Category: Drama, Romance, JAG/NCIS Crossover
Spoilers: Through "One Shot, One Kill" (NCIS), "Crash" (JAG)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No infringement is intended.
Chapter 19: The Mourning
AJ opened the door to the funeral home and looked around. It seemed like the entire business district of Los Angeles had come to pay their respects.
He signed the guest book quickly. He mentally cursed Coates, the SecNav, and Rabb. Mainly Rabb.
AJ stood in line and waited patiently. Well, as patiently as a man who had just gotten off an airplane could wait. He tried to force his thoughts away from the problems with his staff. Kate needed his support right now.
He made it to the front of the line. Kate stood to the right of an older woman, whom AJ assumed to be her mother. On the other side, a woman--a younger, shorter-haired version of Kate--stood with a red-haired woman. A man as tall as AJ was at the end, a pregnant woman seated beside him. Three children were clustered near them.
Kate shook the hand of the man in front of him. She turned to AJ--and froze. Her eyes widened in shock. She stepped forward and pulled him to the side, allowing the next person in line to go ahead. She swallowed and leaned into his embrace. He hugged her fiercely, allowing her to draw on his strength.
"I'm glad you're here," Kate whispered.
"So am I," AJ replied.
"When--how--" Kate stuttered.
"Porter Webb." Kate nodded in understanding. "I came as soon as I could. I would have been here sooner, but--"
"You're here now."
"Yes. I am." He paused. "Are you going to introduce me to your family?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"They're probably itching to know what's going on," Kate replied. She didn't move, however.
AJ glanced over at the family. The odd curious look was being sent toward them. "Probably."
Kate sighed. "Okay. Let's go." She returned to her place, and AJ stood behind her.
After most of the mourners had left, Kate turned to her mother. "Mother, there's someone I'd like you to meet."
"I'd hope so, Caitlin," her mother replied archly.
Kate rubbed her eyes. "Mom... please."
"Go ahead, dear."
"Mom, this is my... friend, Admiral AJ Chegwidden. AJ, my mother, Grace Todd."
AJ took the woman's hand. "I'm so sorry for your loss, ma'am."
"Thank you, Admiral," Grace replied.
Kate introduced the rest of the family. "My sister, Lisa, and her partner, Kelly; Jeff and his wife, Robin; and their children Peter, Olivia, and Brian."
AJ greeted the others, then turned to Kate. "I should probably go."
"Yeah," Kate said. She drew herself up. "I'll see you tomorrow at the funeral?" Her voice cracked.
"Of course," AJ replied.
The rest of the week was a blur for Kate. Phone calls, funeral arrangements, family reconciliations...
Then, the wake. She hadn't realized how many friends her father had made over the years. William Todd was a well-loved man. She stood by her mother and accepted condolences from what seemed like hundreds of people.
When AJ had shown up, she had been shocked. He had flown 3,000 miles just to support her. She had nearly burst into tears at that... but Todds never showed weakness in public.
The funeral. When Kate was a child, she had taken comfort in the solemn ritual of Mass. However, she could not enjoy it today. When it came time to take Communion, she had nearly choked on the wafer placed in her mouth. It had been difficult to swallow past the lump in her throat.
Years later, the one thing that Kate would remember about that day would be the sound of "Amazing Grace" filling the church. She could nearly feel her mother's hand gripped tightly in hers. That had been her father's favorite song to sing to her mother. He always said that God had blessed him with much Grace.
And then Mass was over, and they made their way to the cemetery. It had been a beautiful day--not a cloud in the sky. The slightest breeze stirred the air. The casket had been lowered. It was over. He was gone.
The family gathered at the house. Kate was pleasantly surprised when her mother invited AJ to join them. He looked slightly uncomfortable, but agreed. Grace had made her request in such a way that it would be incredibly rude to refuse.
Kate couldn't remember the last time the entire family had been in one place. They were spread all over the country. Kate saw a distant cousin from Newfoundland. Make that the continent.
The subdued voices became louder over the course of the evening. Kate's uncle Dan held court in one corner, entertaining the children with stories of his dissolute youth and being scolded by his wife. Paul, her mother's brother, sat beside her mother, talking softly. The younger children were beginning to fall asleep where they sat. People began to trickle out slowly.
"Kate?" AJ said softly behind her. Kate jumped, jolted out of her reverie.
"Hmm?" she murmured.
"I'm gonna get going now."
Kate turned. "We have plenty of room if you'd like to stay. It's getting pretty late."
"Are you sure?" AJ asked.
Kate nodded. "Mom would kill me if I didn't invite you to stay. She'll want to grill you in the morning, anyway. She's worse than Gibbs when it comes to interrogation." Kate smiled.
"Okay, then," AJ agreed. "But you'll have to protect me."
"But why would I want to do that?" she replied, showing the first spark of life she had in days. AJ shook his head and smiled.