AN- Many thanks for all the support and reviews, just to say this story will be reflecting events in "Not a Guest Room." You don't need to have read it – just understand that in my universe Tony is living with Gibbs by this point.
As he turned into his neighbourhood, Gibbs checked the rear view mirror to be sure that DiNozzo was still following them. The younger man might have agreed to come and eat Christmas dinner, but Gibbs knew him too well to think this was over yet. Sure enough DiNozzo was simply biding his time until Jack was settled on the couch in front of the TV and the two of them were in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and slicing carrots to go with the turkey.
"Don't say it," Gibbs warned, as soon as the young man opened his mouth. "I don't want to hear it."
"C'mon Boss," As usual, when Tony felt strongly about something, his Boss' warning carried no weight. "It would be great to share Christmas dinner with you guys. But while you're Dad's here I really think I should check into a Hotel."
"That why you've been avoiding coming home since he got into town?" Gibbs raised a brow.
They had both been busy with the case, but it hadn't escaped Gibbs' notice that Tony hadn't been around since Jack had arrived. It wasn't unusual for the younger man to follow his own interests, or even stay out overnight occasionally. It wasn't like his Boss was his keeper. However, these last couple of days he had been conspicuous by his complete absence.
"Boss, you've got your Dad sleeping on the couch, that's just wrong."
"So, I just kick you out of your room whenever it suits me?" Gibbs challenged. "Damn it, DiNozzo, didn't you listen to any of the things I've been telling you?"
"Gibbs, he's your Dad, however things are between you guys, that doesn't change."
Gibbs would be pissed, but he knew DiNozzo was utterly sincere. Despite DiNozzo's senior's lack of interest bordering on neglect, they both knew that if he turned up tomorrow DiNozzo would not only welcome him with open arms but give the bastard the shirt off his back if need be. That was just the kind of man he was. He never seemed to think he was worth going the extra mile for, but he would bend over backwards to help others.
"If that was all there was to it, I would have given him my bed, not yours," Gibbs pointed out. "He said he was happier done here, not as far to get to the kitchen and bathroom."
"Oh," Tony realised. Then winced, "And you're not just saying that to make me feel better. Because saying things just to be nice, isn't really your style, is it Boss? So, I could have stayed here all the time?"
"Ya think?" Gibbs gave him an old fashioned look.
"But are you sure Jack will be okay with it?" Tony looked anxious again. "Because, it might seem a little odd to him, me still being here, after all I already paid off the crazy British cousin."
"Already, told him you're living here," Gibbs went back to peeling potatoes. "He said this is a family house, its good for it to have a family in it again. And he's right. I was thinking I might start clearing out the third bedroom in the New Year."
"Boss," Tony stilled. He understood exactly how big a deal it would be for Gibbs to go through the boxes of Shannon and Kelly's things in the pink painted room. "You know, I don't think you'd find as much of a photo of me in my father's house. He always did like to pretend he was footloose and fancy free without a kid tagging at his heels. I don't think it's wrong that you want to keep them close."
"It's been a long time," Gibbs allowed. Still maybe he wasn't ready just yet. "It's something to think about."
"Trust me it will be a long time before I'm ready to even think about being a father and even then the baby can sleep in a drawer or something for the first six months or so."
Gibbs grinned, which was pretty much what Tony had been going for.
"You're really not going to know what's hit you, are you?"
"Well then, it's a good job we'll have Uncle LJ around to head slap us into shape." Tony grinned cheekily.
"Uncle LJ?" Gibbs raised a brow.
"You don't t like that? I thought it was better than Gramps," Tony didn't even try to duck the head slap that came with that. "Never mind, you've got time to think of something you like better."
"Don't need time, Gibbs will do just fine. Now get chopping or we won't be sitting down to eat until next Christmas Eve."
Having eaten his fill of the enormous turkey dinner, Tony put down his knife and fork and looked around at the unaccustomed festivity of Gibbs household. The tree sparkled in the darkness and the decorations glinted, as the candlelight reflected off the small pile of presents under the tree. It was simple and more homely than anything he had ever known.
"DiNozzo?" He realised Gibbs was looking at him with concern. "You okay?"
"Loving the tree, Boss." Tony smiled, knowing Gibbs would understand.
"Alright then, dishes first?" Jackson's eyes twinkled. "Or shall we go straight to the presents?"
"Dad, you're not supposed to open those until tomorrow." Gibbs objected.
"In case you hadn't noticed son, its past midnight already, if we open the presents now, we could all have a nice long lie in come the morning, without the young fella here waking us up at dawn to see what Santa has brought him."
"Jack, I would never .." Tony paused. "You know, actually I probably would."
Gibbs was about to insist that they all hit the rack but he took one look at his eager senior field agent and decided that he could no more stand to quash all that enthusiasm than he had been able to deny his daughter's joy in living. People had always assumed that he was the strict parent, but in fact Shannon was the one always setting any boundaries for Kelly, whilst Gibbs found it hard to deny her anything.
"Presents." Gibbs decided for them all.
"Really?" Tony practically lit up with pleasure. Yet typically his first thought was to bring joy to others. "Jack, open mine first."
Inside, the lavish box and layers of tissue paper, the dark navy cashmere sweater was no doubt the most expensive item of clothing Jackson Gibbs had ever owned. As he felt its kitten soft fabric Jack reflected that it had probably cost more than he earned in a month. Even so, he realised that Tony had probably cared far more about 'replacing' the sweater that Jack had leant him in the summer than any expense.
"This is beautiful son," Jackson ran an appreciative hand over the fine knit. "It'll make me look real dapper."
Jack's gift to Tony was nestled inside a vintage cream leather box. As the younger man lifted the lid to reveal the cufflinks and tie bar set lying in the rich cream velvet, his breath caught at their style and beauty.
"Wore those on my wedding day," Jack told him. "Since I can't see Leroy ever wanting to sport anything this fancy no matter how many more weddings he manages I figured you could give 'em a good home."
"Wait, no," Tony baulked as he realised the emotional significance of the gift. "I can't take these."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs spoke up, the look in his eyes making it clear that he couldn't think of a better man to inherit them. "Just say thank you."
"Thank you, Jack, Boss," Tony looked from one to the other. "I'll truly treasure them."
And as he closed the box, he reflected that, if he ever did decide to get married, he would be honoured to perpetuate this small piece of Gibbs family history and wear the jewellery with pride. And, God willing, both Jack and Gibbs would be there to see him do just that.
"Anyone want another beer?" Gibbs hid his smile as he stood up to go to the refrigerator.
"You're doing that on purpose," Tony accused. "You do know, that I know that you're doing that on purpose, right?"
"Want to open mine next?" Gibbs relented, his head in the refrigerator.
"I've got it, son," Jack passed the foil wrapped box that he had confiscated from the younger man at the office. Tony grinned widely before tearing into the foil paper with unmitigated glee. Gibbs' gifts were always a highlight of all his Christmas' and Birthdays. He couldn't wait to see what the man had come up with this time.
"Oh." Tony managed, as his face fell.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs returned just in time to see his obvious disappointment. He sighed. "You've never even been bird watching, have you?"
"Not exactly on my bucket list, Boss," Tony admitted ruefully, as he leafed through the encyclopaedia of American birds before trying to rally. "But hey, I'll try anything once. Maybe, we could rent a cabin, make a weekend of it. You know how much you love that out doors stuff and I've been looking for a chance to wear those cowboy boots again .."
He broke off in surprise as Gibbs reached over and plucked the book out of his hand, before striding into the kitchen and dropping it into the trash. Behind him, Jack and Tony exchanged an uncertain look, as the former Marine gripped the counter top in barely contained fury.
"Um, Boss?" Tony tried.
"Now son," Jack tried to intervene. "Maybe you could have bought something a little more to the young fella's taste, but he's wiling to give it a go, seems to me that he would try just about anything if it meant spending more time with you."
"I know that, Dad," Gibbs didn't move. "That's the problem."
"It wasn't from you, was it?" Tony realised. "My father's PA screwed up and mailed his gift to the office again, didn't she?"
"Your old man bought you a book on bird watching?" Jack looked from one to the other, as the penny dropped. "And I'm guessing he's not planning on driving up here to spend the weekend with you anytime soon."
"That's not likely, no," Tony agreed emotionlessly. "In fact, we don't really speak, much, or at all, really."
"That's a real shame, son."
"Why did you think that was my gift?" Gibbs asked, coming back to the tree, trying to reign in his fury at DiNozzo snr before that man managed to ruin their Christmas.
"That would be my fault," Jackson jumped in before Tony could talk himself into trouble. "I saw you had left it behind at the office when I was waiting for you to finish up with the Director. It was in your desk drawer and it had the young fella's name on it so I just figured you must have bought it for Tony. You have bought the boy a gift haven't you Leroy?"
"Nope," Gibbs grinned tightly. "I made it."
As Gibbs reached to retrieve a box tucked almost behind the tree, Tony gave Jack a grateful look for not ratting him out. Jack just smiled, and patted his shoulder, offering what comfort he could.
"Here." Gibbs passed over a small wooden box.
Tony gave him a questioning look as he opened the lid of the rosewood box to reveal something quite unexpected. The collection of small wooden puzzle pieces, nestling within a black felt lining were beautifully made, the hard, dark wood, tooled with absolute precision. Then hours of craftsmanship had obviously gone into shaping, smoothing and finishing each tiny piece to a rich shine.
"This does have a solution, right?" Tony looked at Gibbs. "Because, I wouldn't put it past you to make something designed just to keep me quiet for a while."
"Keep looking." Gibbs advised.
Digging down to the bottom of the box Tony discovered a photo of the puzzle pieces fully assembled, sitting on Gibbs workbench. Tony's breath caught at the intricate accuracy and sheer beauty of what looked to be a perfect scale model of the Ferrari 599 GTB. The exact same car that he had dreamt of buying with Uncle Clive's inheritance that never was.
"Oh yeah," Tony grinned. "That's a solution."
"That's a mighty fine piece of work, Leroy," Jackson admired the photograph. "It seems almost a shame that you cut it into pieces."
"The pieces aren't cut," Tony realised, as he held up what was obviously a miniature tail pipe, followed by a tiny rear view mirror, each piece precision engineered so they would slot together without glue. "Its like auto shop for munchkins."
"Think you're up for it?" Gibbs raised a brow.
"Maybe," Tony glanced at him. "Although, seeing as you never got to restore the Challenger like you planned maybe you could give me a hand?"
The two men grinned at each other in silent, perfect, accord. Finally, getting restless, Jackson picked up the final package that was too square and thin to be anything but a DVD or CD. He frowned slightly.
"Tony, you do realise that Leroy doesn't much hold with modern technology? I don't reckon he's even got a doo hicky to play this on."
"Which is why," Tony quickly ducked into the hallway, returning with his backpack in one hand and a laptop in the other. "I bought this along."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs rolled his eyes, albeit rather more tolerantly that Jack had expected. "This better not be another of your attempts to educate me in the magic of Christmas movies."
"Not exactly," Tony hedged as he set up the laptop, then picked up the jewel case, looking from Jackson to Gibbs as he pulled the silver disc out of the case, before suddenly looking uncharacteristically nervous.
"You alright son?" Jack asked.
"Maybe, this wasn't such a good idea," Tony made a face. "I mean, I thought it was a great idea when I first had it and I took a whole lot of time putting it together but you know my gut isn't always as reliable as yours and now I'm thinking maybe it was actually a very bad idea and we've had a great night I don't want to be the one to ruin things so maybe I should just run out and get you a couple of bottles of Jack."
"At 1am on Christmas?" Jack was sceptical.
Gibbs simply stood up and plucked the CD out of Tony's unresisting hand. Looking his senior field agent in the eye, he noted his shallow breathing and the way he was wiping clammy palms on his pants. If he didn't know better he would say that DiNozzo was downright terrified.
"You put a lot of work into this?" He asked quietly.
Tony could only nod mutely, his eyes both anguished and hopeful.
"Then it'll be OK." Gibbs assured him.
Turning his attention back to the computer he inserted the disc clicked on the appropriate file and he felt his heart constrict as a selection of images he had never seen before began to play out across the small screen.
"I asked Maddie to help me," DiNozzo's voice was explaining. "Between us we tracked down the parents of every child Kelly ever hung out with, we found recordings of every class play, church picnic, piano recital, sleep over at friend's houses, other kid's birthday parties, you name it, we tracked it down. And then Abby helped me transfer all the film and tape and stuff onto a disc so it'll never wear out."
Gibbs said nothing, his eyes fixed on the screen, as he watched his daughter laugh, and smile and dance, in outfits he sometimes recognised, but during plays, parties and events he had never been privileged to share before. Oh, Shannon had done her best to keep him abreast of the important events in their daughter's life when he was posted abroad, but not even the best parent was with their child the whole time.
"She always was a happy little girl." Jack spoke huskily.
Gibbs knew differently. For years, his nightmares had been haunted by his daughter's sobbing cries, don't go Daddy please don't go but to see her so full of life, smiling and laughing and mugging up for the camera was a balm to that painful memory. Taking a step closer to the screen, he felt his eyes fill with tears at her beaming smile.
"Boss?" DiNozzo sounded like he was going to be sick. "Please tell me I didn't screw this up."
"Only you could see something this good as a screw up, DiNozzo," Gibbs managed thickly. He swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump in his throat. Not looking away from the images he let a single tear roll down his face. "Although, you better pray that I never get to meet your father."
"Boss?" Tony looked confused.
"I think what Leroy is trying to say is that he would like to give your Dad a piece of his mind for not appreciating what a fine young fella his boy has grown up to be." Jack offered.
"More like a sock in the jaw." Gibbs clenched his fists.
In spite of himself, Tony couldn't help but feel warmed by the strength of feeing behind his Boss' statement. It felt good to have someone so firmly in his corner. That hadn't happened a whole lot when he was growing up. Too many people had been dazzled by his father's charm or seduced by his money. Part of him wanted to fantasize a little about what it would be like to see Gibbs and his Dad go toe to toe against one another. The other part of him couldn't think of anything more terrifying than having those two men together in a room talking about him.
Still, it wasn't like it would ever actually happen.
"For what it counts my money's on you, Boss. But I wouldn't hold your breath. I haven't seen him in years. It's not like he's just going to show up at the Navy Yard. I mean, what are the odds?" Tony grinned confidently.