a/n - Last chapter, let me know what you think. The second story of the trilogy will start to post in a few days.

Agents Dayton and Miller soon realized why Fornell had laughed when he told Miller to loan Gibbs a car, as the hung on for the ride. Gibbs would have broken the land speed record between the temporary FBI office in Wilkes-Barre and Stillwater if there had been one. A second car with Willet and several more agents was lagging behind, but Dayton hoped they would be close enough to provide back up if it was needed. The phone in the store was dead, no one was answering the phone in the Sheriff's office and every firetruck from Bloomsburg had been dispatched to the tiny town.

The roads were blocked in the center of town, so Gibbs parked behind one of the firetrucks and started running. Dayton and Miller struggled to keep up while they pulled on their vests. The three men passed a black pickup that had been sideswiped by a tow truck and forced up against the brick building that housed the bank. Gibbs recognized the driver who was being handcuffed by Sheriff Gantry, under the watchful eye of the owner of the gas station and several more people Gibbs recognized. Grinning, Gantry shoved Clayton at the FBI agents that were with Gibbs.

"Here, you fee-bees missed one." Ed's smile faded as he turned to Gibbs. "They're still trying to shore the building up to get to your man, Jethro."

"Is he alive?" Gibbs was focusing on breathing, not allowing himself to even think about the alternatives.

Gantry hated to not be able to give a definitive answer. "It looks like he was able to dive behind the cash register before the grenade went off, so hopefully that protected him. All we can see are his legs, but he's not moving."

The advantage of being a mining community was that the rescuers knew how to handle an unstable structure. The fact that this one was above ground just made it easier and minutes after Gibbs' arrival, the firefighters were ready to move in. Gibbs spotted the Fire Chief and intercepted him. "I'm going in with you. That's my crime scene and my man trapped in there." The Fire Chief looked at Gantry, who nodded, before agreeing.

It was a testament to old time construction that the store was even standing. Gibbs couldn't help but look around as they worked their way towards McGee. A lifetime of memories were jumbled on the floor, mixed in with the cans of creamed corn and bags of rock salt. He'd give it all up just to hear that familiar 'hey Boss' just one more time.

The wall display of fishing gear that hung on the wall behind the register was laying across McGee's back, leaving only his legs exposed. The heavy metal register was on top of that plus one of the overhead beams. The rescue team made quick work of moving the beam and the register as the paramedics with them laid flat on the floor to start working on McGee the second he was free. On the count of three, the display was lifted away. Gibbs slipped past the firefighters and dropped to his knees next to the medic at Tim's head. Green eyes opened slowly and found his by instinct.

"Hey, Boss."


It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve when four exhausted men returned to Stillwater. By unspoken agreement, the two cars stopped in front of what had been Stillwater's only store. Jackson climbed out of the car to stand next to his son.

"You okay Dad? I know how much this store meant to you." Gibbs laid his hand on his father's shoulder. The older man was still a little too pale for his liking, but the doctor felt being home with his family for the holidays would be the best medicine.

Jackson looked at the shell that had housed his world for over forty years. "I'm just glad we didn't lose anything truly important." He gave a meaningful look at the young man resting in the car behind them.

"Yeah." As Gibbs turned to look at his sleeping passenger, his gaze lingered on Tim, but his father wasn't surprised. A group of men walking down the sidewalk interrupted whatever else he was going to say.

Ed Gantry and the local mine owner, Chuck Winslow were leading the group, both wearing determined looks. Gibbs braced for the fallout he was expecting after kissing Tim's forehead in the ambulance the day before. Instead, Winslow looked past him and into the gaping hole where the doors had once been. "I've got a crew that will be here bright and early on the twenty-sixth, Jack. We'll have all the repairs done before the truck arrives on the second to restock the store."

"Not that I'm complaining, but why?" The two men had achieved a strained truce since the younger Gibbs had arrested Winslow's son-in-law for the murder of Winslow's illegitimate son.

Winslow gave a soft laugh as he turned and looked at the sleeping agent slumped in the car. "Your boy was right about what was important and I want my grandson to know that I did the right thing. Have a good Christmas, all of you."

Ed nodded and followed without saying a word while the two Gibbs stared at each other. "Any idea what that was all about?"

Jackson shook his head. "A Christmas miracle, maybe? We're all alive and that's good enough for me."


Christmas Eve night found the three men sitting in front of a roaring fire, while Ducky puttered in the kitchen. On Ducky's insistence, Gibbs had brought in several armloads of wood, enough to last the entire night, though he didn't know why they needed that much wood. One thing he did know was that eventually Ducky would tell them why, and in great detail. Tonight, sitting on the old sofa from his childhood, Tim's head resting on his thigh, he was in the mood to hear a few long stories.

For his part, Tim was feeling quite content. He'd escaped the blast with only a minor concussion and a few hairline fractures of his ribs, plus some very colorful bruising. Dr Graham had teased him about his and Jackson's matching injuries, but they were both on the mend and right now that was all that mattered. He shifted, rubbing his cheek on Gibbs' leg as fingers in his hair lulled him to sleep.

Ducky came into the room, carrying a bowl of apples. "Well, a pizza stone makes a fine substitute for a Bannock Stane, so we will have a traditional Bannock Cake for tomorrow."

Tim opened one eye to look sideways at him. "What's a Bannock Stane?" Ducky looked thrilled at the question.

"In old Scotland, the Bannock Stane was a round,flat piece of limestone heated on an open fire as a cooking surface. Bannock made with oat flour was a traditional Christmas dessert in Scotland even before Christmas was banned."

"Christmas was banned in Scotland?" Jackson was fascinated by the amount of trivia Ducky seemed to know.

Ducky, for his part, always enjoyed a captive audience. "Christmas was banned in Scotland back in the sixteenth century. It was considered a Roman Catholic holiday, and not one that good Protestants should be celebrating. Heavens, the ban wasn't lifted until the 1950's. Now, have an apple. Eating an apple on Christmas Eve brings good luck for the new year."

After the last few days, no one wanted to argue with that superstition and everyone took an apple. When Tim sat up to take his, Gibbs used the opportunity to put another log on the fire. "So, Ducky, tell me why we have to keep the fire going until dawn?"

"To keep out the spirits, of course." Ducky smiled as he took a bite of his own apple.

Gibbs almost dropped the log. "Spirits?"

"Oh, yes, in Scotland, the spirits try to come down the fireplace on Christmas Eve. A roaring fire keeps them out. Then at midnight we throw open all the doors and any evil spirits already trapped in the house will be let out." Ducky thought for a moment and then added one more chore to the evening's activity. "We also need to sweep the thresholds to clear out all the trouble for the upcoming year."

Jack smiled at Ducky and raised his apple core in a salute. "Here's to a fresh start for the new year."

"Indeed." Ducky returned the salute. "Jack, could you tell me where I would find your roasting pan? I'd like to get the prime rib ready for tomorrow." His meaningful glance at the two figure on the sofa told the real reason he wanted help locating the pan that was already sitting out for him.

Tim watched the two of them disappear into the kitchen. "Gee, that was subtle."

"Ya' think?" Gibbs was just glad for the privacy as he bent closer to Tim. "How are you feeling, do you want another pain pill?"

"I'm all right for now. Those pills put me to sleep." a yawn proved McGee's point.

Despite the protest, Gibbs helped him sit up and take his scheduled medication. "You need the rest, Tim. Your body's had a couple of rough days. Besides, I have plans for you that can't happen until you are recovered."

"Plans?" McGee was intrigued as he settled back against Gibbs.

Gibbs took his time tucking a woven throw over the two of them. "Plans. But nothing is happening until you get the all clear from Ducky. I'll give you a preview, though, show you what you have to look forward to." He stroked his fingertips along Tim's jawline before gently tipping his head back slightly.

Tim shivered as he felt a tongue run across his bottom lip. Instinctively, he opened his mouth as the kiss deepened. Eventually, Gibbs pulled back, nibbling on that bottom lip one last time. "New Years, Timmy, gonna make you mine on New Years Eve. Do you think you'll be recovered by then?" Gibbs tone was teasing, but there was real worry behind it.

"My recovery will be well motivated." The pills were kicking in, and Tim could feel himself drifting off. He shifted and nuzzled against Gibbs' neck. He'd already found one of the older man's hot spots, and he was determined to find a few more before Christmas was through.

Gibbs shifted with him, making sure he was as comfortable as possible. Now that Tim was going to be all right, there was just one more thing he was worried about. "How upset is your family that you didn't go home for Christmas?"

Tim looked up at him and smiled. The open, honest look of love almost took his breath away. "I am home, Jethro. I'm with you."