Author's Note: Fourth story written for Gail for Fan the Vote. Set a few days after the events of "Back in the Saddle." Thanks to Gail for the beta.
I see Rabb exactly where his email said he'd be -- on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, facing the water. His hands are clasped in front of him, and he stares straight ahead, seemingly unaware of my approach until I'm just a few feet away.
"Webb," he says shortly.
I tip my head in acknowledgement. "You wanted to see me?"
He nods. "I didn't actually think you'd come."
I look at him. He's back in uniform, and it surprises me just disappointed I am in this tangible change in status. "I don't have much time, so let's cut to the chase." I start walking because stillness, after all of these years on the go, makes me nervous.
Rabb falls into step next to me. "Where did you come from anyway?"
"That's classified. You're not CIA anymore."
"I'm sure that makes you very happy."
I want to tell him I take no pleasure in his dismissal from the Agency, but instead I shrug and wait a second as two particularly chatty female joggers run past us. "It's the Agency's loss, Rabb. I don't believe you did anything wrong and I'm sure there are avenues of appeal, if you chose to pursue them."
"Nothing I can do about it now." He bites his lip. "I was only doing my job. I had no idea ZNN would be on the spot to film my landing on the Seahawk."
"And it didn't help ZNN milked the footage of you carrying that child," I say. "A picture seen around the world." I'd been in Paris when I'd seen the film -- Harmon Rabb, in full aviator gear, cockily striding towards the camera, child in arms, after making a precarious landing on the Seahawk. The fact he and his partner -- Beth O'Neill -- had managed to save an entire Libyan family was merely icing on the cake. I remember staring at the footage, vacillating between pride over Rabb's actions and fury for blowing his cover. No doubt Allan Blaisdell felt the same because soon after, Rabb was back pounding the pavement looking for another job.
"We both know the CIA life wasn't for me," Rabb says now. "It was a stop-gap measure, something to fill in the blanks after I got booted from JAG. It wasn't really what I wanted, not really who I wanted to be either."
Rabb's frankness surprises me. In the last few months, as we've worked together on and off on various missions, he's never been completely open or honest with me, despite my entreaties that he should trust me. I shake my head, thinking I've finally gotten what I've wanted, just a little too late.
"Even so. You should have come to me. We could have worked something out." I shove my hands deep into my pockets. "You'd be no good as an operative anymore true, you're too recognizable, but there were other opportunities available."
"Not flying ones, apparently." The bitterness in Rabb's voice surprises me.
"Maybe not now, but in a few months." I take a deep breath. The air is crisp and refreshing after my nearly nine hour flight this morning. "New opportunities always come along."
"A few months is long time to wait, Webb." Rabb neatly sidesteps another jogger. It looks like the lunch crowd is out in full force, taking advantage of the rather warm fall day. The cloudless sky is deep blue, and the leaves are just beginning to shed their leaves. "And the timing couldn't have been better. Lieutenant Immes had to leave rather suddenly and--"
"Chegwidden took the opportunity to beg you to return?"
"I don't think the Admiral would appreciate that characterization of his actions." He glances at me. "Have you talked to Mac about this?"
I stop, look at him directly. "No."
"I just flew in from Madrid this morning, Rabb. I assure you, it was all I could do to make *this* meeting."
"I have a flight to Athens in three hours."
"You don't like to stay in one place for very long, do you?"
I shrug as we resume walking. "I go where I'm needed, Rabb."
"You could say that about me as well."
Rabb's stride is obviously longer than mine, but he makes a concentrated effort to match his step with mine. For this gesture, I'm grateful. While I pride myself on my physical condition, it's no secret I'm not in the shape I was prior to Paraguay and according to the doctors, the possibility exists I may never completely recover from what Sadik Fahd did to me. Even now, I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, imagining myself in that dark, dingy hut, as Sadik's men attach wires to my extremities. Thinking of Paraguay reminds me of Sarah, of what she meant to me then. Now, however, is a completely different question and I wonder whether Rabb's return to JAG will change things between us. I admit to preferring Rabb in the CIA for purely selfish reasons and not necessarily because I want him to stay away from Sarah.
"How does it feel to be back at JAG?" I ask finally.
"It feels familiar and to an extent, safe," Rabb says. "In some ways, it's as if I never left, but I do understand I'm being punished to an extent for the decision I made to resign and go to Paraguay." He smiles wryly. "Death by a thousand paper-cuts, you might say. I've never had to push so much paper before in my life."
I can understand Rabb's impatience; he's a man of action, of movement, but I also understand needing to pay one's dues to make up for past faults. "I'm sure they are all happy to have you back. Lieutenant Roberts, Lieutenant Sims..."
"I think so, yes." Rabb stops and steps to the side, out of the way of a mother pushing a stroller. "You, however, don't sound so thrilled." He smiles wryly. "And Mac doesn't appear too happy either."
I ignore the comment about Sarah and instead, choose my next words carefully. "I think you were a good asset to the Agency. I'm disappointed we didn't find a way to keep you after your cover was blown." My eye contact with Rabb never wavers as I speak. "I enjoyed working with you. I think we made a good team.""
"Even though you nearly got me killed?"
I brush off our Singapore adventure, when Rabb was kidnapped by a fringe terrorist group, with a wave of my hand. "You never were in any danger of dying. You handled yourself very well on that mission." I allow myself a small smile. "Most people would consider JAG much safer than the CIA, but knowing you as I do, trouble is sure to follow you wherever you go."
I glance at my watch. It's now just a few minutes past one. Just enough time to catch a taxi and head back to the airport for my flight later this afternoon to Athens. I point towards the Jefferson Memorial. "Let's head back." I say. This time, I quicken my step, and it's Rabb now who has to work a little harder to keep up. Somehow, I get a perverse pleasure out of this turn in events.
"For what it's worth, I appreciate you making the time to meet with me," Rabb says. "I wanted to thank you for your help, your encouragement." He swallows. "I don't think I was always the easiest person to get along with--" I nod in agreement "-- but I did learn a hell of a lot from you. So thank you."
"So, you're going to Athens? For how long?"
"You never did like sharing, did you?"
I stare straight ahead. "I shared on a 'need to know' basis. That's SOP."
"Right. Even after all we've been through, you still can't be honest with me." Rabb shakes his head. We're now about a hundred yards from the Jefferson Memorial. The Tidal Basin is to my right. I stare at the gray waters, seemingly calm on the surface, and wonder what lies below. Sometimes, it's what we don't see right away that matters the most.
"I have to go," I say clearly. "And I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell Sarah I was here."
Rabb's expression doesn't change. "All right."
I walk away from him, but a few seconds later, he jogs up to me, and grabs me by the shoulder.
"Did you come just for me?" he asks in a low voice.
"You said you flew
in from Madrid this morning. Did you come just for me?" His
gaze is intense, unwavering. I step away from him.
"That too is classified," I tell him. "My travel arrangements are none of your business."
"Fine," he says. He holds up his hand, palm facing me. "I get it." He walks away from me and this time, he doesn't stop. I shove my hands deep into my pockets and stare towards the Tidal Basin. As I concentrate, the tourists blur before my eyes, and the sounds of the children are nothing more than a distant roar. Slowly, I tip my head back and stare straight up into the sky, taking deep breaths. For this singular moment, it feels so very good to stand in one place.
~ the end
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