Author's Note: As you might suspect, I felt it necessary to write something to counteract all the "Tony Holiday Angst" that's out there. A little something to balance out the "Poor Tony, who's never had a merry Christmas" plotlines. Please don't take this as a criticism of the writers of "Tony Holiday Angst." I have enjoyed reading many of those stories. I just see him as having had a slightly happier childhood and having turned into a truly tradition-friendly adult who celebrates Christmas in his own unique DiNozzo-y way. I hope you are all having merry and bright holiday seasons!


The Twelve Days of Tony's Christmas

DECEMBER 14

It was nearly 8 p.m. when Tony DiNozzo wandered onto the Christmas tree lot in Anacostia. He'd hoped to get out of work a little earlier, but unfortunately, criminals don't break for the holidays, and they'd ended up pulling a "gotta solve this before the end of the day" case involving a body found stuffed in a chimney. Santa Claus jokes abounded at the crime scene, and were even more prevalent once the body was in autopsy and it was discovered that the guy had likely been wearing a fake beard and heavy black boots.

As it turned out, though, it was just a regular old petty thief and murderer who was trying to hide out after robbing two houses on base and killing a security guard. The fact that the security guard was the estranged son of a senator is what made it a "gotta solve this before the end of the day" case. It had been a hell of a day, but they'd solved it. And it was now time for Tony to buy his Christmas tree.

Ever since Tony was a kid, December 14 had been "Christmas Tree Day." His grandmother called it "the first day of Christmas" and it was the day that the decorations went up. Tony had kept this up pretty much his entire adult life, much to the amusement of his frat brothers and the confusion of most of the guys at most of the forces he'd worked. Tony's strict adherence to tradition got him teased a lot, but most of his friends were also secretly glad that they had an honest-to-God St. Nick in their midst, just to remind them that there was peace and joy somewhere.

Tony discovered in college that the decorations were also a huge chick magnet. Even though they were tradition and something that Tony would do every year, no matter what else or who else was on his agenda, the girls he was seeing always thought he'd done it to impress them. "Oh, Tony … how sweeeeeeeeeet", his girlfriends would coo when they found the decorated tree in his apartment, complete with partridges and pears. They'd go on and on about how cute it was and how wonderful he was to decorate and how they all wanted to be the angel on top of – or the present beneath – his Christmas tree. (The First Day of Christmas was traditionally a particularly 'lucky' day for DiNozzo, if you get my drift.)

It took Tony a little over an hour to find the perfect tree. He didn't have any firm requirements regarding height or type or style. It was just one of those "I'll know it when I see it" things. Sometimes he ended up with a 10-footer that just barely fit inside his high-ceiling-ed apartment. Sometimes it was a four- or five-footer that looked dwarfed by the television. But it was always a perfect shape and it always had the right personality. ("Don't laugh," Tony would tell people. "You have to get a tree that likes you." Everyone except his grandmother would just shake their head and walk away. Tony's grandmother would look at him and know that she'd passed all the right things along to her grandson.)

By 9:30 p.m. Tony was home and the tree was in its stand and regally stationed in the living room. It was a 6-foot tree this year, with big bushy branches and just one small bare spot in the back where it faced the wall. By midnight, the tree was covered in white lights and golden pear ornaments, with his grandmother's clip-on partridge ornaments on random branches. More ornaments and candy canes and small photos and gifts would go on the tree over the next few days, but December 14 was always just partridges and pears.

Tony put away the last of the boxes of lights and swept up the few pine needles that had fallen, and then he spread out the Christmas tree skirt that his grandmother had embroidered the year before she died. It was, of course, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and it was another part of the tradition. After making sure that everything was cleaned up and that nothing was likely to catch on fire, Tony went to the kitchen and got a glass of eggnog, splashed a little rum into it, turned off all the other lights in the apartment, and sat down to look at his tree. "Not bad, DiNozzo," he said to himself with a smile. "Not bad at all."

DECEMBER 15

Yes, he knew it was one of the busiest mailing days of the year, but the second day of Christmas was the day that he mailed presents to all of those people he needed to mail presents to. He sent them to his father, of course, and to a few cousins and aunts and uncles who he kept in touch with. He sent them to a couple of frat buddies from Ohio State, and to the one ex-girlfriend he had who hadn't totally disowned him. She lived with her family in Utah, and he had to admit that he had a lot more fun picking out toys for her three kids (boy triplets – yikes!) than almost any other presents he shopped for. He also sent presents to his best friend Jess, who was currently stationed somewhere in Alaska, and to Paula Cassidy, still in Cuba. And he sent presents to a couple of his old buddies in Baltimore, and to one dispatch sergeant in Peoria.

The dispatch sergeant was old enough to be his mother and had retired years ago, but Tony sent her Godiva chocolates every year because she'd said once how nice it was to get expensive chocolates from a handsome man. Tony grinned as he signed the card, knowing how pleased she'd be at getting the dark chocolate truffles this year. (Her subtle hint in last year's thank you note about how she saved all the dark chocolate ones for last because they were her favorites had not gone unheeded.)

His buddies in Balto got bottles of Scotch, except for Gary, the recovering alcoholic, who got the annual barrel of popcorn, with the caramel corn, cheese corn, and buttered corn split. Gary LOVED popcorn. Tony still remembered the April Fool's Day in Baltimore when Gary had filled every locker and every in-box and every drawer of every desk with popped popcorn (mercifully, unbuttered) and then laughed uproariously as his pals slowly worked their way through to get to papers, badges, office supplies, evidence tags, and coffee cups. Tony was still finding popcorn that year on his birthday in July.

His frat brothers all got variations on the Victoria's Secret calendar, along with gift cards to the NFL shop online. (Except for Jason. Jason got the NFL gift card, but his calendar was the annual FDNY calendar. Jason preferred hunky firemen to lingerie models.)

His ex-girlfriend Kimmy (although he suspected that she went by 'Kimberley' now) always got a gift card to Barnes & Noble. She was a manic reader, and some of that had rubbed off on Tony his sophomore year. She'd gotten him hooked on biographies in college, and had sent him a new one every year since then. He never, ever bought a new biography when he went book shopping. That was Kimmy's job. He sent Kimmy's husband an NCIS hat, which she'd hinted last year that he wanted. But the best part was the kids. Last year they were three and Tony had sent them each a fire truck (with real sirens and movable ladders), but this year they were four, and he sent footballs. Authentic Ohio State (Nerf) footballs. It was never too early to get them hooked. Tony knew Kimmy would laugh as the kids unwrapped them.

Paula was tough this year. One year Tony sent her lingerie (it was the "free gift with purchase" when he got the guys their Victoria's Secret calendars), but that didn't go over well. He'd received it back – shredded – on Valentine's Day. Last year he'd sent a food basket, which she'd said was truly welcome in Cuba, but it made him feel like he was copping out. This year he went for a full selection of holiday films – all the classics – dubbed into Spanish. She'd laugh at that.

Jess was easy – jewelry. He always sent her jewelry, and she always sent him toys. "Grown-ups don't get enough toys for Christmas," Tony could hear her saying. And so she'd always send toys. Sometimes they were games and Legos and action figures. Sometimes, "toy" was more loosely defined, and he'd get an iPod or some other electronic gadget. He always looked forward to Jess' presents.

Most of Tony's relatives were easy to buy for – they liked Omaha Steaks and Harry & David cheesecakes.

Tony's father was always the challenge. This year, though, Tony had scored big-time. As far back as he could remember, Tony's dad's favorite film star was Sean Connery. His dad had every movie Connery had ever done (even the obscure ones, like "Time Lock", a 1957 film where Connery played 'Welder #1'). His frat brother Jason had theatre connections, and had helped get Tony tickets to Sean Connery's visit to "Inside the Actor's Studio" in April, along with an invite to the private reception afterwards. Tony really wished he could see his dad's face when he opened that present. Heh. He had definitely won the gift-giving lottery this year. (Not that it was a competition …)

Tony was jolted out of his reverie when he felt someone pushing him from behind. He looked over his shoulder. There was an elderly woman shoving him. "You're next!" she said, with a hint of annoyance. Tony looked up – the postal clerk was motioning to him.

"I can help the next person!" the clerk said loudly, in a tone of voice that indicated he'd said it a few times already.

"Sorry," Tony said, a bit sheepishly, to the woman standing behind him. He smiled his best DiNozzo smile and took his turn at the counter. As he left the Post Office ten minutes later, he grinned and called a "Merry Christmas!" back to the elderly woman. The woman smiled and blushed just a bit and wondered if the postal clerk would give her the handsome man's home address and if it was acceptable in this day and age to date someone that young.