Title: A Christmas Day Story
Summary: Tony is alone for Christmas. Or is he? Possibly slightly OOC.
Disclaimer: NCIS is not mine. I'm just borrowing the concepts and characters for a little while.
Spoilers: Takes place in season 8, but nothing too specific to the season. Spoilers only if you're new to the show.
A/N: This story is not a sequel to last year's A Christmas Eve Story. Episode 8.10, False Witness, makes this a tad AU, but since the timeline in that ep isn't too clear, I'm hoping you'll be forgiving.
Many thanks to GibbsRules for her beta of this story. Any remaining mistakes are my fault.
Chapter One: Fulfilling a Promise
I'm awake. And, at first I don't know why, but then my full bladder makes itself known. I slip out of the covers, pulling them up to hopefully keep the body heat locked in and head towards the bathroom.
After taking care of my immediate need, I'm returning to my bed when I notice my clock: 0637. I swear out loud because I'm late getting up and ready for work. I'm starting to consider which shortcuts I can take in getting ready to make up time, when I notice the date on my digital alarm clock's display.
It's Christmas day, and for once, I don't have to work. In fact, I was told that if I showed up at the office for any reason before Monday morning, then there was going to be dire consequences. I shudder to think what Vance's definition of 'dire' could be.
Sighing in relief that I'm not actually running late, I lift up the covers of my bed and slip back under them. They're still a little warm, and it doesn't take long for me to start to feel drowsy again. But drowsy is as far as I get because the slightly awake part of my brain starts to think about the two items on the shelf near my television.
For me it's pointless to decorate my apartment for Christmas when most of the time, I'm not even home to enjoy it. But, there's one thing I've managed to hold onto all these years that I put out without fail every Christmas. Each year when I get it out of its box (it's had probably half a dozen or so over the years) I am reminded of a life that was lost long ago.
I can see every detail of the object and its original owner in my mind's eye, but I know that image is flawed compared to the real thing. The original owner is long dead and the object doesn't look like it once did.
The object of my memories is a candle holder in the shape of a Christmas tree that once belonged to my mother.
After her death, my father got it into his head to get rid of everything that once belonged to her. During the purge of all that was my mother's, I managed to rescue some photographs and the one thing I so closely associated with her at the time.
She bought it shortly before we spent what turned out to be our last Christmas together. When she showed it to me that first time, my seven-year-old self was not that impressed with it.
But, then she lit the candle.
That's when it became magical. That's when it went from being a small iron tree to a little Christmas tree glowing brightly in a beautiful array of colors.
She lit a candle every night that year and every night it was transformed from cold iron to warm light. That last year together is also when she introduced me to my favorite Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life, staring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey.
Thankfully, it was on T.V. more than once that year because I didn't quite make it all the way through on my first viewing. We sat down in front of the T.V. to watch all snuggled up in blankets with caramel popcorn and hot mulled cider to snack on, but I fell asleep at some point.
I'll always remember that last Christmas with her all snuggled up in her warm, loving embrace watching that movie with that candle holder glowing brightly in the background.
The only thing missing from this fond memory is my father. Going over my memories of that year, I don't recall where my dad was during the holidays. Though, I do remember my mother being unhappy he wasn't there with us.
That next Christmas, the first without her, there were no decorations allowed in the house and barely any mention of the holiday. In my room, I took out the little tree and at the sight of it; I finally cried my eyes out at the loss of my mother. Prior to that night I had not shed a single tear because I was sternly told 'DiNozzo's don't cry'.
My eight-year-old self made a vow that day. With the candle holder held tightly in my hands, I promised that I would recreate as much of my last Christmas with my mother as possible every year – even if the only thing I did was to watch It's a Wonderful Life.
That year, I snuggled up in blankets to watch my movie and even managed to stay awake till the very end.
Every year since then I've managed to fit in one or all of the elements of that last Christmas.
I roll over and look at the clock. Somehow over an hour has passed while I was reminiscing. That's when an idea pops into my head.
Why not watch my movie now? I don't have anywhere to be so, why not?
I throw back the covers and stuff my socked feet into my slippers and pull on my thick robe. Heading into the kitchen, I get out everything I'll need to make the cider and caramel corn.
After I'm finished making a mess creating what is surely the best cider and caramel corn this side of NCIS, I hastily clean up in excited anticipation of what I'm about to do. When I'm finished cleaning, I grab the large bowl of caramel corn and shuffle into my living room.
I turn on the TV and put the DVD in before heading back into the kitchen for the rest of my supplies: a pile of napkins, a thick, ceramic mug, and a large thermos full of the hot mulled cider I'd made. Setting those down, I go over to my shelf and pick up a box of matches. I strike one and let the flame calm before lighting the fresh candle in my mother's candle holder. I watch it for a long while, mesmerized by the flame and saddened by the tree's appearance.
The holder is not as beautiful as it once was. One year during college, a drunk frat brother knocked it over and all the colored bits of glass broke. Only the iron frame remains to this day. As an extremely poor college student, I couldn't even begin to be able to afford to fix my precious heirloom. And over the years, when I've contemplated getting it fixed, I've feared it wouldn't look the same as it does in my memories. I honestly have no clue where to get it fixed anyway…
In my memories, I can still see the way the stained glass glowed. And, I can still see my mother's joyful face – she loved Christmas more than any other holiday.
Coming back to the present, I grab the extra blanket from my chair and add it to the one already on my couch. Sitting down, I make sure I have everything I need before getting comfortable. This year I have all the elements I need to keep my promise.
And, with the way I've arranged things, I won't have to leave my couch all morning if I didn't want to. Wrapping myself up in the blankets, I then press play on the remote before pouring a mug of cider.
Then, snuggled in my blankets and watching my movie I drink the cider and eat the popcorn. The only thing missing I think as my eyes stray to the candle's flame is my mother. But, the way my place smells right now and with the sights and sounds of the movie, I can almost feel her with me.
When the movie finishes, I impulsively decide to watch it again. I still have plenty of supplies and no reason to move that I can think of.
During the second viewing, I start to get a little melancholy. George Bailey may have had a wonderful life and I may have fulfilled my promise to my mother again this year, but that still leaves me alone on Christmas.
Abby flew out to see her family. Ducky's in Europe somewhere having a reunion with some friends from med school. Tim is spending Christmas with his sister while their parents are on a cruise. Ziva is somewhere skiing with her friend from Miami. And, Gibbs mentioned something about his dad, so I'm guessing they're spending the day together again this year. My dad, who said we should keep in touch more – well, hasn't. I've left several messages, but he has yet to return any of my calls.
I've spent many Christmases alone, but this year I feel the loneliness more than usual. It's been more than 30 years since my mother died, and I still suffer her loss as though it happened yesterday.
I feel something on my face and swipe at it only to find a wetness on my fingers. Tears?
A taunting voice sounding suspiciously like Senior's in my head says, DiNozzo's don't cry!
But I'm alone here today so I'm having a hard time seeing anything wrong with lamenting over the loss of someone I miss so much. A person whose death started a chain reaction of events that lead me to eventually become a federal agent. That led me to a family of sorts.
A family that's just like my own since my mother's death – one that doesn't spend the holidays together. It seems like the only holidays we spend together are as a result of our work schedules.
I mentally give myself a head slap for thinking badly about my teammates. It's not their fault they all have family and friends to celebrate the day with, and I hope they are all having a wonderful day today.
I resume watching my movie for the second time, but then after what seems only minutes later, I'm blinking myself more awake and stretching out on my couch. I glance at the clock on the DVD player. It's now after 1400 hours.
I guess I must have fallen asleep at some point.
Seems like some things never change, I muse to myself.
My stomach grumbles that it's hungry, and I start wondering what to do about lunch and dinner tonight as I untangle myself from my blankets.
Walking to the bathroom, I try to come up with ideas, but by the time I finish, the only idea that's come to mind is to order pizza. If I'm honest with myself, as a Christmas lunch or dinner, pizza seems really sort of pathetic, so I wander into my kitchen and survey my cupboards to see what I have that I could turn into a decent meal.
Unfortunately, I don't have much of anything. In buying the ingredients for my mulled cider and caramel corn, I neglected to also buy the essentials. I sigh in defeat because I know all the grocery stores near me are all closed today so the pizza idea is looking better and better every minute.
I could go out to eat, but going alone to a restaurant today also seems rather pathetic. Though for a moment I'm tempted to go to a Chinese food restaurant and order duck a la another Christmas movie classic, A Christmas Story, but I shoot down that idea too.
Nothing in real life is ever like the movies, so why bother even considering it anymore.
My decision is made: pizza. Now all I have to do is decide if I want double sausage and pepperoni along with my usual extra cheese. If I order now, I can have a couple slices for lunch and then reheat the rest for dinner.
I sit back down on the couch and automatically my eyes go to my mother's candle holder. The candle is getting low, dangerously low in fact, so I get up to blow out the flame. The wick's tip glows for a time and gives off some smoke before it dies completely.
Suddenly I'm not that hungry anymore, but I know I need some real food today so I grab my cell off the coffee table and call in my order to my favorite pizza place.
Since no one else broke the 'no gifts' rule we had again this year, I only have my father's gift to me to open. I decide to go get it and open it while I wait for my pizza to arrive.
It's a small package compared to the other less than useful gifts he's sent me over the years. I sit down and use my knife to cut the tape. Inside the box on top of the packing materials is a note: Maybe I'll see you at New Year's – Dad. I sigh heavily and wonder why he couldn't have just called to tell me we wouldn't be seeing each other today.
Under all the packing materials is a "Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer" that the box says is supposed to 'keep your coffee or other hot beverage warm for as long as you need it to be'. A totally impractical gift yet again. Where am I supposed to be able to use this thing? If it was battery powered, then perhaps…
"Maybe Gibbs will want it," I mumble to myself out loud and set the gift by my front door.
With my one gift opened, I think to myself:
Another Christmas over.
A/N: Because they're not my words, I thought I should acknowledge that I got the blurb about the Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer from Target's website.
Thanks for reading!
Merry Christmas Eve to those who celebrate!
And to all – Peace on earth, good will to men.