note: I'm back already! I know, I know, you've hardly even had time to read Hesitation, but never fear, I bring you a holiday fic. Yup, really. I've, uh, never written one of these before, so I'd really appreciate some feedback on this little thing.
It's fluffy. Very, very fluffy, actually, but I got an idea halfway through Merlin last night, and I wrote it up, and here we are. So don't be slightly put off by the mild drama in the middle, yeah?

disclaimer: You know you're obsessed with NCIS when your friends ask you what you want for Christmas and then stop because there's no point in even asking that.

listening to: Soldier, by Gavin DeGraw.

He picks up a photo frame, smiling sadly at the little girl who grins back at him whilst clutching to her mother.
Ziva's footsteps sound from the room next to him, almost echoing as she rummages through kitchen drawers in an attempt to gather information about the family whose house they're currently in.
The missing family.

"You can't really expect to find something in there?" he asks, putting the picture down and pressing a key on the piano that sits in the family's living room. The frame is worn, black paint peeling, and the note he hears is slightly out of tune, but all in all the instrument seems well-loved. Like the family treasure it.

"Do you want to make a bet on that?" she replies, sounding rather pleased with herself, and he walks out into the hallway to see his partner sauntering towards him, five large stacks of cash held in her hands. He can just about make out the '100' printed on the top bill.

His eyebrows raise as she thumbs through the paper.


She grins at him, the twinkling lights from the Christmas tree behind him shining in her eyes, and he's just about to say something when sudden thuds on the porch grab their attention, and the door swings open.

"They're coming, they're coming!"
Ziva's hand somehow finds his and he clutches it like a momentary lifeline, heart dropping at the sight before him.
There, breathing hard and smeared in blood, a raggedy piece of tinsel wrapped round her hair, is the little girl he's just seen in a photograph.

"Who? Who's coming, Rachel?" Ziva says, stepping forward and leaning down to the child, her hand leaving his to fall back against his leg.

Rachel is about to answer when a car speeds up the road and skids to a halt.


"Go, Ziva! Go, take her with you!" he says, walking forward and bolting the door shut as Ziva picks up the little girl, murmuring something he can't hear, then running to the back of the house.

"I'm not going without you!" she says, and he stops to pull his gun from its holster, about to take up a position near the entrance but following his partner at her words.

"Hey the last time you said that, we ended up trapped in an elevator, but that can't happen this time. Go."

And just like that, she freezes. She's completely still, by the door. Rachel's head is buried in her neck as she sniffles quietly; Ziva's frowning but her eyes shining.
"I don't want to leave you."

With her words, he thinks maybe the world could collapse and he wouldn't even notice. His pulse thunders in his ears as she walks toward him, and he can't quite breathe as she presses her lips to his, softly and tenderly and leaving him breathless.

"Don't die."

Another kiss, and she's gone, hand cradling the little girl's head with every step.

The door is kicked down, three men following in its wake.

Bang. Bang. Bang.


It's Christmas Eve, he thinks. Little girls should be tucked up in bed, waiting for Santa to eat cookies left for him and bring them presents. Not be clutching to a stranger in their backyard, gunshots just having rung out in their house.

"...they came through the door and I shot the one on the right first, then the left, then the guy in the middle. He, uh, didn't have very good aim. Guess I should be thankful for that."

"You sure you're okay, DiNozzo?"

His gaze drifts to his partner and the child in her arms. "Yeah, boss, I'm fine... She okay?"

"She's a little beat up from when they hit the deck. The girl's okay, too."

His boss raises his eyebrow, clearly knowing that something's going on, but Tony doesn't say anything. Gibbs doesn't either.

"Thank you, Agent DiNozzo, Agent David. You... saved our daughter's life, and our lives."

"We can't thank you enough, Agents."

With that, the Admiral and his wife leave, little Rachel walking with them, and Tony turns to his partner with a smile.
"A job well done?" he says after the elevator doors slide shut and they head back to their desks.

"I think you made their Christmas, Tony." she says with a near-shy smile.

"We made their Christmas."

She chews her lip and moves to the window, arms folded. Following her, he mimics her position and says nothing.

"I panicked. Today, in the house. I... I endangered that girl's life."

"Ziva, no-"

"But I did, Tony. I should not have waited, I should have left."

He's not quite sure what to say, so instead he reaches out and lays his hand on her shoulder. Her eyes drift there before locking with his, and he knows that for a second they're both transported back to another moment, in the past.
"Please don't apologize for what you did, Ziva."

Something flashes in her eyes, and it's not from the Christmas tree this time.
"Okay... I won't." she says with a small smile, and he moves his hand away, admittedly with regret.

"Great Christmas Eve, huh?" he says awkwardly, stepping away from her. He's about to grab his bag and make a quick exit when she says his name.


"I said I won't apologize."

He raises his eyebrows as if to say And?, but she apparently ignores him and takes a step closer, her eyes dark, and he, in turn, moves toward her.

"I think there is supposed to be mistletoe on an occasion like this, but..." she trails off, and he smiles, then leans down.

He decides to finish it for her.
"I really don't mind."

With that, his lips meet hers for the second time that night.
Her arms snake round his neck whilst his slide by her waist, and as the kiss continues her hands start to play with his hair and his clutch her side because yeah, he really doesn't want to let go.

But without warning she tears her mouth away by the slightest margin.
"I think I don't mind either."

He laughs along with her, then leans down to kiss her again.
After all, who needs mistletoe?

Happy Holidays to everyone! I'll see you all in the New Year!