A/N: I don't own NCIS, CBS, or any other known entity including (but not limited to) Matilda, The Addams Family, and It's A Wonderful Life. I do, however, own Keri (initially mentioned) and a few other characters that will pop up along the way. This story takes place (sort of) during the season 7 storyline. I hope you guys enjoy this one, and please review. :)
December 1, 1990
Her tiny fingers wrapped gently around his, squeezing it with as much might as a newborn could muster. His heart swelled as he smiled down at this precious angel, a miracle if there ever was one, and all he could do was try to keep his emotions in check.
Behind him, Keri laughed.
"Shut up," he muttered, glancing briefly up at Keri before looking back down at the newborn in his arms. The one he vowed to always protect until the day he died.
"What should we name her?" Keri asked softly.
He sat down beside her, watching as she adjusted the tiny pink blanket. "I don't know," he replied.
"It's not even a Wednesday, and there's no way I'm naming our daughter after a creepy character in The Addams Family."
Keri laughed again. "Okay, you pick."
He bit his lip, thinking. "Matilda."
"So, no to the creepy Addams chick, but you're okay with a child witch?"
"She wasn't a witch. She was an incredibly gifted child."
"When did you ever read the book?"
He shrugged. "Lit class last year. Modern English Authors."
She rolled her eyes. "What, was it the lowest one you could find?"
He glared at her. "Hey."
She smirked playfully. "Anyways, I don't know how I feel about Matilda. We'll make that a maybe."
December 24, 2009
He put the car in park before turning the car off, sighing as he rested his forearms against the steering wheel. Not that he didn't love traditions or even spending time with his surrogate family at the holidays, but he just wasn't into it this year.
Something wasn't right, just as it hadn't been since last year. Not since the moment Ziva asked him if he missed having a family around the holidays. He hadn't been able to answer then, and he sure as hell couldn't say anything now.
A soft knock at his window broke his concentration, and he looked over to find McGee standing there. He nodded at Tim before opening the door and climbing out of the car.
"You okay?" McGee asked.
"Fine," he replied, façade in place.
McGee nodded and let it go as the two of them made their way up Ducky's driveway.
After dinner, the team was sitting around a fire in Ducky's den as It's a Wonderful Life began to roll the end credits in the background. Palmer was falling asleep on the couch, courtesy of Ducky's curiously strong eggnog. Gibbs, Jack, and Ducky were talking, while McGee and Ziva were trying to keep a mischievous, and somewhat drunk, Abby from drawing on Palmer's face with a Sharpie.
All in all, it was another successful Christmas Eve.
When his phone rang, it woke up Palmer, and he briefly glanced down at the caller ID before sighing softly and standing up. He flipped his phone open and answered with a soft and calculated, "DiNozzo."
"Junior," the familiar voice of his father rang out as he made his way out of the room.
Tony was still sitting in Ducky's dining room, staring out the window, half an hour after the phone call when Gibbs made his way into the room. "You and Jack taking off?" Tony asked before Gibbs could say a word, keeping his back to the older man.
"Yeah," he replied softly. "You okay?"
He shook his head. "I'm fine."
"The phone call…"
"Dad's gonna be too busy tomorrow to call and wish his son a Merry Christmas." His tone had long since lost the bitterness in that statement, reducing it more to a sad report than anything else.
Tony simply nodded, his vision still fixed outside.
"He send a gift this year?" Gibbs asked.
Tony snorted softly. "I'm not sure whether I should actually open it, or just return it," he replied.
Gibbs chuckled quietly.
"Abby ever start drawing on Palmer's face?"
"Nah. Never fell back asleep."
Tony smiled slightly.
"Might wanna get back, though, before she sends out the search party."
"I'll be there in a minute."
Gibbs nodded, turning and walking out of the room. After the briefest of seconds, Tony followed suit, heading into the living room.
"There you are," Ducky said. "We had all wondered where you'd gone off to."
"Just talkin' to my dad," Tony replied, forcing a smile.
The knowing tone resounded in the facial features of everyone in the room, save Jack, as they had all worked with Tony long enough to know how strained his relationship with his father was.
"What's he up to?" Jack asked, hoping to make conversation while everyone else in the room waited nervously for the answer.
"I don't really know," Tony responded. "He's always doing something at Christmas, though."
Jack nodded. "He a good man?"
Tony shrugged. "He did the best he could."
"C'mon, Dad," Gibbs said softly, effectively putting an end to the interrogation. "Let's get home, huh?"
"Right," Jack said. "Night, all. Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah."
The group shared their well-wishes before Jack and Gibbs left. The others followed suit, with McGee designated to drive them home, until it was just Tony who remained at Ducky's place. The older man poured them both a small glass of Scotch before passing one off to Tony and taking a seat across from him.
"Remember when you said you didn't want me to know where you lived?" Tony joked.
Ducky laughed softly. "Indeed," he replied. "Although, that was more for your protection from my mother."
"So, your father called?"
Tony shrugged. "He does every year, usually later in the night on Christmas Eve. Always says he's got so many other things to do the next day that he wanted to be sure he called me."
"You don't believe that's the case?"
Tony sipped his drink. "I don't know that I ever did."
"Why is that?"
"You'd have to meet my father to understand."
"Is he a good man?" Ducky asked, reiterating Jack's earlier question.
"Depends on who you ask," Tony replied genuinely.
"I'm asking you."
Tony sighed. "Like I said, he did the best he could. I'm not sure he ever wanted kids in the first place. And of all the kids he could've had, he got me."
"You're a good man, Anthony."
Tony snorted softly, taking a drink from the glass. "He doesn't seem to think so. But, then again, I stopped needing his approval a long time ago, so it works out."
Ducky nodded, taking a drink from his own glass. "But it's not your father that has you melancholy this year. Perhaps worse than last year."
Tony shook his head. "You'd think by now I'd know better than to think I could pull one over on you," he said.
"You're better at deception with an ultimate goal," Ducky explained.
"Whatever that means."
"The Grenouille mission."
"So, what is it this year?"
"Something Ziva said last year."
"And what was that?"
"She asked if I regretted not having a family around the holidays."
"And, do you?"
Tony snorted softly. "Guess I always thought I could have it someday, if I found the right person. But, I haven't yet, so… I don't know. Maybe I do. Not that our traditions here aren't good, but…"
"It'd be nice to have the whole package?" Ducky supplied.
"I guess," Tony said. "Do you ever regret not having kids?"
Ducky shrugged. "I suppose some days that it might be nice, but I'm also happy with my life as well."
"Hear, hear," Tony toasted, holding up his glass.
Ducky did the same before both men took a drink. "You're better off staying here this evening, Anthony," Ducky suggested. "You've had a lot to drink."
Tony shook his head. "Probie said he'd come back and bring me home. I wouldn't want you stuck with me all night."
Ducky chuckled. "On the contrary, it would be a pleasure. But, if you've already made arrangements with Timothy…"
"I appreciate the offer, Ducky."
As if on cue, the doorbell rang, and Ducky stood up to answer it. Tony continued sitting in the living room, finishing off his scotch.
"Hey, Probie," Tony said, standing as the other two made their way into the room. He faltered slightly, and McGee caught him. "I'm fine."
"You sure?" McGee asked.
Tony nodded, and McGee let go, allowing the older man to stand on his own. "Just a minor equilibrium problem."
"Make sure he gets home safe, Timothy," Ducky said.
"Will do," McGee replied.
"Night, Ducky," Tony said. "Thanks for the drink."
"You're welcome, Anthony. Merry Christmas."
After McGee shared his own well-wishes, the two left Ducky's house. Once in the driveway, Tony tossed McGee his keys. "You put a scratch in her, I break you," he cautioned.
"Okay," McGee said as they both climbed in the car and left for the night.