Warnings/Ratings: A discussion on one of the lists about cranberry sauce, biscuits and what makes a traditional Thanksgiving dinner prompted this. So you have only yourselves to blame. Warning, I was going for funny but had a serious swarm curve at the end. So don't say you haven't been warned. Also if you're interested I have added some comments about the food at the end.
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I'm not making any money.
Note: This story was archived on my website until AOL did away with it. Thanks Nancy for taking me in.
Team Seven was exhausted. Their latest assignment had cumulated with an intense two weeks of undercover work and the capture of a major player in the third world bomb trade. It was quiet in the office today as everyone wrote reports. Chris told everyone they could go home as soon as they turned their portion in. Josiah and Nathan had been the first to leave then Buck and JD. JD was a walking zombie trusting Buck to guide him. Finally it was down to Ezra and Vin. They had been the ones undercover and taken the brunt of the pressure. Chris knew Ezra was probably done with his report already but was delaying so Vin wouldn't feel bad about being the last done. He could see the two men in Vin's office going over their reports together. It was one of the ways Ezra used to help the other man with his writing. Seeing that they seemed to be finished Chris turned back to his paperwork not wanting to let them know he'd been watching.
"Here you go pard." The plop of two file folders in Chris' in basket accompanied Vin's drawl.
"Thanks." Chris looked up grimacing at the drawn look on both men's faces. "You two look like hell. Go home. Sleep. Take the rest of the week off."
Ezra didn't say anything a severe indication of how tired he was. He touched two fingers to an imaginary hat brim and left. Chris glared at Vin who was still leaning in the doorway.
"I said go home."
"What about you?" Vin knew Chris was prone to not sleeping when his men were undercover. The evidence was in the dark circles under the blond man's eyes.
"As soon as I take these up to Travis I'm going home and sleep for a week." Chris gathered the completed reports and stood up. Grabbing his coat he herded Vin toward the elevator. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."
Chris was true to his word. When the phone rang at eight o'clock that night he was already in bed. "Hello"
"Hey stud do you know what tomorrow is?" Buck didn't wait for a response. "It's Thanksgiving."
"Are you sure?" Chris groaned, falling back onto his pillow. "No wonder Vin kept giving me strange looks. He was waiting for me to invite him out."
"I forgot too, JD pointed it out." Buck said, "Thought I'd better call."
"Thanks." Chris scrubbed a hand over his face. "Do you want to come out? Can't promise a traditional dinner, no time to thaw a turkey. But we can watch football. Guess I'd better call the others too." Chris sighed again.
"Why don't you leave everything to me." Buck offered. "I'll call everyone and tell them to bring something. JD and I will handle the main course."
"Okay." Chris was too tired to argue. "I'll go pick up a couple of pies in the morning."
"Sounds good, see you tomorrow. I'll tell everyone to plan on eating about one." Buck signed off. "Night."
Chris briefly thought about shooting his alarm when it went off. Instead he hurried through chores before hopping in the truck to go to the store. He wanted to get to Safeway early and miss all the last minute 'I forgot something' shoppers. Once in the store Chris grabbed a cart while trying to decide what he needed. If Buck and JD were doing the main course and everyone else was bringing a side dish that left snacks and dessert. The deli had ready to go meat and cheese trays so Chris bought one of those and a couple boxes of Ritz crackers. On the condiments aisle he got black and green olives, two kinds of pickles and some pickled peppers for a relish tray. A trip down the soda isle and all that was left was dessert. Two pumpkin, one apple, one coconut cream pie and a couple of Cool Whip tubs later Chris was ready to check out. Standing in line his gaze fell on a pyramid of cans with a familiar picture. Cranberry sauce, should he or shouldn't he? It would be a miracle if Buck could produce a turkey on such short notice, but still, Chris grabbed two cans of the chunky variety. It just wasn't Thanksgiving without cranberries on the table. If no one ate any he could always use it up on toast.
Vin's jeep was parked next to the barn when Chris got back. The lanky Texan came out to help carry in the groceries.
"Why didn't you remind me today was Thanksgiving." Chris chided the other man.
"Figured you knew, being the boss and all." Vin teased.
So what'd you bring?" Chris started unpacking the grocery bags.
"Green bean casserole, always crave it at Thanksgiving." Vin waved a hand towards some cans on the counter. "Uncooked, can I borrow a dish." Without waiting for permission he started to dig in the cupboard.
Chris laughed, "Help yourself. Have to say, that's one of my favorites too." The thought of the tender green beans and fried onions mixed in a creamy sauce was making him hungry.
"Oh and I got a couple of cans of cranberry sauce. Just ain't Thanksgiving without it." Vin turned around the two cans in his hands. Chris held up his cans as well.
"Chunky style?" Vin asked.
"Knew there was a reason I liked you cowboy."
The two men were setting out the snacks when Buck and JD arrived. After helping haul in more groceries JD and Vin escaped to the barn. Chris lazed against the counter watching Buck unpack.
"So what did you end up with for the main course?" Chris asked.
"Well like you said there wasn't time for a turkey but I lucked out." Buck slid a huge ham out of one bag. "It's pre-cooked, all we have to do is re-heat it. And Ham is sort of traditional. Plus I made a bing cherry jello mold. My Mom always made one for Thanksgiving."
"Works for me." Chris started rummaging in the cupboard under the counter for a roasting pan.
Buck had also brought baby carrots, pre-cut celery, radishes and dip. He dug out containers of cream cheese and peanut butter next. "Thought I might stuff some of the celery sticks." He said sheepishly. "Oh and I got a couple of cans of cranberry sauce. Can't have Thanksgiving without it." His grin faltered a bit when Chris pointed to the four cans already on the counter. "Oh well that's chunky. JD and I like the smooth stuff." He beamed at Chris again.
"What's this?" Chris held up a large Tupperware container.
"Ambrosia salad, JD made it. Said it was his Thanksgiving tradition."
"Is that the stuff with marshmallows and coconut?" Chris had a pained look on his face.
"Yep." Buck grinned cheerily he knew Chris hated coconut. "You'll have to at least take some so you don't hurt the kids feelings."
Chris put the container carefully in the fridge, treating it like a bomb that might explode. Turning back he found Buck had started to put together the veggie tray. Chris laughed at the sight of the big man stuffing celery while wearing an apron that said 'Will cook for sex'.
"What?" Buck gave his oldest friend a fake injured look.
"Don't ever change Buck." Chris slapped the other man on the back.
"Don't see it happening anytime soon." Buck happily replied. The room fell silent while the two men worked on the food. Chris put together Vin's green bean casserole, reading the recipe from the back of the French's Onion can. Buck was still wrestling with sticky celery when Josiah arrived.
"Happy Thanksgiving brothers." Josiah's pleasant rumble filled the kitchen. He was carrying a large cardboard box. Setting in on the table he started pulling stuff out. "I brought mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, honey butter and ice cream for the pie."
"Sounds great." Buck waved a celery stick at the counter where the green bean casserole waited. Put anything that needs oven time over there. The rest can go on the table."
"The potatoes are in a crockpot." Josiah set the cooker on the counter and plugged it in. He turned back to the box "And last but not least some cranberry sauce. Actually it's that CranFruit stuff, the raspberry/cranberry kind. Can't have Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce." Josiah turned with the container in his hand, "Where do you want it?"
"Add it to the pile." Chris pointed toward the cans.
Josiah chuckled good naturedly, "Looks like we won't run out. Course mine's a bit different. We got any beer?"
"In the ice chest on the porch." Chris waited until Josiah left before picking up the container of cranberry sauce.
"Now who puts raspberries in cranberry sauce?" Buck asked looking over Chris' shoulder. "That's just wrong."
Chris chuckled, "Well he's right, it's different."
Josiah came back JD and Vin in tow. "So what can we do to help? I brought volunteers." Judging from the fatherly grip Josiah had on each man's shoulder Chris wasn't sure if they were volunteers or prisoners.
Buck looked around the kitchen, "Well I think everything is pretty much ready to go. We need to stick the ham in the oven about an hour and a half before we want to eat. The beans need thirty minutes, so I guess," he grinned at the others, "it's football time! Lets take the snacks into the living room. "
Eager hands grabbed the cheese and meat tray, crackers, veggies and drinks. Settling into their favorite chairs a game was quickly found and the stresses of the past two weeks started to fade as everyone cheered for their favorite team.
"Hey Buck, are Nathan and Ezra coming?" Vin asked.
"Yeah they should be here anytime. Nathan was gonna wait until Rain had to go to work before coming out." Rain had volunteered to work a Thanksgiving shift at the hospital when it looked like Nathan would still be on stakeout. Buck glanced at the clock. "An you know ole Ez, he's probably just getting out of bed. Dang I'd better go put the ham in the oven." He headed into the kitchen.
The others were startled a couple of minutes later by a loud crash. Rushing into the kitchen they found Buck sprawled on the floor surrounded by pots and pans.
"You okay there, stud." Chris drawled, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
"Do I look okay?" Buck actually looked pretty silly. On pan was upside down over his foot and he had his right hand in another.
"What were you doing?" JD poked his head around Josiah.
Buck sighed reaching down to remove the pan from his foot. "I need to make a glaze for the ham."
"Is Buck trying to cook or take a nap?" Ezra's voice came from the doorway. Stepping into the room he continued, "Happy Thanksgiving all."
Various versions of the same greeting came from the others.
"I require some assistance with the boxes in my car?" Ezra drawled.
"What did you bring?" JD jumped to help.
"I have no idea." Ezra's dry response was taken as a joke.
Josiah, Vin and JD trailed him back out the door. Chris helped Buck gather up the pans and put them in the dishwasher. As they were finishing up Vin and JD staggered back in carrying a large insulated container. Josiah followed with a slightly smaller one. Ezra was behind him carrying a couple of paper grocery sacks.
"Dang Ezra, what'd you do, rob a grocery store?" Buck cleared a spot on the table for JD and Vin to set their box. Josiah set his box on the floor and turned to go back outside.
"There's more?" Buck asked him.
"No, Nathan's here thought I would see if he needed help." Josiah continued on outside.
Ezra pulled some bottles of wine out of the sacks he'd been carrying. "I brought some wine. A nice Chardonnay and a very good Merlot since I wasn't sure what we were eating."
"Sounds good." Chris took a couple bottles of the Chardonnay and stuck them in the fridge to cool.
Nathan and Josiah came back in. Both had boxes in their hands. Nathan started talking as soon as he cleared the door. "Okay before anyone says anything I didn't do this, Rain did. She wanted to be sure we'd have enough to eat." Setting his box on the counter he turned back to the others. "Buck you said you had ham, so she sent corn pudding, there's a green salad her special sage stuffing and," Nathan dug in the box Josiah was holding, "homemade cranberry sauce. She makes it with honey and oranges. It's really good and you know, it's not Thanksgiving without it." He looked slightly confused as Buck, Vin and Chris started laughing. "What did I say?"
Still laughing Buck moved sideways so that the pyramid of cans was revealed. "You're not the first to say that today."
Nathan laughed as he too added his bowl to the pile. With Josiah's help he started to unpack the rest of his offerings. Buck turned back to Ezra who was standing next to his boxes. "So what did you bring Ez?"
"As I said, I have no idea." The southerner looked at his boxes like they might explode. "These were delivered yesterday after I got home. The label said they would keep until today, so I didn't open them."
"Where did they come from?" Chris stepped forward concerned.
"It's all right," Ezra hastened to reassure him. "Mother called last night. She sent them, it's a Thanksgiving surprise for all of us." He looked back at the biggest container in a slightly worried manner. Chris and Buck mirrored his expression after all you never knew what Maude might come up with.
"Well let's see what you got then." Buck grabbed a knife and started cutting the packaging tape. Everyone crowded around as the lid came off, only to step hastily back as a cloud of fog escaped.
"Dry ice." Nathan said, stepping back. "You'd better use potholders Buck."
While Buck found potholders, Ezra carefully reached in and pulled out an envelope. Opening it he pulled out the card and read aloud. "Congratulations on your purchase of a traditional Southern Thanksgiving dinner. The enclosed will serve eight people. Directions for heating are located on each dish. Happy Thanksgiving from Big Mama's Down Home Cooking, Inc."
"What's in a traditional Southern dinner?" JD asked.
"Only one way to find out?" Buck started digging in the box. The first thing he pulled out was obviously a turkey. "Cajun deep fried turkey" he read. Next were two large flat containers. "Cornbread and oyster dressing, candied yams with bourbon." Buck looked up, "That's it for this box."
"I'll take it outside." Josiah volunteered. He carried it out carefully in case any dry ice remained. By the time he got back Buck had the second box ready to open. This time everyone was ready for the escaping cloud.
Ezra was the one to dig this time. He pulled out two pies reading the top. "Pecan Bourbon pie." Next was a quart of heavy whipping cream. "Does anyone know how to whip this?" He handed the container to Buck who shrugged and handed the to Chris who set it aside.
"We have Cool Whip." Chris said.
"I'll use it in my coffee then." Ezra said, returning to the box. He pulled out a large box, his face lighting up as he read "Beaten biscuits."
"Beaten?" JD looked confused. "Why would someone beat biscuits?"
"It's a southern thing." Josiah told him.
"Is that it?" Buck asked as Ezra sat the box on the table.
"I think so." Ezra looked in the box. "No one more thing, "Brandied cranberry sauce. After all," holding up the container Ezra paused to grin wickedly. "It's not Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce."
Everyone started laughing.
Two hours later the seven men gathered around a dining room table that almost groaned under the amount of food on it. There was much laughter and joking as everyone found a chair. Chris sat at the head of the table, with Vin on his right and Ezra to his left. JD was stuck between Ezra and Buck. Nathan sat next to Vin and Josiah at the foot across from Chris.
"Will you say grace?" Chris looked at Josiah who nodded joining hands with Nathan and Buck. Once everyone's hands were linked around the table he started.
"Lord, we have so much to be thankful this day. We thank you for the fact we live in a country that believes in freedom above all else. We thank you for this food, the successful end of another case and the fact no one got injured."
Nathan's fervent "Amen" caused everyone to grin. Josiah continued.
"But mostly Lord, we thank you for the brotherhood you have gifted us with. Amen."
Muted Amen's ran around the table.
Dishes started passing and for a few minutes everyone was busy filling their plates. As they settled into eat JD commented in a hesitant voice, "You know my Mom and I had another Thanksgiving tradition."
"What was that?" Chris prompted when he realized the young man was hesitant to continue.
"We used to tell each other what we were most thankful for." JD's face reddened a bit, "But I guess that's a kid thing."
"No." Chris shook his head slowly a slight smirk of remembrance on his face, "Sarah used to do the same thing." Nodding at JD he said, "Sounds good, why don't you start?"
"Um okay," JD fiddled with his napkin for a moment. Taking a deep breath he almost pushed the words out. "I'm most thankful for you guys. When Mom died I thought I'd never have any family again. But now I have six brothers and it's the best feeling in the world." Finished he looked down afraid to see everyone's reaction.
There was a moment of silence as everyone tried to swallow around the lumps in their throat. When Ezra cleared his throat it sounded overly loud. Picking up his wine glass he made a toasting motion to the others. "I must agree with our youngest member. I find myself most thankful for the friendship all of you have dragged me into."
His words had the desired effect, everyone smiled relaxing. Vin raised his glass, "Right back at you pard." Looking around the table he continued, "Friends to watch a man's back, that's what I'm thankful for."
Nathan raised his glass next. "I'm thankful for everyone's friendship as well. But," he smiled widely. "I've also got to say, I'm mightly thankful for Rain cause if I don't she'll somehow know and I'll be sleeping on the couch tonight."
Buck laughed and lifted his glass. "Smart man. Me I'm thankful for all of you fellas cause you've done something I couldn't do myself." He looked directly at Chris. "You've given me back someone I thought was lost forever."
"He wasn't lost, just really buried." Chris said quietly, gazing at his oldest friend. Raising his glass he continued. "What am I thankful for most? Friends who remind me there are still things to be thankful for in the world."
"Amen." Josiah chimed in. "I'm thankful for all of that and," he stretched the and, "cranberry sauce. Because after all," he winked at the table.
"It's not Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce." Seven voices chorused.
"Though I don't think you needed to put some of every kind on the table JD." Buck complained looking around at all the bowls of red stuff.
"A man's cranberry choice is a very personal thing Bucklin." Vin defended JD.
"I recommend the brandy kind on the biscuits. It's quite acceptable." Ezra commented. "I really must commend Mother on her choice of fine cuisine purveyor. Beaten biscuits are my favorite."
"I was always partial to Buttermilk brother."
"Rain makes the best drop ones."
"In Texas we use sourdough."
"My mom made hers with yeast."
As the rest of the table discussed the best type of biscuits Chris caught Buck's eye and raised his glass. "Happy Thanksgiving Mom."
"Same to you Dad." Buck laughed, wincing as JD threw a roll at Vin.
Most of what Buck and Chris provided I remember from my own Thanksgivings in Wyoming. For Nathan I thought food that somehow related to Rain's heritage would be good. The Seminole make a sort of corn pudding soup and they wouldn't have had sugar so honey was the only sweetening available. Course they didn't have oranges but oh well. Ezra's portion I got mainly by searching the web. I know I short changed Vin and JD but both their dishes are fairly traditional. My best friend had a boyfriend who insisted on Ambrosia salad for Thanksgiving even though he was the only one who ate it. As for Vin, I know I didn't list any traditional Texan dishes, but I figure with his foster child background he didn't get much of that growing up. Green bean casserole though is the best thing to ever come out of a can and men love it. So I figured the tracker would enjoy it too. All of the recipes came off the web since I wrote this at work and didn't have any cookbooks handy.