Author: Sage Harper
Recipient's name: Adriannacoylho
Sub-genre: established relationship
Summary: There’s a Santa Clause on the loose at NCIS, and that’s not the only surprise.
Authors Notes: The request was; “Some Jimmy and/or Kate would be nice, maybe something romantic!”
Disclaimer: Not mine, just borrowing and will put them back.
The first they knew of it was when Abby clattered into the squad room. Running as efficiently as anyone could in stacked heels; fired up on caffeine, childlike excitement, and the yummy spiked egg-less eggnog Ben from the mail department had shared with her.
On reaching them, she burst into song …
“You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why …”
She stopped then, her energy deflating dramatically by a lack of response.
“Yeah, we know that song, Abby.” McGee continued to type after only a cursory glance in her direction. Ordinarily he would have paid her more attention, but with the alternative being the director skinning him alive for not getting fully caught up with paperwork then he’d take his chances.
“But you don’t understand, he’s here, in the building.”
“Abby,” Tony began gently. “There’s something your mother and I need to talk to you about...”
He gestured, and she came to perch on the edge of his lap.
“You see,” he continued, while petting her pigtails. “Santa Clause isn’t actually real.”
“But I saw him.”
“I think Tony means that what you just saw was a guy dressed up in a Santa suit,” Kate said. Wondering as she did why on earth she was getting involved in this. It was just destine to end up being a completely stupid tangent, in which she as the new girl and unaware of the subtleties of these dynamics would end up getting in wrong. And for every notch they all went down in Gibbs’ book, she’d fall another two with the rest of the team. At least with Gibbs you knew where you stood.
“Ah but how do you know?” Abby wasn’t going to let this one go.
Tony and Kate looked at each other; neither had expected to have to clarify their stance. It was just, obvious. Kate was at an even greater loss being religious herself; she’d tie herself in knots for sure. After all, everyone has to believe in something.
As it was Abby rolled her eyes and gave a pitying sigh.
“God, when did you people get so grown up and boring? … All I know is that there was someone, who may or may not have been Santa, wandering around in the building looking an awful lot like Santa. So, y’know, sorry for making this discovery and sharing it with you. Trying to liven up our slow day and spread some Christmassy cheer.”
“It was very thoughtful, thanks.” Kate smiled Abby.
“Uh boss, I can explain.”
Abby turned and glared at Tony, having been propelled so suddenly from her perch.
Gibbs didn’t deign to respond; simply getting his gun and badge from the top drawer of his desk. Giving the distinct impression he was gripped in some very important business, and about to go on some kind of outing. Without them.
“Gibbs,” Abby began, blocking his way. “Is there a Santa? Because Tony said …”
“Tony says a lot of things,” Gibbs answered noncommittally. “You’re a smart girl Abs, you decide what to believe.”
With that Gibbs raised himself just slightly to stand on the balls of his feet, enough to give Abby a kiss on the forehead, then deftly stepped around her. Swatting Tony on the back of the head as he went.
“That’s what you get for spoiling your baby sister’s Christmas,” Abby told him smugly. She’d seen it coming really, no matter what Gibbs might personally believe or however his rules fall on any matter. Nobody was allowed to infringe on Abby’s good mood and get away with it.
Kate looked between them, slightly confused. Nothing in their respective profiles indicated they were in any way related, but who could ever tell with those two.
“Team Gibbs is a family,” Abby explained. “That’s why we’re the best, and all work so well together.”
“Yeah sure,” Tony concurred. “Gibbs as our esteemed patriarch. I naturally, am the eldest loyal respected and set to take over his enterprise. Abby is daddy’s little princess of darkness. Probie, well you can imagine. And let’s not forget our uncle and geeky cousin down in the basement with the dead bodies, what family would be complete without that.”
Kate didn’t immediately give a response. Her first thought was the obvious one, of the glaring omission, but she felt petty and insecure for even mentioning it. Besides it had only been a few months, she couldn’t really expect to be so fully integrated in a team that had worked together for so long. It might be quite nice though.
“Anyone know where Gibbs is going?” McGee asked, getting their thoughts back onto the pertinent topic.
“Gee I don’t know, Problet, isn’t there some kind of magical techy program thingy you can do to figure it out?”
“There’s no need to be facetious Tony.” Kate went back to reading over the report on her desk. Checking it over yet again for any elusive typos; she was sure as hell not spending the small hours of Christmas Eve staying at work to retype it again. It was bad enough having to call her family to tell them she wouldn’t be home for Christmas, again, and listen to them complain about her job sucking the life out of her and how it was always her top priority. The idea of them, in some warped way, being right was just too much.
“If Gibbs wanted us to know, then he’d have told us. Maybe I’ve just not come across it yet, but there isn’t a Gibbs rule that we can’t have our own lives.”
“Hmm yeah, I haven’t heard of that one either,” Tony conceded. Then he looked up, uncomfortable at having all their attention on him. “Well for whatever reason he’s not here, which makes me team leader. So all of you get back to work.”
The elevator dinged, but they didn’t look up until Tony stated curtly; “Just spit it out Palmer.”
“Have any of you seen Dr Mallard?”
The general consensus was that they hadn’t. Which prompted Palmer to look rather deflated and concerned.
“I was supposed to bring these to him, that’s all,” he elaborated. Then popped another mini mice pie from the cake tin into his mouth
“It’s OK, Jimmy. He’s gone out with Gibbs,” Abby said quietly. “Don’t give me that look. Trust me; it’s one of those things I just know.”
“Like you know Santa is real,” Tony interrupted.
“Well OK then, I’ll tell you. As you’re so smart and can figure everything out, then you’ve already noticed Gibbs was wearing his scarf.”
“Abby, it’s like ten degrees outside ...”
“His green cashmere scarf,” Abby continued pointedly. “The one Ducky got him last year, because it compliments his eyes. Gibbs hates wearing fancy stuff and light colours, but he always makes that effort for Ducky.”
She sat back, letting the information sink in.
“That’s just speculation,” Kate said gently. “Which will get us nowhere. Remember Tony, that illusive redhead picking him up, how you made such a big deal out of it meaning they were a couple. And it turned out to just be his neighbour giving him a ride because his car was being serviced.”
“It’s not my fault people get the wrong idea.”
“You’re hardly above reproach in that arena.” Kate stood up. “You know what, I think we should resolve this completely. By going to find Ducky and asking him exactly what is going on. At least that’s what I’m going to do, who’s with me?”
Abby hopped up from her seat, then as an afterthought leant across the desk to log out and switch off Gibbs’ computer. Grateful for the change of scene McGee prepared himself more thoroughly then walked to stand beside Palmer, helping himself to a mice pie. Since Ducky had started talking about them he’d been curious what could be minced about them; the fruit filling apparently, it wasn’t bad.
Tony gave a sigh, as they looked at him.
“Well as team leader I can’t exactly abandon my team,” he concluded. “Besides it might be fun, my curiosity is piqued.”
By asking after Gibbs, and Palmer having a sudden flash of memory, they concluded that the pair had gone down to the basement car park of NCIS headquarters. So they crammed into the next available elevator and headed that way.
“Something’s bugging me,” Tony began.
“We already had this conversation,” Kate reminded him. “And it was so rude considering they were still in earshot.”
“Nah, not that. I’m over the crazy lacking personal hygiene issues for now. I mean what’s up with Gibbs and Ducky going off like that?”
“Maybe they’re having a secret love affair,” Abby suggested.
“You think so,” Palmer added, rather hopefully. “Because see, I kinda thought that, well …”
The doors opened and they stepped out onto the concrete flooring with Palmer still babbling away. Then he saw the morgan, and stopped. They all did.
“Hate to say I told you so …”
“No, Abby, you clearly don’t.” Kate smiled, and approached the car.
Gibbs spotted them first, and after a moment of conferring another man appeared. Dressed in full Father Christmas regalia, just as Abby had said.
“Ah, good afternoon to you all. That is, ho ho ho merry Christmas … hmm I think I’ll need some more practise at this.”
“Nah, you’ll do just fine,” Gibbs assured him.
It was obvious of course who this Santa was; after all there couldn’t be that many Scottish limping waffling Santas in the world, let alone that could get past Gibbs. But as they stood there, for Kate it really didn’t matter. It reminded her of being a little kid, standing in line with her siblings hopping with anticipation at seeing Santa. And really, who better embodied the spirit of Christmas than Ducky Mallard.
“We were wondering when you’d all show up,” Gibbs commented mildly. “Took you a while.”
“Uh yeah, well you see Boss, thing is …”
Tony stopped talking; he hadn’t even needed to start. Gibbs didn’t need or want an explanation, it wasn’t anything work related and he was in a good mood. His gaze directly almost entirely at his closest friend.
Having an idea, Ducky opened the car door and sat himself sideways in the passenger seat.
“I’m afraid we shall have to forgo the tradition of sitting on my knee, my joints really aren’t as they used to be. And unfortunately I don’t have any gifts to offer you right now; those shall have to wait until later.”
“Later?” McGee queried.
“Why yes, naturally. The day after tomorrow, in fact. When I climb down the chimney at midnight and fill your stockings.”
“Well I’m not a doctor yet, but I really must advise you against such rigorous activity,” Palmer stated, playing along. “You’d be much better off coming in the backdoor, with your magical key.”
“Indeed, you raise a very good point.” As Jimmy was now closest to him Ducky lowered his voice conspiritally. “However, I do not believe it is me who should be advised against rigorous activity.”
She may have imagined it, but Kate was sure that for a moment Gibbs almost blushed. This probably meant she had seen everything … well not that she’d ever seen him cry and say ‘I love you’. But yes, being realistic.
Observing how their expressions changed Ducky gave a hearty laugh; “oh I was joking, of course. What I really meant was that on Christmas Eve I shall be hosting a drinks party in the evening, and I wouldn’t like to be presumptuous, but if you don’t have any other plans then feel free to come along.”
“You really will get a gift and everything,” Gibbs added.
“I know, Jethro,” Ducky tried to look contrite but failed. “You did tell me not to spoil them, but you know me, I couldn’t help it. They were such lovely little thing.”
“I’ll be looking forward to it.” Palmer grinned, and the others all gave their concurrence.
“Excellent.” Ducky nodded. “Well then, who would like to go first. Caitlin or Abigail, naturally we should be gentlemen.”
Palmer found himself last up, which he didn’t mind at all. Something had made him hang back, probably the same thing that affected every other area of his life. He didn’t even mind it so much; listening to the others as they lost their inhibitions and revelled in the childlike joy of the occasion. The requests were interesting; some of which he had guessed anyway. He noticed Kate had hesitated, thought through her answer carefully and been deliberately flippant. Asked for a designer handbag instead of what she really wanted, and he knew because it was what Jimmy wanted to, to belong.
“And now, Mr Palmer, you’re next.”
He took a step forward, approaching Ducky as one would a monarch.
Ducky smiled up at him; “now have you been a good boy this year?”
He tried to think of a quip, like Tony’s ‘do I get points for trying?’ Something witty and interesting, but then he knew he wasn’t, so why bother.
“I hope so” he answered honestly. “But I guess you’d know better than me.”
“Yes, a very good point. So what would you like for Christmas?”
There wasn’t really anything material he wanted, Jimmy was never one for expensive designer items or hobbies. He’d been quite happy with some candies and gift cards like always. And he couldn’t really be entirely candid; that would just ruin the mood to speak of his father, his mom, how even though he wasn’t a kid any more he still had a childish yearning for a perfect nuclear Christmas like in the movies.
“I’d like to become a doctor,” he answered, surprising himself.
There was a pause, and he wondered if he’d made a terrible mistake. Obviously there was no way anyone could qualify for that in less than 72 hours, and you could forget about getting funding it. If that hideous damning letter on his kitchen table was to be believed, and he did.
“Ah, Jimmy.” Ducky took his hand, a reflex really. Palmer had never been one for affection, certainly not from a man, but some how it felt perfectly fine. Not romantic, but warm and kind, like when his mom had hugged him over that stupid letter. “You have my word that I shall endeavour to do my absolute best.”
There was something about Ducky’s gaze, the unfathomable depths of benevolence in his blue eyes, that lit a spark of hope deep inside Jimmy. He was stupid enough to believe in a neat happy ever after, not when life had kicked you so many times. But Ducky was smart, trustworthy, knew people who knew people, Jimmy could trust him.
Gently Ducky let go of his hand, reached into the large bag of assorted toffees he had discovered in the glove compartment, and handed the confectionery to Palmer.
“Well, I best be off then,” Ducky said. “I have rounds to make at the Quantico children’s ward, delivering all the gifts NCIS so kindly donated. And I shan’t keep you from your work any longer.”
“Nah, it’s OK Ducky, really we don’t mind at all,” Tony gave a winning smile. “Keep us as long as you like.”
A smile that wilted under Gibbs glare; so they decided it was best to make a dignified exit.
As they all left, she couldn’t put a finger on it, but something compelled Kate to hang back slight. Watching as Gibbs and Ducky loaded the last of the boxes onto the backseat of the car.
“That was rather unexpected wasn’t it?” Ducky laughed. “I really had to think on my feet.”
“You handled it like a pro, knew you would.”
“Yes, I was wondering who put my name down to be Father Christmas.”
“Ah Duck, if it wasn’t you it’d have been me, and you know that I’m, y’know …”
“An unrepentant Scrooge?”
“Am not!” He was doing that smile again, the one he only used for Ducky, cranked up a notch.
Gibbs closed the gap between them; inwardly grateful Ducky had taken off that stupid beard, and cupped Ducky’s face with his hand.
“I try, really, to. Gotta keep my image. But hell Duck, how could anyone get miserable and cynical with you in their life?”
Without pause for an answer he tenderly pressed his lips to Ducky’s.
At that point Kate left, feeling it was wrong to intrude on a moment like that. She almost wanted to run and tell the others, if only to get some advice on the swirl of conflicting emotions running through her. Had she suspected, of course. But it was different seeing such clear proof.
Gibbs and Ducky.
Well that was hardly a truly huge surprise.
The knowledge of their secret, the privilege that she was the one to keep it, the simple fact of having one up on Tony, coiled warmly inside her. She wouldn’t tell, it was nobody else’s business. And in the world how could it ever be a crime to reach out and grasp some honest loving happiness.
I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night. She didn’t see me creep, down stairs to have a peep …
As she took the elevator up to the squad room Kate found herself humming that stupid old song.