Author: CJ aka WritinginCT
Warnings: Mentions of early season 5 episodes (but no significant plot giveaways), angsty at the beginning- followed by full on schmoop
Categories: Romance, Fluff, Comfort
Feedback: Love it? Hate it?
Disclaimer: I don't own the recognizable characters I'm just inspired by them. Hopefully they've had fun playing in my sandbox.
Summary: When Tony tries to hide from painful holiday memories he never expected his own Christmas angel to follow him
Status: Complete 12/21/07- Written for Super-Em as part of the NFA Secret Santa
"Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you?"
- Faith Hill
The closer the holidays got the quieter Tony seemed to get. His normal cheerful banter all but gone; everyone in the office noticed it but left him to himself, they just chalked it up to not everyone liking the holiday season.
He normally would volunteer to work Christmas, providing the needed coverage so that his co-workers with children and families could have the time off. No one ever thanked him for it, it was just something else he did that went unnoticed. But not this year. This year he wanted to go away somewhere and hide. Just get lost for a while and hope that the holidays would just pass him by.
When Gibbs arrived in the office to find a leave request on his desk from Tony, it surprised him. He knew that Tony had been quiet lately, and he sensed that disastrous end to his relationship with Jeanne was a part of it. But not all he suspected. He decided to feel Tony out a little, see where his head was at, make sure he was really as okay as he tried to pretend he was.
Gibbs headed down to Abby's lab, he knew that if Tony had talked to anyone, it would have been Abby. The two of them were thick as thieves.
Getting off the elevator he noticed immediately that something wasn't quite right in the lab, Abby's music was only at a background noise level, not her normal teeth shattering decibel level. She was sitting at her desk, chin propped up on her hand with a sad little look on her face as she looked at something on her computer monitor.
He stepped behind her and placed a gentle hand on her back, "Hey, Abs."
Her wane little, "Hi." that he got in return set off alarm bells in his head. Looks like he had two of his team that had the holiday blues. He glanced at the monitor to see what she was looking at, and they were pictures of past office Christmas parties. Why they would make her sad he didn't know, but intended to find out.
"Whatcha looking at?" he prompted.
"Our past seven Christmas parties."
He pointed a finger at one from three years ago, "I remember that one, that was where Phillips slipped and landed face first in the punchbowl."
He didn't even get a snicker out of Abby, and that particular anecdote generally had them all in stitches just thinking about it.
"Something bothering you?" he asked, giving her shoulder a little squeeze.
"Does Rule Twelve apply to me, Gibbs?"
"It never has in the past, why would it now?"
"I don't know. Just checking I guess."
"So who's in these pictures that's making you unhappy, Abs?"
She shook her head, wanting to drop the subject, and started closing all the pictures. She stood to walk away but he caught her hand, "Abs?"
She didn't turn, didn't face him, just looked at the floor and said quietly, "It's who's missing. It's not important. I've got those DNA results you need."
Abby had refused to say another word about the party pictures so when he reached his desk he did a quick search and found them himself. Doing a quick survey of them looking for faces that should have been there that weren't, he only came up with one. Tony.
He sat back an rubbed his chin, Tony hadn't attended a Christmas party since he started with NCIS. That bothered Gibbs. He also thought back and realized that Tony volunteered to work every Christmas. The leave request on his desk was the first time Tony had ever requested it off. But what did all of this have to do with Abby? And why was she concerned with Rule Twelve in regards to it all? Did her feelings for Tony go beyond friendship?
He didn't quite know what to think of that. There was no one he trusted to keep Abby safe more than Tony. He knew that Tony cared about Abby. He had seen the other man's face when she had been kidnapped and they heard her screaming in the van. He had seen the flint in his eyes when they found out about Mikel. And he knew that Tony had thrown himself on top of her to protect her when Ari had fired into her lab. He also knew that Abby and Tony had gotten each other through the pain of Kate's death. What he didn't know was if Tony cared about Abby more than all that.
Deciding he needed coffee he headed for the elevator. When the door opened Tony was alone in the elevator. He stepped in before Tony could exit and said, "Ride down with me."
As soon as the elevator started down Gibbs flipped the emergency stop switch.
"Is everything alright with you, DiNozzo?"
Tony looked confused, "Yeah, sure I guess. All things considered."
"Got plans for the holidays?"
The light bulb went off over Tony's head, his leave request.
"Yeah. A buddy of mine has a little cabin up in the Berkshires that he's letting me use to get away for a few days."
Gibbs decided to tease Tony and and see what sort of a response he would get, "Taking anyone I know?"
Tony didn't take the bait however, and just said quietly, "Just me. I could use the peace and quiet. It's been a rough year."
Gibbs chuckled, "Now you know why I want a boat." He restarted the elevator but threw out, "We missed you at the Christmas party."
Tony quirked an eyebrow and frowned, "Sorry. Christmas just isn't my thing."
"Between you and Abby people are going to start calling me Scrooge."
"Why? What's up with Abby?" Tony asked, concern apparent in his voice.
The elevator doors opened and Gibbs stepped out without replying.
"Boss? What's wrong with Abby?" Tony almost demanded.
Gibbs plastered an innocent expression on his face and shrugged as the elevator doors closed on Tony.
Tony's hand automatically hit the button that would take him to Abby's lab.
The lack of volume surprised him as it had Gibbs. But Abby was busy at her bench engrossed in the evidence she was processing. He smiled for the first time all day as he watched her. He always felt a sense of wonder and peace when he was with Abby. He couldn't explain it, they were feelings he had experienced every single time he had been around her in the last seven years.
She was his friend, his confidant, his nursemaid when he was hurt, and someone he couldn't imagine not being in his life. She was always there for him. Always.
"Are you staring at me Tony?" she asked without looking up.
"Just like watching a genius at work." he quipped.
"You are so good for my ego." she flashed him a little grin. He could always make her smile, no matter how crummy a day she was having.
She took a moment to look at him with her head cocked sideways. He was wearing his armor today, one of his designer suits. She knew that he wore them when he was being insecure and wanted to present this perfect outside image to the world, even when the inside image wasn't so steadfast.
She noticed the circles under his eyes, he hadn't been sleeping again. Since the bomb took out his car he hadn't slept well. He had confided that to her one night as they crashed on her couch with a tub of strawberry ice cream. And when the movie they were watching finished he was already sound asleep on her couch. She had covered him up and stroked his head wishing she could take away all the pain the undercover op had caused him. Other than Gibbs, Tony was the one solid rock in her life, he was just always there for her. Always.
"So how was the Christmas party?" he knew she had gone. She never missed it.
"Okay, I guess. I didn't stay long." she said quietly.
That was odd, she was normally one of the last ones out the door from what he had heard about past parties. "No fun?"
She wanted to say that it would have been if he had shown up, but instead she just shrugged.
"You heading home for Christmas this year?" Tony knew she hadn't been home for Christmas in a few years.
"No. My folks are going on a cruise." she said turning her attention back to her evidence.
"So you gonna go to Ducky's with everybody else?"
"Probably. I haven't decided yet. What about you, are you working again this Christmas?"
"Not if Gibbs signs off on my leave request."
Her head whipped up, "Why? Where are you going?"
"Just need some down time. A buddy of mine has a cabin up in the Berkshires, he offered it and I figured why not."
She felt her heart sink. Something in his tone told her he wasn't planning on coming back. This had been the longest he had ever stayed in a job and now he was finally moving on. He was going to leave them all. That damn op had broken Tony.
She met his eyes, "Just a few days right?"
He heard the edge of panic in her voice, "I am coming back, Abby."
That tone was still there and she challenged, "Who are you trying to convince? Me or yourself?"
She knew him too well, and although he wanted to break the piercing eye contact that felt like it was looking straight into the deepest part of him, he couldn't. He just answered honestly, "Maybe both of us."
He found himself engulfed in an Abby bear hug a split second later, being squeezed so tightly he could barely breathe. He could hear her voice wavering on tears near his ear as squeezed her back, "You have to come back, please. Promise me you'll come back."
He sniffed, the scent of her odd perfume familiar and comforting. Her name was always at the top of any list of reasons to stay at NCIS he compiled. And she weighed heavier than anything he could think to put in the reasons to leave column. But this time it was all just too much. He needed time away to think things through. To see if there was a light at the end of the tunnel he had been trapped in for the past year.
He tried to swallow down the lump in his throat, and whispered as he squeezed her even tighter, "I promise to try, Abs, that's all I can do."
Three days before Christmas Gibbs again found himself in a quiet lab. He had watched her mope for the past two days since Tony had left for the Berkshires. He had also caught the look between them as Tony had gotten in the elevator to leave. There was something going on that he wasn't aware of. But damned if he knew what it was.
Then he figured it out. He needed something from Tony's desk, and now two days later he couldn't even remember what it was, but when he opened the drawer he realized that Tony had taken all of his personal effects with him. This wasn't a vacation, it was Tony getting ready to move on again. And Abby knew it.
He found her again looking dejectedly at pictures on her computer. This time it was bunch of candid shots that somehow ended up being taken at crime scenes. The batch she was looking at were all of Tony.
She didn't see or hear him approach and he said quietly from the doorway, "Did you ever think of just telling him, Abby?"
She clicked off the computer with a huff. "It doesn't matter anyway. Do you need something? I don't have any pending evidence for you."
"Nope. I just came down to see if you were planning on going to Ducky's for Christmas with the rest of us."
"I don't really have much Christmas spirit this year, Gibbs. I wouldn't be very good company." The little lost look on her face cut into him and he hoped what he was about to do worked, because he didn't know what else to do if it didn't.
He pulled an envelope out of his inner jacket pocket and handed it to her as he turned to leave, pausing at the door to say, "Maybe that's because there's someplace else you're supposed to be." And with that he gave her a smirk and left as quietly as he had arrived.
A look of total confusion on her face, Abby opened the envelope to find a plane ticket to Hartford for the next morning, a reservation for a rental SUV, and maps and directions to get to the cabin where Tony was staying.
There was also a little sticky note in Gibbs' efficient handwriting, "Merry Christmas, Abs. -Gibbs". She actually laughed out loud when she saw the little number twelve that he had written under his name with a big circle around it and a slash through it.
She didn't hesitate, not for a second. She shut her gang down and grabbed her coat and purse, the wheels in her mind spinning. She stopped in the bullpen for a minute, glad to see Gibbs by himself. He smiled as he saw her approach and stood to greet her. Throwing her arms around him in typical Abby style she gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, "Thanks, Gibbs."
"You're welcome, Abby. Merry Christmas."
"It's not a merry Christmas yet, but it will be." She teased with a smile.
It was almost nine o'clock and Tony was crashed out on the couch in the cabin reading a biography about John Wayne when he heard the crunch of tires in the snow outside. Concerned, as his friend had told him no one else was going to be up here, he went and looked out the window to see a dark SUV next to his rental. Someone got out of the driver's side wearing a big puffy parka with a fur trimmed hood that obscured their face in the dim light. It wasn't until the person stepped onto the porch and the light from the porch light lit up a face he knew well that his mouth fell open.
He threw open the door, "Abby? What are you doing here?"
"Spending Christmas with you." She answered very matter-of-factly.
He gave her a pained look, "I don't really celebrate Christmas, Abs. I'm more of a Scrooge than a Cratchit."
"I guess it's a good thing that I have enough Christmas spirit for both of us then. Can we go inside? I'm freezing."
He stood aside and she went in, shucking off the heavy parka and groaning in delight as she saw the fire he had going in the stone hearth. Tony closed the door and flopped back on the couch. "Why are you really here, Abs?
She pursed her lips for a moment as she stared into the fire, needing to say the right things, but not quite knowing how. "Why don't you ever come to the Christmas party or to Ducky's on Christmas day?"
He sighed, "I told you, I just don't do Christmas."
She turned to face him, shaking her head, still not understanding, "But why? I don't understand, Tony. There has to be a reason."
His gaze wandered to the fire and he repeated quietly, "I just don't do Christmas, I don't know how to do Christmas."
Abby crossed the room and perched on the couch next to him, "What do you mean you don't know how?"
He turned to face her with a look of pain on his face, "Abby, you know how I grew up..."
And as if dam had burst inside of him he found himself telling her about how cold and unfeeling Christmases were in the DiNozzo house. Professional decorators came in and dressed the house in boughs and lights, and put up Christmas trees with themes and ornaments he wasn't allowed to touch, or help with. He told her about his nanny being given money to take him to pick out a gift for himself that his mother would say was from her. About how there would be fancy parties and dinners that he wasn't allowed to attend, instead being shuffled off with his nanny to spend Christmas eve watching television in his room. There were no traditions, no visits from Santa, no stockings hung by the chimney with care.
Abby had tears in her eyes when he was done, not of pity, but of a deep sadness that he had missed out on so much. "Oh, Tony..."
As he saw a tear sneak out on her and stream down her face he smiled gently and wiped it away with his thumb. "It's okay, Abby. It was a long time ago. But it's why I don't celebrate Christmas."
She sat there quietly for a moment, just chewing her bottom lip. Then asked, "Christmas isn't all that's bothering you lately though is it?"
She knew him too well he thought. "It's been a rough year, with Gibbs coming back, and the whole thing with Le Grenouille, and with..."
"The thing with Jeanne?" she asked gently. It was a weird thing between them, they could talk about just about anything, except their relationships with other people. She couldn't tell him about Marty, and he couldn't tell her about Jeanne.
"Yeah. I cared about her, Abs. She's a good person and didn't deserve anyone lying to her like I did. The whole thing with her made me realize that there are things I want that I didn't know I wanted. Someone to be with, a family of my own. I'm tired of being alone."
"Yeah. I know what you mean." she said wistfully.
"Sure. I think about about having a family of my own. Finding someone that loves me for who I am. All of who I am. It's just not so easy to find that person."
She sat back on the couch next to him and he autonomously put his arm around her as she snuggled next to him. They both were lost in their thoughts as they watched the fire dance and crackle. He tilted his head and rubbed his cheek in her silky hair and broke the quiet by asking, "So are you going to tell me why you're really here?"
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, it was moment of truth time. "I don't want you to leave."
"I told you I'm working on that. But you knew that already."
"That's not what I meant, I should have said I don't want you to leave me."
Tony twisted around to look her in the eye, "What are you saying?"
She tried to turn away from his inquiring eyes but his hand cupped her chin and wouldn't let her. "What I'm saying is that when I saw your car blow up and we thought you died, I realized that I would never have the chance to tell you. And now I don't want you to leave without telling you."
"Tell me what, Abby?" His eyes searched hers for a clue that what he was thinking she was saying was actually what she was saying. Praying it was. Needing it to be.
"Tell you that I think I'm in love with you. And have been for a really, really long time."
"Abby..." he didn't finish whatever the thought was in his head, he just dipped his head and kissed her.
He felt her hands slip around his neck to pull him closer and when they broke for oxygen they were both flushed and panting, but smiling. She stroked his cheek gently and teased, "We should have done that years ago."
He laughed and wrapped his arms around her and flopped back against the couch back. She cuddled into him like he was her personal teddy bear and he rubbed her back with his hand. He earned a poke to the gut when he said, "You know you deserve someone better than me."
"There is no one better than you Tony, I wish you could see that."
"So where do we go from here?"
"Well, we need to start by getting my suitcase out of the car and the bags from the grocery store I stopped at along the way. Then tomorrow we are gonna go find us a Christmas tree."
"Uh, not to rain on your parade, but we don't have any decorations for said tree."
"Oh, yes we do. I bought popcorn to string and construction paper and stuff to make our own. It will be fun. We'll start our own tradition. And I bought the fixings for Christmas dinner and stuff to make sugar cookies too."
"You really are one of Santa's elves aren't you?" he chuckled.
"No. That would be Gibbs."
"Gibbs? Somehow I can't picture him in pointy elf shoes."
"He bought me the plane ticket and gave me the info to get to the cabin."
"Gibbs knows you're here?"
He groaned, "I'm officially a dead man. You know how he is about Rule Twelve."
She laughed, and the throaty sound washed him in warmth. She extricated herself from him and went over to her parka and fished out of the pocket the envelope from Gibbs. She pulled out the sticky note and handed it to Tony. "I don't think Rule Twelve is a problem."
He laughed when he saw it, a deep, true laugh. Something he hadn't done in so long he had almost forgotten how. He stood up and pulled her to him and claimed her mouth again, learning the taste of her, what she enjoyed and what made her toes curl.
When they parted this time he held her hands and just looked at her face, luminous in the firelight, seeing joy twinkling in her eyes as she watched him. He was pretty sure that the wobbly thing that was his world finally found its axis, its center, the thing that would keep it balanced and spinning smoothly. And it was Abby.
Abby was trying to read what she saw on Tony's face, and it intimidated her. It was a look of awe, and of disbelief, like she was some fey creature that was not of this world. She had never had anyone look at her with such adoration before and she didn't know how to take it.
Finally he said, "C'mon. Let's go get the stuff out of the car."
Tony woke the next morning and cracked an eye, the sun was bright and reflecting off of the snow outside and lighting up the whole room. A gentle smile crossed his face as he nestled in closer to the woman spooned up in front of him. He lifted his head a little and watched her sleep for a moment. And he realized he was wrong last night, she wasn't one of Santa's elves, she was an angel, his very own Christmas angel.
He squeezed her a little tighter and went back to a contented sleep.
They spent the morning outside in the woods searching for the perfect Christmas tree, walking hand in hand and stealing kisses as the cold air turned their cheeks red.
Abby's eyes grew huge and she suddenly went scurrying off to a clearing where a little forlorn pine tree stood. It wasn't symmetrical, had a little bend to its trunk, and in general was just not a fine specimen of the species.
"Abby, that's even worse than Charlie Brown's tree." he said, hoping she wasn't serious about this being the tree she wanted.
"Well you know how that turned out. It's perfect. It has character. We'll make it beautiful." Her mind made up, she stood there as Tony just shook his head and approached the tree with saw in hand.
They managed to drag the thing back to the cabin and get it set up in the rickety little metal stand Abby had bought at the grocery story. It was a good thing the tree wasn't much bigger or else the stand would never have held up.
They spent the rest of the afternoon laughing and teasing as they went about stringing popcorn, making paper chains out of construction paper, and cutting various ornament shapes out of cardboard and covering them with glitter and glue. She really had thought of everything. Pushing their last piece of oaktag towards him she teased, "Here Mister Crime Scene Sketch Artist draw us an angel we can cut out for the top of the tree.
Tony was no where near the sketch artist that Kate used to be, but he did alright for himself. He sat back with the oaktag and with a grin started drawing. Abby was concentrating on her glitter and didn't realize he was taking an awfully long time to draw a simple angel.
She looked up to see him smirking at her and she went over to his side of the table to look at the drawing over his shoulder. She smiled when she saw it. It was an angel alright. With big fluffy wings and a halo right along with its pigtails and pleated mini skirt.
She wrapped her arms around him and kissed his cheek, "I'm no angel."
"Yes you are. You're my Christmas angel."
The sincerity of it almost made her cry, but instead she just kissed him breathless.
They decorated their little tree together, and it really was beautiful when they were through. Tony's angel cut out and edged with glitter graced the top, watching down over them.
Christmas day and the days past it flew by in a wonderful haze of togetherness. The tranquility of the cabin allowed them to get to know each other even better than they had before. They had always known each other well, but now they were learning what it meant to be lovers. And the bond that was forming was a force to be reckoned with.
All too soon it was time to pack and head back to the real world. Abby had lovingly taken down the Christmas tree and carefully packed away all of their hand made ornaments, taking special care with Tony's angel.
When they were all packed and the bags loaded in the car they stood in the doorway looking fondly around the cabin, catching Abby's eye Tony reached out and stroked her cheek, "I love you, Abs."
Abby turned her face and kissed his palm, "That's a good thing since I love you too."
Epilogue - 1 year later
Ducky opened the door to see a smiling Abby standing there.
"Merry Christmas, Abigail! Come in, come in. Everyone is in the lounge."
"Merry Christmas, Ducky! Tony's somewhere behind me with his date." She rolled her eyes playfully.
Ducky eyes twinkled with humor, "We must be kind my dear, it is after all, their first Christmas together."
A moment later Tony stepped onto the porch, a little red velvet wrapped bundle in his arms.
Ducky's smile got even wider, "Ah, our guest of honor has arrived. Merry Christmas, Miss Angela. And to you of course, Anthony."
Tony just beamed. His daughter looking around inquisitively at everything. Nosy as both her parents even at three months old, she was going to be a handful when she started walking.
Abby divested Angela of her red velvet cloak while Tony held her, then smoothed down the emerald green dress that Tony bought thinking it was the exact color of Abby's eyes.
When they all entered the lounge all eyes turned to see them. Choruses of "Merry Christmas" along with hugs and kisses were dolled out and the baby fawned over appropriately so.
Tony took a seat on the couch next to Gibbs and Angela squealed in delight. Her godfather was one of her most favorite people in the whole world and when he held out his hands to her she happily went to sit on his lap. In the process one of her little shoes fell off and Tony attempted to put it back on as she cheerfully kicked her little feet all over the place, enjoying the game and making the light from the candles on the coffee table reflect off of the gold band on his finger that Tony now wore that proudly matched one on his wife's hand.
After a wonderful dinner and dessert Angela started getting a little cranky, so Tony took her into the other room and just walked around, rocking her a bit and just talking in a low voice. He didn't hear Gibbs enter the room until he said, "You're good with her, Tony."
Tony turned to face him with a proud little smile and said quietly, "Yeah, who'd have thought, huh?"
Gibbs stepped over to them and smiled down at Angela dozing on Tony's shoulder, and smoothed down a little lock of her silky hair.
"You know I never thanked you for sending Abby up to the cabin last Christmas, Boss. But I should have, because the things I got out of the deal..."
Gibbs smirked, "You know when I bought her that plane ticket I wasn't expecting you two to bring home a little souvenir." He nodded towards Angela, then continued, "But you're happy, Abby's ecstatic, and Angela...well she's just a gift, Tony, a precious gift. Don't ever take either of them for granted and that will be thanks enough for me."
Tony knew that there was a deep sliver of pain that would always live in Gibbs from the loss of his wife and daughter and now that he had his own family he couldn't even imagine it. He reached out with his free hand and gave Gibbs' shoulder a squeeze, "I won't. They're my angels, Boss, both of them. My Christmas angels."
Gibbs smiled lightly and said, "Why don't you let me take her for a while so you can go back to the party. Sounds like a lot of laughing going on in there."
Tony nodded and passed off the baby, who contently sighed when she realized who was now holding her and promptly went back to sleep. Gibbs took up Tony's route around the room and as Tony paused in the doorway he heard Gibbs' low voice ask Angela, "Did I ever tell you about when your mother handcuffed herself to me?"
Tony just shook his head and joined the others, finding a spot for himself to sit in one of the large wing back chairs. A moment later his cat-like wife had crawled into his lap and laced her fingers with his, never pausing in her telling of a story about some adventure from her childhood.
As he looked around the room, surrounded by their friends, their family, Tony realized that this was what Christmas was all about. Love, companionship, laughter, and as he lazily leaned in to kiss Abby's cheek he realized that somehow he had learned how to do Christmas. And do it right.
I feel you Christmas
I know I've found you