A/N: Yeah, this is short. That's okay though. It's pure fluff. I've also decided that Patrick isn't very honest with himself. He still thinks he doesn't care about Riley. He just doesn't know about that yet.
The Perfect Christmas
Chapter 16/25: Christmas Music
He didn't understand much about his son's best friend, but Patrick Gates was pretty sure that the look he had on his face right now could only mean trouble. His first instinct was to perform a tactical retreat back to his room and just let the kid get the mischief out of his system, but he'd promised his son—and more importantly his daughter-in-law—that he would baby sit their spare person so they could have a quiet evening together.
With all the work they'd put into making this holiday special for everyone, they deserved at least that much.
That was why Patrick knew he couldn't pretend that he hadn't seen that look of devilishness on Riley Poole's face, not matter how much his grandfatherly instincts were telling him to turn a blind eye and let the young man's surrogate protectors deal with the mess.
"What are you doing?"
It was to Riley's credit that he didn't jump at Patrick's approach. In fact, he barely spared a glance over his shoulder from where he was sitting just outside the living room doorway. "I'm making sure Ben doesn't screw this up."
Unexpected answer, but then he'd raised Benjamin Franklin Gates almost single handed. He'd learned long ago to take the unexpected and run with it. "You think he's some how going to mess up having a quiet dinner for two with his wife?"
"Think? No, no I know he'll screw this up. Romance is not Ben's strong point."
Patrick wasn't sure what was worse: the fact that Riley seemed so sure of himself or the fact that he was rather inclined to agree with the young man. It had taken some intervention on his part to convince his son that proposing to Abigail at the National Archives building would not be romantic, no matter how tied up the Declaration had been in their meeting, because she worked there.
That didn't explain the look of mischief, though. "How you intend to help him from all the way over here, without anyone noticing, I wonder."
This time, the young man did turn to look at him, and there was only one word he could think of for that look. Evil.
"I decided to do some…preemptive plotting earlier today."
Yes, that was definitely the face of evil he was looking in to. "I'm going to regret asking this, but what did you do?"
To this, Riley simply held a finger to his lips and motioned Patrick closer. The older Gates chose instead to take a seat on the steps. That way, if this went badly, he could pretend he was just coming down the stairs and had had no part in any of it. Hey, if he could fool the FBI, chances were good he could fool his son.
They could hear whispered conversation from the couch by the fire place, though its back was to them so neither of the men could see the two. They could just hear Abby's laughter and soft tinkling of wine glasses being clinked together.
Riley made a face, shaking his head. "That's almost enough to make me sick."
"And yet," Patrick observed, taking off his glasses to clean some of the dust with his shirt, "you're trying to make this better for them?"
"Well, yeah. They're a couple. They eat this stuff up." The young man reached into his hoodie pocket and pulled out a remote as the whispers lulled into silence. "Watch."
Patrick did as instructed, though his made sure his face was the correct expression of disapproval and doubt. He didn't want the kid to get his compliance confused with Patrick actually condoning his actions. If Ben asked, Riley couldn't say Patrick had had anything to do with it.
Grinning to himself, Riley carefully aimed the remote across the room at the stereo sitting, slightly dusty, on one of the antique coffee tables. It sprung to life, disused little lights immediately glowing in the near darkness. It was amazing to the elderly man that neither of the love birds on the couch noticed, but as neither said anything he had to assume it hadn't caught their notice.
Riley seemed satisfied with this as he put down the first remote before pulling out a second, smaller, white one.
The older man raised an eyebrow, "how many gadgets do you keep in there?"
"On a normal day or now?" The young man simply grinned back, which seemed enough of an answer for both of them. "Wow, they must be doing that googly eye thing if they didn't notice my iPod turn on."
"Googly eye thing?"
"Yeah. You know, that thing they do where it like, for two seconds, they find the other person more interesting than history. It's freaky. And obnoxious."
It was also a perfectly normal thing for couples to do, but Patrick wasn't going to be the one to explain THAT to Riley. He was Ben's extra appendage; he could explain how couples acted to the techno geek.
"I spent three hours on this play list, so Ben better appreciate this."
For a brief moment, Patrick entertained the idea of asking the young man what exactly a play list was, but then decided that would be a lecture for another day. Maybe when he'd either had considerably more or considerably less coffee.
Riley hit one of the buttons on his little device and the stereo immediately responded. Soft music filled the room, and Patrick was surprised to note that it wasn't the kind of deafening stuff he would occasionally catch coming out of the kid's headphones. This was soft…light…
It was "Baby It's Cold Outside".
Patrick smothered a laugh behind his hand. Yes, he supposed that would count as a song to set the romantic mood.
"What…" Abby's blonde head appeared a little over the back of the couch, staring off in the direction of their seldom used piece of electronic equipment. "Is that…music?"
Ben joined her, his confusion obvious even in the fire light. "I…yeah. If you don't like it, I can turn it off."
He sounded almost eager at the idea, and Riley scowled, whispering to no one, "there's still two hours of music on there. You better not."
"No, leave it." Abby's hand came up, resting on the back of Ben's head and turning him to face her again. "It's nice. I like it."
"Oh?" Riley groaned, hiding his face behind a hand. "Ben, the best you could come up with was oh?"
Patrick chuckled to himself, standing up again. "Face it, kid, you can't fix everything. Besides, Abigail likes him that way."
"For whatever reason," the young man conceded, hopping up to his feet with a less evil grin. "Alright, you're my babysitter tonight. What are we doing?"
With a shrug, the Gates family patriarch reached over and grabbed the young man's jacket off the coat rack and threw it at Riley. "How about a Happy Meal?"
"Cool." Riley was beaming at this, like Patrick had just made his night with that suggestion. "I want apple dippers with mine."