Christmas Countdown: December 24
"Damn, you’re awfully tight there, Tony."
"Quit your bellyachin’, soldier," Tony DiNozzo replied with a grin. "Suck it up and let’s get this done."
Gibbs’ complaint wasn’t legit and Tony knew his lover well enough to realize it. With a grin, Tony tightened the ribbon. Gibbs barely got his finger out of the way; he’d been holding it so that Tony could form a more perfect bow.
There were few things Tony took as seriously as he did Christmas and Gibbs has a pet theory of why that was the case. As with most things having to do with Tony’s inner demons, the cause could probably be traced back to his parents. The DiNozzos were a rich family, but cold in a way that must have been sheer hell for Tony growing up.
All Gibbs wanted for Christmas was two minutes alone in a room with Papa DiNozzo. Since that wasn’t going to happen, he’d just enjoy the time with Tony instead.
"How many of those do you have left?" Gibbs growled. He could think of a lot better way to spend an evening than wrapping presents. Putting action to his thoughts, he moved closer to the other man and nuzzled behind Tony’s ear.
"Stop that," Tony protested. Despite his words, however, he leaned into Gibbs’ warmth. "We’ve still got a lot of these to do."
"I know who I want to do," Gibbs persisted. He carefully nibbled on an earlobe that was tempting him.
"Gibbs. . . ."
There was a note of warning in Tony’s voice. With a sigh, Jethro returned his focus to the task at hand. His eyes widened as he got a good look at the number of packages waiting to be wrapped. His earlier complaint had been simply because he wanted Tony’s attention, but he’d had good reason to whine.
"What the hell?" Gibbs asked in disbelief. "Did you buy a present for every man, woman and child in the DC area?"
Tony relented enough from the wrapping to take a swig of his beer. "Haven’t I ever explained to you the DiNozzo system for gift buying?"
Gibbs leaned back against the couch. The two men had been working on the floor and his back was getting tired. "No, I can’t say that you have."
"It’s a tiered system, sort of like a pyramid," Tony explained. "Tier Four is the bottom layer, those are the grease gifts."
"Grease gifts?" Jethro asked. Since Tony was talking instead of working, he surreptitiously pulled the younger man a little closer.
"It’s the gifts you buy to make your life easier in the future," Tony told him. "You know, trinkets for the guy who delivers your newspaper or the woman who cuts your hair."
"Ah," Gibbs commented. "Bribes."
"More like rewards for good service," Tony corrected him. "Once in a while, Gibbs, people do like to be told they’re doing a good job."
Gibbs gave him a steely look. He was well aware of that; it was the main reason he offered praise so rarely. When he told one of his people they’d done a good job, then it meant something.
"The third tier is for people who impact your life a little more than that, but that you don’t want to give a personal gift to," Tony went on to explain. "A co-worker, but not a close one. Like the Autopsy Gremlin." His voice got very quiet. Or maybeanoldgirlfriend."
Despite Tony’s attempt to cover up that last bit, Gibbs heard it and wasn’t happy.
"There damn well better not be any boxes of honey dust in your Tier Three gifts this year, Tony," he warned the young man.
"No, no," Tony assured him quickly. "This year, I gave out a nice set of dish towels."
Gibbs stopped grumbling. Even he knew that wasn’t a gift that an old lover would be pleased to get. "Dish towels?"
"Nothing says you’re off the market like kitchen linens," Tony said smugly. His smile faltered. "I did buy one thing of honey dust to give away, though." When Gibbs scowled, he hastened to explain. "For Abby. She gave me such a hard time last year about never haven gotten any from me that I had to."
Mollified, Gibbs relaxed. Abby was an exception to many rules. "Just don’t tell me who she’s gonna use it on, because I don’t wanna know."
"Probably not," Tony agreed. "Tier Two is for friends and colleagues you work closely with. Like Abby, Ducky or McGee. Tier Two gifts have to be personally picked out. It’s very, very bad form to give a Tier Two something lame like a fruit basket or a basket of candles. Those are okay for Tier Three, but not Tier Two."
"You’re giving Abby a Tier Three gift," Gibbs teased.
Tony’s grin was sinful. "Oh, but that’s not all I’m giving her."
Knowing when he was beat, Gibbs held up a hand. "I don’t want to know."
Theoretically, he knew that Abby enjoyed a robust love life, but since she was like a daughter to him, he could do without the details.
"And Tier One?" Gibbs asked nonchalantly.
Tony wasn’t fooled. "Nah-huh. Tier One is only one person, the most important person in your life, and you know full well that it’s you. You’re not getting me to spill the beans on your gift that easy. You’ll have to wait for Christmas morning like everyone else."
Gibbs smiled at the thought, but his enjoyment in the moment was tempered by sadness. It hadn’t escaped his notice that Tony hadn’t named any family members in his tiers. Gibbs didn’t really have any close family any more either, but that was due to death, not choice. A warm person like Tony should be surrounded by family.
Jethro snorted even as the thought crossed his mind. Tony was surrounded by family; it was just one that he’d chosen for himself. That’s what the elaborate gift giving was about, not any stupid tier system. Tony had been from a wealthy family, but a cold one. No doubt his gifts were always of the finest quality, but impersonally chosen. As an adult, Tony bent over backwards to make sure he didn’t make the same mistake.
"Hey, where’d you go?" Tony asked in a soft voice.
Gibbs’ eyes snapped back in focus. "What?"
"You were a thousand miles away," Tony clarified. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah," Gibbs reassured him. "Just trying to figure out what you got me for Christmas."
Tony looked at him askance, far from convinced, but apparently he wasn’t willing to pursue the topic either. "You just want to get out of wrapping presents."
"Yup," Gibbs immediately replied, not bothering to try and hide the fact.
That was a surprise. Jethro never would have figured that Tony would give up so easy. Not when it came to Christmas presents. "Okay?"
Tony got up effortlessly from the floor and grinned down at him. "You can help me bring the faux fireplace up from my storage closet."
"What the hell do you need that for?" Gibbs complained. He got up, knees creaking, it being not quite so effortless a motion for him as it had been for his lover.
"The stockings need to hang some place," Tony said. "I thought that would be obvious, Gibbs."
Gibbs shook his head in disbelief. "I haven’t hung a stocking since I was nine years old and, even then, I got a lump of coal."
Despite his grumbling, Gibbs headed for the door, but stopped when he realized that Tony wasn’t following him. "What?"
"Your parents put coal in your stocking?" Tony seemed outraged. "That’s pretty cruel."
Gibbs shrugged. He could remember his hurt, even after all the intervening years, but it was a long time ago. "It was a different time, Tony, with different expectations. In my family, you were expected to be a man when you got old enough."
"Nine isn’t anywhere near old enough," Tony stated flatly, lips thin with displeasure.
It surprised the hell out of Gibbs, but it was kind of nice to see Tony so upset on his behalf.
"Stocking stuffers were different in those days. Nothing big, like those peapod music doo hickeys that kids expect nowadays." Gibbs explained. "You’d get some candy and maybe an orange. If you were real good, maybe you got a small toy in your stocking, like a metal car.
Tony huffed. "But still, if it was no big deal, why stop like that?"
Seeing that the younger man was about to get more wound up about it, Gibbs stopped the coming tirade the only way he could. He kissed Tony and kept at it until he felt DiNozzo relax against him.
"Come on, let’s go get this pretend fireplace of yours."
Tony rolled his eyes, but followed Gibbs’ direction. Before long, the stocking conversation had been left behind and, at least on Gibbs’ part, forgotten.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs had a keen mind; he just didn’t bother to try and retain useless bits of information. Like computers. He used them as much as was necessary, but kept the details to the experts, like McGee. As far as he was concerned, the issue with his childhood Christmas stocking, or lack thereof, was unimportant and therefore could be dismissed.
Gibbs woke on Christmas morning to Tony jumping onto the bed. He’d been vaguely aware that his lover had gotten up, but when he’d looked at the window, it had still been dark outside. Figuring Tony was just using the head and would be back, Jethro had drifted back to sleep. He’d been wrong and there was over 175 pounds of DiNozzo on top of him to prove it.
"Come on, Gibbs, wake up," Tony cajoled him. "It’s Christmas!"
"Gee, y’think?" Gibbs asked sarcastically. Any pique he felt because of the early hour evaporated, however, when he got a good look at Tony’s shining face. "Merry Christmas."
Tony bent and kissed him soundly. "Merry Christmas. Now, come on. Get up, lazy bones."
When it came to persistence, Tony was as bad as Gibbs’ old drill sergeant. However, since Tony was a lot better looking, Gibbs didn’t resent him quite as much. Jethro lifted up and stole another kiss.
"Nah-uh," Tony waved a finger in Gibbs’ face. "Nookie later. Presents now."
Gibbs sighed and pushed his covers to the side. Tony bounced one last time on the mattress and then he was off.
At Jethro’s request, they’d stayed at Tony’s place for the holiday. Gibbs’ house was full of too many memories and Jethro thought it only fair that they spend their first Christmas as a couple somewhere they could make memories of their own. He’d always remember his wife and daughter, had visited their graves the day before, but life was for the living.
Rubbing his ass as he walked into the living room, Gibbs found his mood lightening, despite the earliness of the morning. The Christmas tree was lit up, the lights taking on magical quality in the predawn hour. Tony had, wisely, waited for the coffee to be ready before waking his lover and he handed Gibbs a mug as soon as he walked through the doorway.
"Mmmm. . . ." Gibbs murmured with satisfaction. "Just the way I like it."
As he took his second sip, Jethro’s eyes wandered more freely around the room. His perusal stopped, though, when he got to the faux fireplace. He’d helped Tony hang the stockings on it when they’d set it up. The stockings were still there, but now they were bulging.
"You didn’t. . . ." Gibbs said.
"Oh, I think I did," Tony crowed. He got up from the sofa and grabbed the stocking marked ‘Jethro’ and impatiently handed it to his lover.
Gibbs set his coffee down and, with a sense of wonder,
stuck his hand inside. The first thing he pulled out was a small, toy car. It
was made out of a heavy, substantial metal – nothing like the flimsy toy
automobiles currently being sold. Jethro took a finger and sent the tires to
spinning, smiling at their smooth motion. Lifting his face to grin at Tony, he
carefully set it down and reached into the stocking again. This time, he found
candy and a lot of it. There was white, dark and milk chocolate; candy canes;
and some of those pop rocks that Tony knew damn well that Jethro found annoying.
Thinking of an entirely wicked use for the pop rocks, Gibbs carefully set them aside.
He reached in one last time and found, right in the toe of the stocking, a ripe orange. As soon as he pulled it out, the zesty fragrance tickled his nose.
"Do you like it?" Tony asked.
When Gibbs looked over at his lover, he belatedly realized that he hadn’t said a word the entire time. Tony was sitting on the edge of his seat, looking anxious.
"You think it’s stupid," Tony guessed, visibly
deflating. "I’m sorry."
Gibbs hastily put the stocking and its contents down and immediately pulled Tony into his arms. "I like it a lot," he said, his voice rough with emotion.
Tony sagged with relief in Gibbs’ arms. "Good, you had me worried for a minute there."
"I love it," Gibbs assured him. "And I love you too."
"Mmmm. . . ." Tony purred as he settled happily against the older man. Gibbs took the hint and started carding his fingers through Tony’s hair. "You know, Gibbs. It’s never too late for a happy childhood."
That was true of both of them and went a long way to explaining some of Tony’s antics.
"I know," Gibbs agreed as he pressed a kiss onto Tony’s head. "I know."
And if Gibbs had anything to say about it, the rest of Tony’s life would be happy too.
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