It's Christmas Eve down here in Australia, and while my original plan was to post this after Christmas, I figured may as well give you all a Christmas Present. :) Now, why don't we return the favour by reviewing... :p

Seriously guys, enjoy the chapter and Merry Christmas!

There are one or two slight changes of POV in this one, I hope its not too confusing…


Vance strode out of MTAC, glad to finally have finished that conference. With that over and done with then they could finally put the case behind them. Well, not completely. There was still Gibbs hand to serve as a reminder, which was slowly but surely healing. There was also some lingering paperwork left to be filled in but, all in all, the case had been completed.

Vance stopped at the railing that looked over the squadroom, leaning on both hands as he surveyed them, his actions similar to the ones he had taken very early that morning. In contrast to that time, the squadroom was a bustle of activity.

Murder, robbery, espionage, terrorism… all of it was being dealt with in that one room.

Vance scanned the room but quickly found his gaze drawn, almost unwillingly, to the same bullpen that had attracted his attention the last time he had done this.

But this time was far different from the last.

Yesterday, it had been silent, and the only person there had been DiNozzo, working on who-knows-what. Now, the entire area had an energetic feel to it as all four agents 'worked'. Vance wished he knew how those agents managed to get all their work done on time considering the fact that none of them appeared to do any of it. They were always talking or arguing about one thing or another, or, in DiNozzo and Davids case, flirting.

Although, he mused, that might explain why DiNozzo was here at 0200.

He headed down the steps slightly hesitantly, not even knowing why, as half-formed plans ran around in his head and disappeared just as quickly as they appeared. He didn't know why, but he wanted to know the justification behind Gibbs' decisions. Why was he so adamant on this team, and DiNozzo in particular? And why the hell did DiNozzo insist on playing up as a frat boy who had little military experience when he was an experienced ex-cop that had attended a military academy?

Vance scowled, wondering if Gibbs insisted on this particular team just to annoy him, or any other person who happened to work with them.

"Can we help you, Director?" Ziva's cultured tones interrupted his musings and with a start he realized that he was standing in the middle of their area. DiNozzo and McGee were looking at him curiously, while Gibbs was just staring, still drinking his coffee.

"Uh… I just wanted to check that all the paperwork from the previous case has been completed," Vance covered quickly, saying the first thing that popped into his head, despite the fact that he knew all the paperwork had been handed in – he had gone through it all yesterday, before his little 'conversation' with DiNozzo in the elevator.

"We sent all of ours up yesterday," DiNozzo said, slightly icily, looking him in the eye. From his peripheral vision, Vance could see Gibbs shoot DiNozzo a look that he couldn't really decipher. Going by what he knew of Gibbs' personality, he would have said anger, but Gibbs never really made sense when it came to his senior field agent.

"Uh, I think Ducky should have finished the autopsy by now… I can check if he's finished the report, if you like," McGee offered, looking at Tony slightly curiously, wondering why he was so tense and angry. The junior agent knew that Vance and Tony didn't have the best relationship – Tony and Director Shepard didn't either, in the beginning. But he didn't think Tony had ever been like this with her. This was different. Tony was never like this, if he had a problem then he always hid behind jokes or his obscure movie references. McGee was pretty sure that the only time he had ever seen Tony this tense was right after he had broken up with Jeanne.

Gibbs was thinking along the same lines as McGee, surveying his senior field agent with a slight frown. But what his junior agent wasn't seeing was the small, tell-tale signs of anger evident.

He had noticed the same thing yesterday – but then he had been pretty sure it had been directed at him, for not telling Tony and Ziva the full plan about Domino. The younger man had felt used, but he had shouted it out, both down in autopsy, and then later when he had showed up at his house at 0300 early this morning.

Gibbs had let his senior agent shout out his feelings, knowing that the younger man had felt used. He had known Tony and Ziva would be mad at him, but this way he could keep them safe in some way (although, that plan backfired, he thought ruefully, recalling their injuries).

What he hadn't expected last night (or this morning, if he wanted to get technical) was the intensity of the anger, and the reference to his father. DiNozzo never mentioned his father – not in that sort of context. The only times he ever did were as humourous asides to a case, although if they were really thought about they were hardly funny at all.

And while relationships between his senior field agent and the new director had been strained right from the beginning, this was bringing things to a whole new level. Gibbs' gut was telling him that the two things were interrelated.

"I will go down and see Dr Mallard in a moment," Vance told McGee, noting that he did actually need to see the Medical Examiner. "What are you working on at the moment?" he asked, noting that his attempt at appearing natural was failing dismally as the three agents looked at each other, looking confused. Gibbs just continued to stare at him with that unnerving blue glare. Vance looked away, uncomfortable. It was times like these that he could understand why Gibbs was so good at interrogation.

After the tenseness in the air reached an all time high, Ziva finally answered, "We are simply completing all paperwork that has… sticked up, yes." She referred the final part of her statement to Tony.

"Stacked up," he corrected not taking his eyes off Vance, but his tone softening slightly and the some of the care-free air that he usually carried around returning at the normal banter that he and Ziva usually shared. Vance noted that, although he was obviously still mad at him, DiNozzo looked a lot lighter then just several hours ago, and he wondered what had occurred in that time.

"A good idea," Vance agreed, then searched his mind to say something to avoid lapsing back into the uncomfortable silence.

"Yes, I still have a fair amount from a previous case," Ziva continued, obviously also not wanting the tense silence.

"Which case?" McGee asked her awkwardly, inwardly wondering what the heck was going on today.

"The Carson one," Ziva answered, relaxing slightly as the normal bullpen conversations resumed. The only thing that was missing so far was Tony's comments…

"That's because you killed like, three people during that case," Tony told her, settling back in his chair, obviously enjoying the normal banter though still wary with an audience intruding upon it, Vance noted.

"That should mean nothing," Ziva complained. "Honestly, I do not understand your country. If you kill somebody then they are dead. That is it. You should not have to fill in fifty different forms on how or why and whatever else it is."

"That would be the wonders of bureaucracy," Tony said, smiling at her.

"I'm going down to see Ducky," Gibbs interrupted them, not bothering to tell them off for the banter as he sometimes did. They weren't working a case and after the heavy load they had been lifting in the last few weeks they deserved some downtime. "Joining me, Director," he asked pointedly.

Vance nodded, remembering that he did have a job to do and that it didn't involve working out the mystery that was Anthony DiNozzo.

He went with Gibbs to the elevator, hearing the three agents immediately start talking, most likely about what was up with him. If he was being honest with himself, he wanted to know the answer to that as well.

The elevator was shrouded in a tense silence for several seconds after the doors closed behind them – until Gibbs flipped the emergency switch. Vance blinked in surprise – numerous complaints about the elevator had led to his knowledge of this particular method of Gibbs', but he'd never actually had it used against him.

"You wanna tell me what's going on between you and my senior field agent, Leon," Gibbs said calmly, pinning him with that blue eyed stare.

"What makes you think theres anything going on?" Vance returned calmly.

"You appear in my area questioning my agents, and DiNozzo's angry at you," Gibbs listed, not budging an inch on the topic.

"We… talked a little last night," Vance admitted, but wasn't willing to reveal anything else.

Gibbs narrowed his eyes, obviously trying to connect the dots.

"You told me to look beneath the surface, Gibbs," Vance pointed out, "I want to know more about the kid, and he doesn't exactly make it easy."

Gibbs smirked at that, but his eyes still held suspicion – the senior agent knew that he wasn't being told the full story. "That part we can agree with. You talked to him last night?" Gibbs clarified, suddenly having a feeling that he had worked out what was going on.

"That's what I said," Vance nodded, wondering where Gibbs was going with this. "For the record, you may want to tell him to lay off on the night hours." He was expecting Gibbs to be surprised at the discovery that his senior field agent was coming back to work in the middle of the night (defying his direct orders in the process). He should have known that he'd get a different response.

"He does his best work at night," Gibbs said dismissively. "What did you talk about?"

"Why are you so curious?" Vance rebutted snappily, annoyed that Gibbs seemed to know everything that was bothering him so much. And exactly how often did DiNozzo come in at night? It didn't seem to surprise Gibbs, but how did DiNozzo juggle all those women of his and come into work in the middle of the night?

Gibbs glared in annoyance but relented, saying, "Because he seemed angry when he finally got to my place last night. I'm guessing it's got something to do with what you talked about."

"Wait, he went to your place last night?" Vance asked incredulously. Gibbs was not the type to socialize with his people outside of work. Or at least he didn't usually.

Gibbs just glared, his patience clearly at its end.

"We were talking about Christmas plans," Vance said, but before he could continue and just make Gibbs tell him everything about DiNozzo (being the Director meant he had many different torture methods – he could make him organize the Christmas party, give a sexual harassment lecture, be in charge of 'Probie Day'… the possibilities really were endless.) However, before he had the chance Gibbs swore and flipped the emergency switch, bringing the elevator back into motion.

The senior agent gave no explanation as he just stepped out at the next floor they came to.

Vance hit the button for autopsy, perhaps a little harder then necessary in his frustration. This was getting ridiculous. It was a little late, but Gibbs could still plan the damn Christmas party.

Muttering viciously, Vance stepped out of the elevator as it stopped on the bottom floor, nearly giving Palmer a heart attack as the assistant left for his break.

Vance stopped and gathered himself, schooling his features to a neutral expression so as not to give his emotions away. He entered autopsy, nodding to Dr Mallard with a "Good Morning."

"Ah, Good morning, Director. I assume you want the autopsy results?" Mallard said to him, turning around on his chair away from his desk where he had apparently just been talking to Miss Sciuto. "I just finished the report."

Mallard handed him the report and Vance paged through it, not really paying much attention as his mind was still preoccupied with earlier events.

"That looks fine, Doctor," Vance said, planning on looking through it more thoroughly later. "Anything important that you and Miss Sciuto were discussing?" he asked, nodding towards the screen on the desk that was used for video conferencing between the morgue and the lab.

"Hm? Oh, no," the doctor admitted, seeming slightly embarrassed, "We were actually discussing our holiday plans."

"Any particular plans?" Vance asked, slightly more interested. Knowing Sciuto, she probably knew all of their plans – including DiNozzo's.

"Most likely the usual," the doctor said cheerfully, eyes lighting up like light bulbs. "Christmas Eve at Jethro's house with the rest of the team and then Christmas Day with my mother. Perhaps I will also join the team for a Christmas Dinner as well."

Vance looked at him in surprise. "You spend Christmas together? Doesn't the team spend enough time together already; wouldn't they want to spend time with their family?"

"Ah," Mallard said, now looking slightly upset. "Unfortunately, most of the team don't have much, if any, contact with their family. Abby and Timothy are the only ones with good relationships, but their families live quite far away. I believe Timothy will spend Christmas day with his sister, but other then that, we really only have each other."

"What about DiNozzo and David?" Vance asked, getting the feeling that he was getting closer to what he wanted to know, and what had annoyed DiNozzo so much the night before.

Mallard hesitated, debating with himself whether or not to talk about this. After a moment of deliberation, he decided to tell him so that the Director would understand something more about the Major Crimes Response Team. The doctors entire career had focused on discovering knowledge, finding things out and he sympathized with the annoyance felt when you couldn't work something out.

On the other hand, he also realized the benefit of Vance understanding the team, knowing it would be better for all involved.

"Ziva has very little contact with her family," the Scottish man explained, "Her siblings are dead, and she had a falling out with her father which have led to quite tense relations between them."

Vance had known that Zivas father was her only living relative, but he hadn't realized that the relationship between them was so tense. Eli seemed perfectly fine when talking about her…

"What about DiNozzo?" Vance asked, brow furrowed.

"Ah," Mallard said, wincing slightly, "His mother is long dead, I'm afraid. And his father… well… the relationship there… I believe Abby claims that Anthony's father makes Jethro look like a lovable puppy in comparison. I don't believe they have spoken since Anthony was disowned and told his father he was going into sports. I believe the man was even less thrilled when he discovered that his son was going to go into law enforcement."

Vance looked at him, realizing that he must look somewhat idiotic, but not particularly caring. "DiNozzo was disowned?" And his mother was dead? He remembered asking whether the ex-cop was going to be spending Christmas at the 'family mansion', and the reaction that he had gotten.

Apparently he had just discovered why.

"Yes, many years ago, now," Mallard confirmed, looking a little surprised. "I would have thought you had already known that."

Vance opened his mouth, meaning to say something to defend himself (though not really knowing what) when they were interrupted by Sciuto over the video conference screen, saying "Ducky, Ducky, Ducky!"

"One moment, my dear," Mallard said to her, turning back to the Director.

"I'll leave you to it, Dr Mallard," Vance said, nodding to him sharply, glad that the goth forensic scientist had called at that moment so he didn't have to say anything.

He walked out of autopsy and pressed the button for the elevator on autopilot. DiNozzo had been disowned? That idea honestly shocked him. He'd had no idea Tony had had such a difficult life. It also explained why he sought approval so much – he had never gotten it from his father.

He wondered how old Tony was when he had lost his mother, and whether it had effected his decision to go into law enforcement.

Vance walked into the elevator, hitting the button for the top floor, still thinking about the agent that he finally had some real answers about. If not enough, then still something.

The Director walked out of the elevator, brow furrowed as he continued to muse about the agent. He knew one thing – he sincerely doubted he'd overlook the senior agent any time soon.

He stopped and, for the third time that day, leaned on the balcony that surveyed the squadroom. This time, his gaze immediately went to the Gibbs' area, watching the best MCRT in the agency.

Ziva and McGee were missing (coffee run?) and the two senior agents were talking quietly. As Vance watched, he could see Gibbs leaning back on his heel slightly, and bringing his right hand up. Expecting to see a headslap that Gibbs seemed to favour (though he hadn't actually seen much of them lately) he was surprised to see Gibbs pat Tony on the back of head.

As he watched, Ziva and McGee returned (confirming his suspicions with the coffee cups and paper bags they carried, emblazoned with the emblem of the teams favourite coffee shop.) He could see Ziva hand Tony his coffee and something from the bag, with McGee doing the same with Gibbs. In astonishment, he saw DiNozzo laugh out loud, wondering how he had cheered up so fast.

Just a short while ago, DiNozzo had been angry enough that his considerable undercover skills hadn't managed to hide it. Now, he seemed perfectly happier – a lot more like Vance would have expected him to have at this time of year.

He watched as Abby joined them up in the bullpen, plunking herself down on DiNozzos lap and stealing McGee's coffee as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

He heard Ducky's words about their Christmas plans floating though his head as he watched the whole team laugh, and Ziva reach across Tony's desk to tweak his nose with her index finger.

It was in that moment that Vance realized something. The way the team interacted with each other, why they spent Christmas together, why Gibbs insisted on this team, why he refused any other agent except DiNozzo.

It was because they weren't just a team.

They were family.


It seems a little cliché, but I go where the muse takes me, and this is where it did. And, well, it is that time of year!

Again, please review, let me know what you thought and have a very Merry Christmas! Wesołych świąt!