A/N: Thank you for reading! Double thank you for reviewing!
Tim McGee finally hung up the phone. He set down his pencil and ripped out the sheet of notebook paper he had been writing on.
"Alright…" he murmured to himself, rereading the recipe before him. "Mom's famous M&M cookies."
Tim had gathered all the ingredients beforehand, so all he had to do now was preheat the oven. He was a little nervous. He had never baked cookies by himself before (Timothy McGee wasn't a baking sort of guy). In fact, he would rather have bought something at a store.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper that looked like it came from a fortune cookie. Abigail Sciuto was the name on the paper. He smirked and set it on the table next to the recipe.
Yes, it was NCIS's annual secret Santa gift exchange. McGee happened to pick Abby's name from the hat. At first, he figured she'd be easy to shop for. Black roses were her favorite; he figured he'd give her a bouquet and a bag of candy. Or maybe a teddy bear with a gift card attached to it. But after a visit to her lab one day, Tim came to realize that maybe a store-bought gift wasn't the right way to go.
"McGee, what's your favorite holiday memory?" Abby asked him. The question caught Tim off guard. "Uh… I don't know."
Abby shifted her weight to one side, unsatisfied. "Come on, your favorite memory! Watching Christmas movies, making gingerbread houses, seeing some relative that lives far away?"
"Hmm…" Tim pondered. "Well, there was this one Christmas…"
Abby grinned and ran over to her desk, leaving McGee confused in the other part of the room. She came back pushing her desk chair, and parked it in front of Tim, where she took a seat.
"…I was about twelve," Tim continued, "and my grandparents were at our house for Christmas. But they came early, so my grandma took me and my little sister, Sarah, to the store to buy presents for our parents."
"Really? What'd you get them?"
McGee leaned against the lab table, trying to recall the events that occurred that year. "Well, Grandma took us to the craft store and we bought all kinds of things, like crayons and glitter and glue and little stickers, and we came home and sneaked upstairs and made cards."
"Aw, you and your sister made your parents Christmas cards?"
"Yeah. Mom and Dad seemed to really like them." Tim smiled at the memory.
Abby giggled. "Aw, that's so cute, McGee. Homemade presents are always the best, aren't they?"
Tim shrugged. "I guess. So what's your favorite holiday memory, Abby?"
She smirked. "Oh, I have a billion." The forensic scientist tapped her finger on her chin, thinking. "Well," she began, leaning back in her chair, "there was this one time when I was in college… I had a friend who did daycare… actually, I have some funny stories about that… like, this one time, she had this essay due, and she spent like three days on it, and then some little kid spilled his applesauce all over it -"
"Right. So my friend who did daycare called me a few days before Christmas asking if I could help her out with the kids because the other girl that usually helped my friend bailed on her. Anyway, I went over to help, and I swear, McGee, one of the little girls over there was possessed. You've seen The Omen, right? She was like Damien, only a girl… and she didn't necessarily try to kill people. She was a hellion, I guess you could say.
"But, okay. I went through like… six hours of obnoxious little kids running around the house, and when I went home I was in a really bad mood. But then, the next day, I got a phone call from my friend who does the daycare, and she asked me to come over again. I didn't want to, you know? I mean, I'd had enough of those rowdy little kids. But I went anyway and was gonna tell her I couldn't stay, when the little kids all came out of the kitchen holding Christmas cards that they made themselves." Abby poked Tim's shoulder.
Tim half-smiled. "That's your favorite memory?"
"There's more!" she explained. "Then they brought me into the kitchen and there was a plate of M&M cookies for me. And that was really special, not only because all the kids helped make them, but because when I was little, my grandma used to make the best M&M cookies in the world!"
Tim nodded, wondering if Abby was light-headed from all the talking she did.
It was a few days later when he picked Abby's name in the secret Santa drawing. He had a week to shop for a present, but kept putting it off and putting it off. Now, after recalling the story Abby told him, Tim decided to make those M&M cookies she loved so much.
The only problem was, he had never made cookies before.
Tim examined the counter. He had his butter sticks, his eggs, white and brown sugar, vanilla, flour, baking soda, and salt. The NCIS agent stared at the ingredients for a long minute before deciding to take a look at the recipe.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
He glanced at the oven. Cautiously, almost as if he was afraid the oven would explode, he turned one of the dials to read the appropriate temperature.
Feeling successful already, he moved on to step two:
2. Stir together 1 cup brown sugar, 1 half cup white sugar, 1 cup butter.
Easy enough. Tim took his bowl and measuring cups. He ripped open the top of his bag of brown sugar, then packed some in the cup. He did the same to the white sugar, then plopped in a stick of butter. He took a spoon and began to mash the ingredients together. As the agent mixed, he looked at step three on the recipe card.
3. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and beat till fluffy.
Beat? Not stir?
Tim sighed and looked into the bowl of unfinished cookie dough. He walked to the other side of the kitchen and pulled open a drawer where he kept his kitchen measuring utensils. Tim searched around in the drawer. He found various tools he didn't know he had - such as a ladle, a rubber spatula and a cheese grater - and, eventually, his wire whisk, which Tim referred to as an egg beater.
But first, he located his measuring spoons and poured a teaspoon of vanilla into the bowl. He then took his egg beater and began to stir the mix. Tim grumbled to himself. The egg beater was not working well at all. Big, thick chunks of butter kept getting stuck in the whisk, so he kept poking it out with his spoon or his fingers.
"That looks fluffy enough," Tim murmured to himself, ignoring the butter chunks.
4. Add two well-beaten eggs.
Tim washed his whisk thoroughly in the sink. He then cracked open two eggs in a separate bowl and proceeded to beat them.
The NCIS agent eventually added flour, baking soda and salt without a problem. Tim used a spoon to mix the dough together. He even stopped to admire his work. Though the dough looked a bit chunky, Tim felt proud of himself for doing everything correctly on his first try.
The last thing he had to do before putting the dough on pans and into the oven was to add the candy. So, Tim grabbed his bag of red and green M&M's. He attempted the pull the bag open. It wouldn't tear. He pulled harder.
The bag ripped open, half the M&M's pattering to the kitchen floor.
McGee stopped. Took a breath. Then poured the remaining candies into the dough, ignoring the ones covering his floor for now. He decided to use his hands to mix the candy into the dough.
He finally took out a pan and plopped small balls of cookie dough onto it. Tim dragged his feet on his way over to the oven, accidentally kicking some M&M's under the fridge in the process. The oven still read three-seventy-five, so he put the pan in and closed the oven door. The directions his mother gave him didn't say how long to bake the cookies… but they probably had to be in there for a little while, right?
In the mean time, Tim figured he'd get a broom and sweep up the candies littering the floor. It was a process that took at least five minutes, and when he was done, he flicked on the oven light and checked on the cookies. They didn't look too brown yet.
Tim raised an eyebrow. The doorbell?
Abandoning his cookies for Abby, Tim made his way to the door. His neighbor, Janet, greeted him, holding a small bag.
"Merry Christmas, Tim!" she said, smiling. She was perhaps in her late fifties - early sixties, with short brown hair that had streaks of silver, big, dangly snowflake earrings, and a horribly horrible Christmas sweater. She also had a bag in her right hand.
"Merry Christmas, Janet," said Tim with a smile. He gestured for her to come in.
"I thought I should drop by," Janet exclaimed, closing the door behind her, "before the twenty-fifth, incase you had plans. I didn't want to miss you."
Janet held out the bag to Tim.
"Oh, Janet, you didn't have to get me anything for Christmas." It was the same thing Tim told the woman every year, but she always came by with a fruitcake - perhaps the most evil thing in the world. Not only do they taste bad, but they are immortal.
The woman looked at her neighbor expectantly, so Tim reached into the bag.
"Oh," he said, "a fruitcake." He forced a grin. "Thanks, Janet."
"Honey, I baked a dozen of those fruitcakes. Just tell me if you run out!" She winked.
The two chatted for several more minutes, mostly about their holiday plans. Janet commented on the scent of cookies in Tim's apartment. He told her that once the cookies were done, he'd bring over a few.
Ten minutes later Janet left, and Tim was left with a fruitcake. He figured he'd put it in his closet with fruitcakes from the previous years - pretty soon he'd have a fruitcake mountain.
Right as Tim was about to check on his cookies, his cell phone began to ring. The screen on the phone told him it was his sister.
As Tim chatted to his little sister about meeting for a holiday dinner, he walked over to his bedroom and absentmindedly wandered around the room. He failed to notice the strange odor coming from the kitchen.
Ten minutes into Tim's conversation with Sarah, a loud beeping filled his ears. He told his sister he had to go, and quickly slapped the cell phone shut. Tim hurried into the kitchen where he saw smoke pouring from the oven.
He gasped and pulled the oven door open. Thick smoke rolled out, followed by several orange flames.
Tim dashed to the cupboard under the sink where he kept a fire extinguisher, ignoring the smoke detector's annoying ring.
It was the end of the work day, and nothing got done except a bunch of paper work. Tim received his secret Santa gift already that morning - a gift certificate to Best Buy and a candy cane. As the day moved on, he regretted not buying Abby a gift certificate as well.
With a small sigh, Tim decided to face the music. He would have to give Abby her gift now, before she left for the day. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out his plate of cookies - if you could even call them that - and the plastic bag he brought as well.
"See you later, guys," Tim said to the team.
Gibbs gave an acknowledging nod.
"Leaving so soon, Probie?" asked Tony from his desk.
Tim held up his plate of cookies. "Delivering my secret Santa gift."
He thought he heard Tony say something as he walked to the elevator, but he tuned it out. His mind was preoccupied.
When Tim entered Abby's lab, he figured he'd better first announce he came with a gift before Abby started telling him all about how she didn't get one.
"Abby, I have your secret Santa gift…" he said nervously.
The pigtailed girl twirled around on her heel. "Hello to you, too, McGee."
"Hey, Abby." He sheepishly held out his plate of cookies. "Here's your gift. I… I can explain."
Her green eyes lit up, and she smiled. "Explain what?"
"Well," Tim started. "Remember when we were talking about our favorite holiday memories? …Uh, well, I remember how you said you liked homemade gifts the best, and how you liked M&M cookies. So I made you some…"
He paused when Abby began to take the saran wrap off the plate of cookies.
"…But, you might, ah, not want to eat them."
Abby looked amused.
"…You see," Tim continued to explain, "I was baking your cookies, but since I'd never really made cookies before, I didn't know how long they had to be in the oven. And then my neighbor stopped by and my sister called, so I got distracted… and then the oven started on fire…"
Abby raised her eyebrows with a grin.
"…And your cookies turned out like this." Tim showed Abby what was in the plastic bag. His cookies looked little mini lumps of coal.
"Timmy, you carried these burned-beyond-recognition cookies around with you all day?" Abby asked, chuckling.
He felt a small blush creep into his cheeks. "Yeah… So… after I got the fire out, I was kinda afraid to use the oven again, so I just used the microwave to cook the rest of the cookies." He pointed to the plate of M&M cookies the scientist still held in her hands. "…Except I figured out you can't actually bake cookies in the microwave… The dough just kind of heats up and ends up looking like a deformed biscuit. Plus, the M&M's melted all over - that's what the black stuff is."
Abby wordlessly set the plate of cookies on the lab table. To Tim's surprise, she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into one of her hugs.
"This is so sweet, Tim," she said.
McGee was unconvinced. "I'll take you shopping or something one day," he promised. "Then you can pick out something you want."
Abby pulled away. "McGee, these cookies are one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received! I love them. Even if they look like strange little biscuits."
She smiled and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Really."
Tim grinned. "Okay. But you're not going to eat them, are you?"
"...No offence, McGee, but I don't want to get sick."
He shrugged. "Understandable."