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The Snow Globe

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It was Friday evening on the last weekend before Christmas. It had been a long day and Tony was beat, but he really needed to get his shopping done before the team Christmas luncheon on Monday. While he'd done most of his shopping on line, he just couldn't seem to really find what he wanted for some of the members of his family. He was determined, though. Just three more, he thought as trudged tiredly down yet another street. He'd already taken care of three gifts: Jack's, Tim's and Jimmy's, plus the standard bottle for his father and a few other gifts he liked to hand out to friends at NCIS. Tim had been easy since he'd been talking about a great new game he'd just started so Tony bought him the next game in the series. He'd gotten Jimmy and Breena a weekend away at a resort since they'd been working so hard between their jobs, Jimmy's school, and their efforts to adopt a baby. He figured they were bound to get a baby soon so together-time would be at a premium.

Jack had been a little harder to choose for but then Tony remembered one of their phone conversations where Jack mentioned having to stop baking bread because of arthritis in his hands. Knowing how much Jack enjoyed the scent of freshly baked bread, Tony got him an electric bread-maker knowing he'd at least try it out. Unlike Gibbs who eschewed most things technological, Jack believed that "you had to stay up to date otherwise you concede to time, inch by inch." Tony would give him the gift when Jack visited Gibbs for Christmas again this year, just as he had for the past four years. Tony smiled, happy at the thought of seeing Jack again and especially at the thought of spending another Christmas with Gibbs. Being welcome in Gibbs' home meant the world to Tony and the fact that he was also welcome when his father was there brought a sweet ache to Tony's heart. He'd never had much of a family life before, had certainly never known any extended family members, so being with both Jack and Gibbs was an exceedingly precious thing. It was also a hell of a lot of fun.

He smiled anticipating Jack's inevitable grousing over cooking "a proper holiday meal". Gibbs will grouse back demanding to know what was wrong with steaks. Jack will answer that there wasn't anything wrong with the steaks except that they were for everyday meals, not holiday meals. Gibbs will roll his eyes and let Jack do whatever he wants and then he'll help Jack cook, both of them singing old Christmas tunes, while Gibbs hides in the basement. Gibbs will "accidentally" leave the door open and he and Jack will make sure to sing extra loudly so that he can hear them. There will be a comment about their vocal talents – last year's word was "caterwauling" – but Tony knows to look for that small, playful smile.

Tony will set the table with the Gibbs family china and then they'll all sit down to a baked ham or turkey, maybe a goose. It doesn't really matter since everything Jack cooks is always wonderful when the three of them sit down to enjoy it together. They'll still be sitting around the dinner table when Jack will begin to reminisce about Gibbs as a young boy or his family when he was growing up. Tony never tires of the stories of people he never knew and understands completely at the look of loss in the matching sets of blue eyes for the special people in the stories he'd never hear. Later, they'll find a game on TV and make silly bets about cooking breakfast or doing the dishes and then they'll yell or groan or laugh regardless of who'd won or lost. Plus, there'd always be a chess game going on which was fun even if he does always lose to Gibbs. God, he couldn't wait!

Buoyed by thoughts of how he'd spend his holiday, Tony returned to his search with renewed vigor. So, gifts, but just three more, not four. He needed to find something special for Abby, Ducky and, of course, Gibbs, but not Ziva this year. Even though Ziva had never celebrated Christmas, he'd always enjoyed giving her a gift just to see that little smile that meant she was pleased even if she claimed there was no need. He was going to miss that smile since the last they'd heard, Ziva was still traveling. Where or with whom he didn't know and he hated not knowing and wondering if she was all right.

He still felt a deep pang of loss at Ziva's decision not to return to NCIS. Although they'd never formalized any type of relationship, over the years he'd come to believe that he'd have a chance, that eventually she'd come to understand him and, finally, really trust him. He was wrong. He was loved, she'd said that last night and it had finally hit home. All that time he'd spent thinking that something more would grow between them but she'd never felt the same way. It left him feeling foolish. He sighed as his spirits nosedived.

Anton, his recently re-surfaced suspect from another case, really hit the nail on the head when he'd told Tony that just because you want something, it doesn't mean it was going to happen. Well, hell. "Walking poster boy here," he said morosely as he mentally added Ziva to the "wanted for a while but didn't get" pile, right alongside both Wendy and Jeanne. "Just another nail in the old ‘abandonment issue' coffin," he added in a dark voice and then kicked himself for the pessimistic thought. No matter where she was, he still cared for her and considered her a part of his family. Just like Gibbs, Jack, Abby, Tim, Ducky and Jimmy, but unlike his father who seemed more like the strange uncle you saw occasionally but whom you were never really fond of. He huffed slightly, feeling chagrined and slightly guilty at that thought even though it was true.

What wasn't true was his response to Anton. He'd told him that he never quit trying to get those things he wanted but Gibbs was the prime example of the lie to that statement. He'd wanted that man ever since tackling him in Baltimore but he'd never tried to go beyond the line of friendship and family with Gibbs for fear of losing what he did have. And, okay, maybe he wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed for even considering anything with Ziva but, in the long run, she was actually safer. With Gibbs he'd be exposing his heart to complete annihilation. He just couldn't help but wish the wanting part would go away.

Tony sighed as he walked while mentally kicking himself for insisting on pursuing such depressing thoughts when he was supposed to be having a good time shopping for the people he loved. He hunched his shoulders a bit in the cold and forced himself to the task at hand. After searching online for the final three gifts to no avail, he'd taken to the streets in search of inspiration although he knew Ducky and Abby would be much easier to find a gift for than Gibbs

Wow, Gibbs was tough. He'd long ago ceased giving the standard bottle of bourbon although he doesn't really remember when that became insufficient as a Christmas gift. Maybe the bottles had ceased to be an option when he'd taken to replacing Gibbs' favorite poison as they'd worked their way through them together, sometimes pretty steadily. Maybe he'd realized that he couldn't put Gibbs in the same category as his father. He grimaced because that thought was just wrong. Actually, it was probably when he'd stopped being afraid to let Gibbs know he was important to him. He shrugged because, in the long run, it didn't matter. So, in the past, he'd given him that pocketknife which was followed by the antique woodcarving set and then a leather-bound copy of Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World. Hmm, he bought that Slocum book near here. Maybe there would be something similar in the same bookstore?

An hour later, he was still just as empty-handed as before. He had to keep trying, though. With a sigh, he turned down another street filled with small gift shops. His gaze was automatically drawn to a particular item in a shop display. The shop itself looked as though it had slipped through both time and space to arrive in present-day D.C. Tony stepped back to get a look at the entire storefront and then laughed out loud.

"You look like a set from Harry Potter," he said under his breath as his eye was again drawn to the snow globe in the window. Then, even though he doubted he'd find anything for Gibbs here, he stepped inside to the sound of a tinkling bell. A broad smile crossed his face as he took in all of the details of the store. Every shelf was packed with merchandise, mostly antiques, but he was lost as to the identity and function of some of the items. Regardless, it was a fascinating store so he began to peruse the offerings, starting with the snow globe.

That it was an antique there was no doubt. Although weathered with age, the metal base was in good shape, the large glass globe without a scratch. Inside the globe was a scene out of Victorian England depicting a garland-clad storefront with "Dervish and Banges" written on the glass pane in ornate gold script. There was an old-fashioned light post in front of the store beside which six carolers stood all lined up side by side, ankle-deep in the snow with their tiny little books held in front of them as they sang. Tony looked more closely and, with a happy chuckle, found that he could actually read the lines to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" inside the tiny books.

The carolers themselves were just as detailed. Four women and two men dressed in period clothes, their tiny little mouths opened in song. The first figure on the left was dressed in a brown overcoat that matched his top hat. He was only slightly taller than the four women in the middle. He had red hair under his hat and a horrible red and orange plaid scarf that made Tony smile. Next to him was a lovely little figure dressed in green to match her eyes. She was blonde, her hair in soft curls under a green bonnet. Strangely, she reminded him of his mother.

The next three ladies were all brunettes. The first was dressed in blue to match her eyes. She had a slightly pointed chin. Next to her and dressed in grey was a very slender brown-eyed woman. The last little lady had slightly darker skin and dark brown eyes. Her long dark hair hung over one shoulder. She was dressed in a dark purple gown.

Last in line was a man who was the tallest of the group. He looked very dapper in his long, dark overcoat and top hat. He had silvery grey hair and a wide, toothy grin. Tony cocked his head to one side as he looked at the older man who seemed to be eyeing the women in the group rather than singing. Again, a faint stirring of familiarity rang through him as he looked at the carolers, but he couldn't quite put his finger on why. Nevertheless, Tony was enchanted with the precise detail.

It was then that he noticed yet another figure. This very small figure was of a boy dressed in brown. He was standing off to the side, looking away from the carolers although he, too, had his mouth open. While at first glance he seemed to be singing as well, Tony realized he was selling the newspapers he held in one arm. He looked closer. There was something about the green-eyed boy that really intrigued him…

"Amazing, isn't it?"

Tony started slightly at the words and spun around to see an older gentleman, stooped with age and with a shock of long white hair that fell over his forehead. He wore a pair of very round eyeglasses but Tony noticed that he didn't look at him as he spoke, but instead peered at the item he held so carefully in his hands. He hadn't heard anyone come up behind him and, despite the gentle and unassuming appearance of the newcomer and his very cool British accent, he kicked himself for his lack of awareness. Still, the man's words were so very true. The snow globe truly was amazing. It occurred to him that only one other man would appreciate the attention to detail displayed in the workmanship even if it was a slightly odd thing to gift to another man.

"It is. How much is it?" he asked with a wide smile.

"I'm terribly sorry, sir, but that particular globe was loaned to us for display purposes only. There was a card that stated so… Um, yes here it is," the shopkeeper said as he picked up a card from the display. Tony felt disappointment flood through him at the storekeeper's words and assumed he'd inadvertently knocked the card over as he picked up the globe.

"I do have other snow globes but I'm afraid they're not nearly as intricate or as old as this one. Nevertheless, they are quite nice. Would you like to see them?" The older man asked, his pale, watery eyes peering hopefully at Tony from behind thick lenses.

Par for the course, Tony thought to himself as he carefully put the snow globe back on its pedestal. "Maybe not a snow globe, but I'm still looking for some other gifts. I think I'll just look around a bit, if that's alright," Tony offered with a smile.

"Of course, of course. Please be my guest," the old man returned with a smile and a courtly wave of his arm towards the rest of the store.

Tony wandered through the aisles and, surprisingly, found gifts for both Ducky and Abby. The first was made of pewter. The twisted, thorned vine was actually a vase with three glass vials for flowers. It currently held three blood-red rose buds in mid-bloom, their color highlighted by the teardrop-shaped crimson crystals hanging from each holder and matched by pooled crystals set into the base. It was perfect for Abby. Moments later, Tony couldn't believe his find for Ducky. Although he wasn't sure how separated the familial lines were in Ducky's family, he believed Ducky would still enjoy the antique teapot adorned with the Mallard Family crest. Tony was pleasantly surprised to note that the cost of the items were well within his budget.

Pleased with his choices, Tony brought the items up to the counter. Concerned at his first sight of the ancient cash register, he was relieved to see the modern card-reader tucked in close to the side. While the shopkeeper wrapped his purchases, Tony again wandered over to the display to look at the snow globe. It really was remarkable.

This time he looked more closely at the last little figure. Funny, he thought the figure was off to one side but still in front of the store. In actuality, the figure was standing near the edge, as far away from the carolers as possible. Tony turned to look at the back of the globe and saw that the back of the store was painted in dark grey and black and looked like an alley. A closer look at the boy showed that his coat was stitched in places and didn't appear to be nearly warm enough in the cold environ depicted. Tony felt a chill crawl down his back as he noted the blue tinge to the fingers holding out the paper. The boy's lips also looked slightly blue. Shocked and dismayed at what he was seeing, Tony took a step back, away from the cold, pinched look of pleading on the boy's face. Just then the shopkeeper called to him to say that his parcel was ready.

Tony felt absurdly grateful to look away from the look of desperation and loneliness on the boy's face. Somewhat dazed, he turned to the smiling shopkeeper and took his package, the question brimming on his lips as to why anyone would put such a dismal scene in a snow globe. His question died unasked when the doorbell tinkled merrily signaling the entrance of another patron. It was enough to jar Tony out of his shock so, instead of asking, he thanked the man and turned to leave, stepping aside slightly to allow two women to pass. Almost against his will, he again looked at the snow globe but this time he noted that the small boy looked as though he was bundled up in a thick coat, one infinitely more appropriate for wintry weather within.

What the hell? Tony shook his head in horrified confusion. He knew he should move closer and verify what he thought he'd seen, but dread overrode his curiosity and he quickly left the store vowing never to step in the place again.