JAG London: Christmas
Author: TnJAGAz aka TxJAG_b
Rating: G/PG; Some language
Spoilers: Déjà vu, To Russia with Love, Gypsy Eyes, Legacy, Unknown Soldier, Fair Winds and Following Seas, and other pieces from JAG episodes, Seasons 1 to 10.
Classification: Mac helps Cresswell, in her own way, to better understand Harmon Rabb, Junior.
Summary: Takes place after "Fair Winds and Following Seas." Our favorite Navy aviator/lawyer and his lovely Marine attorney have been in London roughly eight months. It is now days before Christmas Eve and our Marine wants to help the by-the-book Marine JAG, Gordon M. Cresswell, better understand who the London Force Judge Advocate is and what motivates him.
Disclaimer: The characters in this story are the property of Donald Bellisario, Belisaurius Productions, Paramount Pictures and Columbia Broadcasting Service Entertainment – this story is for non-profit entertainment of JAG fans only. No copyright infringement is intended or implied.
15 Elderberry Lane
Near London, England
Friday, 16 December 2005
Mac was sitting on the couch with her feet tucked under her listening to her phone at the long distance connection being made. She closed her eyes and silently hoped he had not taken an early Christmas vacation. Through the window, a light snow could be seen falling. Snow showers were predicted to continue throughout the day, giving the neighborhood a holiday aire and prompting the Marine to make this call.
The line clicked. A gruff voice came on. "This is General Cresswell…."
Mac breathed a sigh of relief. The General's new aide hadn't made it in yet this morning. That meant most likely the General was in the office by himself, so there would be less chance of any interruptions. She wanted his undivided attention for this conversation.
"General," Mac said brightly as she readjusted the phone against her ear, "Merry Christmas from London…."
The gruff voice softened. "And a Merry Christmas to you too Colonel," then the Marine Major General's naturally suspicious nature filled his voice with concern. "What are you doing home from work today, Mac? Is there something wrong? Are you ill?"
Mac laughed lightly, readjusting herself on the couch. "No Sir, nothing like that. Colonel Benton just gave me a few days off – it being our first Christmas in London, he figured Harm and I would want to do some holiday shopping and take some time to see some of the local holiday scenery."
"Well considering it's been a fairly quiet month, I'm not surprised," Gordon Cresswell returned. "How is the Captain doing?"
Mac looked over at her wall calendar. It had 19th circled with red and green magic marker. "He's finishing up his meetings with the NATO and Pakistani army legal counsels regarding changes to the Rules of Engagement for spec ops teams in the Waziristan region, Sir. He should be back any day now."
"And what did the Captain think about your suggestions, Colonel?" There was a hint of a smile in Marine JAG's voice.
Mac smiled warmly. "He didn't like them at first, sir, but he eventually came around to seeing the problem from the Marine point of view."
This time Gordon Cresswell did laugh. "Outstanding, Colonel. I knew I picked the right person to serve as Colonel Benton's Executive Officer."
"Yes sir, thank you." Mac felt a blush creeping up her neck. It was rare when General Cresswell handed out lavish praise, and for him to say this was the equivalent of handing out a medal for performing a heroic duty.
"So what is the real reason for your call, Colonel?" the Marine JAG probed. "I know you just didn't call me at 0600 just for holiday chit-chat."
Mac sighed. True, she was beating about the bush rather than telling him the real reason. Time to cut to the chase.
"It's about Harm, sir…." she began tenuously.
"What about the Captain?" he asked, the smile was gone from his voice.
Boy, this was much more difficult than she thought it would be. The Marine in her gave the intestinal fortitude to forge ahead.
"Sir…General…How well do you know my husband?"
The silence on the other end of the line was deafening. This definitely was not the kind of question he had been expecting.
"I knew him well enough to know that he would make a good Force Judge Advocate, Colonel, and to recommend his promotion to Captain." The Marine JAG's voice was clipped and strained. He almost sounded insulted.
Mac leaned forward, nearly dropping her phone. She hadn't meant to accuse him of anything. She had to correct the damage she had done, and quickly, before it became too late.
"Sir, I apologize, that came out wrong," Mac said quickly, feeling like a left footed recruit messing up in front of a pissed off drill instructor. "I didn't mean to accuse-"
"That's all right, Colonel, he's your husband. You have a duty and right as a wife to ask this kind of question, it just caught me off guard. Still, I would like to know why you're asking me this…."
Sarah MacKenzie gave an unspoken prayer of thanks that her comment hadn't blown up in her face. She girded herself and plunged in.
"You and my husband don't always see eye to eye-" she began bravely.
The General gently cut her off.
"That's to be expected, Colonel. I don't like sycophants and I expected with him being Navy that he wouldn't always agree with me," Cresswell said dryly. "Commanders Turner and Roberts are the same way," he added.
Mac pressed on "Actually sir, I was curious about how much of Harm's service record have you read…."
"I read everyone's service records when I took this job, Colonel," replied Gordon Cresswell firmly, "Even the personal history notes attached."
Ignoring the warning signs, the Marine light Colonel threw herself onto the proverbial tracks in front of the train to make her case.
"Then you know about his trip to Vietnam when he was sixteen…."
"…to see if he could find his father who had been shot down on Christmas Eve in 1969. Yes, Colonel, and I also know you accompanied him to Russia in 1998 to search for his father, with Admiral Chegwidden's blessing. He didn't find his father, as I recall…."
"No sir, he didn't." Mac wanted to steer away from this line of conversation to press her original point. "General, you know about Harm's unusual interest in single family and orphaned children, especially children from Vietnam?"
"Yes, Colonel," he replied, not really listening to her, "It goes back to his father not returning from that Iron Hand mission. The Captain never really accepted his step-father as family because he thought his real father was still alive."
She wasn't ready to talk about that part yet. She still had to get the General to understand her husband's pre-occupation with orphans and single parent children. "Sir, do you know about Gym?"
That pulled the Marine JAG up short. "Gym? Who's Gym, Colonel?"
"Gym was the teenaged Laotian girl that accompanied Harm and Colonel Striker to the Vietnamese-Laotian border. She and her mother were going to help Harm and the former Colonel get across the border so Harm could search for his father." She paused to let General Cresswell process this new information.
"Go on, Colonel," Gordon Cresswell wanted to know more. He had heard about Colonel Striker's POW exploits. Maybe her information would even help him better understand why Vietnam still haunted his brother after so many years. It was a vain thought, but anything to help his brother find peace at this time of year….
"Someone tipped off the Laotian border patrol to what Striker was doing. The Laotians sent gunships after them. The Colonel hid himself and Harm in the brush. Gym and her mother decided to draw the gunships' fire, hoping the crews would see it was only civilians trying to cross the border…."
"But the gunship crews didn't care," he finished for her. "They had their orders to stop any border crossings. So she and her mother were killed."
"Yes Sir, right in front of Harm. Striker wouldn't let him rescue her for fear that he would be killed as well. Striker abandoned the mission and returned to Thailand, leaving their bodies to be found by the border patrol ground troops."
"That must have been pretty traumatizing for a boy that age, Colonel," said the Marine JAG, now having a better understanding of why Harm had risked his personal reputation to become Matilda Grace Johnson's legal ward and eventual step-father and why he tried to help Petty Officer Jennifer Coates every chance he got.
"Yes Sir, it was. I only learned about it after Harm and I married…." Mac thought back to other times when Harm had placed his personal and professional career on the line for anyone who had a connection with the Vietnam War. Knowing what she did now, it all made perfect sense….
"Well Colonel, you're right," Cresswell admitted, "I didn't find that in his personal history notes…."
"Why do you bring this up, Colonel? Mac, I understand what you're trying to say about the Captain, but I don't see the relationship between what happened to him in Laos and why we are talking right now. Perhaps you could enlighten me?"
Mac sat back, not realizing how disjointed her thoughts sounded aloud. They had sounded fine when she had rehearsed them the other day. Still, she wasn't going to let this stop her.
"I'm sorry, sir, let me try this again," she said trying to buy herself time. It was an old lawyer's ploy, but it might work.
"The relationship is, Sir, that family means everything to my husband." Well, that helped. Sort of.
"I see…" Cresswell said slowly. Actually he didn't see her point. Maybe it was just too early in the morning for him to follow the woman's line of thinking. After all, she had been up six hours longer than he had….
Mac wanted to scream. Why was it that men were so dense? It least this time she didn't express her frustration aloud like she did that one time with Admiral Chegwidden.
"Mac I hate to say this, but so far, you have been all over the board on this one. If I up against you in court on this one, I could run circles around you and the judge would rule against your client. Do you get my drift, Colonel?"
The snap of his last comment was still crackling against her ear. The Marine attorney was determined to win. This one was for her husband. It was the least she could do after all that they had been through in the last few years.
"General Cresswell, toward the end our tenure at JAG, several cases came up that Captain Rabb could have capably handled. Yet they were handed off to other people-"
"If you're referring to the search for that gunship pilot's brother that saved my brother Wallace's unit in Vietnam, Colonel. I thought Lieutenants Vukovic and Graves did an excellent job."
Vukovic. Sometimes she wished the General didn't have such a soft spot for the Lieutenant. "Really, sir? I heard that Lieutenant Graves did most of the work-"
"Who told you that Colonel?" he said sharply.
Mac swallowed her fear. "Actually Sir, Lieutenant Vukovic did. I pressed him for details after he got back. He admitted to me that he really hadn't wanted to pursue any of this, but Lieutenant Graves was determined to find the answer your brother needed."
"Mac, I had no idea; why didn't you tell me about this sooner?" Mac could tell the Marine JAG was unsettled by this revelation and figured a certain playboy naval Lieutenant was in for some rough seas in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, a certain female naval Lieutenant who had been looked upon as flaky, would be seen in an entirely different light when she sent in her next request to be transferred to JAG Headquarters.
Mac the attorney knew when she had the upper hand and she didn't rest on her laurels either. "Sir, if Captain Rabb had been with her, it wouldn't have taken nearly as long to find Elroy Johnson and he may have been able to convince the man to positively identify his brother, for posterity's sake."
"You don't know that, Colonel," returned Cresswell, sounding somewhat defensive of the two young JAG attorneys' efforts.
"Sir, I watched the Captain do this time and time again with people most others had given up on. I feel confident that he would have been able to convince Mr. Johnson to give the DNA sample needed."
"You do," Cresswell said dully. Mac could tell she had his attention now.
"Yes sir, I do."
"Well Colonel, based on your level of confidence and history of experience with the Captain, I'm inclined to believe you. However, Captain Rabb was taking care of Ms. Grace during that period. I'm sure you remember that I told him to take all the time that he needed with her. Also, I believe I had you two involved in another case."
Lieutenant Chang's Courts Martial. He had her. Even Harm couldn't be in two places at once righting wrongs. "Yes sir, you did and we were."
"Colonel, I'm-" he was about to break off this conversation. Mac had one last hope.
"Sir, was there anything in the notes regarding the Captain's efforts to help any Vietnam veteran that came into our office?"
"I remember seeing notes to that affect…." Cresswell said slowly, not really wanting to continue this conversation any longer. He had a lot of work to do and the early morning was getting away from him.
"Harm did some extensive research about his father's mission and the Vietnamese Prisoner of War camps, Sir. He and Admiral Chegwidden had a shared interest in finding out about any Americans that had been kept by the Vietnamese after the end of the war."
She wondered if the General had taken the time to learn about her predecessor since he had already been retired nearly ten months when he took over the reins.
"I knew about Admiral Chegwidden's participation in Operation Phoenix," he answered evasively. "I-"
Mac felt she was winning him over. "Sir, I know you are worried about your brother and his reoccurring nightmares. It might do your brother some good to talk with the Captain. He's helped many Vietnam veterans over the years…."
Mac thought about Paul Bauer, Roscoe L. Martin and the countless others Harmon Rabb had helped directly and indirectly over the years. She also knew that Harm had struck up a warm relationship with Gunnery Sergeant Anderson, the administrative head of his office, because the old Gunny was veteran of that war as well.
"So why the call Colonel?" Mac's heart sank. He hadn't made the connection.
Marines don't retreat, she told herself, they just advance in a different direction. "Well Sir, I just felt I owed it to Harm and I thought if I could improve relations between my husband and the JAG-"
"-it might be better for everyone involved?" he finished for her.
"Yes sir," she said sheepishly.
"I see…well Mac, I appreciate your honesty and just to let you know, I did talk with your husband before he left for London."
"You did, sir?"
"Yes Colonel, he asked me 'why San Diego and London'?"
Mac had to know the answer as well. "And?"
"I told him that Admiral Chegwidden had mentioned there was a certain couple in the office that had worked together for a number of years, but now personal feelings were starting to surface."
"I see…." Why hadn't Harm mentioned this to her? Moreover, she thought that Gordon Cresswell had never met with Albert Jethro Chegwidden, let alone talked with him.
"He figured his presence had been part of the reason for them denying their feelings for a number of years but also that maybe they needed some space to figure out where they wanted this relationship to go. I took it from there."
"And the orders for alternative postings that you presented to us the night we announced our engagement?"
She could picture General Cresswell's sly smile again on the other end of the line. "I like to be prepared, Colonel, I am a Marine, after all."
She should have known. "Yes sir," she said stoically.
"So Mac, now that you know about this, do you feel better?"
"A little, sir," she hedged.
"Well let me tell you something else that might help. When I talked to the Admiral, I told him I had already talked to Commander Turner in order to get a feel for the office environment but I wanted to know his impressions."
"You did sir?" Mac was flabbergasted.
"Yes Colonel," Cresswell said evenly. "Does this surprise you?"
"Uh…no sir, not at all…."
"Uh huh…." said Cresswell in a tone that telegraphed that he didn't believe her. Now it was his turn to go on the offensive. "Well anyway, would you like to know what he said about your husband?"
"Well General-" she began. She remembered the Admiral's feelings toward Harm after he left to rescue her and way he treated him when she and former naval aviator came back into the office. Would AJ Chegwidden continue his grudge against Harm?
"He told me the Captain leaned toward impulsiveness and tended to think more with his heart than his brain, but if you needed someone to find the truth in a case, you couldn't have a better man."
The truth. The Marine attorney was pleasantly surprised.
"Do you want to know what he said about you, Colonel?"
Mac was the epitome of verboseness.
"Well I…that is, um, well…."
"He said that you were rational and logical, unless dealing with a case that involved you emotionally, then you became headstrong and stubborn. He also said you could be a little straitlaced, but that he knew if he gave you a job, you would move heaven and earth to get it done."
Another honest assessment. Less than flattering, but not totally bad.
"He also told me, Colonel, that you both were excellent lawyers, the best he had ever worked with."
Whatever excuse she was going to make was knocked out of her mind by that last comment. She sat there, not believing what the man had told her.
The General could tell he had thrown her off her track. Now he wanted to make her feel better.
"By the way, Colonel Benton told me you had some surgery in the late fall…."
Mac instinctively put her hand to her still flat stomach. "Yes sir, and it was very successful," she said with a smile, forgetting what he had told her moments before.
He was glad she was happy. She and the Captain deserved it. "I'm glad to hear it, Sarah, couldn't happen to a nicer couple."
Mac was touched by the tenderness of his comment. "Thank you, General."
"Just one thing, Colonel,"
A mischievous gleam grew in his eye. "If it's a boy, consider 'Biff' as a nickname…."
Mac beamed at the suggestion. "Yes sir, we will."
"Good. And Mac, tell Commander Roberts to give me a call as soon as he arrives. I know that the Roberts family is supposed to arrive at your place this evening…."
Was there anything this man didn't know? "I will sir."
At that moment, Mac took her attention away from phone as she listened to Mattie hobbling with her cane down the hall toward the front door.
"Mac!" she cried excitedly, "Guess who's back!"
Sarah MacKenzie's heartbeat quickened. He wasn't supposed to be back yet. "General, could you hold on for a moment?"
Without being told, Gordon Cresswell could guess from Mac's voice what was taking place. "Certainly Colonel…."
Mac pressed a button, putting the General on hold. In the hallway, she could hear Mattie opening the door.
"Hey Matts," he said tenderly as he came inside and closed the door to keep the heavy wet snow from coming in.
Despite her cane and brace, Mattie embraced the Force Judge Advocate in a fierce hug. He returned the hug, melting snow dripping off his dark blue greatcoat.
Harm looked up when he felt her presence. Mac gave him a warm smile. "Welcome home, Sailor."
"Hey Marine," he said quietly. Mac came over and joined them in a group hug.
"Hey," Mattie complained good-naturedly looking up at both of them, "Temporary cripple being crushed in this group hug!"
"Sorry Mattie," Mac said softly as she quickly looked down at her and then back into the Captain's gorgeous blue eyes. Then she remembered the General was still on the phone.
Harm gave her that irrepressible grin as Mattie began to let go of him.
"Hmmm," Mattie broke her embrace with the Captain, "Looks like you two need to talk, so I'll just hobble back down the hall to my room." she added with mock superciliousness, while giving both of them a wink.
"Okay Matts," Harm returned good naturedly. "Jennifer will be here in a little while to take you to therapy…." he called out after as she left the two soldier/attorneys alone.
"Cool," said Mattie as she made her back down the hall.
Harm looked back at Mac. "What's up, Marine?"
Mac bit her lower lip and looked up at Harm. "General Cresswell is on the phone for you." She said in half-lie.
The former Top Gun's smile melted. "Uh oh," he said under his breath.
"Relax Navy, it's nothing like that…." she said as she gave him a reassuring hug.
"Which phone?" Harm asked. The Force Judge Advocate was clearly concerned as to what his boss might be calling him about so close to Christmas.
"Mine, in the living room." she replied.
Harm, giving her a quick squeeze back, walked over to the sofa and the waiting cell phone.
He picked it up. "Good morning General," he said quickly "Mac said you wanted to talk to me, Sir?"
Mac stood at the entrance to the living room, her arms folded across her chest, watching as Harm stood framed against the elegantly decorated Christmas tree in one corner and the roaring fireplace in the other corner.
She listened as he talked with the Marine JAG. Mac saw her husband's expression as it changed from gnawing dread, to cautious optimism, to a full blown Flyboy smile. Mac's heart leapt as she watched the change and saw him visibly relax.
"Yes Sir, I'd be honored to talk with your brother. I'd be happy to help any way that I can," he said into the phone looking back at MARFOR Europe's assistant legal counsel. She smiled brightly at him.
"Thank you Sir, you have a Merry Christmas too…."
Harm cut the connection and looked again at Mac. He gave her his best cross- examination stare.
"Okay Colonel," he said with a hint of sternness in his voice, "What's going on?"
Mac walked into his embrace. "Call it a Christmas wish fulfilled, Captain Rabb." She buried her face against his warm body. Harm slowly returned her hug. As he did, a grin spread across his face.
TO ALL OUR BRAVE SOLIDERS, AVIATORS, SAILORS AND MARINES SERVING HERE AT HOME AND OVERSEAS, A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!