a/n: mid-November 2012, the writers on another site that I belong to received the sad news that one of our moderators, many of you might have read her stories and known her as Channeld, passed away due to a heart attack. I volunteered to write a story for her recipient and this is the result.

Timothy McGee can tell something is wrong. Oh the music is blaring, which is normal, but something is wrong with his friend, his life partner, his soul-mate. Not that she will ever admit to being any of the above, but he knows something is, in her words "Hinky." He puts an arm around her waist and she slips easily into a loose hug.

"What's wrong Abbs?"

To his surprise, she bursts into tears and he holds her close. It's late-November, so Christmastime is approaching, but normally that puts her into an even cheerier mood than normal. He waits until the tears subside and her breathing slows down, before he lets her go.

"Honey, what is it?"

She points wordlessly at the computer screen and he sighs as he reads the announcement on there. A close friend has posted the loss of yet another friend and he gives her a hug as he reads the obituary. Seeing where and when the funeral and memorial services will be held, he tips her chin up and presses a small kiss there before asking,

"Would you like to go and pay your respects to her?"

Abby dries her eyes on the handkerchief he hands her and she nods. Her chin is still trembling, and he knows that this friend, whomever she was, had been special to her. He pulls out his cell phone and quietly tells Gibbs that they need some personal leave time, but that he'll keep his phone on vibrate, if the boss needs him.

Gibbs asks him what happened and Tim tells him. Gibbs hangs up the phone and looks at Tony and Ziva who are entering the room. They're squabbling amicably about some new film coming out, and when they look over at Tim's empty desk know that something is wrong as the computer guru is usually there before they arrive. Gibbs just tells them that Tim and Abby won't be in right away, but there are some cold case files on their desks they can work on for the time being.

Tony sidles up to Gibbs about two hours later, "Boss, not to be nosy but what's wrong? Tim's never this late, not even for Abby."

"They went to pay their respects to a friend."

Looking at Ziva who shakes her head, Tony has to ask. "Do we know who the friend is?"

"No, just someone that Abby respected and admired."

Sighing in defeat, Tony sits back down at his desk. Half an hour later when Gibbs' phone rings, Tony looks up. The boss waves him back down and Tony sighs, wondering just what is going on with his Probie and the Goth.

Ziva in the meantime has phoned Palmer, who slips up to Abby's lab. The email is still up on the computer and the young man sighs as he reads the obituary. Whoever this Pam person was, she had apparently been very important to Abby and he emails Ziva, letting her know what he's found out.

Reading the email, Ziva taps a pencil against her cheek, then writing down what she's found out, looks up at Tony. Gibbs has left the room, presumably to get more coffee and Ziva quickly emails the senior agent telling him the news. Tony looks up at her, raising an eyebrow in quiet question. She shakes her head, and Tony knows that Tim and Abby won't be coming back that day, and maybe not the next, so he calls Tim, asking if they'll need a hotel reservation.

"Please and thank you Tony. We've several hours to go yet, so that will be a great help."

"Is Abbs doing okay Probie?"

Tim looks down at the dark head, resting quietly on his shoulder. "She's sleeping for now; or resting her eyes anyway. We'll be okay Tony. Tell Palmer and Ziva thank you. We're on the Interstate now, it's the parking that's going to take a while. If you can get us a hotel close to where we need to be, we'll both really appreciate it."

"Just take care of Abbs. We'll take care of things from this side, Probie."

"Thanks Tony. I'm sure the boss will let you know, but I'll still call as soon as we get there."

"Okay, Probie, drive safely."

The rest of the trip passes fairly quickly. Tim manages to find the hotel that Tony and Ziva set up for them, and he wakens Abby to tell her that they need to get going as they are at the hotel. The memorial service isn't until the next day, but this way, they'll be rested and can look around town prior to the service. Nodding her head, she wipes away her tears, and gives him a hug.

"Thank you Timmy. I know that you're wondering who she was."

"She was a friend of yours Abby, that's all any of us need to know. Tony and Ziva found us a hotel near where the service will be held and made our reservations, so we can at least rest here for the night. I thought that tomorrow we'd get some shopping done and then we can go pay our respects to your friend."

She sniffles again and then asks, "Can we go sight-seeing tonight? I'd like to see where it's being held if we can."

Tim nods in agreement. "I'll get us checked in. Did you want to wait here or come with me?"

"I'll wait here if it's okay. I need to call Gibbs; he'll be worried."

He caresses her cheek and she leans into his palm. "I'll be right back."

Tim heads into the building and Abby pulls out her cell. She hits number one on her speed dial and isn't surprised when Gibbs answers with a non-traditional, "You okay Abbs?"

She sighs heavily as she admits, "No, I'm not. I just… I feel so lost, Gibbs. She was such a rock for so many people and to lose her so suddenly, to a heart attack of all things. I just, I want to go back in time and find a way to bring her back to us."

His next words are more of a statement than a question, "She was special."

"Yeah, to so many people and yet, so few knew her. They knew about her, about her reading and how she loved to write and encouraged others to write. She was a friend to anyone who met her, no matter if it was in real life or just online. I can't believe she's gone."

"You're gonna be all right."

Abby sighs as she sees Tim approaching the vehicle. "Yeah, thanks for letting Timmy come with me."

"Take the next few days off, tell Tim to call me when you're finished settling in your rooms."



"Yeah, Gibbs?"

"It will take time, but remember my door is still open."

"Thanks Gibbs."

Tim comes out, and hands her a key card; Abby looks at him in surprise As he drives them around to the back of the hotel and unloads their bags, he tells her, "Only one room available, but it is a non-smoking room and it does have two queen-sized beds. Come on, we'll unpack and then we'll wander around a bit. We'll do some window shopping if nothing else, how does that sound?"

Abby gives him a hug. "Thank you Timmy. Gibbs said to make sure you call him."

Tim smiles, "Why don't you go take a quick shower? I'll call Gibbs and let him know where we are."

She nods and he hands her a newly wrapped toothbrush. "Here, I doubt you had time to think about it before we left."

She smiles again and heads into the bathroom. Within seconds, the shower water is running and Tim sighs as he pulls out his cell phone.

"Hey Boss. Yeah, we're okay, she's in the shower. Not much choice on rooms, but it does have two beds. No, I think we'll go window shopping tonight and have a nice dinner out. We're close enough to walk to the service tomorrow. I'll be planning our route while we're out tonight. Thanks Boss, I'll let her know."


Gibbs looks around the squad room and smiles at the expectant looks on Tony and Ziva's faces.

"They've arrived but only one room with two beds. Tim's taking her window shopping and he'll use that time to find the quickest path to the memorial service. I told him to take the weekend off. Go home, get some sleep. I'll let you know if anything changes."

The other two grab their packs and head towards the elevator. Jimmy's in it and they shake their heads at the question in his eyes.

He sighs and then asks, "Tim was going to pop the question this weekend; do you think he will now?"

Tony shakes his head, "No. Another man might, just to take advantage while she is down, but not my Probie. If he does pop it, it'll be at a more appropriate time when she's had time to think and not with her emotions."

Ziva looks from one to the other, "He might not take advantage of our Abby, but he still might make use of this time to find her the right ring. This window shopping could be a ruse for him to do just that."

They both nod. "That would be like him. Abbs will take him to every mall, but he'll still find time to find her that special gift."

Jimmy sighs, "Christmas is close by. It would make sense for him to ask her then."

Tony nods, "He'll know when the time is right."


Showers completed, dressed in jeans and pullovers, the couple set out for the downtown area. Christmas is definitely in the air and decorated windows are in almost every shop. Looking down at the woman by his side, Tim can see the melancholy starting to lift and knew that coming out tonight had definitely been a good decision. They wander from shop to shop, stopping briefly at one or another to gaze at the different displays of Christmas toys and other goodies.

They start to pass by another one when Abby tugs at his arm. His latest Thom E. Gemcity novel is on display and they walk into the shop. A bell rings when they enter and they both look up just in time to see the mistletoe; Tim gives her a small kiss as they wait for the proprietor to arrive. They're both a bit surprised to see a diminutive lady dressed in holiday cheer. "She looks like Mrs. Claus, only she doesn't have white hair," Abby whispers in awe.

"Welcome to the Bell, Book and Candle. Why Mr. Gemcity, what an honor sir! Are you in town to promote your newest book?"

"No, actually, we just came up to do some window shopping." He doesn't do any elaborating but the older woman can see the sadness in Abby's eyes and makes her own deductions about the real reason they are there. Nodding to herself as if making a decision, she looks up at Abby before asking,

"Hmm, how are you holding up dearie?"

Abby gives her a wan smile and the other woman pats her arm. "Come on back for a cup of tea. I was just about to close up shop when you folks came in."

"We can come back tomorrow, if we're making you miss your dinner." Tim offers and the lady shakes her head.

"I'll just put up the closed sign; come on back you two."

Tim looks at Abby and sighs as she looks up at him in expectation. "It's okay; we'll stay for a while and then make our excuses."

"You will most certainly be here for supper. I insist upon it. I miss cooking for young folks. So, how long have you known each other?"

Tim smiles, "A long time and yet not so very long. Sometimes it seems like we just met."

Abby nods as they follow the proprietress through the shop. A Christmas theme is in every corner, whether it's the lights dancing around the window, green garland hugging the door or the mistletoe they'd seen when they'd first walked into the shop, this is definitely a person who believes in Christmas.
There's a small Christmas tree with presents in a far corner. A chair and table are nearby and Tim can see the cookie tin waiting to be opened. A saucer and an empty glass are sitting on the table, and Tim knows that Santa will be coming to this house come Christmas Eve, if not sooner.

"Does Santa stop by?" He asks and the lady chuckles as a twinkle enters her eyes.

"We have a gentleman that reads to our younger patrons every day starting this weekend. I don't suppose I could talk you into being one of our readers could I? My normal fellow is out of town due to one of his daughters presenting him with the gift of a new grandson this past week."

Tim hesitates and is about to say no, when he sees the pleading in the older woman's eyes as well as the nod she sends him in regards to Abby and her melancholy. He nods and says that they'll just have to let their boss know what is going on. Abby smiles and the proprietress claps her hands.

"Thank you young man, now let's get you that tea."

Two hours later, sated by a delicious roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, including a homemade cherry pie ala mode and endless conversation, the young couple leaves the shop promising to stop and fulfill Tim's promise to her that weekend. Abby puts her head on Tim's shoulder when they leave and he smiles down at her.

"Not quite what I had planned when we came out tonight, but I think it was more fun than either of us anticipated, huh?"

"She really does remind me of Mrs. Claus; do you suppose she really is and she's incognito for the season?"

Tim shrugs, "Does it really matter? She seems lively enough to me and I wouldn't want to insult her if she's not."

They continue walking, talking quietly about the day to come and how they want to proceed through it.

Morning dawns and Tim looks over at the bed beside him. Abby is still asleep, but there is a more peaceful look on her face and in his mind, that's encouraging. He slips into the bathroom for a quick shower, then sets up his ipad to find the quickest path to the service they'll be attending that afternoon. To his surprise, the street with the bookshop is on the way and he smiles as he thinks about the woman with whom they'd spent the previous evening. She'd insisted about halfway through their meal that they call her Maisie, and they'd both smiled at the old-fashioned name as they thought about how it suited her.

He reaches over and nudges Abby's shoulder. She opens her eyes slowly and he smiles encouragingly at her.

"Maisie's shop is on our way. Would you like to stop in after we pay our respects to your friend?"

Abby nods and he motions for her to head to the bathroom. She slips into the clothes she'll be wearing that day and mentally thanks Gibbs for letting Tim come with her. Somehow, the gentle man and his calm demeanor keep her grounded and for once she's grateful that he does. Frowning, wondering how to pay him back for all he's done this trip, she decides to get Maisie alone if possible and ask her what or how she might be able to do so.

Tim is thinking about Maisie too, but he wants to thank her for helping him with Abby. Her presence the night before had been just what they'd needed to help lift Abby's spirits. Oh she's not quite up to the Christmas cheer that normally drives most of the Navy Yard nuts, but he can tell she's on the mend.

Late that afternoon, having paid their respects to Abby's friend, the couple heads back to their hotel. Neither of them have said much, both deep in thought as they walk in companionable silence. For the first time in hours, Abby is sipping on a Caf-Pow and that in itself is a good sign in Tim's eyes. Maisie's bookshop has its doors open and they walk in. Tim reaches up and dings the bell above the door so that the diminutive woman knows they are there.

"There you are! I was wondering when you two were going to show up. Are you feeling a bit better now, dearie?"

Abby nods and sips on her Caf-Pow and Tim chuckles. "She was going through withdrawals."

Abby gives him a good-natured slap on the shoulder and Maisie laughs as she leads them to her backroom. A pot of chicken noodle soup is bubbling on the stove and coffee is percolating in the old-fashioned coffee pot. The oven timer is set to go off and Tim sniffs the air appreciatively.

"Hmm, homemade bread?"

"You, young man, have very discerning tastes."

"My grandmother always made sure I got at least one of the crusty ends. She topped it with homemade pumpkin butter. It became a sort of Christmas tradition, I guess you could say."

Maisie smiles at the nostalgic look on his face and hands him the oven mitts. "Take it out and the first slice is yours."

She heads over to the refrigerator and pulls out several kinds of jams, jellies and of all things a jar of pumpkin butter.

Several minutes later, once the bread has cooled just enough to slice without losing its shape, Tim is eating the crusty end, slathered in pumpkin butter.

"I hate to admit this, but this is even better than Grandma's." Tim says with a sigh as his eyes close in appreciation of the food in his hands and mouth. Abby smacks him lightly for speaking with his mouth full and Maisie's eyes twinkle as she sees the Goth's eyes start to lose their solemnity and regain the mischievousness and Christmas cheer that she's known for.

Abby in the meantime has been looking more closely at the decorations in the shop and the backroom. She absently notes that many seem to be decades old, if not almost turn of the century – perhaps the early 1900s. Wandering back to the bookshop, she stops by the one display counter that is closest to the table and chair that Tim will be occupying that weekend and sighs at the Christmassy theme. An old-fashioned Santa is walking in the woods, wildlife all around him and children walking or running in front of him. He has a pack over his shoulder and is carrying another child in his arms.

"Timmy, we need to think about gifts for our friends." She states and Tim grins at Maisie.

"Now I know she's on the mend."

He saunters out into the bookshop and smiles as she runs her hands over the displays. "Look, it's an early edition of "Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus."

"One of your favorite stories, as I recall."

She nods her head enthusiastically. As they look at the displays, Tim mentally picks out this present or that for their friends back home. He sees a leather bound edition of a set of books that he could get for Ducky when suddenly Abby turns to him and he braces himself for whatever she might say. He's not really sure why, but something in the shop has bothered her and he knows she's going to ask him to leave sooner than they'd expected.

"Timmy, can we go to some other shops now?"

Tim looks apologetically at Maisie and the older woman smiles knowingly. "Go on, go do your shopping. I'll still be here in the morning."

Tim asks, "What time do you want me here, Maisie and did you need a Santa or just someone to read?"

"Just someone to read this weekend Tim; Santa will come and do his reading next weekend. Our first reading is at nine a.m. That's when the morning shoppers start their rounds and I really do appreciate you being willing to do this for me."

Tim smiles, "It's not a big deal, Maisie, and let me know if you change your mind. I really don't mind playing Santa for a few hours."

Abby tugs at his arm and he smiles as he waves goodbye. Soon they're back on the streets and Tim chides, "We could have stayed another hour or so; she did have another nice meal ready for us."

"I know but I wanted to see what other stores have now. I still need to buy gifts for everyone."

Tim thinks about the items he'd seen in Maisie's windows. Several gifts had crossed his mind while he'd been at the woman's shop and, despite Abby's thoughts to the contrary, he knows what gifts he wants to pick up for his friends when he goes back over the next few days. One of them being that leather bound copy of Kidnapped and Catriona by Robert Louis Stevenson for Ducky. He wanted to get the set of the Waverly Novels by Sir Walter Scott, that he knows would tickle a certain Scottish doctor to no end, but for now, he'll settle for a copy of Ivanhoe to go with the other two books. As well as a rare edition of Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum for Gibbs. An old Mennorah he's seen will make a perfect gift for Ziva, who despite becoming a naturalized citizen would still appreciate the thought if nothing else. He's found a turn of the century doctor's bag with stethoscope for Jimmy and as for Tony- he smiles and nods to himself in satisfaction as he allows Abby to lead him away.

Maisie looks up when the door bell jingles again and she smiles at the robust man framing the doorway. He picks her up in a hug and dances with her, back to the kitchen. Lifting the lid from the chicken noodle soup he looks at Maisie who smiles at him serenely as she hands him a large spoon. He nods in approval at the taste and carries it over to the table then frowns when he sees the crust from the bread already sliced off.

She pats his arm and says in admonishment "Don't pout, I saved the other end for you and there's another loaf in the oven even as we speak."

He chews thoughtfully on the bread slice, and her blue eyes twinkle with love and mirth as he slathers more pumpkin butter on yet another slice. As they sit down at the table and he ladles the soup into their bowls he glances at her, "He is the one we want, isn't he?"

Maisie nods her blue eyes thoughtful as she reflects on the young couple that had just left, "I think he'll be a perfect candidate; this weekend will prove or disprove it."


Stopping here, gazing at toys there, the young couple continues to make their way back to the hotel. Once inside, Abby spreads the few purchases she did make on her bed and gazes at them thoughtfully. As she picks up the scented bath oil beads she plans to give to Ziva, she glances at Tim and asks "Was I too rude to Maisie, Timmy?"

"Hmm, she didn't appear to think so. She seems to understand you very well."

"I just… I couldn't stay there too much longer, she was almost too understanding. It was like she could read my thoughts and know just what to say or do to try and make it all better."

"Hey, she said it would be okay. Don't dwell on it; think about what you've picked up today and then when we go back tomorrow, you can always apologize."

She gives him a hug. "How come you never seem to get mad when it comes to this kind of thing?"

" It's just been one of those weeks."

She scuffs her toes in the carpet, "Yeah but, you've been so super this time and I feel like I let you down."

He sighs and pulls her into his arms, "Don't worry about it; it's over. We can't change what's been done. We can, however, go forward and try to do better. We have all weekend after all. And that reminds me, I need to let Gibbs know that we might be really late getting back on Sunday."

"I'll call Gibbs," she offers and smiles. "Why don't you call Tony? He'll be worried about his Probie."

Nodding in agreement, Tim takes out his cell phone and hits the speed dial.

"Probie! How is she?"

Tim looks over at Abby as she chats with Gibbs.

"She's on the mend Tony; she's on the mend."

"So, when are you coming home and did you get me anything for Christmas?"

Tim laughs as he imagines Tony's surprise when he does open the gift Tim had seen at the last minute. An extremely rare first edition of Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel as well as the entire set of the James Bond films in blueray/dvds. He laughingly states, "No I haven't gotten you anything yet and we'll be home late Sunday night. I sorta got talked into reading for some kids when we went into this bookshop yesterday."

Tony chuckles, "Only you, McGullible, would get conned into reading for a bunch of snot-nosed kids."

Tim laughs again, "It's only for the weekend, Tony and I really don't mind. It will give me something to do for a few hours. We're within easy walking distance of a lot of small shops so Abby can get a lot of her shopping done too."

Tony stares at his blank computer screen in mock horror imagining the goth and his probie out shopping, "She's already started hasn't she?"

Tim nods even though the other man can't see him. "Yep, and I think the beast of burden is going to be me by the time it's all said and done."

"Well, keep in touch and what's the name of that shop you're going to be in?"

"The Bell, Book and Candle. It's pretty cool actually, lots of old books, but also some newer authors. As the marquee indicates, there are different kinds of bells, scented and unscented candles and displays from around the world. I wouldn't mind coming up here a few times a year and seeing what new displays she has up."

"Hmm, well, have fun probie and don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"Thanks Tony and I usually don't."

Tony turns his computer back on, looking for the name of the bookstore that Tim's been describing to him. He frowns when he can't find any immediate store by that name, at least, not at the location Tim says they will be at. He waves at Ziva as she gets ready to leave.

"What is it Tony?"

"Tim says they've been visiting a bookstore called the Bell, Book and Candle. I can't find any reference to it."

"You think something is hinky?"

"I'm not sure, Ziva, I'm just not sure."

Gibbs snaps his cell phone shut and tells the others to go home. Ziva frowns and states. "Gibbs, we cannot find that bookstore Tim told us about."

Ducky exits the elevator and smiles at the concerned faces in front of him, "Lots of shops open just for the Christmas season, my dears, it's the one time of the year that they can afford to do so. This is probably one of those specialty shops that does just that. They find whatever space they can afford to rent for a few months and bring in their wares. Their profit margins are considerably lower than most of the major retailers and so they can't open their doors for more than the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas."

Gibbs thinks about his dad, and how fortunate it is that the older man can run his small grocery store without too much loss in profit, just due to being the only store in the town. He's contributing a few of his own handmade toys this year, and letting Jack do what he wants with the profits. Jack had mentioned some charity event that he needs them for, and Gibbs had shrugged and created the planes, trains and other toys that Jack had asked for.

Ducky looks at Gibbs as the others finally leave. "Is everything all right, Jethro? You have that pensive look on your face. The one that says you are worried about someone."

"McGee says they're staying a few days; he's reading for some children at that shop Tony mentioned. I just think it's odd that they can't find the shop if he's staying for a weekend."

"As I stated earlier, it is entirely possible that the shop only opens during this particular time of year. I highly doubt that Timothy would volunteer to read for anyone if he didn't feel comfortable doing so; and he most certainly would never put Abigail in a dangerous situation."

The three young people in the elevator are having similar doubts. Tony is about to suggest they drive up to that location when Ziva grabs both men by the arm.

"Why do neither of you trust McGee's instincts in this matter? You both know that he will protect Abby at all costs. He has loved her too long."

Tony and Jimmy look at each other and Tony says, "That's why we're worried. He's loved her since he met her. She has him wrapped around not just her little finger but her whole hand."

Jimmy nods, "He will do almost anything to make her happy."

Ziva sighs, "You are both right, but I say that McGee knows what he is doing this time. If he didn't trust this bookstore owner, do you not think he would have given you some sort of clue? He is not your untrained probationary agent anymore, Tony. I say wait until Sunday and if he has not called in by then, we can track them down. After all, neither of them would dare turn off their phones or have you forgotten Gibbs' rule number three?"


Friday morning dawns and is just as pretty as the one before. Tim puts an arm behind his head, thinking about the day to come. He too has been wondering why he feels so at ease around Maisie, especially considering everything he's learned over the years. Maybe that's what it is; he has learned enough over the years to trust what he's seeing and maybe what he's not seeing.

The fact that Maisie has a meal ready for them every time they've come in, his favorite soup, the loaf of bread straight out of the oven - while it could be a coincidence - is strange even to his eyes. And yet, while his eyes show him one thing, his instincts still tell him to trust the little woman with her old-fashioned ways. He has a feeling that she does have something planned but it's not evil. He sighs and rolls over looking at the familiar features of the woman sleeping in the bed next to his.

In his mind's eye, if she had been about a foot shorter, she could easily be a younger version of Maisie, only with tattoos and green eyes instead of a merry blue. Her enthusiasm when it comes to the Christmas season, while slightly dampened this year, could almost surpass that of the other woman. He smiles imagining her as Mrs. Claus, making soups and breads, waiting for Santa and his reindeer to finish their rounds. She already believes in Santa, she's always looking for the real one and to find out that he does exist would only make her more excited.

He picks up his cell phone and hits the speed dial for Gibbs.

"You ready for your big day today, McGee?"

Tim smiles and rolls onto his back, "Yep, it's going to be a good day, boss. Reading for kids, some of whom might not get a story more than once a year, yeah, it's a good feeling."

Gibbs sighs, "Do you trust what is going on McGee? Is this a trap?"

Tim shakes his head, even though Gibbs can't see him. "I really don't think so, boss. I do think she has something she wants of me, something she hasn't said yet, but I don't think it's evil. I wouldn't ever expose Abby to something if I thought it might hurt her, you know that."

"Mmm, but I know you too, McGee and you can be a bit gullible when it comes to this kind of situation."

"Not this time, boss; it's hard to explain, but not this time."

"Okay McGee, trust your gut and call me if anything happens."

"You know it, and boss? Thanks." He hangs up and Gibbs sighs.

"You're welcome, Tim." Gibbs then turns his attention back to the toys he's been working on. He picks up the nearest one, a miniature German shepherd and puts that one to the side. He's got a few other toys in that particular pile, all reminiscent of his team. Tony, his faithful Saint Bernard, Ziva, his rare and beautiful Greyhound, and Abby his bouncing Shih Tzu. He has two more to create, one being Ducky as the Scottish terrier, and Jimmy as a Blood Hound or maybe an Irish Setter. These are going in his private collection; the one he shows no one, not even Ducky.

To do so would be to show just how much he does care for those individuals and no matter what has transpired over the years, he's just not that willing to hang his heart on his sleeve. He thinks about the small wooden box under the bed, the one with two cocker spaniels one of them just a puppy, and a mutt. The last time he'd had those out, had been Christmas over 20 years ago when he'd shown them to his family as they'd watched Lady and the Tramp. When he'd shown them the finished animals, Shannon and Kelly had laughed and Shannon had teased him about which one was supposed to be Tramp. That's the box these will be going into, the one that no one sees. The one that carries his heart and his soul; the one that protects his team.

He smiles as he picks up another one of the toys that will be heading down to Stillwater. He knows that he's done a good job this year and the old man will be proud of his contributing so many in such a little bit of time. He starts to put the toys in a burlap bag when a knock on his door followed by footsteps on the floorboards above has him covering up the dogs on the bench with a towel. He frowns a bit as Fornell steps down.

"Tobias, what brings you to my domain this early?"

"Just wanted to see if you were donating to the Christmas fund this year."

"How many do you need?"

"Only a few, whatever you have leftover from the old man's stash."

"I'll call in a few days. Let me see how many Jack wants and then you can have the rest."

"You're a good man Gibbs. I'll see you in a few weeks."

"Yep, see ya." Gibbs keeps putting the toys in the bag and Fornell turns to him.

"Your team is worried about your agent out in Boston. Do they have reason to be?"

Gibbs sighs as he puts another toy in the burlap sack. "McGee just called; he says there is something going on, but he's not sensing anything evil or hinky as Abbs would say. Could just be something simple like reading for more than one weekend. As others have pointed out recently, he's not a probie anymore. I have to give him time to find out what is going on."


Tim places a kiss on Abby's brow and heads into the shower. He's going to let her sleep if she will and then she can always join him at Maisie's. He dresses in jeans and another pullover, then pulls the covers over Abby.

He leaves a note on some hotel stationary stating, "You were sleeping so peacefully, I didn't want to wake you. I'm heading for Maisie's. Come and join me when you wake up. Love you, Tim."

He then slips quietly out of the room, putting the Do Not Disturb sign up on the door handle. Hours later, Abby stretches and looks over at the empty bed. She pouts slightly when she doesn't immediately see Tim but knows that he's committed to the reading that day and that he won't do anything to let the other woman, not to mention the children down. She reads his note, smiling at the heart he's put at the end of the note. She sighs slightly, then heads for the shower.

As she dresses for the day, she thinks back over the past few days and her thoughts when she sees that twinkle in Maisie's eyes. As if the other woman knows what Abby is thinking, and feeling. Abby sits on the side of her bed, toying with her hairbrush. She wants to trust that woman and for Abby, that is a scary feeling. Hugging her hairbrush, she is about to put her hair up in its traditional pigtails when she decides that maybe, for one day, she'll leave her hair down. Nodding at herself in the mirror, she picks up her jacket and keycard and leaves the room.

Arriving at the Bell, Book and Candle, she can see several children in a circle at Tim's feet. Another young one is in Tim's lap and she can tell that he is in his element. This is something that Timothy McGee loves doing. As she watches, that fear she'd felt so long ago when he'd first proposed to her melts away. This is something she can do; support a loved one while they do something they love.

And that's when it hits her. She's not afraid anymore. She's not scared of that white picket fence or that blue curtained window. Those children at Tim's feet, they don't make her want to run away screaming. Instead, she's wishing that maybe she should have said yes a few years earlier. Those could be her children at Tim's feet, her child in Tim's lap. Maisie smiles serenely as she senses Abby's inner turmoil subside. She'd had her doubts about the younger woman up until the time she'd seen the emotions flow across the younger woman's face.

Yes, these two will do. They might not know it yet, but they will be a perfect couple soon. Now all she has to do is convince them that they can still be parents. She's watched Tim as he reads to the children, the yearning on his face that he quickly masked when he'd seen the five children come dashing in the door. As the children had taken seats all around him, she'd seen the sorrow that he wasn't a parent yet in his eyes. He still could be; they both still could be if they were willing to listen one more time to what she wants to plan for them.


Tim continues reading and looks up when he senses Abby's presence. His eyes smile at her as he nods and acknowledges her being there. He cuddles the little girl in his arms, easily imagining a child of his own as he reads from the Dickens' classics. One little boy looks up as Abby approaches and reaches out his arms to her. Abby seems surprised by the child's acceptance and picks him up, before sitting back down beside the chair. She leans against Tim's leg and he runs a hand through her hair before concentrating once more on A Christmas Carol.

Maisie's blue eyes mist over at the way the children have accepted the young couple. What she hasn't told Tim or Abby is that the children are from an orphanage and this is one of the rare times that the children are allowed visitors. Maisie often brings the older children with her on these days, so that potential parents can see that although these are older children, they still have a right to love and be loved.

Strong arms slip around her waist and she smiles up into her husband's eyes. He's watching Tim and Abby as they interact with the children. She knows he's had his doubts, but those are fading as Tim has been patiently answering questions while he's reading. Abby's arrival hasn't stopped the questions. Now some of the questions are being directed at her, and Maisie covers her mouth to hide her giggles when Nathan, the little boy in her lap asks if she and Tim are married.

"Not right now," is Abby's reply and the little boy continues.

"Does that mean you will be soon? Will you be a mommy and daddy some day?"

Abby looks up at Tim who gives her shoulder a squeeze encouraging her to answer.

"We might be married some day soon. It just means that one of us has to ask the question."

Before any of the children can ask for more details, Abby looks up into Tim's green eyes.

"Timmy, will you do me the honor of marrying me?"

Tim has to clear his throat. He had thought he'd be the one asking that question, but somehow it seems appropriate that Abby does so. He nods and all the children cheer and start asking questions.

Maisie looks up into her husband's brown eyes. They're twinkling as he watches Tim and Abby interact with the children. He should have known by now to have faith, not just in his wife of so many years, but also in the feelings he's had while watching the younger couple with those special children. The ones that rarely smiled, but were smiling now as they danced around Tim and Abby. The same way they usually danced around Maisie and himself when the reading gave way to play time.

"But where's the ring?" Asked Caroline. She was one of the younger girls, the one that has been in Tim's lap today.

Tim is about to reply, when Maisie's husband steps out of the kitchen and into the shop. All the children run over to him and hug his legs. Maisie motions for Tim to follow her to one of the counters and Tim sighs in satisfaction when he sees the exact ring he's had in his mind for several years now. The emeralds not being overpowered by the surrounding diamonds or vice versa. He nods and Maisie beams at him. Tim sighs again as he'd thought about somehow presenting the ring to Abby in a different way, a special way and a particular lake monster/animal named Orky from "The Magic in the Water" a movie he and Sarah had watched just before he'd graduated from college.

The trouble is, Tim hasn't been able to find that particular stuffed animal, aside from a likeness of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, to give to Abby. Maisie points to the shelf over her head and Tim grins as he pulls the stuffed animal from the shelf. There's a chain around the stuffed animal's neck and Tim laces the ring through the chain while Maisie quickly finds the box the animal came in. Then Tim moves closer to Abby and the children.

" Right here," Tim replies and the children cheer as they watch Tim hand the now "magically" gift wrapped present to Abby. She giggles when she sees Orky, the lake monster inside and her eyes widen when she sees the ring around Orky's neck. Tim goes down on one knee as he slips the ring on Abby's finger. He looks into her eyes and she nods at the question she sees in them. This is the right time and the right place. Now they just need to finish up their day and talk about the future to come.

Maisie comes forth and offers cookies and milk for everyone. As they troop into the kitchen, Tim puts an hand on Abby's shoulder.

"You are sure about this? It's not just because of the time and circumstances?"

"I watched you today, and for the first time I wasn't afraid of what our future might hold. I want that house with a white picket fence and 2.5 children. I watched you and I saw what could have been, what we can still have. I'm just not afraid anymore."

"Good." He says as they exchange their first kiss as an engaged couple.

"Now what do I tell Gibbs?" He asks and she giggles.

"We'll figure that out together. For now, let's go get some of those cookies and milk. They smell delicious."

The rest of the weekend is spent in a similar vein. Tim sits in the recliner, a child in his lap while Abby and the other children sit on the floor beside him. The children have taken to rotating who gets to sit with the adults, and for each story a new child climbs up and has their turn being cuddled by the gentle reader. Maisie and her husband are charmed by Tim's easy acceptance of the children and watch approvingly from a distance as one child after another slips into Abby's embrace. This is what they've been hoping for. Maisie leans against her husband and his arms go around her waist.

"We've got the hard part out of the way," he whispers. "Will they go along with the rest of it?"

Maisie smiles serenely. "I think they've already started to."


The drive back to DC is spent in relative silence, though not for the same reason as when they'd left. Both are reflecting on the weekend, the time spent with Maisie, the unexpected request and their engagement.

They both sigh at the same time and Tim chuckles. "We had quite an eventful weekend. Are you really sure about this, Abbs?"

She nods thoughtfully, "I really want it this time Timmy. I want you and I want a family. I'm just scared that we're almost too old to have children of our own."

Tim thinks about the children who had come into the shop.

"What if we take a page out of Maisie's book and adopt some children?"

She twists in her seat and stares at him. "Would you really be okay with that? Not having children of your own?"

He puts his hand over hers, "They would be our own; just like those children in that bookshop were ours if only for a few days. We had five children this weekend that came up and cuddled with us, who spent time with us and neither of us minded then. Admittedly, it was a short time period, but I think with Gibbs and Ducky and the team as our extended family we'll make good parents."

"Gibbs. We need to call Gibbs."

"Already told him we're on our way." Tim quietly assures her and she stares at him.

"What about Tony and Ziva?"

"They know we're on the way home, none of them know about the turn of events. I thought we might do that together."

"Okay, Timmy?"

"Yes Abby?"

"Can we have a Christmas wedding?"

"We can try."


Epilogue: Ziva smiles as she opens up her Christmas gift. She'd offered to have the Christmas party at her apartment that year as a way of thanking the team for their continued support of her becoming a US citizen. Looking around the room, she sees the newlyweds Tim and Abby smiling and content as they celebrate their first few days as a married couple with the team. They had decided not to go on their honeymoon right away, wanting to share their happiness and new found love with the rest of the MCRT, including Jimmy and Ducky. Ziva has never seen Abby so relaxed and Tim has been beaming with pride ever since they came back from their trip to Boston. The fact that Abby had been the one to ask for Tim's hand in marriage had earned both of them more than a few chuckles and Tim had even been asked if he had his own engagement ring.

Seeing the snowball, no they called it a snow globe, she stares at the scene. She then heads over to the television set and picks up the other snow globes, turning them in her hands in contemplation as she then turns to Jackson Gibbs. The older man looks up just as she glances his way

"What is it Ziva?"

"My snowballs, I mean snow globes. Where did you get them?"

"Oh I find those in the oddest places sometimes. A store here, a truck stop there. Why what's wrong?"

"Nothing, I was just wondering."

"What, Ziva?"

She motions towards Tim and Abby. "My snow globes have a scene in them: one is a bookstore called the Bell, Book and Candle. Another has an old couple dancing around five children. This last one has a house with the names Kris and Maisie on the mailbox."

Jack looks at her bewildered, clearly not understanding her train of thought.

Gibbs comes over to her, "What is it?"

She shows him the snow globes and he glances over at Tim and Abby. He's never seen either of them so happy, but he has to ask,

"What happened while you were up there?"


"Kris and Maisie? An old couple dancing around five children and a bookstore called the Bell, Book and Candle. What else happened up there?"

Tim frowns at him, "Nothing boss. I read the stories to the children, Abby asked me to marry her and then we came home that Sunday. Why?"

"Nothing else happened McGee? Nothing requested of either one of you?"

Tim glances at Abby who winks at him and grins before she looks down at her hands. Tim sighs as he admits. "We were asked to do one more thing just before we left town."

"That one more thing being, Agent McGee?" asks Gibbs and Tim can't help smirking slightly as he watches their faces and states,

"We were asked to become Santa and Mrs. Claus when the time is more appropriate; which is still about thirty or so years down the road."

The end ?