Generally speaking, Sundays are Tony’s favorite time of the week. He tries to run all of his errands and get the chores done on Saturday, leaving Sunday for him and Talia.
Sometimes, she even lets him sleep in, and he’ll wake up to the sound of her singing to herself over the baby monitor in a mixture of English and Hebrew. He’ll lie there and grin helplessly, because that’s his kid, and she has the DiNozzo charm in spades.
Tony might be a little bit biased, but she has Gibbs wrapped around her finger already, and the ladies at the daycare can’t say enough good things about her.
This morning, though, Talia wakes him up with loud cries of, “Da! DA!” around 6, and he rolls out of bed with a sigh. They’re supposed to meet Abby for brunch at 10, which Tony is really looking forward to, but if she’s up this early, that’s about the time she’ll start to get cranky and tired.
But that’s a toddler for you.
“Da!” Talia says, holding her arms up imperiously, looking so much like her mother that it makes Tony’s heart ache just a bit.
“Yes, your royal highness,” he replies, scooping her up.
She giggles, having gotten exactly what she wanted, and Tony bounces her, eliciting more giggles.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go back to sleep for a little while?” he wheedles.
She gives him a look. “No!”
“It’s amazing how well you know that word,” Tony replies.
The morning passes peacefully enough. Tony feeds her the toddler-friendly version of Cheerios that she can’t seem to get enough of and a pouch of mixed fruits and veggies. It’s early enough that Talia probably won’t get sick on the car ride to the brunch place Abby selected. They watch cartoons and play with blocks, and Tony coaches her on her colors and numbers.
When it comes time to leave, though, Talia starts to fuss. She’s not a fan of car rides, and while Tony doesn’t blame her, it’s a necessary evil.
“Come on, baby,” Tony coaxes. “We’re going to see Abby. It’ll be fun.”
She whimpers in her car seat, but Tony puts on the kid-friendly music that she seems to like and sings along, and that distracts her during the short drive.
And seriously, Tony doesn’t even recognize his life these days.
They make it to the restaurant without incident, and Tony breathes a sigh of relief because Talia is all smiles and charm as they enter the café.
“Tony!” Abby greets them both enthusiastically, and Talia buries her face in Tony’s shoulder. “And Talia,” Abby adds, lowering her voice. “Are you going to be shy today?”
A little smile forms on Talia’s face, telling Tony she’s being coy on purpose. “Why don’t you show Abby how much you’ve been learning?” Tony suggests.
Her voice is soft, but the word is clear, and Abby says, “Someone is a smart cookie.”
Talia giggles at that.
“I got us a table,” Abby says. “And I want to know how FLETC is! I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.”
Tony thinks about it. “Not forever, but it has been awhile.”
“I have so much news for you,” Abby says. “Did you know Bishop is dating someone?”
Tony planned ahead, and made sure to bring a coloring book, crayons, and a few small toys to keep Talia distracted and happy. For a little while, it works. Talia clutches a fat crayon in her hand, and although she demands attention occasionally, he and Abby are able to catch up.
He feeds her bites of his waffle, and begins to think that this outing will go off without a hitch.
And there he goes, jinxing himself.
Talia begins to fuss just as he and Abby are finishing up, and Tony winces. “I should probably get going.”
“Oh, really?” Abby says wistfully. “I thought we could go do something together.”
“I’d love to,” Tony replies. “But Talia was up early this morning, and I think a meltdown is imminent unless she gets a nap.”
He probably shouldn’t have said “nap,” because when Talia gets tired she hates naps. Tony doesn’t understand how that works, but Talia has her mother’s stubbornness.
Once upon a time, Tony had looked down his nose at people whose kids were screaming in public. He figured it was bad parenting.
He now says a silent, retrospective apology to those nameless, harried parents as Talia proceeds to wail at top volume.
Tony watches Talia’s explosive meltdown and thinks dealing with an actual bomb might be easier.
“She has a set of lungs on her,” Abby comments as Tony scoops Talia up, trying to comfort her.
“You could say that,” Tony replies, noting that other diners are either turning to stare or are being really obvious about not staring. Those are probably other parents. “I should—”
Abby waves him off. “I’ll take care of the check. You go do what you need to do.”
Tony takes Talia outside quickly, and only then realizes that he’s left her toys and diaper bag inside. He tries to sooth her and wonders if he should attempt to go back inside for their things.
“Hey,” Abby says, appearing with the items he left behind. “Is she okay?”
Tony sighs. “She’s tired. I knew this would probably happen, but I was hoping we’d make it through brunch.”
“Are you okay?” she asks.
Tony smiles. “Yeah, but I think we’re both going to need one of those things I shouldn’t actually say out loud.”
Abby laughs and gives him a quick, hard hug. “If you need a break, call me. Single dads deserve time off, too.”
“Love you, Abs,” Tony says, kissing her cheek. “Thanks for brunch.”
“Any time,” Abby replies and kisses Talia’s tearstained cheek. “Hang in there, Tali.”
Talia takes a hiccupping breath and tucks her head against Tony’s shoulder.
And Tony lets go of any lingering embarrassment. She’s his kid, and he loves her.
Even when he’d rather be dealing with actual explosives.