Episode tag for "Terminal Leave." Sometimes inspiration is found in the strangest places. Yes, I built an entire tag around Tony's sunglasses. But, I always thought it was kind of mean of Gibbs to just give them away without his permission. By the way, I know nothing whatsoever about designer sunglasses. Totally making this one up as I go along – and not meant to be taken toooo seriously…so read with your sense of humor firmly in place.

"Special Order"

He knew he was being petty.

They'd just seen at least one and maybe two families torn apart, after all. Someone's wife, someone's mother, dead. Another marriage in trouble, with two kids caught in the middle. In the midst of such tragedy, a custom pair of Oakleys seemed insignificant. The kid needed something to be excited about, right? It was the least he could do, really.

But they were his Oakleys. And he hadn't agreed to give them away. To a kid who didn't even like him.

He couldn't expect his coworkers to understand. Even if he could expect them to, it was highly unlikely they would try. As it was, they'd given him a hard time about being stupid enough to special order a pair of sunglasses in the first place. He'd let his hurt show, just a little bit, in the beginning. But then they'd gone back to the house and been confronted with that scene. It should have put everything into perspective, but when they'd started making the trip back to the Navy Yard for a second time, he'd remembered and it had bothered him just as much.

Then McGee had made a joke about maybe having special-ordered once. He'd turned around just about to let the Probie have it but something about the way McGee had looked at him stopped him. Maybe he'd misread it, but he could have sworn the junior agent was looking at him in sympathy, actually trying to make him feel better. With a joke! The guy Tony had accused of having no sense of humor and admonished to lighten up just a few weeks ago. So Tony did what he did best. He'd put on his "nothing can touch me" face and laughed. And kept up the performance all the way back to the Navy Yard.

But now here he was back in the office still secretly mourning the loss of his sunglasses. Because they weren't just any pair of glasses. Those shades had gotten him through a rough time. Ok, maybe not single-handedly gotten him through it. But they'd helped. When he'd worn those Oakleys, he'd felt like the coolest guy in the room. Special. That was it. They'd made him feel special.

Six months ago, he'd needed something to make him feel special. Because after making out with a murderous transvestite, being kidnapped, trapped in a sewer, spilling his guts to his boss about how little his father had ever cared about him, seeing something worthwhile in a traitorous ATF agent that apparently wasn't there, and being pigeonholed by his partner as a shallow, hormonal jock who couldn't see past a woman's chest size – well, maybe he'd felt just a little bit lousy. Maybe even a lot lousy.

And there was admittedly some alcohol involved when he'd picked up the phone and special ordered those $200 glasses he'd found on the website. But he wasn't driven by the alcohol. And he only bought massively expensive designer apparel on what he deemed as "special occasions." Otherwise, he was really quite frugal. And if anyone had asked about the involvement of the alcohol in the purchase, he would have proudly pointed out that he had been completely sober when he'd bought his $500 pair of Salvatore Ferragamos. That had occurred shortly after Agent Blackadder's departure, when he'd realized the full extent of his boss' wrath after they'd reached a dead end on a case and he was the only agent still standing to take it out on.

As much as he hated to credit Danny Price for anything, he had to give credit where it was due. His former partner had warned him, during what had been a simpler and happier time for Tony, that one day he might need a little help in the self-confidence department. Out of two-years' worth of partnership, it had been the one truly helpful thing he'd taken away.

Tony's period of grief was interrupted when Kate stood up and decided to call it a day. "Good night, everyone." And, catching Tony's eye, she pulled out her sunglasses with a flourish and put them on, smiling smugly. "Good night, Tony."

Leave it to Kate to rub salt in the wound. With the brightest and most artificial smile he held in his arsenal, Tony replied, "And you have a lovely night as well, Katie." He wasn't absolutely certain, but Tony suspected his partner secretly hated it when he called her Katie. Must've been what her older brothers called her.

He watched her sashay to the elevator, still wearing her special-ordered sunglasses. Cause Gibbs would've never done that to her. Okay, maybe that was unfair. He did make her shoot her PDA once. But at least then there had been a point to be made.

Speaking of the boss, the other man had been sitting there quietly at his desk this whole time. But, upon Kate's dramatic departure, he got up wordlessly and headed somewhere. In typical Gibbs fashion, he told no one where he was going, why, or if and when he intended to return.

That left Tony and McGee. But not for long, because Tony was wrapping up his report and printing it out so he could go home and pout in peace, where no one would judge him.

"Probie, I'd advise you to wrap up your report soon. You know how the Boss hates it when you get too wordy."

"Almost done, Tony."

"Ok, then. Well, good night, McGee. See you Monday." Without even thinking Tony opened the desk drawer to retrieve his beloved sunglasses, only to be smacked in the face once again with the painful reminder that they were gone forever. He stood there staring at the open drawer, at the sad, empty space where his Oakleys should have been. He must've accidentally allowed the devastation to be written all over his face, because the Probie timidly offered his condolences.

"Tony, I'm really sorry about your sunglasses. I know that must really – "

"Suck, McGee?" he said dejectedly. Meeting the younger man's eyes, he nodded sadly. "Yeah, it kind of does."

Instead of the usual irritation, Tony detected just a touch of empathy on his junior partner's face. They locked eyes for just a moment before the older man slowly turned and walked out, the usual energy and enthusiasm missing from his gait.

Well, I lost my favorite sunglasses, but maybe something good came out of this. For once, the Probie and I understand each other.

It was Friday evening and Abby just had a couple of things to finish before she could start her weekend. She had a party to go to tonight and a date with McGee tomorrow. Their case was all wrapped up, and she'd turned her music up to full throttle in celebration. Which may have been why she didn't notice his entrance until she saw the Caf-Pow in front of her face attached to a hand which was attached to an arm that could only belong to one person.

"Gibbs! I must be losing my touch. Why didn't I know you were there?"

"ABS! CAN YOU TURN THAT DOWN? I CAN'T HEAR MYSELF – " Suddenly Abby pushed a button and it was silent, but not before Gibbs barked out the last word. "THINK!"

"You don't have to yell anymore, Bossman," the young Goth said with a smirk. Then, noticing he'd brought her a Caf-Pow, her face fell. "Oh no, Gibbs. Please tell me we don't have another case already. I have plans this weekend!"

"Nope. Not a case. Need a favor."

"Real-ly…" she said, drawing out the word with great interest. "A personal favor? And what can I do for you, my silver-haired fox?"

"It's not exactly for me. It's for DiNozzo."

"You're asking me to do a personal favor for Tony. But he's not here and you are. Looking very guilty. I think. Although it's really hard to tell with you, Gibbs…."


"Sooooo," she looked him directly in the eye and demanded to know, as only Abby could, "what did you do this time?"

She knows me too well. He sighed. "I gave DiNozzo's sunglasses to the Shields' kid."

Abby stared at him in stunned disbelief, then said very slowly, "You… gave… away… Tony's… Oakleys."

Abby was quite possibly the only person in this world who could put Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the defensive. "I didn't know they were that important to him! DiNozzo was holdin' us up cause he didn't want to give them to the kid, so I just grabbed them and gave them to him. " The more Abby stared, the guiltier he felt. "How was I supposed to know he special ordered 'em? I don't know anything about designer sunglasses."

Deciding she'd given him enough of a guilt trip for one evening, the forensic scientist finally let up on the staring. "So, you want me to find him another pair."

"Yeah. Just let me know how much."

"They're gonna cost you, Gibbs."

"I said I'd pay for them. I just need you to find the right ones for me. He said something about polarized lenses and impact protection. And some kind of… curves…or something."

"Raked-back curvature?"

"Yeah…" Gibbs said with a great deal of uncertainty. When did sunglasses get so complicated?

"Okay. But just so you know, Oakleys can cost like, two hundred dollars."

Gibbs fixed Abby with one of the glares normally reserved for FBI agents obstructing one of his investigations. "Two…..hundred…dollars?"

"I didn't set the prices, Gibbs. And I wasn't the one who gave them away, either."

He took a very deep breath. "Fine. Whatever. Just….find them."

"Yes, sir, Bossman," Abby chirped, with a salute.

Gibbs started to turn around and leave, but decided he wasn't quite done yet. "Can you please explain to me what DiNozzo is doing buying two-hundred dollar glasses and…five-hundred dollar shoes?"

"Well, Gibbs, I don't personally see the attraction. I like thrift stores myself. But it's just really important to Tony to look good, you know."

"He could still look just fine in cheaper stuff. Most people don't even know the difference."

"True. But Tony knows. Maybe the clothes just make him…happy."

"Clothes do not make people happy, Abby."

"Okay. Happi-er, then. Or maybe just less…sad. Some people eat ice cream, some people shop. I even know this guy who's building a boat in his basement…"

"I get the point, Abs. Just wish he'd find a cheaper hobby."

"Awww, poor Tony. Think how you'd feel if somebody gave your boat away when you weren't looking. Of course that would be kind of difficult. They'd have to figure out how to get it out of the basement first. And then they'd have to get past you, and since you know everything…"

"Good night, Abby. Let me know when you get 'em. " As he was walking out, he admonished, "And don't breathe a word of this to DiNozzo!"

Just as Gibbs exited the lab, Abby thought of something. "But Gibbs…" He can't hear me.

How are we going to get them to Tony without him figuring out where they came from?

Just over two weeks later….

Tony was having a rotten morning. And since it was the beginning of the Christmas season, and everyone else in the world seemed to be in such a merry mood, he actually felt more rotten for feeling so…rotten.

First off, it was Monday. And that was usually enough to put him in a bad mood in and of itself.

Then, there was the fact that they'd just wrapped up a case with Agent Afloat Paula Cassidy, and that had brought up all kinds of old feelings again. And like an idiot, he'd been calling and leaving her messages for days, all of them, thus far, unreturned.

And finally, his alarm clock had chosen this particular morning to poop out on him. So now, he was both grumpy and late.

Kate and McGee both looked at him with some bizarre mixture of satisfaction and pity as they all prepared for the inevitable butt-chewing Tony was about to receive from his boss.

"'Bout time you decided to show up, DiNozzo. Five more minutes and that desk was gonna be permanently unoccupied."

"Alarm clock, Boss. I'll get a new one today. Won't happen again."

As Tony took off the cheap department store sunglasses he'd recently purchased, waiting to replace the Oakleys until he'd felt he'd saved enough money to justify such a seemingly frivolous purchase, Gibbs noted the dark circles under the younger man's eyes. I'll bet Paula Cassidy's to blame again. There's a reason I don't like that woman.

DiNozzo lethargically switched on his computer and, as he waited for it to boot up so he could go through his emails, he opened his desk drawer to deposit the replacement sunglasses in the special spot once reserved for his Oakleys. Without even looking, he went to deposit the glasses in the desk drawer when he felt another object there that hadn't been there yesterday.

Puzzled, he looked over from his computer screen to locate the offending object when… there they were. A brand new pair of custom Oakleys. Polarized lenses, impact protected, raked-back curvature. They were perfection in a little black frame. Even nicer than the ones he'd had before, something he didn't even realize was possible. He picked them up reverently to get a closer look.

"So, you special ordered another pair of sunglasses, DiNozzo? That didn't take very long." Kate had been watching him curiously as he studied his new glasses. "Just can't take your eyes off them, I see. Tony's in looove."

McGee looked over at them with interest and smiled. "Nice glasses, Tony."

Distracted, Tony simply said, "Thanks, Probie."

Gibbs, he noticed, hadn't noticed. Or was pretending not to notice. As usual.

When his coworkers had diverted their attention back to whatever they had been pretending to work on, Tony checked the drawer again a found a tiny white card. It simply said, "From Santa."

He never found out for certain who "Santa" was, but he strongly suspected the merry old man with the pot belly had been replaced by a grumpy ex-Marine who liked redheads and bought his clothes from Sears, and his elves had been replaced by one perky and very efficient little Goth.