All Ye Faithful Shippers

By ScoobieD

Summary: My version of events after the Roberts' Christmas party.  (Contains spoilers for the Christmas ep All Ye Faithful.)

Disclaimer: I don't own them.  DPB does.

Feedback is always welcome at dcamp@wheelerandarey.com

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Sarah Mackenzie's apartment

                Mac had just finished changing into a burgundy sweater and jeans when she heard the soft tapping on her door.  She smiled when she peered through the peephole and saw Harm standing in the hallway.  Filled with pleasurable surprise, she opened the door.

                "Hi," he said with a brilliant smile.  "It's not too late, is it?"

                "No," she said.  "Come on in.  What's up?"

                "Well, I went home, and I heard the message you left on my machine.  You sounded kind of worried," he said as he removed his jacket.

                "I *was* kind of worried," she said.

                "Sorry," he said sheepishly.

                "You'd think I'd be used to it by now, wouldn't you?" she asked with a wry smile.  "But you're okay now, so . . ."

                "What am I doing here?"

                She smiled in acknowledgment.

                "I don't know.  I just thought . . ." Harm stopped, not sure how to go on.  He'd heard the worry in her voice in the message she'd left him, and he'd felt a strong need to comfort her.  Now that he was here, that seemed a little silly.  Luckily, he had a Plan B.  "I just thought I'd bring your present by."

                "You already gave me a present.  Thank you, by the way.  I really liked the picture."

                "You're welcome.  And thank *you* for the frame.  My copy of that picture will look great in it.  But the picture wasn't your real present."

                "Oh?" she asked, wondering what he was up to.  "Sit down," she invited, remembering her manners.

                They both sat, and Harm looked around her apartment admiringly.  She'd lit a fire in the fire place, and it crackled invitingly, bathing the room with a soft orange glow.  The lights on her small Christmas tree twinkled merrily and made gave off just the right amount of Christmas cheer.  "This is really nice," he said.

                "Thanks."

                He turned to face her.  "Close your eyes," he ordered softly.

                Mac obediently did so, and she felt him take her right hand, turn it over, and place a small box into her palm.

                "You can open them now," he said.

                Mac opened her eyes.  In her hand was a small box, measuring approximately three inches by four.  It was wrapped in shiny silver paper and was topped with a silver bow edged with deep purple.  The firelight and the tree lights reflected in the paper, making a kaleidescope of color.  It was a beautiful object in itself, regardless of what it contained, and Mac was content to just stare at it, at least for now.

                Her first thought was that this was definitely jewelry.  Her second, and she'd be eternally grateful that she wasn't thinking aloud, was that it was too small be to a ring.  Her eyes flicked to Harm to see if he could guess what she'd been thinking.

                "Aren't you gonna open it?" he asked.

                "It's so pretty," she said.  "I almost hate to ruin it."

                "Next year, I'll give you an empty box wrapped with nice paper and a bow," he joked.  "That'll take some of the stress out of the holiday."

                She smiled at his attempt at humor, then reached up to finger the bow.  She removed it from the package very carefully, so as not to tear the paper, and set it aside, intending to save it.  She looked up at Harm again, and he nodded encouragingly.  She carefully lifted the tape off one end of the box and unfolded the paper.  She repeated the process with the other end, then looked at Harm again.

                "Have you always been this slow about opening presents?" he teased.

                "Only the really important ones," she breathed.  After she said it, she thought maybe she was attaching more importance to this gift than he'd intended, and she felt a little foolish.  "I like to prolong the anticipation," she added lamely.

                "Well, Christmas only lasts twenty-four hours.  You'd better get going."

                With a great sense of anticipation, Mac lifted the final piece of tape holding the wrapping together.  She removed the paper and now held in her hand a white box, clearly identifiable as having come from a local jeweler.

                She put her hand on the top of the box, drew in a small breath and held it, and lifted the top off the box.

                Inside the box was another box, which she lifted out wordlessly.  When she opened the lid on that box, she found a gold pendant on a chain.  The pendant was a three-dimensional heart shape as big as her thumb, with bars, like a cage.  Inside the heart, was a smaller heart, studded with diamonds (Mac quickly counted nine).  A little sticker inside the box identified the pendant as 14 karat gold.

                Mac looked up at Harm, aware that her mouth was hanging open.  With an effort, she closed it, then opened it again to speak, though she was capable only of a whisper.  "Harm, it's . . . I can't possibly accept this.  This is way too much."  As much as it pained her, she held the box out to him, a part of her praying that he'd refuse to let her give it back.

                "Mac," he said, using the most reasonable tone of voice he could muster.  "Do you have any idea how long I shopped to find the right present?  How many stores I trudged through?  How many throngs of shoppers I had to fight my way through?  How many stinky bath and body places I held my breath in?  How many . . ."

                "All right," Mac interrupted.  "I get it.  I won't belittle your sacrifice by not accepting your present."  She looked down at the gift.  "It's so beautiful."

                Harm leaned toward her.  "It's called a 'captured heart'.  See, the little heart is captured inside the big one."  He looked up to find her staring into his eyes, and his own heart flipped in his chest.  "When I saw it, well, I thought of you."

                This is where I make a joke about him feeling trapped by our "relationship" (whatever that might be), Mac thought.  But she couldn't bring herself to do it. " Harm, I – I don't know what to say."

                "Then don't say anything.  Listen.  This little heart in here," he said, touching the heart with his index finger.  "Is mine.  This bigger one is yours.  Get it?"

                She nodded, his eyes holding hers.

                "May I?" he asked, indicating the box.

                She nodded again.

                Harm removed the necklace from the box and undid the clasp.  She leaned toward him, and he reached around her to fasten the chain behind her head.  She sat back, and they both admired (though for different reasons), the way the gold heart nestled in the valley between her breasts.

                "It's beautiful, Harm.  I love it.  Thank you just doesn't seem adequate."

                "Give me a kiss, and we'll call it even."

                He looks like the Harmon Rabb I know, Mac thought, and his voice sounds the same.  But if I didn't know better, I'd say this was an imposter sitting here beside me.  He's being uncharacteristically open and forthright, and he's saying things I'd just about given up on hearing from his mouth.

                When she didn't move, Harm wondered if maybe he'd gone too far, stepped over that damned line that seemed to be always moving that separated friend from something more.  Actually, he was pretty sure he'd stepped over the line – he'd intended to, after all.  The problem was that it appeared she wanted him back on the other side.

                After what seemed like a lifetime, Harm opened his mouth to apologize, but before he could get a word out, she was kissing him, and his lips had better things to do.

                When they broke apart many seconds later, neither wanted to break contact completely, so they remained joined together at the forehead.

                "Merry Christmas," Harm said, caressing her cheek with his thumb.

                Mac reached up to finger the pendant he'd given her.  "Merry Christmas," she said.

                Another kiss seemed like a good way to seal their holiday wishes, and they indulged themselves one more time.

                "So what happened to your wings?" she asked, willing herself to breathe normally after that second kiss.

                Harm sat back and put his arm over the back of the couch and told her the story of the young Lieutenant he'd met at the wall who had taken emergency leave to help a friend and hadn't been present for the ceremony awarding him his own wings.  By the time he'd finished, Mac had settled in near enough to him on the couch so that his arm was almost around her.

                "It's a Wonderful Life," Mac said.

                "Well, I like it, anyway," Harm said, confused by her statement.

                "No, It's a Wonderful Life.  The movie.  With Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.  Clarence the angel got his wings by helping George Bailey realize what the lives of those around him would have been like if he'd never been born.  There weren't by chance any bells ringing nearby, were there?"

                "Now that you mention it . . ."

                "That's sweet, Harm.  That was a very nice thing you did.  So how was Lakeland?"

                "Um, we didn't end up in Lakeland.  We landed at Pax River."

                "I thought you were headed to Lakeland with an F-14?" she asked, confused.

                "We were.  We sort of got diverted.  The Toys for Tots shipment needed a little escort."

                She sat up and stared at him.  "There's something you're not telling me, isn't there?"

                Harm smiled, amazed once again by her ability to read him.  "Turns out the CAG was waiting for the Tomcat I dumped in the Atlantic last year.  He's been holding a grudge against me the whole time.  When we left, he told me if I deviated from the flight plan at all, he'd have my wings."

                "And you landed at Pax River instead of Lakeland," Mac finished.

                Harm shrugged.  When he did, his hand slid off the back of the couch and dropped onto her shoulder.  She looked at his hand, then at him, and had to bite her tongue to keep from making a joke about that particular junior high maneuver.  Instead, she snuggled a little closer to him, enjoying the closeness.  Harm rubbed her arm and rested his chin on top of her head.

                They sat that way for a while, and Mac told Harm about the young Marine and his wife who'd been thrown out of their housing and whose baby had been born in the Admiral's office.  She told him about the three Kuwaitis who'd come visiting JAG at just the right time, bearing gifts.  And because he'd missed the announcement, he told Harm that the Roberts were pregnant again.

                "We've both had a busy day," he noted when she finished filling him in.

                "Mm hmm.  But this is a nice way to end it.  It'll be Christmas in thirty-eight seconds."

                "Let me know when it gets here, will you?" he requested.

                They sat in silence while the remaining seconds of December 24 ticked away.

                "Midnight," Mac said, when the moment arrived.

                Harm kissed her again, and Mac was glad she was already sitting down, because she was sure her knees wouldn't have supported her weight.  "Merry Christmas, Marine," he whispered.

                "Merry Christmas, Harm," she answered.  "Would you . . .?"  She stopped, unsure if she should go on.

                "Would I what?"

                "I was just wondering if you'd like to stay here tonight," she said before she lost her nerve.  "You could sleep on the couch.  It's really late, and I've worried enough about you for one day."

                "Only if you let me make you breakfast."

THE END