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The Snow Globe

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Chapter 3

Monday morning found Tony sitting at his desk at a ridiculously early hour reviewing cold cases since they had nothing active at present. The words blurred slightly as he tried to read so he rubbed his eyes and again looked through his file. Then, getting nowhere, he turned to his computer, once again reading up about hallucinations and their cause. Being drunk or high, or coming down from such drugs as marijuana, LSD, cocaine (including crack), PCP, amphetamines, heroin, ketamine, and alcohol… "Nope," he muttered. Delirium or dementia (visual hallucinations are most common). "Wouldn't be the first time someone accused me of being demented, but probably not." Epilepsy that involves a part of the brain called the temporal lobe (odor hallucinations are most common). "While the shop was a little on the ripe side, the snow globe did not smell at all," he mumbled. Fever, especially in children. "That leaves me out." Narcolepsy. "Whatever that is," he said and then quickly looked up the symptoms for narcolepsy. "Daytime sleepiness probably fits, but nothing else does. Keep going." Psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and psychotic depression. "Maybe I should talk to Ducky," he mused but realized it would have to wait until after Christmas since Ducky would be leaving after their luncheon to visit relatives in Scotland. Sensory problem, such as blindness or deafness. "That one's out." Severe illness, including liver failure, kidney failure, AIDS, and brain cancer. Tony shuddered and then sighed. Except for being exhausted due to lack of sleep, he really doubted there was a physical reason for hallucinating but there was no way he could figure it out on his own. He closed out the browser and brought up his email and began to idly click through them, his red-rimmed eyes watering after another face-splitting yawn. "Damn it," he muttered, wishing it was already Christmas Eve because then he wouldn't need an excuse to be at Gibbs' place having the hallucinations head-slapped out of him.

"It was just your imagination," he muttered to himself for the millionth time as he straightened his Armani tie. "And if tonight doesn't work out at Gibbs', you've just got to make it until tomorrow." Yawning again, he decided it was time for more coffee and maybe a pastry. After a quick look at his Burberry watch, he realized with relief that the rest of his team would be in soon so he might as well bring something back for everyone. Pulling his fine woolen Loro Piana coat over his Brunello Cucinelli suit, he headed out.

NCIS NCIS NCIS

The minute Gibbs stepped into the bullpen, he knew something was wrong. It was obvious to him that Tony had already been at work for some time judging by the number of empty coffee cups in the trash. Since there was no sign of an overcoat, he guessed his SFA had stepped out for more. He glanced at his watch and figured he had some time before his meeting with the Director so he decided to go see Abby. He'd call Jack after his meeting with Vance.

After stopping for a Caf-Pow, he walked towards the lab, smiling at the loud, screeching noise she called music. He was, however, able to identify the irritating cacophony as Jingle Bells – but only because Abby always started her mornings during the holidays with this particular brand of noise that she claimed was the old holiday favorite. He walked in just as she was turning on Major Mass Spec and wishing it a good morning. She whirled around and saw him, the resulting broad grin made him smile in return. She always had that effect on him. In seconds, he had his arms full of his favorite forensic scientist.

"Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs! Good morning! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Merry Solstice, Happy HumanLight…"

Gibbs laughed. "Okay, okay, thanks for all of it, Abs," he said. "Back at ‘cha," he replied which made Abby laugh in return. He handed her the drink he'd brought, smiling as she took a huge slurp of the overly-sweetened, highly-caffeinated drink to which she was addicted.

"Mmm, good," she said after a second long drink. "To what do I owe this pleasure? I don't have anything for you since you guys haven't given me anything although I hate saying that because it makes me sound as though I'm, like, totally greedy and this is so the wrong season to be greedy, not that you should be greedy at any time of the year, but especially right now…"

"Abs," Gibbs broke in with a long-suffering sigh, "I just wanted to know if you had a good weekend. That alright?"

Abby's response was to throw her arms around Gibbs neck a second time. "Aww, that's so sweet, Gibbs! Thank you for asking and yes, I had a great weekend. Kyle and I finished all our shopping and then we delivered our gifts to Sister Rosita and the nuns and then we spent Sunday wrapping everything to take with us and finished up our packing. Kyle and I are taking off tonight to spend Christmas in New Orleans with our – God, I love saying that! OUR family. Oh, Gibbs, it is so cool to have another brother!"

"That's great, Abs. I'm glad you had a good weekend," Gibbs said knowing now that Abby hadn't spent any time with Tony over the weekend. He'd have to do some more digging. His cell phone rang at that moment. Cynthia told him that Vance was in and was ready for their meeting. With a kiss to Abby's temple, he left for the elevator.

Gibbs exited the elevator near MTAC but rather than head straight to Vance's office, he paused at the landing to look down towards the bullpen. It looked like Tony had just returned from a coffee run because he was handing a cup and a pastry to McGee. Tony must have sensed something because he paused and turned to look up. He smiled and held up a cup in offering. Gibbs nodded and allowed a small smile to curl his lips when Tony made a show of dashing up the stairs to deliver the cup.

Gibbs accepted the cup from a lightly panting Tony and nodded once in thanks as he looked Tony over. Tony was wearing one of his ridiculously high-priced suits, the type he wore when he either wanted to impress someone or when he needed people to look at his clothes and not at him. Gibbs looked at him. There were shadows under green eyes that were also reddened from fatigue. Tension lines creased the spot between Tony's eyes and those sinful lips were thinned despite the overly-wide smile Tony threw at him. Oh, yeah, something was definitely wrong with his Tony.

"Busy weekend, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked casually. His initial thought that it might be some woman was immediately dismissed because Tony spent too much time at his place to cultivate any type of outside relationship. Gibbs took another sip of coffee while shoving down the satisfaction he felt at that possessive thought.

"Oh, you know how it is, Boss, last minute shopping and all," Tony said in such a way that Gibbs knew it was at least partially true. "Plus I needed to get the monthly reports done since we're going to have a few days off."

Again, Gibbs heard Tony tell only part of the story. The reports weren't due until several days after their return. Tony could produce them easily without having to come in on the weekend. What was Tony hiding? He wanted to ask if Tony was coming by to work on the toys but his phone rang again. It was Cynthia calling to tell him he was late. Gibbs felt the sudden urge to haul Tony into the meeting with him but he was already turning to make his escape.

"You've got your meeting with Vance," Tony said, one foot already on the next step down. "Don't forget the luncheon, Boss."

Gibbs didn't say anything and spared only a moment to watch Tony walk down the stairs with far less energy than he's displayed on the way up. Every instinct Gibbs had said to haul Tony off to a corner and find out what was wrong but he knew Tony would only claim that he was fine. Knowing he'd just have to wait until Tony decided to tell him, he turned to go meet with Vance.

The meeting with Vance became a protracted meeting with SecNav in MTAC. By the time Gibbs was done, it was nearly time for the luncheon and Gibbs still had to call Jack. Opting to get that done first, he ducked into the small alcove at the base of the stairs. A few moments later, Gibbs was rolling his eyes because Jack, as usual, was being stubborn. He hadn't scheduled a new vision exam because he insisted his vision was fine.

"We'll get it done when I get there," Gibbs insisted.

"Why?"

"Because I want to make sure you're all right, Dad. Family's important, you always said that and you're right."

"I also said Christmas should be spent with family. You bringin' Tony with you?"

That question stunned Gibbs although, as he thought about it, it really shouldn't have. Even with failing eyesight, Jackson Gibbs pretty much saw things as they are but, like him, he didn't always communicate it that well. That didn't change the fact that Gibbs wasn't quite ready to voice his deepening feelings for Tony, even if he had the inkling that the feelings just might be returned. He ran a hand over his face – maybe on this trip to Stillwater?

It occurred to Gibbs at that moment that just because Tony had spent the last few Christmases with him, it didn't mean he was ready to head out of town for several days with no notice. That thought made Gibbs glare at the wall in front of him. Of course, Tony could always take his own car and go home if he didn't want to stay. Either way, he'd have to ask although he was sure Tony would say yes. He refused to think otherwise. For now he could only promise one thing: "Yeah. Christmas should be spent with family. I'll be there tomorrow afternoon."

They quickly ended their conversation allowing Gibbs plenty of time to get to the luncheon. Gibbs had brought everyone's gift except for Tony's since he planned to give it to him on Christmas Day. Knowing of Tony's love for jazz, he'd carved a chess set out of solid maple and walnut. Each pawn was in the shape of a musical note. The rooks were standing snare drums, the knights were saxophones, the bishops were string basses, the queen was a 1940's era singer complete with a box microphone and the king was a man holding a clarinet. He hoped Tony would like it. He imagined Tony's smile. He'd do anything for that smile and he looked forward to playing a game with Tony sitting across from him. His imagination now placed Tony near the fireplace at his dad's house. Anticipation shot through him and he felt a flutter in his chest, something he hadn't felt in a long time. He smiled at that.

First, though, he had to finish the last of the toys. He hoped Tony would come by to help so that he could drop them off on their way out of town. But, if nothing else, he was going to find out what was bothering his friend. With that last thought, he took off towards the garage at his usual ground-eating stride.

NCIS NCIS NCIS

Tony hit the print button for his reports and then tiredly rolled his neck muscles. He glanced over at McGee who was deeply involved in a phone conversation with his sister, Sarah.

"I'll be there, 7:30," McGee said reassuringly before hanging up.

Tony blew out a sigh. Looks like McBusy was making plans. "So, 7:30?"

"Why do you always listen in to my personal phone calls?" McGee answered in an irritated tone, which didn't mean anything. Tony worked hard to irritate him.

Tony snorted, refusing to answer such a ridiculous question. "So? What's up?"

Tim sighed, seemingly shocked. "Sarah got herself engaged…l"

"Whoa, McBro-in-law! Congrats to little sis... Or is this not a good thing?" Tony asked with a quirk of his eyebrows.

"Yeah, should be good except that she wants me to meet – Steven – first," McGee said the name with a faint look of distaste. "Feels hinky to me, Tony. Why would he need to be pre-screened?" he asked more to himself than to Tony as his fingers began to rapidly fly over his keyboard.

Tony moved to look over his shoulder to learn what he could in case McGee needed backup to confront Sarah's potential fiancée. A little while later, both McGee and Tony were satisfied that Steven looked okay on paper, so to speak. Still, McGee looked very intent.

"Looking a bit fierce there, McKnight in White Armor. You know that she loves this guy. Don't burn any bridges before you get to them." McGee rolled his eyes.

"I know you don't know what it's like, but she's my sister, Tony. Family. I'll check this guy out but I won't hesitate to give my opinion and she knows that."

Tony didn't even flinch at McGee's unintentionally hurtful remark. He may not have a sister, but he was sure he'd do the same thing if it was Abby. "Maybe that's what she's counting on, Tim," he replied softly but if Tim heard him, he made no sign since was again engrossed in what they'd found out about Sarah's boyfriend. "Be back in a few," he said not caring if McGee heard or not. He decided he was being overly sensitive. Having the sudden need to walk, Tony opted to take this time to drop off the other few gifts he had for some of their co-workers like Cynthia and a few of the security guards.

He was just coming out of the back stairwell when he heard the distinctive tone of Gibbs' voice although he didn't see him. He kept walking, listening in because, quite frankly, it never occurred to him not to do so. He was just like Gibbs in that respect.

"Because I want to make sure you're all right, Dad. Family's important, you always said that and you're right."

Tony smiled knowing now that Gibbs was talking to Jack. He felt warmth flood though him along with anticipation and relief in equal measures at the thought of being with Gibbs and Jack over the holidays. He stopped short, however, at Gibbs' next words.

"Yeah. Christmas should be spent with family. I'll be there tomorrow afternoon…"

A hole seemed to open up in Tony's chest. Gibbs was going to Stillwater – alone. Family was important, he said, but apparently that didn't include him. Tony did an about face and walked back down the hall, suddenly needing some privacy.