DISCLAIMER: Spoilers obviously for 10x10, You Better Watch Out.

"Hey pigtails, down in front!"

Abby ducked the second volley of popcorn, looking away from the screen just long enough to stick her tongue out at Tony. Turning back towards the movie, she snuggled her head down on Senior's shoulder and he could hear the older man's chuckle. At least now he could see George Bailey better on the screen; not that he was watching all that closely.

Tony stared instead at the ring twirling between his fingers, the diamond sparkling intermittently in the dim light.

"Nickel for your thoughts?" came the quiet voice beside him.

He grinned. "Penny. Penny for your thoughts."

"We're not getting a cost-of-living increase this year, thought you could use the extra cash," she countered with a smirk. "What's on your mind?"

He didn't answer for a long moment and then gave a half-hearted shrug. "Just trying to determine the authenticity of this diamond. Might need your help...if I remember correctly, you know a trick or two."

She scoffed, making a grab for the ring and squinting closer at it. "Oh please, Tony. Ever since that case, you keep trying to get me to blow on things for you."

His grin was immature and he knew it, but it slipped quickly from his face as his musings returned. "Now what's really on your mind?" She asked again, studying him carefully.

He glanced at the silver head a few rows in front of him and sighed. "What else."

She followed his gaze, her brow knitting together. "Can I ask what he did to make you so angry?"

His mouth twisted uncomfortably as he shook his head. "It's not what he thinks he did, at least not entirely. Though I am still planning on burning my bed." He glanced at her just in time to see her face contort and the delicate shudder run through her body.


"Tell me about it," he groused. He took the ring back from her and stared down at it. "It's just this, and the cookies, and the decorations. I appreciate what he's trying to do, to atone for all of those Christmases he screwed up or missed completely…" his voice trailed off.

"But it doesn't begin to make up for it?" she guessed.

His restless gaze drifted to the dark corner of the room. "At the end of the day, he's the same man with the same faults. By his own admission. I'm just tired of having to pretend constantly to be grateful that he's trying now when his attempts are all on his terms and only when it suits his interests or guilt du jure. And I can't help but think sometimes that I was a lot happier and less confused when he was checked out of my life completely." He turned back to her with a sardonic smile that didn't quite hide the insecurity in his eyes. "Does that make me an ungrateful asshole?"

She leaned in closer to him, her shoulder pressing into his. "It makes you human. More than that, it proves yet again that you're the type of man who tries to make everyone around him happy - with jokes, with self deprecation, with sacrifice. And for better or worse, your father knows this about you." She snaked a hand through the crook of his elbow and waited until he met her gaze. "Tony, the only thing that matters is that you want a relationship with him now. And if you don't, then you're certainly justified in your reasons and it's okay to walk away. No one will judge you for that."

"Some might," he said, his gaze traveling again to the front row.

She pursed her lips and answered carefully. "That's because some people have had no cause in their own lives to question the unconditional love that should come from a parent. But the rest of us understand that reality can be quite different from that ideal."

He nodded slowly, and she could tell he was mulling over her words. "I like our traditions better anyways," he admitted quietly after a few long minutes. "I like movies in MTAC and Ducky rambling on about the history of mistletoe, and warm wine with cardamom pods, whatever the hell those are -"

"It's a pretty common spice actually in middle eastern cooking -"

"Okay miss know-it-all," he interrupted with a smirk and she chuckled. He pulled his elbow in closer, effectively drawing her nearer to him. "Point is, I don't know what I'm going to do about Senior, but I do know I'd still rather spend the holidays with my real family."

She smiled widely, and he held her gaze for several seconds before glancing at the row of clocks on the wall. "Hey, on that note it's after midnight. Merry Christmas, Ziva."

He squinted suddenly, pensively, reaching into his jacket pocket to remove a slender box with a big red bow. He gave a look of mock surprise. "Well, would ya look at that!"

She clucked disapprovingly as he handed it to her. "Tony, we are not supposed to get each other gifts!"

"Ahh, but that's part of the tradition as well, my little scrooge. You protest every year, and every year I ignore you. Besides, there's no cash value to this at the moment."

He smirked at her confused little frown, watching as she opened the lid and removed two scraps of paper. She studied his untidy scrawl, the hand-drawn picture of a rotund woman wearing a viking helmet, and then her face relaxed into a look so tender that Tony couldn't stop his widening grin.

"I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows not the art of the poker face. He works at the Kennedy Center. November's shows don't go on sale til this spring, but I have an agreement in blood that he will have two prime opera tickets reserved for you this year. No last minute scrambling."

She glanced up through slightly misty eyes to regard him curiously. "Two?"

He shrugged nonchalantly. "Well, in case Shmeil is in town or your neighbor loves opera or something."

She shook her head. "I can think of someone else I'd rather take." She leaned in then, planting a soft, swift kiss to his cheek. "Thank you Tony. Merry Christmas," she whispered in his ear before resting her head on his shoulder.

Tony surreptitiously reached a hand up to touch his cheek; he would swear he could still feel the warmth of her lips on his skin.

Despite everything, it was shaping up to be a pretty promising Christmas after all.

This was going to be a pure fluff piece, but as soon as I started typing, it just flowed into Tony opening up more about his father. But still, I had to end with the fluffiness! :) A safe and happy holidays to all and have a great new year! ~ Jules