Abby Sciuto: 1989's Christmas nightmare for every parent. The unattainable-
Leroy Jethro Gibbs: Beary Smiles.
Abby Sciuto: My dad waited in line two hours for one on Black Friday.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs: Six...Christmas Eve.
-NCIS 6x14; "Love and War".
Christmas Even, 1989
Five-year-old Kelly Gibbs struggled with the buckles on her shiny new Mary Janes, her tongue sticking out of her mouth comically and her forehead wrinkled in adorable concentration as she tried to work the clasps all by herself.
Gibbs finished fixing his tie and sat forward on the couch next to her, smiling fondly and tapping her knee. She looked up at him and pouted, her big blue eyes shining at him in half-hearted indignation.
"I can do it, Daddy," she said earnestly.
"I know," he said gruffly, poking her gently in the tummy and scooting over next to her. He put his arm around her and went about buckling the shoes for her deftly, careful to make sure they weren't too too tight. He tilted his head at her, lowering his voice. "Daddy needs practice," he said, as if it were a secret.
His daughter giggled and wriggled her feet. He tapped her feet gently with his palm.
"Comfy?" he asked.
"My toesies are squished," Kelly said, making a face.
She wrinkled her nose and Gibbs wrinkled his, too, pressing it against her cheek.
"Mine too," he said conspiratorially, lifting his foot and showing her the stuffy dress shoes he had on. She slouched and stretched to put her foot on top of his, wrinkling her dress a little and giggling again when she saw her tiny foot in comparison to his.
"My dress is scratchy," Kelly said, looking up at him from her back. She lay at a weird angle, and he knew if her mother saw her, she'd fret about the state of the dress and the little girl's neatly done hair.
Gibbs made a sympathetic face and picked her up gently, sitting her up next to him. He pointed to his tie.
"So's my tie," he said, frowning.
"I wanna put my jammies on," Kelly said, pouting a little. She stuck her lower lip out. "Why do we have to go to late big Church?" she asked sadly.
Gibbs smiled apologetically. Kelly wasn't used to sitting through an entire Mass, and she certainly wasn't used to spending Christmas Eve at the church. She usually had children's classes while he and Shannon attended service, and they usually forwent Christmas Eve Mass as a special treat to stay home and watch Christmas movies.
This year, Shannon's mother was visiting, so it was different—Mass was a must.
"It makes Mommy happy," Gibbs said honestly.
It was the only reason he wasn't protesting. Shannon was happy when her mother was happy, and he didn't have it in him to get into a turf war with his mother-in-law, not on Christmas and not when he'd really just gotten home. He'd been in Panama, and he'd missed a lot this year.
"You mean it makes Grandma happy," Kelly whispered.
Gibbs smiled at her and straightened out her dress. He nodded and touched her nose.
"Yeah," he agreed. "But if Grandma's happy, Mommy's happy," he explained, and then he shrugged. "I like it when Mom's happy."
Kelly swung her foot and nodded.
"Yeah," she agreed reluctantly. She put her hands in her lap and fidgeted. "But I wanna watch Frosty and wait for Santa," she said in a small voice, and folded her arms, looking up at Gibbs forlornly.
"I know," Gibbs said sympathetically. "Hey, look at it this way. After Mass it'll be really late and Santa will be here even faster! Because it's bedtime right after Mass."
"No, Daddy. I'm not tired."
He pretended to glare at her.
"Santa still has time to bring you coal, missy."
She squealed and covered her eyes. She leapt up and hung onto his knee, leaning over and looking up at him excitedly.
"Daddy let's put cookies out before we go, okay? Daddy, please!"
He grinned, holding up his hands in defeat.
"Sure thing, Princess," he agreed, standing up. She hugged his leg and scampered off to the kitchen in front of him.
"Jethro, we're leaving in five minutes!" Shannon shouted from upstairs.
"We're ready," he answered gruffly.
He swung Kelly onto his hip, pretending she was too heavy for him, and pulled a plate out of the cabinet, letting her sit on the counter and arrange the iced sugar cookies she and her grandfather had made on the platter.
"Church is boring," she piped up. "Grandma always says I'm bad in church," she added with a frown. She gave him a pout again, and even the pretty bow in her hair seemed to wilt. "So Santa will bring me coal."
"Nah," Gibbs said, crouching down and looking her in the eye. "You're not bad in Church, honey, you're just bored."
"Are you sure, Daddy?"
"Hundred percent positive."
"How'd you know? You're not Santa."
Gibbs smirked and arched a brow.
"I know 'im, though. I keep 'im posted on you, munchkin, and I'm on your side," he promised. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead affectionately. "Santa won't dock you points for being bored."
Kelly looked at him as skeptically as a five-year-old could.
"Don't believe me?"
She shook her head, and he glanced around furtively.
"Tell you a secret," he whispered.
"What?" she asked, her eyes lighting up.
"I get bored in Church, too," he said.
Kelly laughed quietly, her blue eyes sparkling. She relaxed and reached up to smooth her hair, all of her worries assuaged. He heard Shannon's footsteps on the stairs and put his finger to his lips urgently, pretending she must keep the secret.
"Jethro? Come on. Kelly, come put your coat on," Shannon called from the hallway. She muttered something under her breath. "Mother's meeting us at the church."
Gibbs swung Kelly off the counter and she shrieked in laughter. He picked up the plate to take it into the living room by the Christmas tree, and he swiped Kelly's coat from Shannon as he walked past. She smiled sweetly and watched them set out the cookies.
Gibbs crouched down and helped his little girl into her coat, doing up the buttons tightly.
"Daddy," she whispered hopefully, as he straightened the collar and fixed her bow.
"If I'm super super good, do you think Santa will bring me Beary Smiles?"
Gibbs glanced over at Shannon and she shook her head slightly, silently telling him not to promise anything. He looked back at Kelly and tilted his head, pretending to think it over carefully.
"Maybe if you're beary good," he teased.
Kelly beamed at him, and he stood up, offering her his hand. She took it, clinging to him tightly, and he took the car keys from Shannon as she opened the front door. His wife paused to spare him a kiss on the corner of the mouth and a wry smile.
Church was crowded. It was the typical holiday crowd, the frazzled families who all remembered they were religious at the very last minute at the end of the year and scrambled to get their quick sign-of-the-cross in before the mad dash for gifts consumed them.
It was stuffy and hot in the Church and the pews were much too crowded. Kelly was fidgeting and earning stern looks from her grandmother. Occasionally, she received a placating hand on the leg from Shannon, but she got no reprimand from Gibbs—he was about as fussy as the five-year-old and he thought the priest was never going to finish.
Kelly slumped down a little and pulled her knee up, reaching down to scratch at her sock.
Shannon firmly pulled the little girl into a sitting position and swatted her hand, conveying disappointment silently.
Kelly frowned, her lip shaking, and reached up to rub her eyes. Poor thing, she was tired and all she had wanted to do was watch Frosty with a glass of milk and a cookie. Gibbs, too, had wanted to spend his first Holiday back home alone with his girls, but it just hadn't worked out that way.
"Daddy," Kelly whined under her breath. "Daddy, when's it over?"
"Kelly, hush please," Joanne reprimanded shortly.
Gibbs shot her a glare, and received a warning look from Shannon in response. It was one thing for Shannon to admonish Kelly, but he didn't take kindly to Joanne doing it. It was her fault Kelly had to sit in this uncomfortable wooden pew in a dress that practically had petticoats.
Kelly rubbed her eyes again. Gibbs looked up at the Priest. He was still droning on and on about things Kelly was much too young to comprehend. Gibbs cleared his throat and reached over, stroking Kelly's hair. She looked up at him unhappily and he smiled half-heartedly, making a face.
"I'm bored," she whined. "Why doesn't Jesus just tell a story?" she asked quietly, trying to keep her voice down.
She also seemed to be confusing the Priest with the Son of God himself.
Gibbs ignored the look Joanne was giving him and shifted to the side. He picked Kelly up and let her sit on his lap. She flopped against his chest pitifully and pressed her cheek on his shoulder, pouting tiredly. She yawned, and he moved over, relieved to have a little more room.
Joanne didn't look happy, but he could feel Shannon smiling at him with a warm, melt-y look and he gloated about it silently.
He patted his right shoulder, and Kelly switched her head over there; this way her body was blocking his mouth from Joanne's line of sight, and he could tilt his head down to her ear and very quietly whisper a much more interesting homily to her.
"'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a Kelly was stirring—not even in church!"
Gibbs began the familiar children's rhyme slowly, employing years of practice in keeping quiet as the grave to entertain her during this stuffy adult's Christmas celebration. He felt her smile and laugh softly and snuggle closer; he kept going.
" The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicklaus soon would be there…"
"With Beary Smiles," Kelly whispered, hugging him hopefully.
"Kelly was nestled all snug with her Dad, while visions of teddy bears danced in her head."
"Daddy," she giggled quietly. "Silly."
"And Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap—when out on the rooftop there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter," Gibbs paused, covertly glancing to see if he had gotten Joanne's attention.
His mother-in-law hadn't cottoned on, but he could tell Shannon was listening to him rather than the Priest.
"Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash," he stopped a minute, trying to remember the next few lines. He glanced at Shannon for help and she bit her lip, shaking her head—she wasn't sure.
"Keep going!" whispered Kelly.
So he skipped to what he knew.
"I knew in a flash it must be St. Nick! Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer, and Vixen, on Comet on Cupid, on Donner, and Blitzen! To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall! Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
Kelly yawned again, the smile still playing eagerly on her lips, and he kept his voice at that low, barely audible volume while he told her the story, comforted by Shannon's soft smile next to him. When his wife got up to take communion, she motioned for him to stay—and he ignored the nasty look he got from Joanne; he wasn't Catholic, anyway.
"He spoke not a word but when straight to his work, and filled all his stockings then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod up the chimney he rose," Gibbs looked down at Kelly; she glanced up at him drowsily, half asleep, and he held her a little closer to his shoulder, hugging her to him while Shannon and Joanne slipped by and knelt down for post-communion prayer.
He leaned back, rubbing her back soothingly.
"…he sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,"
Kelly's breathing told him she was asleep, but as Shannon sat back next to him, she leaned over and kissed their daughter's head, and then gave Gibbs an indulgent look over her sleeping head.
"Merry Christmas to all," she murmured, stroking Kelly's hair. "And to all a goodnight."
It was cold and late when they stood outside the Church, and Gibbs waited by the car with Kelly still fast asleep in his arms while Shannon said her goodbyes to her parents. Hugging herself tightly, his wife jogged over to him, her breath turning frosty in the cold air.
"Jethro, goodness, put her in the car, she'll get sick," she said quietly.
"You got the keys, babe," he retorted in the same soft tone.
She looked embarrassed, but he shook his head. He waved his hand at Shannon's father over her shoulder and beckoned him over. He leaned forward, handing Kelly over to Shannon. Giving no thought to the child's weight, Shannon easily took her and snuggled up with her, giving him a curious look.
"Mac," Gibbs said, when his father-in-law was closer. He nodded. "Take the girls home for me."
"Where are you going?" Shannon asked, her lips pursed uncertainly.
He gestured at Kelly.
"I'm gonna get her that bear," he said gruffly.
"Jethro, I," Shannon began, exasperated. "I tried. It's sold out. She'll have to do without," she explained, frowning.
Gibbs smirked at her.
"I'm gonna get her that bear," he repeated.
"Why?" Shannon asked helplessly, tilting her head. "She has plenty of gifts."
He shrugged, and stepped closer, taking the keys out of her pocket and pressing a quick kiss to her cheek.
"'Cause," he said simply. "She's too little for the magic to go out of Santa."
He didn't want Kelly to wake up and find the one thing she wanted so badly missing from underneath the tree. He'd been there. Every kid had been there, and she'd have to deal with it someday—but not this year.
This year, his little girl was getting Beary Smiles.
Five cities and ten hours later—six of those spent waiting in line—Gibbs walked into his house with a perfectly gift-wrapped box to set under the tree as the centerpiece of Kelly's modest pile of gifts.
He crouched by the dying fire and strategically placed it so it was the first thing she would see when she ran down the stairs—right down to it's bear-shaped bow and the telltale beary wrapping paper. He stepped back to smugly admire his handiwork—and heard rustling behind him.
"Santa, that you?" Shannon asked sleepily, sitting up from the couch.
She smirked at him.
He turned and dragged his feet over to her, collapsing next to her. He was exhausted and cold; his head was killing him, but it was worth it.
"Not a creature s'pose to be stirring, Shannon," he drawled, throwing his arm around her.
"Yeah, well, I had to eat all the cookies while you were off being the world's best daddy, and then I couldn't move," she answered, yawning, stretching, and lazily leaning into him.
He grinned and pulled her legs over his lap, nudging the side of her face with his nose expectantly.
"Can I have a kiss?" he asked.
She opened one eye and peeked at him sassily.
"I'd really like to, St. Nick, but my husband would be mighty jealous."
He rolled his eyes and pressed his lips to hers, leaning back with the intention of falling asleep right here. Kelly would be up in barely an hour; there was no use in getting cozy in bed. She smiled and ran her hand over his chest, sighing contently and snuggling into him sleepily.
"Jethro," she murmured. "I'm so glad you're her father."
He rested his cheek against his wife's head and nodded.
"Beary glad," Shannon teased impishly, and he nipped at her shoulder gently.
"Merry Christmas, Shannon," he said gruffly.
She was back to sleep in an instant, breathing peacefully against his chest, and he looked over her head at the hard earned, coveted Beary Smiles waiting patiently under the tree, thinking about how worth it the six-hour wait would be when Kelly opened it.
The goofy, grinning bear had nothing on his little girl's smile.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.
story # 102