Title: The Two Sides of Duty
Author: Raindrops on Roses
E-mail: raindroproses777@yahoo.com
Personal Website: Heroine Addict
Fandom: JAG
Pairing: AJ/Mac
Spoilers: Through season nine
Written: January 24, 2005
Edited: February 28, 2006 (links updated)

AJ: You know, Major, there are two sides to duty. Occasionally, we have to do things we don't want to do. But sometimes, duty can be about resisting the temptation to do things that we would like to do.
Mac: You're not talking about my Article 32 hearing next month, are you, sir?
AJ: No, I'm not.
Mac: Understood, sir.

--"JAGgle Bells", JAG 4.11

Our Intrepid Heroes

AJ Chegwidden is a (now retired) two-star admiral. He was the Judge Advocate General for the US Navy for about nine years, having joined the cast midway through season one. AJ is a very private, passionate man, who cares deeply about his staff. As he is also a former SeAL, loyalty means a lot to him. He gives his people a lot of leeway, but when they've stepped too far out of line, he does not hesitate in letting them know.

As far as we know, AJ has had one wife, Marcella, who left him, taking their daughter with her; a girlfriend, Laura Delaney, who was killed by a land mine meant for him; another girlfriend, Sydney Walden, who left him because she refused to believe her son was a drug addict; and a fiancée, Meredith Cavanaugh, whom he left (ooh, a change!) when she slept with another man. (Not so great of a change.)

The man's love life sucks.

Sarah MacKenzie, also known as Mac, is a Marine lieutenant colonel and JAG officer. She is a strong, fiercely independent woman most of the time. Mac's past is not so bright--her father was an abusive alcoholic, and her mother abandoned her when Mac was fifteen years old. After this, Mac also became an alcoholic. It wasn't until after a car accident in which her drinking buddy Eddie died that Mac, with the help of her uncle Matt O'Hara, dried out and joined the Marine Corps.

Through the course of the series, Mac has had one husband (an ex-con, whom no one knew about until he showed up and Mac killed him in self-defense), one affair with a commanding officer (which was what her husband was blackmailing her about), one dead boyfriend, Dalton Lowne, who was killed by her stalker, Detective Coster, one fiancé who left her because she kept postponing the wedding, one ex-boyfriend who staged his own death (hey, the man's CIA), a really screwed up platonic/romantic relationship with her colleague, Harmon Rabb (JAG's wonderboy), and a perpetual UST with AJ Chegwidden, her commanding officer.

Her love life is worse than AJ's.

Sad, but true: Harm once stated about Mac that: "Anyone who's been involved with her is either dead or feels like they are." Ouch.

Happy Shiny Moments of UST

Season 3

Someone to Watch Over Annie (3.12):

In this episode, Harm, Mac, and AJ team up to rescue Harm's girlfriend's son, who's been kidnapped.

Mac: There's something I've always wanted to do.
AJ: Oh, yeah? What's that?
Mac: (kisses his cheek)

The Stalker (3.17):

Obviously, this is the episode about Mac's stalker, who killed her ex-boyfriend.

AJ: Major. Mac. You think it's your fault. You think, 'Boy, if I were just a little faster, or a little stronger, or braver...' But it's not your fault.
Mac: I know, sir.
AJ: Go easy on yourself.
Mac: Yes, sir. ... I think I will have some of that aspirin.
(AJ fumbles with the aspirin bottle; Mac reaches out to help him. He catches her hands with his, and they lean toward each other, obviously about to kiss. AJ pauses.)
AJ: This is a mistake.
Mac: Yes, sir.

(Admiral's office)
AJ: Keep your seats. Coster confessed to killing Lowne out of love for you, Major. He'll be spending the rest of his life behind bars.
Mac: I'll think of him on Valentine's Day.
AJ: Nice job, Commander.
Harm: Thank you, sir. My apologies for leaving the party so abruptly.
AJ: We tried to carry on without you. You all right, Major?
Mac: Yes, sir. I'd like to get back to my duties.
Harm: Sir, may I suggest that the Major take a few days leave?
AJ: She's a big girl, Commander. She knows what's right. Don't you, Major?
Mac: Yes, sir, I do.

The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse (3.21):

AJ and Mac experience quite a few moments of awkwardness in the break room; this one is just one of many. It just seems like they're always in there together.

Season 4

Going After Francesca (4.04):

In this episode, AJ's daughter, Francesca, has been kidnapped, and no one knows why.

AJ: You have something else, Major?
Mac: No, sir. I thought maybe you'd want someone to talk to.
AJ: What, precisely, would we talk about?
Mac: May I speak frankly, sir?
AJ: Seems like you're bound and determined to.
Mac: Well, I know this is difficult for you. And I thought maybe... a friendly shoulder to cry on? ... This isn't going well, is it?
AJ: You have a gift for the understatement, Major.
Mac: Just forget about this?
AJ: Already have. Close the hatch on your way out.
(Mac leaves.)
AJ: Thanks, Sarah.

JAGgle Bells (4.11):

This was the season four Christmas episode, in which we find out that Mac has become a Big Sister, and her Little Sister, Chloe, is a little hellion. But out of the mouths of babes...

(Mac enters admiral's office, followed by the admiral)
Mac: Chloe, what are you doing here?
Chloe: (with food in mouth) Jerry Springer's coming on.
Mac: (pulls her legs off of desk, pulls her to her feet) This is not your office; you have no business being in here. I am sorry, Admiral.
Chloe: Oh! So you're the sexy admiral. I thought you'd have more hair.
AJ: Excuse me?
Mac: Okay, time to go. I can explain, Sir.
Chloe: I've heard so much about you. Why don't you ever ask Mac out?
Mac: (covers Chloe's mouth with her hand as they hurry out of the office) Heh. Kids.
Chloe: (indistinct outraged mutterings)
Mac: Okay, march, young lady.

AJ: Enter!
Mac: Sir, it's about Chloe. She's essentially an orphan. She's got a stepfather with an abusive girlfriend, and I think we may have found her real father, Sir. He's a Chief aboard a destroyer. I've got a good feeling about him.
AJ: You never met the man, Major.
Mac: No, sir, but he's got an impressive service record, and, uh--
AJ: What if he was never a part of this little girl's life on purpose? I mean, men with great service records can still hate kids.
Mac: I know, sir. I also know that sometimes great men aren't with their children when they're growing up, even though they would like to be, sir.
AJ: (AJ looks away) I just would hate for you to get this little girl's hopes up.
Mac: Yes, sir. But if I do contact him, and he is interested in meeting her?
AJ: Then we'll see what we can do.
Mac: (comes to attention) Thank you, sir. (starts to leave, turns back around) About this afternoon, when Chloe was in your office... Sometimes she says things...
AJ: No need to explain. You know, Major, there are two sides to duty. Occasionally, we have to do things we don't want to do. But sometimes, duty can be about resisting the temptation to do things that we would like to do.
Mac: You're not talking about my Article 32 hearing next month, are you, sir?
AJ: No, I'm not.
Mac: Understood, sir.

Season 6

Lifeline (6.22):

*bounces* So, so bittersweet. AJ and Mac dance at her engagement party, and AJ flashes back to the almost-kiss in "The Stalker".

Season 7

New Gun in Town (7.02):

(Regarding Mic Brumby, Mac's ex-fiance)
Mac: He missed the seafaring life.
AJ: No, what he missed out on was you, and that makes him a damn fool.

Code of Conduct (7.13): Mac defends AJ at his Flag Mast, despite his objections.

AJ: I will not let you place yourself in the SecNav's crosshairs!

Season 8

Second Acts (8.19):

Commander Lindsey, a former JAG lawyer and now the SecNav's legal aide, has it in for the JAG office. The new Secretary of the Navy (SecNav) has given him an assignment--audit JAG headquarters.

AJ's willing to fall on his sword, so to speak, and retire before Lindsey makes his report. Mac, once again, refuses to hear of it.

Mac: Excuse me, Admiral. Can we talk for a minute?
AJ: Why not? Come on in.
Mac: I've made up dossiers rebutting the allegations of Commander Lindsey's extremely biased report, sir.
AJ: Nice work. I'll pass it along to the SecNav.
Mac: You still thinking about resigning, sir?
AJ: Yes.
Mac: Those dossiers make it abundantly clear why you shouldn't resign, and why the SecNav shouldn't fire you.
AJ: Well, I appreciate that--
Mac: Excuse me, sir, but I--I think you should listen to what I have to say.
AJ: Have a seat.
Mac: You told the office this morning that you were resigning because you and Meredith were getting married. I saw Meredith on the way out a few minutes ago, and she told me that you made that story up, on the spot.
AJ: Guilty as charged.
Mac: You don't want to retire, sir... and the only reason you're considering it is--is to protect us: myself, Commander Rabb, Lieutenant Roberts, Lieutenant Sims... because we're the ones intentionally smeared by Commander Lindsey. You think Commander Lindsey is out to get you personally, and that he's just dragging us through the mud to do it.
AJ: Yes.
Mac: Well... it's his motive I'm questioning, sir. He told Commander Rabb that he wanted this office broken apart, and us scattered to the four winds. Well, if that's the case, then your resignation is of no benefit to us or to the Navy.
AJ: Or to me?
Mac: It's absolutely not in your character to cave in, and I refuse to accept that from you--for any reason.
AJ: Are you done?
Mac: No, sir. You are offering to sacrifice your career... and with all due respect, sir, that offer is not accepted.
AJ: I hope that will be all.
Mac: Yes, sir.
AJ: Mac... Thanks.

Why I Ship These Characters

So why would anyone ever pair up these poor, unlucky-in-love souls? One: the UST is explosive. Two: ...the UST is explosive.

Besides that, AJ needs an intelligent woman who is as loyal as he is, and Mac needs a man who won't betray her, leave her, or die--and can handle the neuroses that have developed in the past few seasons. Since Mac is obviously intelligent (she's a JAG lawyer) and loyal (a Marine), and AJ can protect himself (he survived the Psycho Shakespearean Professor from Hell; he can survive anything), they're a good match.

And they look good together.

The majority of JAG fandom 'ships Harm/Mac. The Powers That Be keep throwing that at us, as well. However, I, for one, do not believe the Harm/Mac relationship is a healthy one. Harm is the ultimate commitment-phobe, and Mac... she's just confused. They've been doing this "go away, but not too far" thing for years. First, Mac needs to figure out that she's worth something, even without a man--and then she needs to find one that will tell her that. Harm's foot-in-mouth disease will prevent him from ever saying something nice without screwing it up.

As for how I got sucked into this 'ship, I can only say: blame Ava. I was a... okay, I was a discontent Harm/Mac 'shipper at first. I didn't know there were other pairings in JAG fandom until I came across Ava's fic. I was dumbfounded at the idea, but quickly came to adore her her AJ/Mac fic. Because it was funny and sweet and oh-so-good.

In fact, AJ/Mac was the first pairing that I ever wrote for, as well. If I hadn't had such a receptive audience, I probably would have stopped writing at that point. (Although that might not have been such a bad thing...) So blame Ava. It's all her fault.

Fanfiction Recommendations

Hmm, let me think... Ava is my first recommendation, of course! Anything by her is worth a read (or ten), but if I had to choose a favorite, I'd have to say Safe Harbour. It's a casefile as well as romance, and it works so, so well. Ava doesn't write JAG fic anymore (sniffle), so try to pace your reading.

Playing With Fire by Kim is the premier AJ/Mac fanfic. (The fic is password-protected, so I won't provide a link, but if you e-mail me with an age statement, I'd be glad to send you the password.) It took Kim a year and a half to write, and it's over 400,000 words long, but it's definitely worth reading. I savored every word, and I cried at the end. Just one word of warning: it's not for children.

(I think I've just won the Understatement of the Year Award.)

Web Sites

For more on AJ, go to the Admiral Fact Book. They have a quite detailed list about him. The Admiral's Log on the same site has fanfiction--much of which is AJ/Mac.

For more about Mac, go to the Mac on JAG website. Obviously, it's all about Mac.

Ava's fanfiction can be found at her site. For the NC-17 rated versions, you'll need to e-mail her with an age statement.

I've written a goodly portion of AJ/Mac fic, which you can find on my site.

Finally, for all things AJ/Mac, you can join the Yahoo! Group ajmacfic. I've compiled a list of all of the fic on that group here.


Many, many thanks go to , who graciously provided me with screencaps and the transcripts of the "JAGgle Bells" scenes!

Also, thanks to the ladies of the ajmacfic group, who patiently withstood my badgering about the best scenes to mention in this essay.

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