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December 23rd

Abby surveyed the scene before her and felt immediately out of place, evening bringing some of her most sedate clothing and borrowing some of Kate's she knew this was *not* an Abby friendly place.

"It'll be fine," Kate smiled reassuringly, getting out her own side of the rental car while Abby stayed firmly in place, she wasn't getting out of this car, this car was safe, out there was most definitely not.

"Abby, come on. Trust me, I won't let you go," Kate said, holding open her door. Abby sighed, but got out of the car, immediately grabbing Kate's hand for support. She kept her firm grip all the way to the front door, before letting go with startling speed as it opened.

The woman who answered the door was in her late fifties Abby knew, Abby thought that if the old adage of looking at the mother to see the daughter in twenty years were true, she could easily live with how Kate would look, this woman with her perfect, hair, clothes and make-up barely looked a day over forty.

"Hi Mom," Kate greeted, hugging her mother.

"Caitlin," the woman smiled, accepting the hug. "And you must be Abby. Please come in, your brothers can get your bags."

"Thanks," Kate said, smiling reassuringly at Abby. Abby was glad she liked Kate's smile, because she had a feeling she'd be seeing a lot of that particular smile this Christmas.

"Come meet everyone Abby dear," Mrs. Todd, who immediately insisted Abby should call her Beth, told her, leading both women into a very comfortably furnished den. Like everything else Abby had seen so far it looked... nice. Like every other middle-class suburban, Roman Catholic house Abby had ever seen. Not that she'd seen many.

"That's my husband Andrew, my boys Andy, John and David and their wife's, Christine, Emily and Sasha. The children are out in the back yard. Everyone this is Abby. Boys let the girls sit down!" Beth instructed and the two of them Abby thought were Andy and David moved of the couch and went to retrieve chairs from what Abby assumed, was the dinning room.

Kate's family seemed perfectly nice, but Abby could practically see the tension in the air, despite the fact they were clearly trying hard to behave, they obviously weren't comfortable with Abby's presence. She'd known this was a bad idea, after all, Kate's family were devoutly Catholic and to have their only daughter bring home her female lover... that was asking... begging... for trouble. But Kate had pleaded, had promised that everything would be fine and Abby couldn't say no, because Kate loved her family and Abby loved Kate.

"We'll be having dinner soon; you girls must be dying to freshen up. There are towels in your bathroom Caitlin," Beth eventually said, busying them about and giving orders. It was kind of amusing to see all the men of the house come to heel under her supervision.

"See, that wasn't too bad, was it?" Kate asked when they were in the privacy of her old room.

"They are very nice," Abby said, flopping onto the bed.

"Abs..." Kate sighed. Her family was really, really trying. Kate knew it had been a shock to them to find out she was involved with a woman, which is exactly why she'd told them months ago, to give them time to adjust before the Christmas holidays and they really were trying hard to be accepting.

"I know, I know. I can tell they are trying; I'm just not use to having to be so restrained. I feel like I can't even touch you I don't want to make them uncomfortable. At home we just cuddle up and it's nice but here I feel self-conscious even just being alone in this room with you, like they are all down stairs wondering if we're doing something up here," Abby said.

"We don't have to stay if you don't want to," Kate told her, because she didn't want Abby to feel uncomfortable and she couldn't deny she missed the freedom they felt in their own home. Even around the team... hell *Gibbs* had seen them snuggled up and necking on the couch and hadn't so much as blinked.

"No, we're staying," Abby said resolutely, pulling Kate down to the bed beside her and snuggling against her. "I love you," She murmured, taking the time they had just to enjoy this, trying to ignore the 'hinky' feeling she got in her gut when she thought about Kate's family down stairs. They were trying, so could she.

*~*~*~*~*

December 24th

Christmas Eve dawned and the Todd house was bustling with activity. The children, five of them, three belonging to Andy and Christine, the other two to David and Sasha, were running wildly around the house. The adults were all trying to prepare for the next day, wrapping the final presents and all those other things that people tell themselves every year they'll do early the next year and never do.

Kate told her mother around lunch time that she was taking Abby to see some of the local sites allowing them freedom from the carnage.

"So where we going?" Abby asked as they walked along the road.

"I thought I'd show you something," Kate told her, mysterious and refusing to say more.

They walked for a good while, Abby hadn't looked at her watch, but she guessed it must have been at least half an hour when Kate suddenly cut of the road up a winding dirt path. The view when they reached the top was spectacular and familiar. It was the same view as the painting hung in their dinning room at home; the one Kate had painted herself. Abby had asked about it in the past and all Kate had ever told her about it was that it was a place near where she'd grown up.

"I kissed my first boy here and had sex for the first time. Broke my arm tripping over those rocks. Damn near broke my neck climbing that tree," Kate pointed out each thing, Abby's grin getting wider all the time.

"What's so funny?" Kate eventually asked.

Abby shook her head. "Nothing. I'm not laughing I'm just happy."

Kate smiled to, because if Abby was happy, so was she.

*~*~*~*~*

They returned in time for dinner, which was a big to-do, certainly bigger than Abby was use too there were even more new people to meet all being polite while trying to not look to curious. Abby wanted to crawl into Kate's arms and stay there about five minutes after they got back, but she toughed it out until after coffee when she snuck outside.

There was a nip in the air but Abby didn't bother with her coat, she was under the porch and safe from the snow and she liked the cool air getting at her skin.

She was watching the slow flutter of the snowflakes when the door opened and closed behind her, but she didn't turn around.

"Aren't you cold?" Andrew asked.

"No. I like the cold," Abby told him, turning to lean on the rail and face him.

Kate's father reminded her a lot of Kate in his personality. He was intelligent and had a good sense of humor. Out of all the family though, he made Abby the most uncomfortable. Not because he wasn't nice to her, but Abby knew how close Kate and her father had always been and it seemed to Abby since Kate had told her family about them, the phone calls and emails had slowed significantly.

"I believe you've managed to convince Beth you're not Satan's child, she was talking to Kate about us coming to visit you," Andrew said.

Abby mentally balked at the idea. She didn't want to have to essentially *hide* the more personal aspects of their relationship in their own home, it was bad enough here, but she did it, because it wasn't her home and because being here for Christmas was important to Kate. Still outwardly she tried to appear normal.

"I'm sure Kate would like that," she replied.

"I think Kate would like it a lot more if you were comfortable with the idea," Andrew said, a small smile gracing his lips.

"I'm... fine with it," Abby said, getting that hinky feeling again.

"It's understandable if you aren't. We were shocked when Kate told us about you. She'd talked about you somewhat before, so when she told us you'd grown... closer, well it was very unexpected. Even having all these months to get use to the idea..." Andrew paused and his expression was so like the one Kate got when she was trying to think of just the right thing to say.

"It's fine Mr. Todd. I know how close you all are and I really don't want to come between Kate and her family. If it makes Kate happy then I'm happy and being here makes her happy, having you visit would make her happy," Abby told him.

"Caitlin's grandmother had a partner, a woman she was... close with. It was before Kate was born, we were all so shocked, back then things were different, a couple like that couldn't show any public affection. I was taught to never speak about it. You're both lucky to have matured into a world where such things aren’t as hushed as they once were. You won't come between Kate and her family, because regardless of all the things I wanted for my daughter and it's true, this was never one of them, she's made her own choices and one of those choices is that you are part of her family now," Andrew said.

Abby actually thought she might cry with relief. Kate's father was basically giving them his blessing. "Thank you," She said her voice thick.

"Abby... oh there you are. Hey Dad, are we... Abby?" Kate asked concern clouding her voice as she realized there were tears in Abby's eyes.

"I'm fine, your dad and I were just talking. What are you doing out here, you know how easily you get cold, you should have put your jacket on," Abby said, fussing, pulling Kate's sweater closer around her and holding her close for warmth, ignoring Kate's look of confusion.

"I'll leave you girls alone. Don't be out her long mind, or Beth will send out a search party," Andrew joked, as good as his word, leaving Abby and Kate alone on the porch.

"What were you talking about?" Kate asked.

"Huh. Oh nothing, just them coming to visit us back home. Maybe they could come for your birthday, we can have a party," Abby suggested.

"Abby..." Kate glared softly.

"Honestly Kate, nothing," Abby assured her.

"Then why were you crying." Kate asked.

"I wasn't crying. Well okay there might have been unshed tears, but they were happy I promise," Abby told her.

Kate looked unconvinced. Abby sighed. "Fine, we were talking about us. He gave us his blessing, at least, I think he did, it sounded like it. Now are we going to stand here all night so you can freeze, because I don't fancy a popsicle for a girlfriend."

"His blessing. Really?" Kate asked.

"I think so. He kinda talks in riddles, but I really think he's okay with us," Abby said.

Kate felt the prickle of tears in her own eyes. She'd always been close with her Dad, she'd worried so much about how he'd react to her and Abby.

"Hey, none of that. Now come on, inside!" Abby ordered, pushing Kate towards the door.

*~*~*~*~*

December 25th

Christmas morning started at exactly 0547 when Kate's four-year-old nephew Ashton bounded through the house screaming at the top of his voice "Santa's been! Santa's been!" Sure enough there were dozens more presents under and around the tree and before the clocks even hit 0600 everyone was sitting around in the living room as Andrew passed out the presents.

Kate was sitting on the sofa, Abby on the floor, snuggled against her leg. As paper was tossed around by children and adults alike, eager to get to the present underneath, laughter rang out along with squeals of delight over the new toys and gadgets, Abby felt contented and comfortable, part of the family, accepted. No hinky feelings in sight.


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