Chapter 28: Christmas Eve

Gibbs walked towards Tony's room. He was intent on confronting Tony about his attitude the last few days and his refusal to talk to a shrink. Gibbs suspected there was something seriously wrong and that it was time to take care of it. As he neared he heard a voice calling him. Around the corner John appeared and ran to Gibbs.

"Agent Gibbs, come quickly!"

"What, what is it?" asked Gibbs worried.

"We have a plan. A good plan, but we need your help right now!"

John dragged Gibbs past Tony's room to Leah's. He walked in and stopped in surprise. All of Leah's family was there and they had their arms full. Leah sat in a wheelchair and looked at Gibbs.

"We have a surprise for Tony, but everyone's arms are full. Will you push me?"

Gibbs smiled and completely dismissed his original plan.

"Of course. Let's go."

10 minutes later…

It was crowded and noisy in Tony's room. The armfuls of holiday paraphernalia were now spread all over, turning the stark white hospital room into an explosion of reds and greens. Tony watched Trent and Tyson argue over who got to put the star on the small Christmas tree that was actually real. John, who was placing presents beneath it, stopped to break up the argument. Abby, Palmer, Ducky, and Ziva all walked in carrying small presents of their own. A small menorah was placed on the side table.

"Even though Hanukkah is over we can still celebrate right?" Trent asked Ziva in a serious tone.

Ziva laughed. "Of course we can."

Tony laughed along and caught Leah's eye. She smiled knowingly and continued arranging the bow on a present that had gotten ripped. Tony smiled back and continued to laugh, feeling the day brighten.

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A few days later it was Christmas Eve. Tony was carefully loaded into a wheelchair and, pushed by Abby, he participated in caroling around the hospital with the team and Leah's family. Vance and Skyler, who had come to visit again, joined the chorus. The team was surprised to learn the entire Wyattson family were singers and were happy to add their voices. Leah was well enough to walk on her own, though her older brothers were taking turns shadowing her steps, just in case.

After an hour, the group made a special stop in the children's ward in the large playroom. Most of the kids still in the hospital were terminally ill and were excited to see a large group of people enter carrying small gifts, candy, and smiles. The entire group split up, taking pictures, giving gifts, and spreading the holiday cheer. Tony sat next to a small boy who had leukemia and watched Trent read to him. He saw Ziva speaking quietly to a small Israeli boy in Hebrew and giving him a small bag of treats. He watched Gibbs give a pink toy pony to a little girl in a wheelchair and give her a quick kiss on the head. He laughed as Palmer and Luke were buried by a small mob of six or seven year olds who all needed transplants of some sort. Abby gave a final hug to a five year old with a serious heart condition and now a new teddy bear and walked over to Tony. She sat down next to him with a happy sigh.

"I think I've given more hugs here than ever in my life."

Tony chuckled. "I kind of doubt that Abbs."

"No I'm serious. These kids are all so loving and happy. A little five year old boy said he was collecting as many hugs as he could before he died so that he could give them out to the angels in heaven."

Tony said nothing and watched a little boy with a walker sign Leah's cast. Abby tapped Tony on the arm. "Did you know they do this every year?"

"Really? How long have they been doing this?"

"This is their tenth year I think."

"Why?"

"Trent told me he used to have another older sister named Jenna." Abby paused and took a shaky breath. "She was born between John and the younger twins, but she was born with a hole in her heart. They fixed it when she was a baby, but she got really sick when she was three and they found she had a serious heart condition. She spent two years here, here nearly every day, and died when she was five. Leanne was pregnant with the twins when she died."

The two looked around. There were so many people in the room who had lost family; the Wyattson's, Gibbs, Ziva. The room was full of children who might not live past their tenth birthday.

Suddenly the family was all gathered at one end of the room. Leanne sat behind a beat up old baby grand piano and started up Christmas songs. The group burst into song, clear and united. All the little kids that could ran to the large rug in front of them and sat down. Some started singing joyfully along. Ziva and Gibbs helped several kids into chairs nearby so they could participate then joined the rest of the team at the back of the room. They all sat and listened to all the typical Christmas songs from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to Silent Night.

Luke moved between the kids and picked up the small Israeli boy and carried him to the front. They started singing a popular Hanukkah song, encouraging the boy to sing to. He shyly smiled then spotted Ziva at the back of the room. He grinned and called to Ziva, asking her to sing along. Ziva flushed and was pushed towards the front by Abby. She walked through the swarms of children and at the urging of the boy she started singing along. Tony looked behind him and saw a crowd gathered, listening. Gibbs caught his eye and bent down next to him. "You okay DiNozzo?"

Tony looked around, contemplating the question. Leah's quote popped into his head, with her voice. 'I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.' He looked up at Gibbs. "Not completely, but I will be."

Gibbs nodded and grasped his shoulder tightly. "You did you duty Tony. You brought Leah home, you did your job."

Tony smiled crookedly. "Took a teenage girl scolding me to realize it."

Gibbs chuckled and released his shoulder. "You've gone through worse. We've gone through worse. Not much worse but worse. We can make it through this."

"You got that right Boss," said Tony. "We can."

A nurse approached Ducky, who was standing right behind Tony, and tapped him on the shoulder. She whispered in his ear for a moment. Ducky smiled broadly and nodded his thanks. He moved to the middle of the group and got everyone's attention.

"Timothy has awakened," he said happily.

Abby squealed and ran out of the room. Ducky announced it again to the Wyattson family and they all cheered and started picking their way through the kids to follow. Luke stopped and grabbed Tony, wheeling him out the door. Within moments everyone was gathered around Tim's bed, happily welcoming the final member of the team, of the family, back into the waking world.

The End

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End Note: Whew, finally finished my very first real story. Thank you to everyone for being patient with me and for reading. It didn't turn out at all like I planned or expected, but that's how it goes with stories sometimes. They take you in directions you weren't expecting.