Disclaimer: I'm not Bellesario or CBS, so I don't claim to own them.
Word Count: 1,718
Beta: All mistakes are mine.
Written For: 2014 tibbs_yuletide Day 24
Summary: With his leg in a brace and his sports career in shambles, Tony has no choice but to spend the holidays at home. However, instead of sipping eggnog by the fire with the elves, Senior sends him on an important mission involving a Marine who lost everything. Little did Senior know, it would take Tony ten years to put warmth back in the heart of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Tony bit back a curse as he was bumped yet again on the crowded sidewalk. While he was thankful to be away from his dad and the craziness that surrounded home during Christmas, he was not happy with his current situation. Crutches and a full leg brace did not mix well with a swarm of Christmas shoppers littering the street.
Tony let out a sigh when he saw the sign for the place he was supposed to go. It was a typical looking diner and supposedly there was someone inside that needed saving. Tony just wasn't sure what use he would be since he only had a fraction of the Christmas magic that his dad possessed.
He hadn't even planned to be home for Christmas. Some of his frat brothers had planned the ultimate ski retreat for the break and Tony had saved every dollar he could from his job at the cafeteria to go with them. When Tony had opted to avoid the family business in favor of college, his dad had cut him off in hopes of changing his mind. But Tony had persevered and made it to his senior year on his own.
Then came the injury. The game was against Michigan State and the rivalry was bitter on the field. But it was a legal hit from some guy named Pitt that had crushed any future he could dream about in sports. It also crushed the trip to the ski lodge. Granted, Tony could have lounged around the fireplace while his frat brothers hit the slopes, but just the idea of it made him feel lonely.
Instead, Tony had called home and asked his dad if he could stay there over break. At least he would have others to interact with instead of a TV set and all the not-so-hidden stashes of porn around the frat house. His dad's head elf had popped him back home where he didn't see his dad for three days.
When his dad finally showed up, he started in on his typical speech about how Tony was wasting his life with college and sports. Senior always insisted that Tony needed to help bring good into the lives of others, even if it wasn't through delivering toys to all the good little girls and boys.
So Tony was tasked with bringing cheer to someone in desperate need of it. The file Tony had been given showed a man who had lost everything. His wife and daughter had been killed while the man was stationed overseas, so he didn't even have the chance to say goodbye. The file also included Kelly's last Christmas wish, to see her dad smile. Since he'd learned of their deaths, Leroy Jethro Gibbs had not smiled once and Tony had no clue how to change that.
The jingling bell of the diner brought Tony's attention to the person he was tasked to cheer up. The diner was crowded as he'd been promised when he the man sitting alone at a booth.
"Mind if I sit here?" Tony took the grunt for a yes and lowered himself down, leaving his bad leg sticking out to the side. Gibbs didn't seem to be one for conversation, so Tony gave the menu card a quick scan.
"What's good in this joint?" Tony asked hoping for a response.
"Don't try your luck with that one, Honey," came a waitress' voice above him. "He just stares into his coffee cup and ignores the rest of us. Now with that leg of yours, I'd say you need a decent helping of pancakes and maybe some bacon and eggs to top it off. How do yah like your coffee?"
"With more sugar than coffee." Tony flashed his smile at the waitress and waited for her to wonder off before engaging Gibbs again. "Looks like she's right about the staring. Now me, I like staring at things other than my coffee. Football games, basketball games, ladies…" Tony trailed off realizing the man wouldn't respond, so he went for broke. "Even check out the guys sometimes, especially the older ones."
That rewarded him with a raised eyebrow and a set of blue eyes glaring at him. Tony had a moment to wonder if he'd have more injuries to go with his leg before the man looked back down.
"Ask for extra bacon."
The gruff voice startled Tony and also had an effect that he had just teased about moments before. He pushed the thought out of his head. He was just there to make the man smile and then he'd be back home sipping eggnog with the elves.
The waitress was back then with his food and he did as Gibbs had said and asked her for extra bacon. His first bite proved that it was justified and he couldn't help the groan that escaped his lips.
"Thanks for that," Tony said around a mouth full of food. "Living in a frat house doesn't give me food options that taste like this. Too bad this place is too far away from Ohio. So, other than bacon, what floats your boat?"
The man's head shot up and he looked like he was boring into Tony's mind. Tony was about to continue when Gibbs spoke instead.
"Boats, bourbon and redheads."
Tony smirked. Maybe he could work with that. A quick glance around the diner showed a redhead alone at the counter. The space next to her had cleared off and Tony was positive he could make sparks happen.
He placed his hand on the table and started drumming the tune to We Wish You a Merry Christmas. He could feel the magic building up in his fingers as he reached the end of the song and then he let it go, watching it slide across the table to Gibbs' coffee cup. Thankfully, the man picked it up for a drink just after the spell hit it.
To Tony's relief, Gibbs downed his drink and then headed to the open spot on the counter for his refill. He watched as the redhead started talking to him while he waited. Then Gibbs sat down with his new cup and Tony was left to finish his breakfast alone.
Tony figured his mission was complete because there was no way that redhead wouldn't put a smile on Gibbs' face at some point. But at the same time, Tony felt an ache deep inside him that he wasn't the one putting the smile on Gibbs' face. With a sigh, Tony left a generous tip courtesy of his dad's money and then left the diner to find a payphone to call for a ride home.
Instead of being filled with the Christmas spirit after a job well done, Tony found himself reading the file on Gibbs over and over again. The one thing that stuck in his mind was that Gibbs was just starting out as a federal investigator, working for the man that been assigned his wife and daughter's case. It was with that thought in mind that Tony rethought his career path when he returned to school. Law enforcement sounded like the right mix of real world life and doing good for others. Maybe, just maybe, he could appease his dad.
10 Years Later
Tony was running as fast as he could. He was thankful he was wearing the souped up tube socks the elves had given him for Christmas after the disaster that was Philly. They wanted him to always be able to outrun the bad guys after that.
He had finally caught the guy and tackled him to the ground. With the gun pointed down he shouted, "I said freeze, dirtbag!"
Instead Tony froze when saw two very familiar blue eyes looking up at him. Apparently the recognition went both ways because the guy mouthed, "Play along," at Tony and he did.
It wasn't until Tony was working at NCIS and his wedding plans with Wendy had gone up in smoke that Tony was finally ready to confront Leroy Jethro Gibbs on that one moment of shared history. Tony had picked up a bottle of bourbon and a pizza and headed for the man's house. It was Christmas Eve, but he figured the man wasn't celebrating.
From what Tony had learned through Abby after she had warmed up to him, was that Gibbs was just ending his marriage with his third divorce. She didn't seem to know anything about Gibbs' first wife, so Tony kept that to himself. But according to Abby, all three had been redheads.
When Gibbs hadn't answered the door, Tony tried the doorknob and found it unlocked. He wondered the unfamiliar house until he heard Gibbs shout something about the basement. Finding the door in the kitchen, he made his way down the steps and to his shock, discovered the frame of a boat in the basement. He barked out a laugh.
"Boats and bourbon. Makes sense now." Tony sat his offerings on the workbench that had an empty space on it. "I take it the redheads didn't pan out?"
"What do you think? How about you? Wendy didn't seem to match that older man thing you rambled on about."
"I was only rambling because you weren't talking. And I gave up finding older men after meeting you. No one measured up."
Tony's heart stopped. He hadn't meant to let that slip out. It was the truth and every year, the elves had sent him an update on his mission that had ultimately failed. Apparently, just any smile didn't count. His dad had wanted a genuine smile to fulfill the wish that Kelly Gibbs had made.
Tony was staring at the concrete floor when felt calloused fingers lift his chin. Then Gibbs was kissing him with everything he had and Tony found himself kissing back. He wrapped his arms around the older man and never wanted to let go. Finally they pulled back and Tony saw the corners of Gibbs' mouth lift up and it wasn't long before there was a full-toothed grin on the man's face.
"At the diner, you never asked me how I liked my men."
"How's that?" Tony asked breathlessly.
And as Tony leaned in for another kiss, he heard the faint jingling of bells from his dad's sleigh.