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All the King's Horses Chapter 15

Title: All the King's Horses
Chapter: 15
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.

1015 local time
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

   "Excuse me, I'm looking for Lieutenant Singer's office."
   Harriet looked up from the report she was working on to find a young man in the uniform of a Naval Lieutenant in front of her, cover tucked smartly beneath his arm, smiling politely down at her. Blond-haired and blue-eyed, he looked like he'd just stepped out of a recruiting poster.
   Distracted by his good looks, Harriet stared up at him, her mouth opening and closing several times with no words coming out.
   "Lieutenant Singer?" She finally managed to ask.
   "Loren Singer." The Lieutenant clarified, his smile turning into a slightly confused frown.
   "Down the hall, third door on the left." Bud said, walking up to them.
   Nodding his thanks to Bud, the man turned around and walked back through the double doors.
   "What was that all about? Harriet?" Not receiving a reply, Bud turned to find his wife staring after the stranger, a glazed look in her eyes. He waved his hand up and down in front of her face. "Harriet? Harriet!"
   Harm walked over to them then, cup of coffee in his hand. He'd walked into the bullpen in time to catch the tail end of their interaction with the stranger. He glanced at Harriet for a second before turning to Bud.
   "Who was that? What did he want?" He'd noticed a Naval Intelligence insignia on his uniform and was curious about what the man was doing at JAG.
   Bud waved his hand dismissively. "Oh just someone looking for Loren. I wonder what she'd done now."
   "He can investigate me if he wants." Harriet murmured, still lost in a daze.
   Bud turned back to his wife, horror struck, while Harm took a sip of his coffee in an attempt to hide his smile. On Bud, the effect came out more comical than serious. Lowering his coffee cup, Harm glanced over in the direction the Intelligence officer had headed, his amused expression now replaced with one of concern. Excusing himself from Bud and Harriet, who didn't even notice him leaving anyway, he headed back to his office.

   Loren stared down at the reports in front of her, forehead furrowed in concentration. Now that the McCallister case was finished, she was trying to figure out a way to bring charges against the lead NCIS agent on her case for his treatment of Harm during the investigation. So far, though, she wasn't having any success. She rubbed her temple with one hand. Maybe if she took a break and came back to it later...
   "Knock, knock." A smiling blond stuck his head into her office. "I'm looking for the future first female JAG. I was wondering if you might know where I could find her?"
   "Tad." Loren said, the blood draining from her face. "What are you doing here?"
   "Ouch. Well, I guess I deserved that." He took a step into her office. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when you needed me."
   Realizing he had misunderstood her comment, Loren breathed a sigh of relief then immediately felt guilty for not correcting him. Standing up, she casually reached out and laid the sonogram picture face down then walked around her desk and hugged her visitor. He returned the hug, pressing a quick kiss to her cheek as they pulled apart.
   "It's not that." Loren said, leaning back against the edge of her desk. "I'm just in the middle of something. And I wasn't expecting you. Besides," she continued, waving her hand dismissively, "you were away on assignment then weren't you?"
   Tad grimaced. "Yeah, but I still could have at least called. Made sure you were really alright." He set his cover down on one of the chairs in front of her desk before sitting down in the other. His voice took on an edge as he continued talking. "I heard the bastard coped a plea. Doing ten years in Leavenworth before they boot his ass out of the Navy."
   Loren nodded, her nervousness returning in full force. "What...what else did you hear?"
   Tad looked up at her, frowning slightly. "What else should I have heard?"
   Loren muttered something under her breath but before either of them could say anything else there was a knock at the door. Loren looked up to see Harm standing in her doorway. She smiled and waved for him to come in. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Tad spring up out of his seat and snap to attention.
   Harm walked into her office, giving Tad a measuring glance as he walked over to Loren. He held out the file folder he had in his hands.
   "Here are those depositions I was working on."
   Loren nodded, reaching out to take the file from him then set it down behind her on the desk. Having deciding he liked the way they had unexpectedly complimented each other during the McCallister case (and taking full credit for the idea of putting them together in the first place) Admiral Chegwidden had assigned her and Harm to another case. It wasn't as high stakes as McCallister's had been but it was proving to be challenging in its own right.
   With a slight shake of her head, Loren set those thoughts aside. Remembering her manners, she gestured to Tad, still standing rigidly at attention. "Commander, this is Lieutenant Tad Williams, an old friend from the Academy. Tad, Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr."
   "At ease Lieutenant, before you strain something." Harm said, looking again at the other man, his gaze somewhat softer this time. He felt some of the tension leave his body as he realized Lieutenant Williams wasn't here on official business.
   "Yes sir, thank you sir." Tad said, smiling sheepishly as he relaxed. "My last assignment, everyone was pretty lax about proper military courtesy. I think I'm overcompensating now so I don't forget to do it."
   "Understandable Lieutenant." Harm said, chuckling. He continued speaking, trying to sound nonchalant. "So you two went to the Academy together?"
   "Yes sir." Tad said, nodding. "Actually, Lori's probably the only reason I graduated at all."
   Noticing Harm's reflexive reaction to his casual use of a nickname for Loren, Tad glanced curiously between the two of them before continuing.
   "She tutored me in..." He glanced at Loren as if for help. "What was it again?"
   Loren made a face at him. "Funny."
   Tad grinned. "Anyway, we've been friends ever since."
   Harm nodded, slightly unnerved by their easy banter. Suddenly he felt like a third wheel. "I guess I'll let you two catch up then..."
   "Let's go over these later, though. Okay?" Loren said, gesturing back to where she had set the file he had given her.
   Harm didn't respond, just nodded his head then left. Loren stared after him a moment before turning back to Tad. Only to find him giving her a strange look as he sat back down in his seat.
   "You like him." Tad said finally.
   "What?" She tried to chuckle, but even to her own ears it came out sounding lame. "Tad, he's a co-worker."
   "Me thinks the lady doth protest too much."
   Loren arched an eyebrow. "Shakespeare, really? You don't even like Shakespeare."
   Tad grimaced. "Yeah but Chrissy does. And don't try to change the subject."
   She ignored him. "You totally butchered that line you know."
   "Oh, I'm sure." He said, laughing. "Was that what you tutored me in?" Then he grew serious again. "And you're still trying to change the subject."
   Loren sighed. "Tad, he's a superior officer."
   "I know. Which makes this not like you at all."
   If only that were true.
   Tad looked up at Loren, sudden understanding on his face. "Are you in love with him?"
   Loren straightened up, turning away from Tad. Tad sat back in his chair, unsure how to respond.
   "Have you told him?" Tad finally asked.
   Loren spun back around to face him, arms wrapped around herself, her eyes welling up with unshed tears. "I can't! Tad, Lindsey and I...we were involved. And then I tried to blackmail him because of it." Her words came out in a rush. "It came out during the trial and everyone here knows about it! If anyone finds out they'll think I'm just trying to use a superior officer to advance my career again... He'll think that."
   Tad sighed, her words confirming things that he'd already known. Not that he would have been very surprised if he hadn't known, given her past.  Standing up, he walked over and hugged her.
   "Your parents would have been proud if you'd spent your whole career as an Ensign." He whispered in her ear.
   Loren pulled back, wiping at the corners of her eyes. She glanced at the picture frame lying face down on her desk. "I'm starting to understand that. But it's too late."
   "I don't think you're giving that Rabb guy enough credit." Tad said, then flashed her a grin. "And unless I miss my guess, I'd say the feelings are mutual on his part."
   Loren gave him the look that said she thought he was crazy.
   Tad just laughed. He gestured to the depositions lying on her desk. "You're going to tell me that he couldn't have waited till later to give you those? It was just an excuse to get him in here. Not that he seemed all that happy with what he found once he was in here."
   "You're delusional." Loren said, shaking her head. "If anything he probably thought he was trying to protect me from a Naval Intelligence investigation. He's kind of appointed himself my protector."
   "If you say so." Tad said with a shrug, although the look on his face said he wasn't really buying it. Then he glanced over at the clock. "Shoot. I've got to go. I've got a briefing I need to get to."
  "How convenient." Loren said, the smile on her face taking any sting out of the words. Standing on tip-toe, she pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Be safe."
   "Aren't I always?"
   Loren started to say something but he jabbed a finger at her before she could get a word out. "That doesn't count."
   Loren just laughed. Turning around, Tad grabbed his cover and started for the door. He stopped and turned back after only a couple of steps.
   "I almost forgot." He pulled a gold embossed envelope out of the inside of his jacket and presented it to Loren with a flourish.
   "What's this?" Loren asked, staring at it in confusion. Tad said nothing, merely looked at her with expectation. So with a sigh Loren tore it open. A second later she looked back up at him with a smile. "You and Chrissy finally set a date!"
   Tad nodded. "Six weeks and counting. Make sure you reply though. Chrissy is doing this thing with a seating chart and..." He trailed off, rubbing his forehead as if to ward off the headache he already knew was coming. Then he shook his head and grinned down at her. "And don't forget the part about a plus-one."
   Loren rolled her eyes. "Don't you have a briefing to get to?"
   Tad laughed. "I'll see you later Lori."

   Loren flipped to the next page in the deposition she was reading, highlighting key points as she went. She glanced up past the cartons of half-eaten Chinese food scattered on her desk to look at Harm sitting in the chair Tad had been sitting in earlier. He seemed to be engrossed in the deposition he was reading, nodding his head as he finished.
   As if sensing her eyes on him, he looked up. She smiled tentatively at him.
   "I think this is going to work nicely for our case." Harm said, just to say something.
   "Yeah." Loren said, nodding.
   They fell into an awkward silence. After a minute or two Harm set his depositions aside.
   "Your friend Tad seemed nice."
   "He is." Loren said, setting her own deposition down. She half-smiled and shook her head a little. "He always tells people that I got him through the Academy but really it was the other way around. I was so determined to succeed that I saw everyone around me as competition. Except him. Maybe it was because, since I was tutoring him a little that meant he couldn't be my competition. I don't know. But his friendship was my lifeline."
   Harm nodded but didn't say anything.
   Loren paused and visibly seemed to gather her courage. "He was also the baby's father."
   Harm nodded again, having been half-expecting that after seeing them together that afternoon. Even so, he felt something cold and hard settle in the pit of his stomach. He hesitated, unsure if he really wanted to know the answer to his next question. "Are you still in love with him?"
   Loren shook her head emphatically. "No, it was never like that between us. The one time that we...well, we were commiserating on the sorry state of our lives. His fiancee had just broken off their engagement and, well, I was discouraged about the state of my career. Alcohol was involved and things just went a little too far."
   Harm frowned a little. "But that would have been just before you left for the Seahawk. Why would you be upset about your career then?"
   Loren got defensive. "When Bud got his orders to the Seahawk, it was like the Admiral was helping to advance his career. But when I got my orders, it seemed like he was just trying to get rid of me."
   Harm pursed his lips but said nothing. Given that he'd had his own suspicions in that regard at the time, there didn't seem to be anything he could say.
   "Anyway," Loren said, continuing. "We both agreed the next morning it was a mistake. That our friendship meant too much to both of us..."
   "Is that why you didn't tell him about the baby?"
   "I was going to." Loren said, the words coming out in a rush. "I called him from the Seahawk when I realized I was pregnant. Before I could say anything, he started telling me about how he and his fiancee had reconciled. He sounded so happy." She paused, tears welling up in her eyes. "He's the only real friend I have. I didn't want to ruin things for him."
   Harm nodded to himself as things finally started to make sense. "That's why you kept refusing to name the father."
   Loren nodded. "I didn't want to take the chance that it would get back to him."
   Harm thought of Loren pregnant and alone, no doubt scared (although she'd never admit to that). He grimaced. "I'm sorry I was so hard on you."
   "You were just trying to protect your brother. I kind of admired that, even while it annoyed me because it meant you wouldn't leave me alone."
   Loren picked up the deposition she had been going through, signaling her wish to end the conversation. Harm went back to reading also. They worked in silence for several minutes.
   "He's not your only friend, you know."
   Startled, Loren looked up to find Harm staring at her, an unreadable expression on his face. She felt a shiver go through her.
   "Is that what we are? Friends?"
   Of course. What else would we be? The words were on the tip of his tongue. But then he took another look at Loren. Something about the way she was looking at him, with a mixture of hope and fear, stopped him. And he took a deep breath and set his own fears aside.
   "No. No we're not."
   Her nearly inaudible sigh of relief gave him the courage to continue. He got up out of his chair and walked around her desk. Reaching out, he pulled her to her feet and stared down into her eyes.
   "I love you Loren. I have for a long time now."
   Loren stared up at him, blinking back tears. Everything else had faded away and all she could see was him. "I love you too Harm."
   Harm smiled down at her. Slowly, he lowered his head until their lips met. It was a gentle kiss, warm and tender, demanding nothing and yet promising everything.
   Finally Harm pulled back. Loren slowly opened her eyes.
   "What do we do now?" Loren asked, plucking nervously at his uniform, all her fears coming back as reality threatened to crash in on their moment.
   But Harm's smile eased all her fears. "I think...whatever we want."


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