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Chapter 4: 2 Days til Christmas & Christmas Eve
Monday Tony walked in with a distinct spring in his step, whistling Deck the Halls as he let his bag drop and sat down at his desk. Powering up his computer, Tony thought back on his weekend and couldn’t help but grin bigger. Dinner Saturday night had been a huge success and the Alfredo Seafood Spaghetti Pie tasted just as good for dinner Sunday night. He’d ended up crashing on the couch after they polished off one bottle of Prisoner and made a good dent in the second. He’d pleasantly woken up to the smell of bacon and hash browns that worked wonders on his slight hangover from the wine.
They’d spent the day in the basement again for the most part, and then finished the leftovers before Tony headed home. They’d made plans to spend Christmas Eve and Day together, and Tony offered to cook dinner both nights. Tony had felt slightly bad about kicking Fornell out of his Saturday night plans, and didn’t want the other man to spend the holidays alone too after he found out he didn’t have Emily that year. So, he’d somewhat reluctantly suggested inviting him. The Gibbs brought up Ducky who also would be alone. So he was getting an invitation too. For a moment Tony thought about asking if he could invite a friend, but he didn’t know if he’d worked out plans or not and was a little shy about revealing things. In the end he’d decided to wait ‘til he could talk to him before broaching the subject with his boss… boyfriend… person.
Gibbs had needed to run an errand Sunday afternoon that he had been very secretive about, and this close to Christmas Tony knew better than asking questions. So they’d split up for a few hours. Tony went to the store and got food as well as gifts for Tobias and Ducky, while picking up some small things to go with the special gift he’d gotten for Gibbs and his friend. Christmas Eve dinner was Clam Chowder and appetizers consisting of, but not limited to, shrimp cocktail, crab stuffed mushroom caps, and a chipped beef ball. There would of course was always a cheese and sausage platter and a veggies and dill dip platter.
Christmas Eve dinner was a tradition that he hadn’t been able to do in more years than he wanted to think about, but was excited to be able to restart it and finally have someone to finally share it with. It was something that had started way back when he was at the Rhode Island Military Academy. There surely weren’t many things he wanted to remember or carry on from that place; although he was more than a little certain he had his old military academy days to thank for his ability to survive former Gunnery Sargent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. There had always been a few kids at school who couldn’t go home for holidays, breaks, and vacations. The chef was an old guy who looked more like he belonged on a fishing boat than in the kitchen. He lived on property, and was always in charge during those times. He made a mean New England style chowder, and in fact it was his recipe that Tony was making. (Manhattan style in Tony’s humble opinion was unnatural and the very though was an offense to his former friend and would NEVER grace Tony’s kitchen.) The appetizers were always made by the kids themselves. The whole night was filled with as much fun and laughter as the old man could fit in.
Christmas Day dinner was a little more formal, but somehow it was still fun. This year like chef had done so many times back then, Tony was going with a nice standing rib roast. With it, he was making au gratin cauliflower, twice baked potatoes, brussel sprouts with bacon, and some nice rolls. Dessert would be another of his favorites, black forest cake. The food was all safely stored in Gibbs’ fridge and freezer waiting for Tony to work his magic. Now he just had to hope that the Gods were smiling down on him favorably insuring that they didn’t get a huge messy case.
He’d just lifted his head when Gibbs came around his wall from the meeting he’d been in with the Director, his empty coffee cup hitting Tony’s trash can. “Breakout the cold cases. DiNozzo follow up on that idea we discussed. I’m goin’ for coffee.”
Tony fist pumped in his head as he pulled the case file out and got to work. By the time Gibbs got back, he had called two of his contacts and he had Bishop reviewing a copy he’d made her. After months of on and off work on it, hopelessly trying to remember why it sounded familiar even though it was one of Pacci’s old cases, Tony realized it reminded him of an old case he’d heard about when he was just a rookie in Peoria. When a coffee cup was placed in front of him, Tony broke off his second whistled rendition of Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, which McGee appreciated sincerely as Tony was driving him nuts with the whistling crap, and gave Gibbs a dazzling smile.
“Thanks, boss! My buddy in Peoria is trying to pull the case files and evidence. My other buddy who is now captain said we could take it, as long as we kept them in the loop. They don’t have the manpower to work cold cases much. It all though may not get here ‘til after the beginning of the year, ‘cause they don’t have those years computerized. I have Bishop reviewing our file to see if anything stands out to her. I’ve also requested our evidence be pulled, but again it could be next week cause of Christmas. I am gonna do a broader search to see if I can find anything similar anywhere else, and I have another contact uhh… somewhere else that’s helping with that.”
Gibbs lifted an eyebrow at the last, but didn’t push it. Contacts were private, and Gibbs knew Tony guarded his as if they were precious stones. It was best not to ask as he knew Tony would share later if it was relevant. Moving to his own desk Gibbs started working on backed up paperwork as he hummed along with the new song Tony was whistling, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
The next day, Christmas Eve, found Gibbs sitting at his desk, watching the clock on his monitor, but time seemed to have frozen at 2:58PM. When it finally flipped over to 3PM Gibbs decided that he’d had enough. McGee and DiNozzo had been playing games on their computers since just after lunch. He guessed against each other and with Tim losing if the glares that he was sending Tony were any indication. He had no clue what they were playing, but from the smug look on McGee’s face earlier he had thought there was no way Tony would have been able to beat him, and now was unhappy that he was in fact losing.
Gibbs had to chuckle and fight the urge to shake his head. As good as an agent as McGee was, he’d never get as far as he wanted if he didn’t stop taking people so much at face value all the time. He had definitely gotten better, thanks to Tony’s tutelage as odd and outside of the box as the DiNozzo teaching method was, but he still had plenty to learn before he could hope to try to ascend the ranks of NCIS. Now that Ziva was gone though, the two seemed to be getting back on track. Gibbs hated to admit it, but most of the Ziva years had been a series of mishandlings, one on top of the other. First by Jenny in ever bringing her to NCIS, then by he himself in his often reluctance to rein her in as thoroughly as needed. Things had happened that shouldn’t have.
The chain of command had been totally ignored most days, and rules were ignored almost costing them all their futures. Gibbs knew he was going to have to get himself back on track, as well. He was trying, but definitely was still working on it. The issue with his father was the first clue that he wasn’t making as big of strides as he’d like. He never should have told Tim that he was in charge. Tony was his Senior Field Agent. When he wasn’t there Tony was in charge. Gibbs had heard things in the years since he’d returned from Mexico, buzzings about how things had gone back then. He hated to believe that it was still an issue, but feared that it might be. He knew that a lot of that fell at his own feet, and it shamed him to admit it. If The Corps had taught him nothing it was that the chain of command existed for a reason, and as a Marine it was his duty to follow it without question and to dishonor it was to risk all those above and below him.
He had gotten lazy, set in his ways, resistant to change or outside influence believing that he alone knew best no matter the opinion of those around him and sometimes at the very expense of those trying to set him on the right path. Gibbs couldn’t lie to himself anymore, and counted his blessings every day, knowing that he was damned lucky to still have Tony in his life. The fact that the younger man was also willing to give him a shot at a personal relationship, when their professional one was filled with so much FUBAR that Gibbs couldn’t understand how he was still around, was nothing less than a minor miracle. Fortunately for Gibbs, Tony was willing, and after Tony left last Sunday, Gibbs had sat himself down and had a stern talking with his inner bastard.
Things needed to change. Not just with his team, but with everything in his life. His work persona was there for a reason, and Gibbs wasn’t fool enough to try and completely overhaul it, but he knew that he needed to get back to following the law, as much as he was able anyway. He needed to make sure McGee understood that Tony was his superior no matter how much smarter he might think he is. The chain of command was going to be followed, and Gibbs had faith the younger agent would follow in line if Gibbs made his expectations known.
With Bishop coming in, it was the perfect time to get things back on track. Leon seemed to have come around, where Tony was concerned anyway, and Gibbs didn’t hold as much distrust toward the other man as he used to. He wasn’t sure about this new SecNav, but that was mostly doubt that she would be able to handle a life and death situation making split second decisions that would minimize the casualty count. That was completely out of his hands though, and for once he wasn’t going to stick his nose in it.
Personally Gibbs needed to do a shitload of work, also. He’d gotten even lazier there than he had professionally. At work he could justify mostly “The second B is for Bastard” personality because it got things done with a minimum of argument from others. Personally though, he couldn’t defend treating people with the same ‘I know all and you know nothing’ attitude. The issue with his father was a perfect example. Gibbs knew he needed to learn to take people more on an even footing in his personal life, especially with Tony’s part becoming that much more intense. Gibbs could not risk losing Tony as he had his ex-wives because he refused to listen and compromise, because he expected them to be a person who was dead, because he was frustrated and scared of giving so much again only to lose it all. The fact was, Gibbs knew Shannon would have kicked his ass from one end of the house to the other if he had treated her the way he’d treated his ex’s or if she’d seen him treating people personally the way he had been.
He’d let grief and fear turn him into someone that some days he wasn’t sure that he could be proud of, certainly not outside of NCIS anyway. Shannon had been the light that drew everyone in. Gibbs had always been that kid, lurking in the dark, angry and unsure how to get the light to point in his direction, not understanding that all he had to do was move. Fortunately for him, Shannon had come his way and he had been thankful every day he’d had her. When he’d lost her, he was suddenly plunged into darkness again, only this time he had no hope that he’d be able to make his way out. Certainly there was no way that the light would come find him a second time. Unfortunately for Gibbs he had no notion that each light looked different, just like different wattages of light bulbs at the hardware store.
Believing that he would be in the dark forever, he let the monster out, becoming that angry teenager he’d been before The Corps head slapped him into tomorrow. When the light finally came around again, Gibbs’ memory had made Shannon’s light so bright that he didn’t recognize it for what it was. In some ways that damned amnesia had saved him. It might have taken awhile, but the amnesia had effectively smashed the memory he’d built up in his head, of Shannon’s light and allowed him to see his new light, Tony’s light for what it was.
DiNozzo’s light was maybe a little dimmer at times, it took more care to keep going, resembling more of a candle flame than the constant light of a lamp that Shannon had been, but it was no less useful in leading him out of the dark than hers had been. Gibbs just had to tend to it more often, and protect it from things like rain and wind that he hadn’t had to worry about with Shannon’s light. The extra work though didn’t make it any more useful or any less precious to him. It might have been the possibility that the extra work might make it more precious to him in the end that had scared him away from it for so long.
It was the sound of Bishop knocking against her desk that brought Gibbs out of his musings. She had spread herself out behind and underneath her desk. The case notes that Tony had made her a copy of were spread out and taped up to the undersides of her desk, but it seemed like she had gotten her fill of work, too.
It looked like she had some magazine she was looking at, possibly thinking that Gibbs wouldn’t be able to see it with her all tucked up under her desk. Snorting, Gibbs shook his head and bellowed, “Go home!” Shutting down his computer and standing he smirked as his two senior agents immediately began shutting down their computers; game abandoned knowing well not to delay or risk either Gibbs changing his mind, or a case coming in despite them being off rotation. A loud bang and a cursed, “fuck,” came from under Bishop’s desk and Tony and Tim paused just long enough to snicker at her before straightening the files they’d been “working on” and picking up their go bags.
“You know, Probette, that wouldn’t happen if you sat AT your desk instead of under it,” Tim snarked. Sniffling playfully and wiping away an imaginary tear, Tony looked at Gibbs and grinned. “Gibbs! My Probie’s grown up and gotten one of his very own! It seems like just yesterday he was a stuttering mass of nerves swaddled in a microchip diaper.” Tim paused frowning at the thought, and Gibbs just rolled his eyes at their antics not bothering to hide his amusement. “It’s funny how that happens, DiNozzo,” he commented dryly giving him a knowing look, and Tony just laughed. “Get out all of ya and don’t come back ‘til Tuesday.” Tony and McGee whooped at the unexpected long weekend and sprinted to the elevator with Bishop following not long behind rubbing her head and shouting at them to wait for her.