the detail. Or how painful."
   She thought of her own omissions of the truth, and what it had cost her. What it might still cost her.
   With a slight shake of her head she pushed those thoughts aside. There wasn't anything she could do about her situation now but there was still a chance to change Kevin McCallister's.
   "Is there anything else you haven't told us Chief?"
   His brow furrowed as he thought about it. Finally he shook his head. He hesitated a moment before speaking again.
   "What does...what does this mean for my case?"
   "It means the stakes just got a lot higher." Harm said. He stood up and clapped McCallister on the shoulder. "Don't worry though. We're not giving up on you."
   McCallister nodded his head, accepting Harm's words. Then he turned to Loren, his fingers working nervously in his lap.
   "Do you think you could get me out of here...so I could go to her funeral?"
   Halfway out of her seat, Loren froze. She glanced over at Harm reflexively as she finished standing up. The chances of getting any judge to agree to that... But how could she tell McCallister that?
   Finally Loren nodded her head. "I'll do my best Chief?"
   Again McCallister nodded his head. But the look in his eyes said he'd seen the truth in hers. He remained seated as they left the room. As the guard walked in behind them Loren turned to look back, just in time to see McCallister put his head in his hands and start crying.
   "We shouldn't have requested a continuance. I shouldn't have requested a continuance." Loren corrected herself as they walked through the halls on their way off of the base. "Colonel Mackenzie wouldn't have been able to revise the charges if we were already in the middle of the court martial."
   "We weren't ready." Harm said simply.
   And despite the fact that it was her actions that were the reason they hadn't been prepared for their original court date, Loren couldn't detect even a hint of rebuke in Harm's tone.
   "Let's get together later and brainstorm how we're going to handle this now. We can meet at my place. I'll make dinner."

1730 local time
North of Union Station
Washington DC

Knock Knock Knock
   Harm looked up from the vegetables he was chopping.
   "Come on in." He called out. "It's open."
   The door swung open and Loren walked in. Despite the briefcase she carried, she was dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt. Her hair, released from the tight bun she wore it in at work, flowed loose around her shoulders.
   She completely took his breath away.
   Distracted by the sight of her, he almost cut his finger off. Cursing under his breath, Harm stuck his finger in his mouth and hoped she hadn't noticed him staring at her.
   Loren walked over to the island counter as he was putting a band-aid on. She arched an eyebrow but otherwise didn't comment and Harm breathed a sigh of relief.
   "Something sure smells...actually no. I don't smell anything at all."
   Harm made a face and threw a mushroom at her. "That's because we're having homemade pizza and I thought I'd be nice and wait till you got here to put it in the oven so that you could have some input on the toppings."
   Loren reached over and snatched one of the peppers he was slicing up. "That and you're not done with the prep yet." She grinned as he made another face at her. "What can I do to help?"
   Harm nodded his head over his shoulder. "Can you grab the sauce out of the fridge? How do you like your crust?"
   "Thin and crispy." Loren said automatically, walking around the island and opening up the refrigerator.
   It took her a minute but she finally found a mason jar filled with pasta sauce pushed towards the back. She pulled it out, grinning.
   "So, lawyer, cook...vegetable canner?"
   She turned around - and collided with Harm. Her free hand went out to steady herself and ended up on his chest, while his arms reflexively went around her waist. Loren found herself staring up into his eyes, suddenly realizing just how striking they were. And the way his arms felt around her... She felt her cheeks flush and she realized she was suddenly having trouble breathing.
   They stayed that way for several long minutes.
   "Um..." Harm stuttered, struggling to find his train of thought. Holding her in his arms felt just as good, and just as right, as he remembered. And he couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from her lips. The urge to kiss her was overwhelming. "I...um...have a friend. His wife likes to...can things."
   Loren nodded her head but in a way that said she wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying.
   She pulled away first.
   "Um, here."
   Loren held out the mason jar, which had miraculously remained in one piece. Harm took it and set it on the counter next to the chopped vegetables before edging around Loren to grab the baking sheet he had been after originally.
   Loren took a couple more steps away from him, hoping that some more distance would help calm the sudden turmoil inside her. It didn't. She watched while he put the pizza dough on the baking sheet, spreading it out so it would be thin like she liked. They put the toppings on in an awkward silence, trying to avoid contact with each other despite the close space they were working in.
   And then there was nothing to do but wait. While the pizza cooked Loren walked around the apartment, looking at the few pictures Harm had sitting out. There was a group shot of him and his squadron mates, taken out on the flight deck of a carrier, along with one of just him and his RIO in front of his Tomcat. The sight of their smiling faces and arms thrown casually over each other's shoulders caused a quick flash of something that Loren realized with a shock was jealousy. Just as quickly she pushed it aside, telling herself that she had no reason to be jealous. She kept moving. The next picture she saw was one of him and Sergei. She stopped when she found one of him and his dad. Loren picked it up, reminded that he had lost his father at an early age.
   "That one was taken before his last deployment." Harm said, coming up behind her. "A couple of days later he left and I never saw him again."
   "I'm sorry." Loren said, setting the picture back down. She turned around to face him. "Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if he hadn't been shot down?"
   Harm frowned, sensing there was something more behind this question but unsure exactly what. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "Well sure. Every kid who's ever lost a parent probably wonders that at some point. I have to admit I've wondered once or twice whether I would have still loved to fly as much as I do, or if it was just a way for me to try to connect with a father I never knew."
   Loren nodded her head. She opened her mouth to say something, then changed her mind and closed it.
   Harm flashed her a tentative smile. "This line of questioning is kind of depressing councilor. Since we're going to get our fill of that once we start working, what do you say we change the subject till then?"
   Loren smiled back at him. She could tell that he was curious and she appreciated that he wasn't pushing.
   "Sure Commander." She said. Her grin widened. "Do you smell something burning?"
   Harm spun around and raced into the kitchen. Pulling the oven door open he fanned away the smoke that came pouring out while trying to pull the pizza out.
   It turned out that it was just some vegetables that had fallen off the top that had been burning. The pizza itself was fine and they set down to a nice dinner.
   Afterward they spend the next several hours discussing their case strategy. In the end they decided to stick with their original strategy. None of the other facts of the case had changed.
   Later on, clutching her briefcase in one hand and the leftover pizza Harm had insisted she take home in the other, she stood in the apartment doorway as they said their goodbyes. Despite the awkward start and the melancholy nature of their case discussion she had had a good evening.
   Standing there leaning against the door frame, Harm noticed a stray strand of hair in her face. Reaching out he gently tucked it behind her ear, lightly brushing her cheek in the process.
   "Goodnight Loren."
   Loren just nodded, her skin still tingling from the brief touch. Moving on autopilot she somehow made her way out of the building and to her car. And as she drove away she knew that tonight it wouldn't be nightmares that kept her awake.


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