Disclaimer: I do not own JAG, Harmon Rabb, Sarah MacKenzie, et al. I've earned nothing but the pleasure of the writing, and the possibility of some nice feedback.
2143 Zulu (1643 EST)
Falls Church, VA
The troops are gathered in anticipation of the annual gift exchange. We've got a pretty creative bunch here, so it'll be interesting to see the end result.
Lieutenant Roberts holds up some sort of container from the kitchen. "I've put everyone's name in this jar," he says holding up the glass jar for all to see the small bits of paper. "Draw one name but don't say anything unless you pick yourself. Keep the name of the person you've chosen a secret until the Christmas party. Admiral, would you like to pick first?" He extends the jar in my direction.
"Ladies first, Lieutenant." I nod in the direction of Colonel MacKenzie and Lieutenant Singer. I know rank has its privileges, but we're still gentlemen, after all.
He nods, covering his mild chagrin with a smile, and offers the jar to the colonel and then to the lieutenant.
Colonel MacKenzie reaches in, taking the first one her fingers touch. She opens it slowly and nods before slipping the scrap into her pocket. She seems satisfied.
Lieutenant Singer has her hand in the jar almost before Roberts even offers it to her. She's still so like a child in many ways. She mixes the small bits with her fingers, as if some extra-sensory perception is going to tell her whose name is on each slip. Finally making her selection, she carefully unfolds hers and cocks an eyebrow at the name. Everyone else laughs. She, on the other had, looks disappointed.
Lieutenant Roberts continues to offer the jar around to the rest of us. Reactions vary.
Commander Rabb reaches in confidently, as is his way, and snags the last one with a flourish. Deftly, he unfolds it with three fingers and grins at the lieutenant.
Roberts nods in return. "Bring your gifts back here to the office and I'll print off name tags on the computer. That way, no one will be able to figure out who had his or her name by the handwriting. The party will be Friday the 22nd at fifteen hundred hours. Everyone should bring some kind of dish to share."
"All right everybody, back to work." There still is work to be done, Christmas or no.
2030 Zulu (1530 EST)
Falls Church, VA
One of the extra desks has been covered in a snowman print tablecloth and a plethora of interesting looking dishes. That pasta thing must be a Rabb special. Are those artichoke hearts?
The lieutenant makes his rounds, beckoning the heart and soul of the office. "Sir? Ma'am? We're ready to party now." Lieutenant Roberts sticks his head in Colonel MacKenzie's office where she and Commander Rabb are having some sort of discussion. Rabb's got a file folder open, so I'm guessing it's got something to do with work. At least they're setting a good example. Either that, or they're putting on a damn fine show.
They both nod in the lieutenant's direction and he pulls the door shut when he backs out.
The commander says something to the colonel, eliciting a smile and a nod. She rises and circumnavigates her desk. He shuts the folder and opens the door, allowing her to enter the bullpen first. It sure is good to see that chivalry is not dead. They amble over to the food 'table' and nod to me.
"So, how's Brumby these days?" Harm asks casually. He reaches for a couple of iced sugar cookies.
"Oh, Mic's fine, thanks," she says, choosing a handful of red and green M & M's. Her tone, however, indicates that all is not hunky dory where the Aussie is concerned. Ah well, it's not really my business.
"You don't sound very in love Mac." Rabb is obviously in tune with the colonel as well.
"I'd rather not discuss my love life with you right now." She drops a couple of M & M's into her mouth and grabs a paper plate. Rabb's shoulders drop.
"Once you fill your plates, we'll get started on the gifts," Roberts announces now that the gang's all here. He's really in his element. A jolly white elf.
"Something funny, sir?" Tiner asks, holding out a paper plate to me.
Did I chuckle out loud? "Uh, no Tiner, a frog in my throat." He nods in acceptance and adds another handful of chips to his plate.
"Remember, no one knows who had his or her name so let's wait until everyone has opened their gift before trying to figure it out." Bud seems to be enjoying his role as party coordinator. "Admiral, would you do the honors of passing the gifts out?"
"Of, course, lieutenant." I set my empty plate back down and turn to the modest pile of gaily wrapped gifts. This ought to be very interesting. Everyone finds a chair or desk corner and digs into their loaded plates.
The first gift is wrapped in shiny gold paper with red ribbon zippered into a mass of red ringlets. I hold it out to the best thing that ever happened to my supply closet. "Gunny, here's one for you."
He accepts the flat package. "Thank you, sir."
"Bud, this one's yours. Mattoni…Singer…Rabb…Mac." The gifts have reached their intended recipients. "Hey, there's even one for me. Thank you, lieutenant."
"I didn't have your name, Sir."
I hope I succeeded in not rolling my eyes. "I meant thanks for including me in this gift exchange, lieutenant."
"Oh, by the way," Lieutenant Roberts speaks up before everyone tears into their packages. "I received a secret request that the colonel open hers last."
We all look in her direction and at the small box on the desk beside her. She looks a little startled to be picked out, but nods.
Everyone else begins to tear holiday paper.
"Wait! Wait! One at a time everyone, so we can see what you got," asserts Lieutenant Roberts.
"Hey! All right!" exclaims the Commander, "One day of liberty and 18 holes of golf." Harm's grin is infectious as he looks around at each face trying to discern the giver of his gift. "Admiral is this from you?" The Admiral would had to have authorized his leave.
"No way, Rabb," the Admiral chortles, "I'd never give you a free day off!" Everyone chuckles.
"Well then, let's see," Harm looks around once more. "What did you have to do in exchange for giving me a day's liberty, Tiner?"
"You don't want to know, Sir," Replies Tiner with a shake of his head. Every one laughs again.
"What have you got there, Gunny?" asks the Admiral noticing the Gunny's concentration on his gift.
"Wow," he says rather soberly. "It's a plaque."
"Well, Gunny, let's hear it," replies the Admiral.
Gunny clears his throat and all eyes and ears focus on him.
" 'To A Marine'
To a Marine...
Pride means a security in who you are, a confidence in your skill, in your brothers, and in your uniform.
Courage means acting in spite of your fear.
Honor means being above reproach, at all times, no matter who's watching.
Commitment means never quit, never die.
Discipline means that thing your D.I.s drilled into you...the thing that comes out when you're in a fight-or-flight situation.
PT means you run 'til you can't run anymore...then you keep on going.
Brotherhood means you love another Marine, just because he or she's a Marine.
Equality means a Marine is a Marine is a Marine.
Duty means obeying every lawful order, and having the courage to not obey the unlawful ones.
Semper means always. You always bring your buddies home.
Fidelis means faithful. You never leave your own behind; you never abandon your country.
Semper Fi means many things - Hey, bud!...Take care of yourself...I love you, bro...Catch you on the flip side...'Til then...Good-bye."
Everyone is moved by the words and silence reigns for a moment.
"Who's it from, Gunny?" Asks Lieutenant Roberts quietly, breaking the spell.
Gunny carefully sets down his plaque and turns, coming to full attention, "Semper Fi, Colonel and thank you."
"You're welcome, Gunnery Sergeant. At ease."
"That was beautiful, Mac," says the Commander, "Where did you find it?"
"Oh, I was on the Internet one day and came across it. I thought it was perfect and saved it for a rainy day."
"As touching as that was, this is a party, people," the Admiral is in an unusually jovial mood, "Who's next? How about you, Singer?"
"You don't have to ask me twice, Sir," ripping into the paper before she finishes speaking. "Oh, I love this kind thing." She holds up a gift package containing a pretty smelling bath gel, body lotion, and a silky body sponge. She surveys the group trying to figure out whom her gift came from.
"Hey, wait a minute," cries Lieutenant Roberts, "We're not supposed to guess who our gifts are from until everyone has opened theirs. Otherwise, the Colonel will know exactly who her gift is from even before she opens it."
"You're right, Bud," says the Admiral and pointing a finger at Lieutenant Singer, "Hold that thought, Lieutenant."
"Right, Sir," she replies.
"Bud, why don't you open yours now," says the Commander.
"Cool! It's Mrs. Pacman for my Gameboy," Lieutenant Roberts holds up his prize for all to see as chuckles echo throughout the group.
"Hey, Admiral, let's see what you got," calls out Lieutenant Singer.
"Right," the Admiral picks up his present and considers it for a moment before carefully removing the paper. It's a small flat box no bigger than the Admiral's open hand. He lifts the top off and finds two tickets. He slips on his glasses and hold the tickets out at just the right distance to read, "Washington Symphony Orchestra…This is wonderful...Thank you."
"OK, Tiner, you're next," says Lieutenant Roberts.
Petty Officer Jason Tiner wastes no time tearing the paper off of his gift.
" 'Law For Dummies', " he reads the front cover of the book he unwrapped, "Ha, ha, very funny, whoever gave me this…" he shakes his head in disappointment.
"Tiner? What's that sticking up out of the top of that great tome?" Gunny attempts to ease the sudden tension.
Petty Officer Tiner pulls out two tickets of his own and exclaims, "Tickets to a Capital's game! OK! You're forgiven, whoever you are."
"Who's left?" queries the Admiral and looking around sees that only Colonel MacKenzie and Commander Mattoni have wrapped packages left. "We know that the Colonel has to go last so, Mattoni, it looks like you're on."
Commander Mattoni picks up his gift, which consists of a very formal looking, cream envelope with a sparkling gold bow attached to the left side and his name carefully scripted to the right. He breaks the seal and pulls out a stiff sheet of paper. "This certificate entitles the bearer, Lieutenant Commander and Mrs. Mattoni, to enjoy a scrumptious meal at Cantina Romana Ristorante." He continued reading the rest to himself: an $85 value, certificate expires six months from issue date. This must have come from the Commander or the Admiral, he thinks to himself. No one else could have afforded it, except the Colonel, of course but I already know whose name she had. "We have been wanting to go there for quite some time now," he said aloud.
Colonel MacKenzie feels a little uncomfortable as all eyes turn to her once again. She picks up the small gift, elegantly wrapped with burgundy paper and gold ribbon. She slips the ribbon off and carefully tears the paper away. The name of an expensive jeweler is embossed across the top of the midnight blue box.
"Boy, Colonel, rank sure has it's privileges," Lieutenant Singer quips.
"Lieutenant…" the Admiral's tone has a slight reprimand.
"Sorry, Ma'am," she says immediately to the Colonel and looks at the Admiral quickly, "Sir."
Colonel MacKenzie accepts the apology with a nod. She gently lifts off the box top and pulls out a flocked box, again in midnight blue. Her hands shake slightly. She has no clue what it could possibly be. The expensive jeweler box does not bode well. She takes a deep breath and pops open the box top. She puts a hand to her mouth, "Oh, Harm," her voice trembles with emotion and a couple tears slide down her face. Several thoughts race through her mind: I can't believe he even remembered me telling him about this; I can't believe he actually found it; He only said that he would help me find it to calm me down; I can't believe he did this.
"Hey, how did you know it was from the Commander, Ma'am?" asks a confused Lt. Roberts.
"Not now, Lieutenant," admonishes the Admiral gently.
"What is it, Ma'am?" asks Lieutenant Singer.
"It's my grandmother's cameo. However did you find it, Harm?" She looks up at Commander Rabb with very large eyes.
He caresses her face with his eyes and smiles at her tenderly from across the desk they're sitting at. "I had a little help from a couple of friends. Do you like it?"
"I can't believe you found it. But it doesn't look exactly like I remember it. I mean the cameo itself is right but, the rest...?" The necklace lay in her palm and she traced the lady's outline with her index finger.
"Well, it was in pretty bad shape when I finally got a hold of it. The velvet band was torn up and the clasp was broken so I took it to the jeweler. I had him clean it, remount it and put on a new band with a new clasp. I also had it engraved."
She looked up at him before turning it over to read the etched words, 'Promises kept, Harm'.