You're All I Want for Christmas by doc
AN: I'm sorry this is late. I hope you don't mind a Christmas story in January. Between family and work obligations, the holidays got away from me. I really wanted to have it finished so you could enjoy it during the hustle and bustle and magic of the actual Christmas season. Oh well, not to be…at least, it's still winter! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season filled with love, family and all those things you hold dear.
SUMMARY: I love the holiday season with its warm sentiment and beauty. It's a time to be shared with family, friends, and those we love. In accordance, what would the Christmas season be without a glimpse into the future of our favorite dynamic duo and those they hold dear.
This snippet involves my Rabb family from 'A Nickel Trumps a Dime of Fate.' For those who haven't read the preceding long story, Harm and Mac are married and in private practice together as child advocacy lawyers in San Diego. They have three children, Ben, Connor and Ellie…ages 7, 4 and 2-1/2 years.
This story occurs during the same timeframe as my November HBX Challenge piece, 'What Goes Up…Must Come Down.' You don't have to read that vignette in order to enjoy this story, but one of the key ideas from that earlier story will make its reappearance in this holiday piece. Also making cameo appearances are Molly, Suzy-Q and Toby, the Rabb's four-legged furry family members and scheming partner's in crime. Remember…Christmas is all about MAGIC!
The December HBX Challenge lines are included in chapter 1.
Special thanks to Mom, my faithful finder and keeper of all things related to spelling and grammar.
Disclaimer and Credits: I don't own JAG or any of the characters. I just take them out and play with them on occasion before replacing them safe and sound back on the shelf. The song 'You're All I Want For Christmas' was written by Seger Ellis and Glenn Moore.
You're All I Want for Christmas
7 December 2013
The Rabb House
La Jolla, California
Harm slowly came awake as Mac softly stroked her fingers over his face. Blinking his eyes open against the afternoon sun, he groaned in discomfort.
"Feeling any better, Sailor?" She pushed a lock of hair off his forehead.
"Don't know…maybe," he whined as he pushed his face into her touch.
She reached for the glass of Sprite on the nightstand, "I need to run pick up the kids from your folks' house. It was great of your mom to keep them overnight, but I think she and Frank have had enough of the whining. I was gonna stop by the store on my way…is there anything in particular that sounds good."
He took a sip of the Sprite then wrinkled his nose, "Maybe some ginger ale? I'm getting tired of this Sprite."
She smiled as she took the glass from his hands, "All right, ginger ale it is...anything else sound good?"
He shrugged his shoulders with a look of disgust, "I'm not sure what's gonna stay down? We should still have plenty of crackers…maybe some chicken soup or applesauce for later tonight?"
"Your mom was already planning to send some of her chicken soup home with me. I'll pick up a jar of applesauce and see what else looks good."
He released a soft grunt and rolled his bottom lip, "Not the jar stuff…I'd rather not have it if…."
She shook her head with an indulgent sigh, "Fine, I'll pick up some fresh apples to make the homemade stuff." Leaning over to kiss his forehead, she whispered, "But only cuz I love ya."
He beamed at having won, "You won't be gone long?"
"No, just an hour or so…you want some Tylenol or anything before I leave?"
He made a feeble attempt to sit forward, "Fluff my pillows?"
"Sure," she chuckled as she pulled him forward and fluffed the pillows with a shake and pat. He really was just one of the kids when he was sick. Helping him to recline back against the soft mound, she pulled the blanket up to chest.
"Be back soon," she winked.
He waited until he heard her car pull out of the drive and then reached into the drawer of his nightstand. Shifting to the bottom of the magazines and papers, he pulled out a catalog and flipped through the pages. His smile grew when he pondered his Christmas surprise. Finding the well-worn page, he settled back against the mass of pillows to plan his next step. Running a finger over the smooth glossy surface, he closed his eyes and let his mind wander back to a weekend in October. He and Mac had taken a week off to travel up the New England coast enjoying the fall colors and bed-and-breakfasts along the way. They'd ended with a weekend in Boston before flying back home.
Figuring they'd get in some early Christmas shopping, Mac pulled him along a row of quaint old shops. They'd already dispensed with the well-known chains and hoped to find a unique treasure hidden among the less obvious.
Mac spied a beautiful antique brooch in one of the shop windows. "Harm, I think I found something for your mom," she tugged on his hand.
He stood rooted in place a moment, before following close behind. "Mac, I think I see a toy store across the street. After we look around in here maybe we could check it out."
Twenty minutes later, they exited the antique store with Mac clutching her new finds, "Harm, I think your mom's gonna love this…and I can't believe we found those antique demitasse cups for Evie."
He smiled at her excitement as he pulled her close to ward off the chill of the fall morn. "Mac, I want to check out the toy store down the street."
She shivered in the wind, "Any chance we can get something warm to drink first?"
"It's just across the street and a couple shops down. If we stop there first, I think I saw a coffee shop further down the block."
"Okay," she wrapped her jacket around her chest as they waited for the traffic light to change. "Boy, the temperature really dropped since yesterday, no sign of an Indian summer here." She reached up to place her fingers against his neck.
He jumped on contact, "Hey watch it, you're hands are freezing." She giggled and pulled them away. Sliding their packages up his arm, he reached for her hands and rubbed them briskly between his own, blowing his warm breath over the surface. "Maybe we can pick-up some gloves along the way?"
"Mmmm, I suspect it'll warm-up a little over the course of the day."
He pulled her closer and tucked her hands inside his coat up against his chest. She snuggled against his warmth and nuzzled her face into his neck. "Your nose is cold too," he chuckled as he glanced up just in time to watch the traffic light turn from green to red. "I think we missed our light," he warmly blew into her ear.
"Soo'kay," she chattered against his skin, "…jusss warming up."
He wrapped his arms tighter around her body, "Bet the toy store is warm."
She chuckled, "All right, all right…just tell me when the light changes."
A minute later they were scurrying across the street. Holding the door open, they entered a child's wonderland. "Wow, the kids would have a ball in here."
"You're not kidding," he laughed, "…I don't think we'd ever get them to leave."
A kindly old gentleman approached them, "Were you looking for anything in particular?"
Harm ran his fingers over a large model airplane, "Ahhh, no…I think we're gonna just look around for right now."
"Harm, come look at these building sets…Ben would love 'em!"
Harm nodded to the proprietor, "If you'll excuse me for a moment, my better-half is calling."
They wandered up and down the aisle taking in the usual toys. Mac set several more boxes into the burgeoning pile in his arms before scurrying to the next aisle. "Sweetheart, how are you planning to get all this stuff back home? It'll never fit it in our luggage."
She peeked around the corner with a grin, "I'm sure they ship!"
The older gentleman came up beside Harm, "Can I help you with some of those?"
"Sure," Harm flashed him a relieved smile. "Say, do you ship? My wife and I are just here for the weekend…."
"Sure…by the way, my name is Mr. Kringle."
Harm threw him an incredulous smirk, "You're kidding right?"
Mr. Kringle looked over the top of his spectacles and grinned, "Fraid not…but with that kinda name, you're destined to sell toys. My family has owned this store for four generations back. I'll just put these at the register for you."
"Right behind you," he whispered into her ear and laughed when she jumped backwards into his arms.
"You scared me…."
Making sure she was steady on her feet, he reached around her to pick up a model of an antique car. "These are really great…look at all the detail."
Huddling at his side, she picked up another, "I know…what do you think about starting Ben on a collection like this? Do you think he's old enough to take care of them?"
"I don't know…I guess we could get one for Christmas and see how he does," he reached for a brochure. "If he's careful with them, we can always order more. Did you find anything usual for Connor?"
"Not yet…and I haven't hit the girl's section for Ellie, either."
"Girl's section?" he raised a brow in challenge, "…are you saying our daughter can't play with cars?"
"Noooo," she laughed, "…but I think she has her heart set on a baby doll."
He went in search of her 10 minutes later, "Hey Mac, what do think of this doll?" He held up a beautiful baby doll, with dark curls, dressed in a smocked bubble romper.
"Sweetheart, it's a beautiful doll, but I'm not sure Ellie…."
"Come on Mac, she's gotta have it. The doll looks just like our Ellie Bean."
Mr. Kringle appeared from around the corner, "I see you found our Corolle collection. They make the most wonderful dolls for little girls…young and old." He pointed at the baby, "Did you smell it?"
Harm frowned in return, "I beg your pardon?"
The old gentleman's eyes twinkled, "Smell it…they impregnate the plastic with vanilla."
Harm brought the doll to his nose and sniffed. "Oh Mac," he chuckled, "…this baby doll definitely belongs at our house."
He extended the toy in her direction. Leaning in to smell, she smiled at the happy memory it evoked. "Pacifiers," she looked up with awe.
Mr. Kringle cocked his head to the side, "I'm sorry?"
Harm laughed, "Our two youngest had health problems at birth. They both had these special pacifiers made by a children's medical company. They impregnate the pacifiers with a vanilla scent. Mac," he turned back to his wife, "…we have to get it for her."
She rolled her eyes and mumbled under her breath, "Wrapped around her little finger."
"You better believe it," he walked away with a look of jubilant glee. His little girl was getting a special treat.
A few minutes later, he found Mac standing before an elaborate Playmobil display. "Did you find something for Connor?"
"Whaat…ah no, I mean…I wasn't looking for Connor. I…."
"Sweetheart, what's wrong?"
"Hey, look at this dollhouse…it's got a little bit of everything. What do you think about getting this for Ellie?" He turned back toward Mac with a pamphlet in hand, "Sweetheart?"
She looked away from his gaze, "I ah…I think Ellie's ah…too young…maybe in a few years."
He shrugged, "You're probably right…too many small parts for a toddler. Maybe in a few years…or better yet, I could build her one when she's older." He placed the brochure into one of his sacks.
"Harm, I think we have enough for now," her voice held an edge of sadness. "Maybe we should check out and go find that coffee shop."
He followed her to the cash register. Finishing with their purchases, he reached out to take her hand, "Sweetheart, are you sure you're okay? You're awfully quiet."
She looked away with a smile devoid of its normal luster, "Sure, I'm fine…how about that coffee."
Harm waved back to the shop proprietor, "Thanks Mr. Kringle, you have a great store here."
Mr. Kringle tipped his head and winked, "Come back again soon…and bring your children next time."
"We just might do that."
Ten minutes later, they stood peering through the window of an old Victorian house. Eyes danced wide in amazement at the overwhelming array of sweet confections displayed behind the ornate beveled glass of the leaded windowpanes.
Grasping her hand, Harm tugged his wife toward the door, "Come on sweetheart, I can't wait to see if they taste as good as they look."
Giving the heavy oak door a shove, they were greeted by the tinkling chime of an old-fashioned brass bell just moments before a cheery voice beckoned, "Morning…welcome to Coffee and Creations. Can I get you anything?"
Harm closed his eyes and inhaled the delicious aromas. The scent of coffee hung heavily in the air mixed with cinnamon, chocolate and other mouth-watering spice. "We were hoping to get a cup of coffee to ward off the chill, but from the looks of your window display, I think we might stay for something more to eat."
"The name is Fannie, and I can vouch for all the tasty goodies since I made 'em myself. Now, why don't you go find yourself a table and I'll be right over with a menu."
They wandered past a bakery case brimming with cookies, muffins and every sort of cake, tart and pastry treat. Settling in at a table beside the cozy fireplace, they removed their cloaks and soaked in the ambiance of the renovated old home. The décor had been kept true to its Victorian heritage with coffered ceilings, elaborate gingerbread trim and delicate floral wall coverings.
Fannie arrived at their side sporting a frilly white apron adorned with Battenberg lace. "Why don't I take your drink orders while you peruse the menu. Would you prefer coffee or tea?"
"Coffee, I think…how about you, Mac?"
"Coffee sounds great. I can't seem to get warm."
Fannie smiled back with a wide-toothed grin, "We seem to have hit an early cold spell. I hope this doesn't portend a bad winter. Now, we have a traditional Columbian blend or our house coffee is a praline-hazelnut mix with just a hint of cinnamon. Of course, I can make you one of our fancy coffee concoctions?"
"Mmmm, the house blend sounds good to me," Mac rubbed her hands together trying to drive away the chill.
"Same here," Harm warmly replied.
"Be right back," Fannie turned on her heels with a flourish.
Harm chuckled to himself, "Is it just me or does she remind you of Evie."
"A little, I guess," Mac shrugged softly in return.
Harm reached for her hand and engulfed it with his own, "You really are cold. So, do you think the kids will like the toys? I think we found some great stuff today."
She stared downward tracing a finger over the lacy tablecloth, "Mmmm, I suppose."
"What's up? You were so excited about Christmas shopping earlier?"
Fannie interrupted their discussion, presenting a tray with delicate Haviland china cups, saucers, plates and sterling flatware. "Coffee's served…I brought an extra pot to warm you up. Now, what else can I get you?"
"Ah, I'd like one of your sour cream scones with…."
"Devonshire cream and red raspberry preserves," Fannie eyes twinkled. "I make the preserves myself, as well."
Harm grinned, "Sounds wonderful…Mac, what do you want?"
She shook her head, "Nothing, thank you…the coffee will be fine."
As Fannie scurried away, Harm regarded his wife with concern, "All right, spill Marine. Since when do you turn down homemade sweets?"
Her eyes flitted around the room, "I'm just not hungry."
"Sweetheart, what's going on? You've been subdued since we left the toy store?"
"It's nothing…just one of those dreaded childhood memories." She glanced back into his eyes and begged for acceptance, "Let it go…it'll pass."
He placed an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. Placing his lips against her forehead, he gave her a kiss and whispered, "All right, let's just enjoy our treats." Pulling back, he threw her a mischievous wink, "We need sustenance…we have more Christmas shopping to do!"
She sighed in relief at his understanding and let the moment pass. He knew her so well. "That we do." Reaching up to caress his cheek, she whispered back with appreciation, "I love you."
He placed his hand over hers, "Me too…but you're not getting my scone!"
She laughed at his silliness, the moment forgotten…for now.
After several more hours of shopping and a light lunch, they dragged into their hotel room burdened down with packages. Mac dropped the first load just inside the door. That was followed by the trail of a coat, scarf, shoes and sweater, ending with an exhausted body strewn across the bed with a groan. Harm laughed at her antics and collected the discarded objects left in her wake.
Setting his own things aside, he sat down beside her on the bed. She'd perked up somewhat throughout their day's excursions, but never fully returned to her earlier exuberance. Deciding to broach the subject cautiously, he reached for her feet and began to rub.
She popped open an appreciative eye, "Oh, that feels good..."
He smiled at her moans and groans of pleasure. Kneading with a little more pressure at each satisfied sigh, he worked his way up to the ball of her foot. "How about…there?"
Her head fell back heavily into the mound of pillows as her eyes fluttered shut. "Oh yeah…mmmmm, don't stop…ever..." was slurred out on a sleepy breath.
Moving on to the other foot, he repeated the same ministrations with care. When her breathing evened out, he thought he'd lost her to sleep. "Mac? You still with me?"
"Don't go to sleep just yet, we still have to go out for dinner."
"Okay," he chuckled, "…we can do that. Do you wanna get out of those clothes?"
"Tooo tired," was heavily sighed.
"I could help," was the singsong playful reply.
She chuckled in return, "Why do I think you don't mean into pajamas?"
He crawled up beside her and ran a hand under her shirt, "Weellllll, I'm sure we'd get there…eventually." Her eye popped open in challenge. "Or maybe…not," he grinned unrepentantly.
Shaking her head, she rolled over and laid her head on his shoulder. "Who knew shopping could be so exhausting."
"Mac, I swear we hit half the stores in Boston." Drawing her into his arms, he kissed her forehead, "Seriously, if you wanna stay in for dinner that's fine. We can order room service, eat a leisurely meal and then soak in that enormous claw-foot tub in the bathroom.
She wiggled more firmly onto his chest and sighed, "That sounds like heaven."
When she remained quiet for several minutes, he softly asked, "Sweetheart, what happened today? You said something about an unpleasant childhood memory?"
"Harm, do we have to discuss this?"
He laced his fingers through her hair, "No, not if you don't want to, but I'd really like to listen if you wanna share."
"All right," she sighed heavily and began to sit up.
He tightened his embrace, "You're fine just where you are. Did this have something to do with that dollhouse? I noticed you got awfully quiet after that?"
She didn't answer for several moments then spoke in hushed haunting tones. "The Christmas when I was six, my folks and I were out shopping for the holidays. We didn't have much money, but I loved looking at all the window displays and lights. We walked past this toy store and in the window was this beautiful dollhouse. I remember it was a huge 2-story with yellow siding and a brown roof. The windows were trimmed in white with green shutters, and there was a big wrap around porch out front. They'd even put these little figurines on the porch…like a real family. When I looked at that dollhouse, all I could see was the home…the family that I wanted. I asked my dad if I could have the house for Christmas. I even promised not to ask for anything else, if I could just have that dollhouse."
When she grew quiet again, he rubbed his hand up her back, "What'd he say?"
Her voice choked with unshed tears, "That it was too expensive and a waste of money. That I didn't deserve a present like that."
She paused again and he waited for her to continue. "I told him I would ask Santa for the dollhouse. He laughed at me and told me Santa only came for good girls and boys." Her breath shuddered deeply, "I tried to be as good as I could until Christmas. I helped around the house. I did all my schoolwork with extra credit…I even got all 'A's'. I didn't ask for any other presents, except that dollhouse. On Christmas morning, I ran into living room in search of my gift. I just knew I'd been good enough to deserve that dollhouse."
He traced a finger under her chin and drew her face to his, "But it wasn't there?"
The tears glistening in her eyes broke loose and slid down her cheeks, "Nooooo, all I got was a book, a jump rope and some clothes from my parents. When I asked about my gift from Santa, my dad told me he didn't come. That's when I knew he wasn't real…I think that's when my childhood innocence finally died. I knew then that dreams didn't come true…at least, not for kids like me."
"Oh Sarah, I swear if Joe MacKenzie were here right now…I'd pummel him to within an inch of his life."
She shook her head, "No, he's not worth it."
He caressed her cheek, "No, he's not…but YOU are! I don't want you to ever doubt your worth, or your importance in our family, or your ability to give and deserve love."
She turned her face to kiss his palm, "You never give me cause to doubt any of those things, Harm. It's just sometimes…sometimes, things happen that make me remember a dreadful event from my past. Harm, I don't want our kids to ever feel like that…I don't want Ben or Conner or Ellie to ever think they're not good enough."
"Sarah, we won't let them. Our kids know they're loved and cherished. We waited too long for them to ever take them for granted or let them doubt our love and support."
When she smiled through her tears and leaned up for a kiss, he knew the moment had passed. "I love you, Sailor…and thank you for encouraging me to talk it out instead of dwelling on the hurt."
He kissed her back, "I love you too…and I'm always here to listen. Now, how about ordering that dinner?"
She laid her head back down on his chest, "In a bit, I just wanna relax with you for a while."
After a few minutes of comfortable silence, she looked up into his face. "What about you?"
"What about me?" he puzzled.
"Welllll, I shared my biggest Christmas disappointment. Was there any particular gift you wished for but didn't get?"
When sadness descended upon his face, she gasped, "Your father! Oh sweetheart, I'm so sorry…I didn't mean…."
He rubbed a hand over his face and spoke softly, "No, it's okay…I ah…."
She reached for his hand, "Harm, you don't have to…."
"No Mac, I encouraged you to tell me…it's only fair that I share too." He paused to take a deep breath, "There was one Christmas present that I desperately wanted. I asked my folks…my grandparents…Santa…anyone who would listen."
"And you didn't get it?"
"No…I got it, but…" he exhaled loudly. "Maybe I should start at the beginning. It was the Christmas I turned six…the one my dad went missing."
She shifted up in the bed to sit beside him and took him into her arms. "Harm, if you don't want to…."
"It's okay, really. I haven't thought about it since that Christmas 40-some years ago." When she looked back in question, he explained, "Not the loss of my father, but the Christmas gift. I remember…it was the only thing I asked my parents for that year. My dad and I had big plans…."
"Plans for what…what was the gift?" she stroked her fingers soothingly through his hair.
"A train…my dad and I saw this elaborate Lionel train display at a local hobby shop during his last rotation stateside. We schemed and designed this whole intricate landscape that we were gonna build for the train…mountains, rivers, tunnels and bridges…a whole town with stores and houses." He shook his head lost in thought, "I remember walking around for months before Christmas talking about our big plans. I kept pulling out this worn and tattered picture of the train set and jabbered off the ear of any unsuspecting sap I could sucker into listening."
Tipping his head back against the headboard, he closed his eyes. "Christmas morning, I ran down to the living room and there it was…a huge box with a bright red bow. I tore off the paper and studied each piece…the smoke stack on the engine, the railing on the caboose."
"Did you ever build your town?"
He shook his head. "No…when I found out later that day, my daaad," his voice cracked, "…my dad went MIA…I told my mom to give the train back to Santa. She told me, Santa couldn't return gifts. I left the train in the box and refused to play with it. If I couldn't have my dad, then I didn't want the train…we were supposed to build it together."
She stroked her fingers over his cheek, "What happened to the train?"
He opened his eyes and rolled his face toward hers, "I told my mom to give it away. We donated it to the local children's hospital." He shrugged, "It just wasn't the same without my dad."
When she noticed the sheen in his eyes, she took him into her arms, "What a pair we are…I'm sorry I started this melancholy trip down memory lane. It kinda put a damper on our weekend."
He shook his head against her shoulder, "No, I think it's good to remember…to talk about it."
He leaned back to stare in her eyes, "Now, enough of these tears, how about that dinner?"
"I'm not really hungry," she wrinkled her nose and then threw a mischievous wink to lighten the mood, "…but I could really go for that long soak in the tub."
He kissed her lips and grinned, "Why Mrs. Rabb, if I didn't know better I'd swear you were trying to have your way with me."
Pulling her shirt off, she tossed it over his head and sprang from the bed. He swiped the clothing from his view as he heard her mutter, "You better believe it, Sailor." He watched her disappear into the bathroom, and jumped from the bed to give chase when her index finger crooked back around the bathroom door.
Harm set the catalog aside as a wave of nausea overtook him. Glancing at the bedside clock, he wondered when Mac would return. He contemplated phoning her then thought better of it. His poor wife was already dealing with three whining kids; she didn't need to hear from another. He was a big boy after all, a retired sailor at that. He sighed in despair…damn, he hated being left alone when he was sick. Slowly pushing out of bed, he padded into the bathroom. Maybe a shower would relieve some of the aches and pains. When dizziness threatened to dump him on his six, he nixed the shower and settled for running water over his face. Just as he climbed back into bed, he heard the garage door open. Smiling in relief, he stashed the catalog back in his drawer and worked on perfecting his pathetic 'little boy' pout. He was shamelessly taking advantage…but damn it, it was his turn to be pampered and he felt like hell.
To Be Continued…