Disclaimers in part I.
0135 Zulu/2035 Local
The Robert's Home, Rosslyn, Virginia – 24 December 2002
Harm's timely arrival had made the evening a success with all concerned, particularly Mac. She hadn't seen him since the previous Saturday; he would have preferred not to remember the way she looked the last time he saw her that next day. They hadn't even had a chance for three private words, but from the moment he sat down at the table, they had found ways to connect physically; first it was her slim, stocking-clad feet resting up under his trouser legs at dinner, then it was her hand in his or his hand at the small of her back as the dishes were cleared. Now, as they sat side by side on the big leather couch in the Roberts' den, her head rested on his shoulder and his arm rested comfortably across her shoulders. It would do for now, but each knew that there would be many words spoken later.
Warrant Officer Scoggins was gone; his son had called from Buffalo and asked him to try to come to out for Christmas, with his ex-wife's approval and support. Sturgis would be leaving in a little while to meet his father and sisters before the service, while AJ and Meredith would be going at the same time to meet some of her friends for a while.
The JAG family had settled in the Robert's den to talk before the larger scale departures began. As they related the stories of their day, the men and women who served together laughed together, because, really, when you strung the whole day together, it really was just a day of Christmas parodies.
"So the Warrant Officer told me that it was the banging of the old radiator pipes and a stopped watch that convinced him that Harriet's curse had come true," Bud said, relating the story of how dinner arrived in the nick of time.
Harm related the story of his day next, ending with the landing at Pax River.
"You know, Rudolph," began Mac, gazing at Harm with a smile that no one could mistake for mere like, "I'd bet that the Commandant of the Marine Corps might be willing to intercede with the Aviation Review Board - since you did save Christmas."
"Very funny, Marine," he shot back, pulling her noticeably closer.
"Yeah, so, Rudolph, where are your wings, anyway?" Sturgis couldn't leave that one without comment after all the Alec Baldwin jokes he'd heard in the past five months.
"Well, see, there was this Lt. Clarence – "
Harriet and Bud looked at each other and burst into giggles – "It's a Wonderful Life" had been on TV just before they left to go find out why they had no money in their bank account. Harm told the story over their laughter, including the bell jingling in the wind after the young man announced his plans to become a Blue Angel.
"And we had the whole Nativity scene in the office," AJ admitted. "Including the sheep, although I don't think we actually had shepherds."
Jen Coates smiled. "Unless you count Jason, um, Petty Officer Tiner, sir."
"Does the fact that Mary and Joseph were evicted because he was practicing the drums make him the Little Drummer Boy, too?" Meredith queried, having heard a far more detailed version of the story from AJ earlier.
Sturgis pursed his lips and huffed out a breath. "No, I don't think Joseph and the boy can be the same."
Harm and Mac traded looks. "Harriet," Mac nudged her friend with a long, svelte leg, "we need to make a clean sweep of this. Let Little AJ open the smaller package from Harm and me." Mac had been in charge of shopping after a flurry of e-mails Sunday between the Coral Sea and Georgetown.
A few moments later, the Little Drummer Boy serenaded the grown ups on his brand new toy drum, even managing to get some of the "rum pa pum pums" in while the group sang for him.
As Sturgis, AJ, and Meredith were putting their coats on, AJ stopped suddenly and looked at the men and women of his command and the others who had become near and dear to all of them. "Do you know what happened to us today?" he demanded.
Mumbles of "no, sir," and "sir?" swept the front hall and den.
"A Christmas episode for a television show." He smiled. "A damned well done one, as a matter of fact."
0630 Zulu/0130 Local
Harm's Apartment, North of Union Station, Washington, D.C. – 25 December 2002
Harm made Mac stand down the hall from his apartment for almost two minutes before he beckoned her to his door and opened it for her with a flourish.
"When did you have time to do all this?" Mac murmured to Harm, seeing the Christmas wonderland before her. She stepped inside, her mouth open in surprise and delight as she took in the hundreds of white lights strung around the whole space and the beautiful, white and gold decorated 7-foot tree along the glass wall that separated his living room from his bedroom.
"The truth?" he asked just as quietly, taking her coat from around her shoulders as she stepped out of her shoes.
"Thanksgiving weekend. I thought of you with every light I put up and every decoration I hung on the tree." He finished sliding her overcoat into the closet, then turned to her and picked her up so her head went right to his shoulder. "I've been wanting to do this…"
His words melted into her lips; he staggered for a moment from the shock of the searing power of the kiss before he could carry her to his couch, where he sat down with her in his lap without breaking the deep, celebratory passion.
"I love you, Harm," his Sarah said when she pulled away a long moment later.
He smiled and didn't try to hide the tears that glittered in the dim white lights of the Christmas decorations. "Oh, Sarah. My sweet, beloved Sarah," he whispered with a low tremor of desire. "I love you." They sat for a time, listening to the ease with which their hearts beat together before he remembered what he wanted to do. "I'll be right back. Don't move," he instructed her, setting her down on the sofa and leaning in for another intense kiss before he left her for a few minutes.
When he came back, he was wearing his dress whites, complete with another set of wings in place over his heart, and was carrying the biggest Christmas stocking he'd been able to find between the time she left and the time he left to meet her in San Diego. The stocking, fully four feet long and two feet wide, was stuffed with oddly shaped wrapped items, topped by a single perfect red rose. The look on Mac's face made it all worth it; Harm wondered if she would get the reason for his attire right away or if she would wait in suspense while she opened the contents of the monstrous, personalized red and white knit sock.
"Harmon Rabb, Jr., what in the world?" she finally managed to ask, laughing at her man as he dragged the thing to the couch.
"Well, Sarah Mackenzie, as I recall, someone very special to me requested a Christmas tree and a stocking. So I figured I'd better comply." He placed the big bag at her feet. "Go to it, honey."
First, she lifted the rose out, held it to her nose and inhaled its delicate scent. Then, with an irrepressible smile, Mac reached for the first package. She took her time unwrapping it, knowing that Harm was fidgeting beside her. She opened the box to reveal an 8.5x11" picture frame decorated with palm trees and seashells. "This is really pretty, Harm," she said, thinking about the gift to him he hadn't even seen yet and how they had a theme already with pictures, whatever else may come.
"Keep going," he demanded, handing her the next box. That contained an illustrated acrostic of her name, one he had obviously provided to the artist.
"'Squared-away, Angelic, Ravishing, Atomic clock, Harm's.' I think that pretty much covers it," she said dryly, trying not to let the laughter out lest he take it the wrong way.
"As long as the last one is true, the rest of it matters not at all," he replied as he tickled the back of her knee. He could tell she wanted to laugh, and that had been his point. "Next."
Still giggling from the tickling, she took the next package, which was a foot cube box wrapped in iridescent gold paper. It wasn't very heavy and its contents didn't shift or rattle when she shook it. "At least I know it isn't a law book," quipped the delighted Marine as she carefully slit the tape on one end with a polished fingernail.
"Okay, when I said 'Squared-away', honey, I didn't mean you had to be that way with the wrapping paper."
"But it's so pretty," she countered, pulling away the last of the tape and whipping the paper away from his outstretched hands. "Now, sir, your pocket knife, please."
Harm smiled and reached for the instrument on the table behind him. "I thought fast enough to leave it there when I stopped by to change earlier," he explained to her quizzical look as he handed it to her.
A moment later, the box was open and Mac pulled out a teddy bear. Not just any bear – a custom-made plush bear wearing the most adorable set of Navy dress whites and gold wings she'd ever seen. Even the white shoes were "regulation". The dog tag read, "Commander 'Flyboy' Rabb". "Oh, Harm," she whimpered, hugging the bear to her. "He's wonderful!"
"Thank you," he replied, and leaned over to kiss her lips quickly. "More of that later," he added when she tried to pull him back to her. "You still have a stocking to empty."
The next box was identical except that the paper was green. "Let me guess, 'Lt. Col. 'Ninja Girl' Mackenzie." She didn't wait for his answer, instead tackling the tape with fevered anticipation. Sure enough, the bear inside wore an exquisite replica of her Marine Corps formal mess dress, complete with long skirt, scarlet cummerbund, and black patent leather pumps that sparkled almost as much as Harm's eyes when she looked up at him. "There's no tag," she pouted.
Harm frowned. "We'll get one, don't worry. Go on, there's a few more things in the sock down here."
The next two boxes were pretty obvious in shape, but each contained not what its design would indicate but a promise to go shopping with her – "in hopes of loading your closets with comfortable shoes."
"See, I do listen," he told her.
"Yes, you do. I am deeply touched by all of this, Harm. You took a lot of time to set this up."
"I did have some help," he admitted, "but you can hear about that much later today. There's still a few more things left."
The admiral had, in fact, been instrumental in the next part. She opened the stationery box to unveil a picture of the two of them taken by one of Waters' henchmen. He had captured them with a telephoto lens just as they were breaking a kiss on the front porch of the "Yassin's" house; in the picture, her eyes are half-closed and her lips swollen, while he looks for all the world as though he's dizzy with desire. Which, in fact, he had been.
"I think," she started hoarsely, then cleared her throat and wiped at a tear, "that this one will not go to the office." She found the palm tree frame and slipped the picture inside. "That goes beside my bed."
If all went as he hoped, there would be one on each nightstand beside their bed in the not too distant future.
The penultimate thing was a bright red gift bag that held several items within. The first was a bottle of rosemary scented massage oil.
"It's not a girly scent, so we can both enjoy it."
She started to reply, but no sound came out when she realized what he meant. With flushed cheeks, she dug into the bag again and pulled out a fairly heavy bag of Lindt chocolate truffles in her three favorite flavors – dark chocolate, mint, and white chocolate. She flashed a radiant smile that spoke volumes to the man beside her as she reached into the bag again. There were two pieces left; she went for the boxed one.
She had no words; the tears began in earnest and he just held her for several minutes while she cried, clinging to him and to the bottle of perfume called "Eternity."
When she had cried enough and kissed him with a passion deeper than any they had yet experienced, she wiped her eyes and gave him the high wattage smile that made his heart flip-flop in his chest. "Thank you," she whispered. "Now I think I can go on with the rest of this." The last piece in the bag came out wrapped in silver tissue paper; she didn't even try to be neat about opening it. She looked up at him from the revealed contents with a delighted yet somewhat confused smile.
"You said if you left me a bra when you went away, it wouldn't be black, Sarah," Harm explained. "So I went to Victoria's Secrets and just looked and imagined until I found the perfect set."
"Shall I model it for you?" She held up the opalescent cream lace bra and demi-shorts, knowing that the tone and color would make her glow when she put it on.
Harm took a deep breath and held it for a long moment before he let it out slowly, knowing that she would guess why it was necessary. "I actually," he managed to say in a tightly controlled voice, "have something specific in mind in terms of when you can model that for me."
He saw something click in her mind and watched as she brought a hand to the perfect "O" her lips made when she realized what had to be in the last box in the stocking. Dress white, gold wings, a rose; shoes, chocolate, a reminder that her career was going places.
She wasn't moving, so he bent down and picked up the last box for himself. It wasn't wrapped; jewelry boxes speak for themselves. But this one didn't say it in exactly the way one might think.
Harm caught her chin in his warm hand and looked deeply into her infinite brown eyes. "Sarah, I love you. You are my reason for getting up in the morning, my reason for dreaming at night. You are the very air I breathe and when we're apart, I feel like I'm suffocating. Would you do me the honor…" he moved to open the box with both trembling hands, "…of putting this tag on your bear?"
For a moment, he thought he'd struck out in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, down by three. She didn't move for the longest time; when she did, it was to take the bear-sized dog tag from the box and dangle it from her finger.
Mac watched him and knew immediately what was going through his head. But she couldn't let him off too easily. "You know, I thought there might be something else in that box."
Salvaging his pride, Harm swallowed and began, "Sarah, I – "
She silenced him with a feathery fingertip drawn across his lips, tantalizing him with promise. "Let me read it." She lifted it up and made a show of finding good light in which to read the words. "Just like I thought. 'Lt. Col. Sarah 'Ninja Girl' Ma…Mackenzie Rabb.'" Her eyes flew open. "Are you…"
"I want you to model the lingerie on our wedding day, Sarah. Marry me, my princess, my beloved." Harm held out the box to her again, this time without the inner velvet piece.
And this time, after he kissed the elegant gold ring into place on the fourth finger of her left hand, he didn't stop her when she bent to kiss him.Fine