The Ultimate Present

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


Author's Notes: Written for NCIS_Tinsel 07/08.


Tony glared across the squad room at Gibbs's desk. Gibbs himself wasn't present, but The Gift was there.

The Gift. The bane of Tony's existence. The ultimate source of frustration. It had been mocking him for two weeks now. It had appeared on Gibbs's desk on December 10th and occupied what had grown in Tony's mind to be a place of honor.

The wrapping paper was glossy and candy-apple red. It was perfectly wrapped, the corners crisp, the sides smooth, not a single stray piece of tape visible. A white satin ribbon neatly bisected each side and came together in a perfect bow on the top. It was the archetypal Christmas present. Other Christmas presents paled before its shiny, crimson perfection.

Tony was beginning to hate it.

Once he and Gibbs had started sleeping together, Tony had discovered that Gibbs was infernally hard to buy presents for. It was okay to buy your boss a bottle of bourbon for Christmas, but it was a little impersonal for your lover, and Gibbs was one of the least material people Tony knew. He just didn't seem to want anything that could be boxed up and wrapped. Tony had managed to scrape together a couple of decent gifts, but even as he paid for them, even as he wrapped them, the thought of The Gift mocked his efforts.

The Gift, which was clearly special and highly anticipated. The Gift, which didn't go under Gibbs's tree with the other presents, no, it waited on Gibbs's desk where he--and Tony--could look at it all day long.

Worst of all, Tony had tried every trick he knew to figure out what it was and who it was from, to no avail. There was no tag on it and no card anywhere near it. He hadn't seen who'd put it on Gibbs's desk and he knew what Kate and McGee and Abby and Ducky had all gotten Gibbs for Christmas and none of those presents would fit into a box four inches on a side.

It was light for its size and Tony had gotten a hold of it long enough to give it a shake, but it didn't make any tell tale noises. There had been a muffled sound that might have been a metallic clink, but it was too quiet to be sure.

Tony was entirely prepared to sneak The Gift off to a discreet location and peel the wrapping paper carefully open--the tape would lift off that metallic red paper cleanly, he knew--but his attempts in that direction had been thwarted. Either Gibbs or Fate herself must have enlisted the rest of the team in the protection of The Gift, because every single time Tony thought he could sneak it into an empty room for a couple of minutes someone would come around a corner and catch him holding the damn thing. There was no decent excuse to be walking around with Gibbs's present in his hands, either, which meant that the rest of the team had been snickering at him for days now.

But even as his obsession reached embarrassing proportions, Tony couldn't seem to stop himself. Despite knowing full well how ridiculous the lengths he was going to were, he'd still returned to the office after hours three times over the past week in an attempt to get a hold of it. Futilely, as it turned out. Though he never saw Gibbs take The Gift home with him or lock it away in a drawer, somehow it was always absent when Tony came to find it during the night, and somehow it always reappeared on Gibbs's desk the next morning.

It would all be over soon, though. Tonight was Christmas Eve and he and Gibbs had Christmas day off, for once. Less than 24 hours from now, The Gift would be forced to reveal itself.

***

Tony woke up at six in the morning on Christmas Day. He hadn't done that since he was a kid. Of course, he hadn't been this impatient to see presents opened since he was a kid, either. Was it better or worse that it wasn't his own presents that he wanted to see opened most?

Gibbs had brought The Gift home with him the night before.

Despite the early hour, Tony was alone in the bed. Sliding his hand across the sheets, he was a little relieved to find them still warm with Gibbs's body heat. No one should wake up far enough before six a.m. for the sheets to cool.

Unfortunately, though the sheets were warm, the house itself was a little chilly. Tony rolled out of the cozy bed, pushed his feet into a pair of slippers shaped like bulldogs and wrapped himself in the robe hanging on the hook on the back of the bedroom door. He was glad he'd slept over the night before; having to trek down to his car through his apartment building's freezing garage and drive over to Gibbs's place before the sun even rose would have been far worse than enduring the slight chill of the house.

Slowly relaxing as his body warmed the robe, Tony padded down the stairs and followed the warm glow of light and the scent of freshly brewed coffee into the kitchen. Gibbs was standing at the stove, a cup of coffee in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other. Tony shuffled up next to him and peered into the pan. The beginnings of scrambled eggs looked back at him, though they were still more liquid than not.

"Got enough for two?" Tony asked. Gibbs didn't usually make breakfast for him; he slept too late to get it when it was hot.

"Yeah," Gibbs said. He shot Tony an amused look. "I figured you'd be impatient."

Tony ignored the amusement in favor of turning on a second element and getting out a frying back for the bacon and sausages waiting on the counter. The cooked in comfortable silence for a couple of minutes and split the contents of their frying pans onto two plates when they were done. Toast popped up just in time to join the spread.

Tony brought the plates to the kitchen table and sat down while Gibbs went to the fridge for orange juice. Almost involuntarily, Tony found himself peering out of the kitchen, trying to catch a glimpse of The Gift where it sat, front and center, beneath the tree.

"It's driving you crazy, isn't it?"

Glancing up guiltily, Tony caught Gibbs smirking at him. His guilt evaporated. "You kept it around all that time intentionally just to screw with me, didn't you?" he accused.

Gibbs poured orange juice into a pair of glasses and sat down at the table. "Not entirely," he said. "It is important. Go ahead and go get it."

Tony paused, shrugged, and went to get The Gift. He'd left his pride behind days ago. Retrieving The Gift from under the tree, he gave it one last, futile shake before sitting down at the kitchen table again and holding it out to Gibbs.

But Gibbs shook his head as he forked eggs onto a slice of toast. "You open it," he said, and bit off the corner of the toast.

"It's your gift," Tony protested.

"Nope," Gibbs said around his mouthful. He swallowed and took a sip of orange juice. "It's for you."

"But it was sitting on your desk for two weeks!"

Gibbs smirked again. "It's from me."

Tony stared. "You," he said, "are a bastard."

Gibbs just snickered and kept eating.

Shaking his head, Tony pulled the ribbon loose and set it aside. The only visible tape on the whole present was right there, underneath where the bow had been seated. Tony carefully picked it loose.

"You're normally the rip and tear type," Gibbs observed.

Tony shrugged, his attention on The Gift. "It doesn't seem like the kind of present you tear open," he said, carefully unfolding the glossy red paper. "You spent a lot of time wrapping it properly."

The wrapping paper revealed a plain white cardboard box. The top lifted off, rather than folding shut. Tony opened it and found the box tightly packed with cotton balls. He started picking them out. Halfway down the box he found a key chain with a single brass key attached. The fob of the keychain was a plain gold rectangle with his name engraved on it. Tony frowned curiously as he lifted it out of the box. "What's this?" he asked. The brass key glinted in the kitchen light.

"It's a house key," Gibbs said. He crunched on a piece of bacon.

"Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment," Tony said carefully, "but you never lock your door. Why would I need a key?" Privately, he'd taken Gibbs's somewhat impatient injunction to quit knocking and just come in as Gibbs's equivalent of an exchange of keys.

"I figured you might want to lock your door," Gibbs replied. "You've actually got stuff worth stealing."

This definitely wasn't a key to Tony's apartment. "I don't have a house," Tony argued.

"Your name doesn't have to be on the mortgage for it to be your house," Gibbs returned.

Tony blinked and finally looked from the key to Gibbs, who was sitting across the table with a piece of half eaten bacon in one hand and his cup of coffee in the other. "Is this your twisted way of asking me to move in with you?"

"What's twisted about it?" Gibbs asked, popping the rest of the bacon into his mouth.

Tony opened his mouth and then closed it again as he caught the glint of amusement in Gibbs's eyes. Instead he balled up the discarded wrapping paper and bounced it off of Gibbs's forehead. "Bastard," he accused.

Gibbs finally laughed out loud. "Is that a yes?"

Tony snorted and set the key on the table next to his orange juice. "Of course it is," he said, smiling.

--End--