It was funny, really, how so many people saw winter as the coldest season of the year. And certainly it looked that way on the outside; winds roared and snow piled, water froze and breath misted. Hail and sleet fell by turns, and swirled into a slush that coated the ground. If you moved through the months with your eyes on the calendar, counting the days until spring, winter must indeed seem the most unforgiving of times.

But to those who looked closer, winter's heart was the truest warmth that could ever be known. Crackling fires and hot cocoa, lovers finding in each other refuge from the cold...a deep and subtle glow that was more powerful by far than the stark light of any summer's sun.

Yeah, Abby thought, smiling and burrowing still more deeply into the arms of the man who held her. She'd been right all along. Leroy Jethro Gibbs was definitely a winter.