AN: Some folks might have noticed how I like to mention characters from other stories. I've done it again, but it really doesn't harm this story if you've not come across Baz before.

Deck The Hall

Epilogue

The Hall was decked for Christmas in a blaze of red, gold and green; the tall Christmas tree outside blazed bravely with its hundreds of tiny golden lights. The cameras lingered on it, and on the animated guests as they arrived, in their best finery, looking forward to the gala occasion. Nobody was unaware of the strange, murderous events of two days ago, and the incredible story of the gold that had been stolen no less than three times, and could be aboard a US Naval vessel, but for the most part, since the killer had been caught, people preferred to look ahead. There would be messages sent to loved ones, some live feeds linked up, and a large screen set up to display them. Tony and Gibbs had spent half of the morning in MTAC, and they were looking forward to the surprise they had planned for Nadia. And tomorrow would be Christmas Day.

Life at the concert hall had returned to normal; the previous day Ziva had checked all the forensic details and handed the sites over to the specialist crime scene cleaners. "You're the only able bodied one amongst us, Probissima, so I'm afraid the job's yours, down time or not."

"I will go, Tony," she told him without complaint, and he wondered if she wondered if she were being tested. He didn't know how to tell her she wasn't; he'd said what he wanted to say and got a satisfactory answer, and that was the matter finished. Nor was he the type, when it mattered, to drag something out in order to get his own way. What was more, if he said something, and the thought that it might be a test hadn't occurred to her, he'd look foolish for suggesting it. Damn, only where Ziva was concerned could things get so convoluted… and was that sentence even more convoluted than the thought? Shut up, DiNozzo.

He had arrived at the DAR Hall around mid-day, having begged a lift from Josh; he'd like to have driven himself, but although Ducky was now allowing him to wear the sling outside his shirt, he'd threatened him with Gibbs if he attempted to take it off, or even adjust it. If he had but known it, the pain that still stabbed Tony when he moved his arm was enough to make him behave. If you must endure pain because you have a job to do, that's OK, but if you don't have to, then you simply don't.

As they crossed the parking lot, they observed outside broadcast units with their satellite dishes on top, and a hive of activity. Tony heard a voice that sounded familiar, turned to see if he could place it, and didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Baz, the young cameraman he'd met in the Virginia town of Bartram, whilst investigating the kidnapping of a Marine's son, was clearly in charge of one unit. His hair was cut a little shorter and tidier, and he wore slacks, a shirt and a tie, instead of the habitual jeans, and he wore a wedding ring. Tony thought sadly of Joanna, the brave, unhappy Sheriff he'd known then; truth was, if a day went by when she didn't enter his head at sometime, he was surprised. For a mean moment he thought of pretending he hadn't seen the young man, and he sighed. He had a scar to match on the other shoulder now, and a permanent one on his heart… no reason to be churlish though.

"Hey, Baz?" The cameraman turned, and smiled when he recognised the agent.

"Tony! Hey, man, what are you doing here?"

"Hi, Baz. I er… I helped to organise it, in a very small way, and I …" he pulled a wry face, "my team investigated the murders." Before they could get too bogged down in all that, he went on quickly, "So what are you doing?"

"Oh, I got a great new job, so I got married… last week – haven't had time for a honeymoon. I'm in charge of the overseas broadcasts, incoming and outgoing."

Tony's face broke into a huge grin. "Really? Well, congratulations on both, and I believe fate has brought us together."

"It has?" Baz gave a mystified grin. The Special Agent pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, and then realised he couldn't write. Damn. Baz saw his dilemma, and reached inside his truck. He pulled out a laptop. "Here, write it down on this."

Tony laboriously typed with his left hand for a while, finishing with "It's a secret." He added aloud, "Hey, quit trying to look, you two!" and Josh and Anne-Marie jumped back with matching guilty grins.

They had chatted for a while, before recalling that they all had things to do, and saying goodbye. As they moved away, however, Baz called Tony back. "Tony…" he said diffidently, "I heard that Joanna was killed. Is it true?"

Tony nodded; he could hardly get the word out. "Yes."

"Oh," Baz said sadly, reading the pain on the agent's face. "I was kind of hoping I'd heard wrong." He flipped a hand in regretful farewell, and disappeared into the truck.

The two youngsters already knew about Joanna, and stayed understandingly silent as they all walked into the building.


The box they all sat in was very crowded; it was meant to seat six in comfort, and there were eleven of them jammed in as the concert finally began. The MCRT were all present, along with Ducky and Abby, the Dread Triumvirate all wanted to be together, and Josh and Anne-Marie wanted to be with their friends.

The orchestra exploded into sound, and the dancers hurtled through a fast, eye-catching routine, dressed in the red, gold and green that was all around the hall. Ducky chuckled; the tune was a very upbeat version of 'Nos Galan', the Welsh tune that was used for 'Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly', and he wondered whose idea that had been. He never found out.

Despite Nadia's nerves, (she kept on looking over to her husband and children down in the auditorium,) the whole spectacular show was going without a hitch. The Russell Burns Band had been unable to find another drummer at such short notice; or at least that was what they said. When Tony heard what they were up to, he thought they probably hadn't even tried, and when the drummer struck up his solo in their third number, and a pair of flashing red drumsticks wove incredible patterns, the gasp of amazement in the theatre was echoed in sitting rooms, on ships, and in military encampments all round the world. Hair neatly pulled back, filling his white tuxedo, Zeke was completely at his ease.

Good wishes to and from service personnel were moving across TV screens all through the broadcast, and from time to time the show would pause, the giant screen would descend from the ceiling, to show live pictures of loved ones serving far away. Gill Cooper brushed tears away; to her this was the most important aspect of the show. She knew how it had felt when her man was away; (and he was gone for ever now,) she wanted to lessen the gulf of distance just a little for others.

Nadia reached over and squeezed her hand; if it hadn't been for people serving far away from home, she didn't know what her fate, and that of her companions, would have been, and the third time that the screen was lowered, she was amazed to hear the voice-over commentator saying that they were about to visit the USS Kearsarge. Everyone in the box looked surprised; except for Tony and Gibbs, who grinned and looked smug. The Captain of the Kearsarge appeared. At the same time Tony and Gibbs left the cramped box to make room for a cameraman and sound man to enter it.

"Now," the Captain said, after sending greetings from his crew, (it seemed as if the entire ship's company was cheering in the background,) "I have a special message for Nadia Forrest, are you there, Nadia?"

Nadia looked into the camera that was suddenly pointed at her, wielded by the head of the overseas broadcast team, and stammered, "Yes, I'm here!"

The Captain, aware that the story was already well known, smiled hugely and said, "Well, Nadia, we found the stolen gold. We have it safe aboard here, and since we also hear that you and your husband fell in love on board our ship, we'd be honoured to have you both as our guests here, as soon as you wish, and we'll then provide the means for you to return it to those it truly belongs to."

To Gibbs and Tony, hovering in the doorway to the box, the gasp from Nadia, and the swell of approval that ran round the auditorium were entirely gratifying.

"Yes," the tiny Romanian woman managed, "oh, yes!"

Tony shook Baz's hand, (awkwardly, left handed,) remembering briefly another time he'd done so, then he pushed the memory aside. "Thanks, Baz. You're a pal."

Baz chuckled. "Hey, it was an exclusive," he said, before hurrying back to his post. Tony went back into the box, to be greeted by Nadia flinging her arms around him. He braced himself, but she had the sense to only squeeze his left side.

"Ach, DiNozzo, it was you, yes? You did this."

"Well, me and the Boss," he told her honestly, and Gibbs was the shocked recipient of a similar tornado hug. He smiled, just a little, and didn't resist.

The show carried on; Marieke van Hoorn, wearing a deep blue dress studded with diamonds, and looking as if she had wrapped the midnight sky around herself, let her radiant voice float out over the spellbound audience; when she fell silent there were about two seconds of stunned silence before thunderous applause erupted.

Sir Quinton played his audience like fishes, making them howl with laughter or wipe tears away, and the Randy Landy Band were loud, passionate, fiery and brilliant. 'Get Your Reindeer off my Roof' got a raucous storm of applause.

Neither the audience, nor many of the staff or organizers knew what to make of it, however, when, as the Landys were taking their final bow, Randy walked to the wings and led Mik van Hoorn back onto the stage. She was wearing a flowing dress of pure crystal white, with deep bell sleeves; with her hair loose round her shoulders, she looked like an angel. The leader of the rock band, alongside her, dressed in black from head to foot, with a few flashes of silver, and his long, curly dark mane also loose and flying as he moved, looked a very handsome devil. The contrast between them was breathtaking, but when June struck up softly on her keyboards, and the two began to sing, their voices could have been born for each other.

The carol was an unusual one, the tune a lullaby in three time, the words old and poetic.

All my heart this night rejoices,

As I hear, far and near,

Sweetest angel voices.

Christ is born, their choirs are singing,

Till the air everywhere

Filled with joy is ringing.

The little frozen ghost of misery that had been sitting on Tony's shoulder ever since he had thought of Joanna was melted away. He felt chills down his spine; he looked at Ziva, sitting next to him, and saw she was absolutely still. He'd heard a few unfortunate attempts to blend musical genres in his time, but this was perfect.

Come then, let us hasten yonder,

There let all, great and small,

Kneel in awe and wonder.

Love Him who with love is yearning,

Hail the star, that from far,

Bright with hope is burning.

He looked at his partner again, and this time she looked back at him. There was the ghost of a tear on her cheek. The corner of her mouth lifted in a tiny smile; he reached over and took her hand, and didn't let go until the carol finished. Under cover of the almost reverent applause, he whispered, "They took your advice!"

Ziva smiled. "Tony, she and I have spent all day scoring DC for that dress."

Scouring, Zi, scouring… hell, who cares?

They sang Silent Night; the audience joined in. They sang O Come All Ye Faithful, everyone else came back on stage to sing with them, and the concert ended in a wonderful burst of song.

The last notes died away, Sir Q gave the goodnights, the audience began to drift away. The performers and everyone else involved went back to the Green Room where food was waiting. Tony was tired; he knew it would be a few days yet before he felt right, so he found a quiet corner and sat down to think. He hadn't organized more than a couple of ideas before Abby and McGee found him. Tim just said, "Let me know when you've had enough, and I'll give you a lift home," then left him alone. The rest of the team joined them, along with the youngsters and Ducky.

"You never told us the gold had been found," Josh said accusingly. "Was that the secret you wrote down for Baz?"

Tony just grinned.

"So isn't anyone going to tell us what happened?"

Gibbs said, "Well, the Captain figured it out for himself. The Kearsarge was a new ship in 1995, so Burns was lucky. An older vessel might have needed major work between then and now, and had things like panels and floors removed. All they did was work out which rooms the band had used, and removed everything they could, until they found the rucksack. We spent half the morning in MTAC, the other half with the Romanian Ambassador. Nadia and Will, perfect couple to take it back, just as she hoped."

"So now we have all the answers;" Tim said cheerfully.

"No," Ziva said fiercely, "we do not."

"We don't?"

"No! Tony was most secretive about something, he wouldn't tell me what he was smiling about –"

"Oh, yes. Said it wasn't his secret," Tim agreed. "Told me to ask Abby." All eyes turned towards the Goth girl, who thought for a moment, then looked appealingly at Gibbs.

The Boss sighed. "Go on, then."

Abby opened her cell phone. After tapping a few keys, she passed the phone round, and they all looked at the photo displayed. Although the snowy beard obscured the face, the bright blue eyes of Santa left no doubt who it was under the hood. The picture brought smiles to all their faces.

"Nice work, Boss," Tim said approvingly, and tried to pass the phone to Tony. The Senior Field Agent was fast asleep, his head lolling sideways against Anne-Marie's shoulder.

"Ssh!" she said quietly.

Gibbs looked at his second in command, his face unreadable. "Let him sleep," he said firmly and stood up, preparing to leave. He reached out and brushed a stray strand of hair out of Tony's eyes. Only Abby heard what he whispered.

"Ho ho ho."

Done. I hope you don't mind it being a bit sentimental. It is Christmas. Soon.