"Think about it, Tim! This is the greatest fairy tale ever. This is a little girl. And her dad leaves, and then he lives on the streets, and then he dies. And she's never gonna see him again. She's never gonna get to say . . .all the things that a daughter wants to say to her father. And then she grows up, and she has a child of her own. And then wonder of all wonders, he comes back from the dead, and they get reunited. On Christmas!" (Abby, Silent Night)

Sugar Plum Fairies and Dreams Come True

By Jaz

'Silent Night' Episode Summary: An old rival of Tony's enlists the team's help to find a former Vietnam veteran suspected of murdering an older couple at whose home he'd been working. The veteran supposedly died in a fire at a homeless shelter years ago, but it turned out the body had been misidentified. Believing his ex-wife and young daughter would be better off in receiving his death benefits than having him around, he dropped off the radar. Once Team Gibbs has the man in custody, Abby, in the spirit of the season, decides to let the man's daughter know he's still alive, and the woman comes to NCIS to try and visit her father, who refuses. The NCIS investigation revealed the crime was actually committed by the security personnel guarding the home, and the Vietnam vet was cleared. At the end of the episode, Gibbs takes the reluctant man to meet his daughter, giving Abby her Christmas miracle.

Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, and no money is being made (much to my husband's dismay.)

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Gibbs brushed the snowflakes off his jacket as he stepped off the elevator. He realized he was taking a chance coming back to the office, knowing that DiNozzo had somehow managed to commandeer MTAC for a team viewing of "What A Wonderful Life." He wasn't sure he wanted to join them. His people deserved it though. Working straight through the holiday, bringing resolution as quickly as they could to the case, and none of them doing more than some good-natured grumbling about being forced to work. Only Director Vance had taken off, though come to think of it, he was the only one with a semblance of a normal family life.

'Normal family life' – now that was a phrase not often used in conjunction with his team. McGee came closest. He at least had a family, not that he saw them that often. Same with Abby, and Ducky had his mother. Ziva's family was beyond the epitome of dysfunctional, and half a world away.

DiNozzo rivaled himself in aloneness. Maybe even surpassed him; after all, Gibbs had at least tasted what DiNozzo never had. Not even as a child. It was a wonder DiNozzo enjoyed Christmas as much as he did.

Gibbs sometimes wished he could follow the younger man's example. Christmas was always a difficult time of year for the former marine. The emphasis he saw everywhere on family only served as a reminder of everything he'd lost. He did his best to shut out the seasonal reminders whenever possible, and yet he still found himself down in his basement late at night, thoughts of Shannon and Kelly running through his mind. The delight that would show on Shannon's face when she managed to surprise her husband with a gift that was perfect for him. The joy in Kelly's eyes that year he'd made it home from his deployment on Christmas Eve – she'd been convinced that Santa had personally delivered her father to her.

So many memories. Good memories, and yet ones that hurt all the same. Because all they did was remind him that family was one thing he'd never have again. Despite his attempt to recapture what he'd had with Shannon with the poor substitutes he now referred to as ex-wives, he'd never once tried to recreate his family.

It just wasn't possible.

So he lived with the reminders, feeling them all the more painfully at this time of year, and he tried to fill the emptiness with work. This year had actually been a blessed relief in that respect. Now, here at the end of Christmas Day, he could look forward to going home and waking up tomorrow, and it would all be over.

This year had been a bit easier in another way as well. Talking to his father had filled one small hole in a canvass of a life that had more holes than substance, but it had been a start. Better than last year, at least. He was grateful that his father was back in his life.

This whole case had brought its own reminders of fathers and children, watching the difficult adjustment Ned Quinn faced in becoming part of his daughter's life once again. Gibbs felt again the sharp pang of pain he'd experienced in the car with Quinn. He'd told the veteran that he would give anything to have the chance Quinn had – to be able to hug his own little girl just once more. Truer words had never been spoken.

His Kelly had always been his pride and joy. There was something about her, a light in her eyes, an energy about her, a life full of laughter and happiness. Despite having a dad who was away far more than any child should have to deal with, she'd always been positive and upbeat. He wondered again what she would have been like as an adult.

Gibbs thought he knew, at least to an extent. Abby had that same childlike faith in him that Kelly had always shown. It was one of the reasons Gibbs was able to relate to his forensic lab tech in a manner that few others even saw, and none experienced first hand. Abby still believed in miracles and happy endings. It was why Gibbs couldn't possibly stay mad at her for meddling in the relationship between Quinn and his daughter. It was why Gibbs had taken Quinn to Melissa's house tonight to begin with.

McGee had told him how Abby had been in the viewing room as she tried to convince Tim to allow Melissa to visit her father. Tim had described the scene to Gibbs with his writer's way with words – Abby's shimmering eyes, filled with hope and fairy tales as she talked about the greatest Christmas present ever. Gibbs hadn't even been there, and he could still picture the look on Abby's face as if he'd seen it himself.

And perhaps he had, on the face of his daughter the night she thought Santa had brought her daddy home.

He prayed Abby would never lose that special part of herself. He depended on it too much. Having Abby in his life was like having a small part of his daughter back. She could never be Kelly. But she was special in her own right, and Gibbs was grateful for her friendship.

Gibbs glanced up at the sound of footsteps to see DiNozzo entering from the rear of the bullpen. He watched the agent pull up slightly, obviously surprised to see his team leader back in the office.

"Hey, Boss," he greeted. "I thought you went home already."

Gibbs gazed at him impassively, not bothering to respond to what was obviously a question. His gaze flickered briefly up to MTAC. "Movie over already?" he asked.

Tony walked the few remaining steps to stand in front of Gibbs' desk. "No. I, uh, just had to run out for a sec and find some tissues for Abby. The petals fell off of Zuzu's rose," he explained, apparently believing that statement would make some sort of sense to Gibbs.

Gibbs merely nodded, returning his attention to the reports on his desk. After a minute or two, he became aware that his Senior Field Agent had not moved on, but stood somewhat uncertainly, as if waiting for something. He raised his eyes again. "What?" he snapped, the word coming out harsher than intended.

"Nothing," Tony hedged. "Was just wondering if you were going to watch the rest of the movie with us. Got popcorn," he bribed.

Gibbs sighed. He didn't need this tonight. "Nah. You guys go ahead. I'm just going to finish up here and head home."

If he hadn't been looking directly into the younger agent's face, he'd have missed it – the flash of disappointment that was gone before it even really existed, replaced carefully with a smile that never quite touched the hazel eyes before him.

"Sure thing, Boss. Careful driving in that snow, though, huh? Especially with the way you drive," he grinned, turning to head toward the stairs, the moment's disappointment apparently already tucked away and forgotten.

As Gibbs watched him go, his hand brushed against a rolled up piece of paper he'd placed on his desk only a few moments ago, and he reached for it now, opening it to see the faces of his team as captured by Quinn. He felt a smile form as he let his gaze roam over each of their likenesses, drawn in such a way that his own image seemed to be looking out protectively over them all. Curious how that truth could be perceived by a stranger who had spent only hours in their company.

Or perhaps not that unusual. Gibbs made no secret of the fact that he would do whatever necessary to keep his team safe and whole, both physically and emotionally. He stared down at the faces on the paper, committing them to memory as they'd been drawn.

They'd never replace Kelly and Shannon in his mind, in his life.

But they were family, all the same.

He rolled the paper and put it to the side of his desk, pushing himself to a standing position and moving quickly through the bullpen. "DiNozzo," he barked out.

The other man stopped on the first landing of the stairway and turned towards him expectantly. "Yeah?"

Gibbs rounded the corner. "Wait up."

Tony's face broke into a true grin.

Gibbs caught up and they climbed the remaining steps side by side. "Popcorn?" he confirmed.

DiNozzo waggled his eyebrows, eliciting a smile from the older agent. "Caramel, Boss. DiNozzo family tradition," he confided. "You've seen this movie, right? It is without a doubt the greatest Christmas movie ever made, though 'Miracle on 34th Street' is considered a close second by some. The original, of course, not the remake, made in 1947, only one year after 'It's a Wonderful Life,' which had to have been Frank Capra's signature piece as a director . . ."

Gibbs nodded, hearing the sounds of the movie through the open door of MTAC filter in with DiNozzo's running commentary. He stepped into the room and took note of his team as they watched the black and white film. Ziva and Abby together in the front row, tear tracks still embedded in Abby's makeup even though she was laughing at Ziva's confusion regarding the movie's plot. McGee and Ducky directly behind them, Tim listening with half an ear to Ducky's comments on what life was like in the forties. He smiled inside as he took in the sight before him. It might not be a wonderful life.

But on nights like these, it wasn't half bad.

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