Gibbs struggled against a nightmare filled with snow, ice and death. An ice-filled storm had frozen everything around him. Tree branches broke under the weight of the ice and the roads looked like frozen rivers. A biting wind tore at his clothes as he fought his way forward in his desperation to find Tony who'd been lost in the fierce winter storm. Tony had been searching for something but had been lost. Gibbs knew, though, that there was a suspect out there, too, someone who had hurt Tony and would do so again if he didn't stop them. He had to find Tony first. Again and again, he called out against the howling tempest, determined never to quit. Finally, up ahead he saw Tony, fallen in the snow. He looked so hopeless and alone. "Tony!" he yelled out but Tony just turned away as the snow around him began to turn crimson. He fell down next to Tony and pulled the snow-covered body to his chest. "No, Tony! Don't leave me. I love you, Tony. I love you!" he cried only to hear Tony's faint response.
"It's too lateâ€¦"
"No!" Gibbs yelled and shot upright. Breathing heavily, he looked around his bedroom with the realization that it had all been a nightmare. He glanced at the clock. It was early but that was good. He'd get an early start. He eyed his phone and considered calling Tony but disregarded the thought. What would he say? Instead he got out of bed, determined to start his day.
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Tony woke up, stiff and cold after another nightmare-filled night spent on his couch. Bleary-eyed, he looked around his empty apartment and he knew he couldn't stay there all week. He needed to get out, away from the cold that was eating him up from the inside. Packing a bag, he intended to drive to the airport and jump on the first plane out headed anywhere warmer than D.C. After a quick shower, he grabbed his toiletries and then began packing some clothes. He threw jeans, shirts and sweaters into his bag but, since he didn't know where he'd be, he also threw in a pair of swim trunks. Once that was done, he called his neighbor who would look after Kate while he was gone and then, after a final look around his apartment, he walked out the door.
The snow hitting his face was not a surprise. It was actually quite fitting he decided and threw his bag in the trunk. As he drove towards the airport, he contemplated which direction to go. Driving was slow because of the snow but that didn't bother him. He was on his own, as usual, with nothing but time on his hands. Red brake lights flared in front of him and he slowed down, surprised to find that he was on a city street, nowhere near the exchange that would get him to the airport. He looked around and saw with dawning horror that he was right outside the shop from hell. An impatient horn sounding behind him made him pull over into the nearest parking spot.
"No," Tony mumbled, his face turned down and his eyes closed. Without thought, his hands closed on the door handle and in seconds, he was walking towards the shop, his feet leaden in the deepening snow. Why had he never noticed that the streetlights were so old-fashioned in this part of the city? He had the sudden feeling that he had he somehow been finally, truly locked within that damned snow globe. He sucked in an icy breath, his chest aching from the cold. Or was the pain from his heart thudding so painfully inside? Looking at the people rushing by him, he realized that he was actually surprised not to see long skirts and tall hats. Everything was so surreal and he wanted to turn back to his car. He needed to get away from this madness but instead found himself being drawn inexorably closer to the shop. His eyes were drawn to the globe that seemed to have grown in size. In seconds, he was inside.
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The snow had started to fall early that morning and was only an inch deep when Gibbs dropped the toys off at the hospital. Although he kept telling himself he should get on the road so that he'd be in Stillwater before the worst of the snow storm hit, his gut wouldn't let him rest until he'd stopped by Tony's place. It wouldn't take too long, he knew, even with driving more slowly due to the slippery road conditions.
A short while later Gibbs glared at Tony's empty parking spot. The fact that the car was missing didn't anger him, though. It was the light dusting of snow in a large rectangular shape that indicated the car had been moved very recently that pissed him off. It meant Tony hadn't left last night to meet his father. Instead, he'd left his apartment a short time ago, after it had started snowing. Did Tony take a later flight? Maybe, but he was sure Tony would have taken a cab to the airport. There was no way he'd leave his car in long-term parking. So where was he?
He didn't hesitate to pull out his phone and dial McGee. Even while on vacation, his younger agent would never leave home without his laptop. It only took a few minutes for McGee to identify that Tony's GPS signal was not in Aspen, but was actually still right there in D.C. Tony was, in fact, downtown in an area Gibbs knew contained several shops and restaurants. He hung up on McGee before he could ask what Tony was doing there. He didn't know the answer to that right now, but he would soon.
Less than an hour later, Gibbs spotted Tony's car. He drove passed looking for a place to park. Seeing a spot open up, he swung his truck in, ignoring the angry blast of someone's horn.
"Shoulda' been done with shopping by now," he growled at the angry man who'd rolled down his window to shout his indignation. The man tried to spew some more crap but Gibbs walked away, looking at the various stores on the street. Many were still open for last-minute shoppers like the jerk in the street but he knew Tony wouldn't still be shopping. His SFA prided himself on getting everything done long before Christmas Eve. Why would he be here?
He walked down the street, looking in various windows to see if Tony was inside. When he got to one store called "Dervish and Banges", he hit gold. Standing next to the front display was Tony holding something in his hands. He walked inside.
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Tony stared down into the snow globe and saw himself standing cold and alone in the exact spot where the small boy had once been. Without even a jacket to keep him warm, Tiny Tony looked as utterly alone and bereft as he felt right now. Ragged and barefoot in the snow that was blowing around him even though Tony hadn't shaken the globe, both Tony's stared at the group of carolers, the people he thought of as family, all with their backs turned firmly against him except for one. Tiny Gibbs looked on emotionlessly while Tiny Tony struggled in the snow. Then, still without any display of feeling, the tine figure actually moved and purposely turned his back on Tiny Tony â€“ on him. He felt a sob tear its way through gritted teeth. Tears stung his eyes at the desolation he felt when Gibbs, of all people, turned away from him. He felt his heart shatter again as it had when he'd overheard that conversation. But, he wondered, why should that surprise him? He'd always been left by the wayside, even by his own father. It shouldn't surprise him that everyone had a life away from the job, a life with people they loved â€“ a life that didn't include him. He was alone, as alone as his mini-me in the globe who had fallen into the snow.
"What do you see when you look inside?"
His surprise that Gibbs had appeared beside him was a distant thing. "I see myself. Abandoned, alone." Tony looked up from the globe but the blue eyes he expected to see watching him were instead fixed on the globe in his hand. "What do you see?"
"I see the same thing," Gibbs whispered and then pointed to a spot inside the snow globe. "You're there, alone, bleeding in the snow. My fault â€“ but I can't get to you."
"How is that possible?" Tony asked, his eyes narrowed in fear and confusion since he didn't see what Gibbs obviously saw but knew he couldn't deny Gibbs' words. He had the horrible feeling that both he and Gibbs were looking at his future. He shook his head, desperately negating both options in the globe although, of the two, he preferred the thought of dying rather than facing such a hopeless future.
"No. Not going to happen, Tony," Gibbs bit out and Tony tore his eyes away from the horrid scene to look at Gibbs who stood with pale features, furious blue eyes glaring at the globe. "I won't let it. I can't lose you, too."
"No, Tony. You listen and you listen good," Gibbs began and then turned to face Tony. He grabbed him by the biceps and glared into his eyes. "You are not alone, never will be as long as I'm alive."
"What are you saying?" Tony asked quietly as he stared at the determined blue eyes. Shock warred with hope but he was terrified to let it build.
"I'm saying I need you, Tony. Need you with me, on my six. Always."
"You have that, Boss. Always have," Tony replied cautiously and, despite his fear, hope began to gain a little ground.
Gibbs closed his eyes. "Not â€˜Boss', Tony. I need you. Me." He looked up and Tony saw something more in the blue eyes, something he'd always wanted but never thought he'd see. He felt his heart start to pound. Hope and insecurity were present in the sea of blue but above all, Tony saw love there, too.
"I love you, Tony."
Tony smiled and saw the answering smile on Gibbs' face a split second before he was pulled in for a searing kiss that began to melt the ice in his soul. Need and desire blossomed between them, a precious heat that warmed Tony throughout. Then passion flared and was quickly followed by a slow, sensual burning promise that made Tony gasp into the kiss. He pulled back to suck in a breath of much-needed air and then heard someone call out a long "hellooo!"
Tony spun around in time to see a small woman come around the corner of a display cabinet. She had wild hair held back by a scarf and large, round eyeglasses with thick â€“ very thick â€“ lenses. She had this strange half-gypsy/half-bag lady thing going on with a thick shawl thrown over her shoulders.
"Are you finding everything you needâ€¦?" she asked with a wide smile.
"Yeah," Gibbs answered definitively. "We're good."
Tony glanced at Gibbs and smiled. "We're great," he added.
"Oh, dear," the woman said suddenly after eyeing the snow globe. "You do realize that particular item is not for sale?" the woman asked worriedly.
"Yes," Tony answered. There was no way in hell he wanted the thing in his hands. He looked down at the snow globe and nearly dropped it. The scene had changed yet again. He looked at Gibbs with wide eyes. "What â€“ what do you seeâ€¦?" he asked quietly. Gibbs glanced down and Tony saw his eyes narrow.
"Well, I see," the woman answered first with a strange emphasis on the word â€˜see', "a group of carolers. Five men and two women. It's quite lovely, actually, although they haven't enough books. They all appear to be great friends â€“ or possibly family, I believe."
"Family," Gibbs said with certainty.
Tony, still too shocked to speak, could only nod, tears stinging his eyes because that's what he saw, too. It was Ducky, Jimmy, Tim, Abby and Ziva and, at the end, Gibbs and him standing all together singing. And Tiny Gibbs was sharing his book with Tiny Tony and had his arm around him. He had to agree with the woman and Gibbs, though. They did look close. Just like a family. His family.
"Lovely. Well, I'm afraid we're about to close. Was there anything I can help you with, gentlemen?" she asked politely.
"No, thank you," Gibbs answered as Tony carefully placed the snow globe back on its pedestal. "We have everything we need."
"Wonderful. Merry Christmas!" she said happily as she walked them to the door. Tony and Gibbs both replied in kind and watched as she locked the door and turned the sign to "closed".
"Before we go any further, G â€“ Jethro, I need to tell you that I love you, too. And, I wasn't going to see my father. He, uh, well, he left again."
"Good â€“ to both," Gibbs said as he put his arm around Tony's waist and pulled him close.
"Yeah," Gibbs said with a firm nod, "because you're coming to Stillwater with me. Families should be together at Christmas."
Tony's only answer was a wide smile.