Disclaimer - If you recognise them, they're not mine, I'm just making them do the things I wish they'd do on the show.
The bullpen was almost deserted as Tony settled behind his desk. He knew McGee had already left to spend time with his family. Abby and Ziva were at the airport waiting for their flights. Abby to spend time with her numerous relations in New Orleans and Ziva to escape the snow and ice in DC by heading for the sun, Ducky was doing battle with the holiday traffic as he took his mother to visit with his sister and her family. Palmer had already left town and even Gibbs had put in for leave to spend time with his father.
"So, I guess that just leaves yours truly." Tony murmured.
He realised that he had been so focused on achieving his self-appointed super secret mission that he had neglected to think about what he would do when it actually succeeded. He supposed he could always fall back on his pre-NCIS rituals of working the holiday shift, followed by a Christmas movie marathon and a turkey and stuffing pizza, chased down with a beer or six. Ever since his frat brothers had started to get married he had always resisted accepting invitations from them over Christmas. Although, they were always genuine and well meaning, it just felt wrong to him to intrude on another family's celebrations.
It wasn't something he'd ever had to think about since he met Gibbs. Tony smiled as he thought back to his first Christmas at NCIS. He had known his Boss well enough by then not to be surprised to find the other man working the holiday, despite his seniority. Although, the simple gift bag sitting on his desk had been unexpected. With a soft smile Tony pulled out the simple black leather wallet, a replacement for one he had ruined chasing a suspect into a storm drain. Running his thumb across the leather, now soft with age, he let the memory of the rest of that day wash over him.
"He shoots .. and he scores .. and the crowd goes wild." Tony cheered.
"You planning on doing any work today?" Gibbs didn't look up from what he was writing.
"C'mon Boss," Tony protested, even as he continued to flick playing cards into the trash can. "We've been here for hours, shift's almost over, the phones have only rung once and that was Abby calling to wish us both a Merry Christmas."
"Even criminals like to spend the holidays with their families." Gibbs observed.
"Really?" Tony considered that. "Always seemed like a miracle that Christmas at Casa DiNozzo didn't end up in at least a homicide or two."
That got him an amused snort, which made Tony grin with the pride he always felt when he managed to crack the former marine's dour facade. Pushing back in his chair, DiNozzo surveyed his almost empty desk. He had caught on all his paperwork, cleared all his filing and for the last hour he had been doing nothing but reviewing cold cases.
"I might have found a lead in the Watson case." He offered as he picked up the relevant file and wandered over to stand in front of his Boss' desk.
"Yeah?" Now Gibbs did look up, as he took the file from him squinting a little as he read the small print. He allowed himself a small nod, the connection was tenuous, but DiNozzo had a talent for thinking outside the box. It might just pan out. "We'll go check it out, tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Tony blinked.
"Tomorrow," Gibbs confirmed, already rising to his feet and shrugging into his coat as the agents due to relieve them spilled out of the elevator. "Its Christmas, DiNozzo."
For a second DiNozzo just looked at him, like a deer caught in the headlights. Gibbs considered explaining his reasons. But he would always rather his people worked things out for themselves. The case had already waited nine years it could reasonably wait a few more hours, especially as the people they needed to speak to were probably out of town for the holidays. Plus, they had already worked an eight hour shift with nothing to eat but snacks from the vending machine.
"Of course, it is," Tony nodded, looking suddenly bereft, before pasting a too bright smile that didn't fool Gibbs for as instant as his junior agent turned towards his desk and opened his drawer to holster his weapon and put his keys in his pocket. "I guess I'll just grab my gear then. I'm sure it's not too late to call Candy and see if she can come out to play. Or better still stay in."
"You've got one hour," Gibbs' voice stopped him in his tracks, "Go home, get changed, pack a bag, be at my place by 1930 hours."
"Your place?" Tony repeated.
"You bring the beer. I'll cook." Gibbs had actually smiled.
The former marine had turned out to be a pretty good cook. The store had been all out of turkey, but the roast beef had made a good substitute, with all the trimmings and the best gravy Tony had ever tasted. The next year Gibbs had bought the Turkey the week before and despite their unpredictable schedules they had managed some sort of festive meal together one way or another every year until now. Still, he only had himself to blame and if things worked out it could be the best present he had ever given his Boss.
"Speaking of which." Tony bounced up.
First he checked the filing cabinet. Two clean shirts and a change of underwear but no gift. The he looked in all his drawers with the same result. Dropping to his knees his scanned the floor under and around his desk, still no gift. Feeling the first genuine pangs of disappointment, he double checked every place again, in case he might have missed something small and expensive the first time but came up just as empty second time around.
He looked at Gibbs' desk.
With a sigh, Tony flopped back in his chair and pulled one of his cold cases out of the draw and started to read, after a few minutes he reached absent mindedly into his desk and searched with his fingers until they closed around a three musketeers bar. Peeling off the wrapper he looked at the chocolate candy. It wasn't exactly a turkey dinner, but it would fill a hole. Chewing slowly, he tipped right back in his chair and pulled the folder into his lap.
He resisted temptation for a whole 43 seconds.
Jumping up, he took a quick look around, before heading over to Gibbs desk. His hand hovered over the desk drawer for a second, before deciding to start with the more legitimately communal area of Gibbs filing cabinet. But when there was nothing of interest in any of the drawers he couldn't resist moving back to the desk. Nothing in the top drawer, but as he pulled open the second drawer he rubbed his hands in glee as he saw a foil wrapped box. Reaching inside, he had just lifted it out when he heard the elevator ding and a familiar voice halt him in his tracks.
"Want to tell me what you think you're doing?"
"So," A little earlier that evening Jackson eased himself back into the passenger seat of the yellow charger, having made a lot of kids very happy with the handmade wooden toys. "How many are we cooking for tomorrow?"
"Just you and me." Gibbs started the car.
"Really?" Jackson looked surprised. "You don't plan on seeing any of that team of yours?"
"Well, I know Abby was real excited about seeing her folks in New Orleans and young Tim was looking forward to visiting with his parents and Ziva doesn't exactly celebrate Christmas so she's just going to be enjoying her vacation, but I thought Dr Mallard or that young fella of yours might come around."
"Ducky is taking his mother to see his sister and her family," Gibbs kept his eyes on the road. "And DiNozzo's got other plans."
"Oh?" Jack looked surprised.
"Some thing with his College buddies." Gibbs' tone was clipped.
He didn't want to admit that he hadn't really been listening to the details. He had been so pre-occupied with his father's well being that when his senior field agent had started rambling on about his frat brothers and some villa in Mexico it had taken him a good five minutes to work out that DiNozzo was apparently planning on spending the holidays there. By which point, the younger man had left two awkwardly wrapped boxes on his desk, one each for him and Jack, grabbed his gear and left.
Gibbs scowled to himself as he thought of the enormous turkey, bought with DiNozzo's appetite in mind, sitting in his refrigerator. He only had himself to blame. He had broken one of his own rules by assuming that, even if Jack didn't make it into town, Tony would be eating with him. He should have doubled checked, but it had never occurred to him the younger man would want to be anywhere else.
Seemed he had been wrong about that.
"Now Leroy," Jack cautioned as he took in his sour expression. "You teach that boy to believe in himself, you can't hold it against him, when he begins to spread his wings a little. He's not going to stay tied to your apron strings forever."
Gibbs snorted at that image. Even in the early days DiNozzo had always been his own man, never afraid to tell Gibbs when he thought the former marine was full of it. Still, Gibbs didn't think he and ever been more proud than when DiNozzo had looked him in the eye and told him 'no.' Except, maybe when the younger man had squared up to Eli David, or sucked it up when Vance had broken up the team to become a first rate Agent Afloat. DiNozzo had done more than his share of growing recently.
"There's not much more I can teach him." Gibbs admitted.
"And you think that's all you are to him?" Jack demanded. "Some kind of crime professor?"
"You're the one telling me to let go." Gibbs pointed out mildly.
"Didn't say anything about washing your hands of him," Jack pointed out. "Just because he can stand on his own two feet, don't mean he doesn't need a word of encouragement now and again."
"DiNozzo knows where he stands with me."
Gibbs had never lost sight of the fact that Tony always continued to need his support and encouragement. To keep his head on straight when the Grant case seemed to be going nowhere, to keep preserving in the face of Vance's politicking, when they went after Saleem, to keep faith with himself when it seemed like the whole world and Eli David were against him. Gibbs didn't mind, he always figured that was how things were supposed to be between family.
As old as he was, there was a reason he had let his own father back into his life after all.
"And if he ends up leading his own team? Moves to another part of the country maybe?" Jackson pressed. "You won't be his Boss anymore. You said yourself you've taught almost all you can as a mentor. Sure, you can try and stay friends, keep in touch, but you're both the type to let job get in the way."
"We'll manage." Gibbs wouldn't accept any other outcome.
Tony had been his partner longer than anyone. They had shared things he couldn't even find words to describe to his father. He could no longer imagine his life without the younger man in it. Raw fear of losing him to the plague had forged a unique bond which Tony's predisposition for going missing and Gibbs knack of getting blown up had only strengthened.
Gibbs' memory loss and hiatus in Mexico had knocked them off their stride for a while but they had ultimately forged a more equal partnership. Each had faced the horror of believing the other was dead. They had been to hell and back in Somalia. During DiNozzo's almost four month posting as Agent Afloat they had spoken at least once a week, not to mention the numerous semi-official e-mails they had exchanged and the occasional completely illegal use of MTAC.
Gibbs looked impatiently at his watch as Keating spoke words about software improvements and system upgrades that he didn't understand and cared about even less. Thanks to the time it had taken to close their last case, even taking into the difference the time zone he only had another fifteen minutes to put his plan into action, or all his preparation would be for nothing, Closing the manila folder with a snap, he slapped it against the other man's chest with a curt "Fix it" leaving the other man standing open mouthed as he doubled timed it up to MTAC.
"Special Agent Gibbs," Marc Wilson, a veteran technician greeted him with a relieved smile. "I thought you were going to miss the window."
"We all set?"
Gibbs didn't waste any time on small talk. Wilson wasn't offended. The wooden rocking horse he had spent hours building for Wilson's grand-daughter already spoke volumes about how important these five minutes of satellite time was to the Supervisory Special Agent.
"It'll just take a second to patch through to the Seahawk."
A few moments later, the slightly grainy image of Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo appeared on the main screen. The usually dapper young Agent, looked a little care worn, stubble spotting his chin, dark circles under his eyes, although he brightened considerably when he saw who his caller was.
"Pa, long time no see."
"Busy day, DiNozzo?"
The tone was light, but Wilson could see the lines around Gibbs' mouth as his jaw tightened and his eyes crinkled with concern.
"You know how it is being the only cop in a city of 5000," DiNozzo shrugged, "I swear I'd take one good murder over a couple of dozen petty misdemeanour's any day. Not that I actually want anyone to die. Well, expect Seaman Harris, perhaps. Any chance you could send me some of those little strips that stop people snoring like pigs?"
"You get Abby's parcel?"
"Abby's parcel, an e-card from McGeek, a book from Ducky, a text from Ziva that contained exactly thirteen letters which began with H and ended in Y. I'll let you fill in the gaps. Nothing from my Boss though, I think he's forgotten about me."
"Your father's present arrived." Gibbs informed him.
"What was it this year?" Tony tipped his head on one side.
"You have much use for a rice cooker out there?"
"A rice cooker?" Tony blinked. "People actually cook rice? What's wrong with takeout?
"Damned if I know," Gibbs shrugged.
"So," Tony looked expectantly at him. "Was there any particular reason you called Pa?"
"Yeah," Gibbs hid his grin. "The gear stick on your car needs attention. I'm going to need to take it into the garage."
"You just love living up to that second B don't you?" Tony hissed at the screen. "C'mon Boss, I'm dying here!"
"You check your e-mail lately?" Gibbs asked laconically.
"Not for an hour or so," Tony admitted, already typing his password in and scanning through his inbox. As he opened Gibbs message his face broke into a broad grin his eyes shining with joy. "I get to drive a real racing car, around a real track?"
"Figured you might need something to look forward to," Gibbs allowed. "Better than a damned rice cooker."
"I love you, Boss."
He vividly remembered Tony's bright joyous grin as he had turned to see him and Ziva standing there in Cartagena, the way that he had run over and hugged them both, confident that the gesture would be not only welcome but reciprocated. The way Gibbs had laughed and mussed his hair slightly. His amusement when Tony had insisting on telling him "I missed you, Boss." and his own heartfelt "I know." As he acknowledged that he and missed the younger man just as much as Tony had missed him.
"So, how come Tony didn't tell you he was going out of town before you went out and bought that giant turkey?" Jack's voice cut into his thoughts.
Now he actually thought about it Tony hadn't said a word about going out of town when they were working the case. He hadn't even spoken up when Jack had arrived. It was only after the whole mess with the fire trucks and Gibbs' obvious anxiety about his father that the younger man had suddenly started talking about Mexico. Shaking his head, Gibbs was tempted to head slap himself for being such a damned idiot, even as he pulled the Charger into a U turn, to much honking of horns as he cut across the lanes of traffic.
"You forget something, son?" Jack asked, as he gripped the door tightly.
"You mind if we stop by the office, Dad?" Gibbs asked rhetorically. "There's something I need to pick up."