Unexpected Company

By Helen Adams

Thanksgiving Challenge by Heather F: All of the 7 must spend Thanksgiving together unplanned and the phrase "Oh, I see that you made itÖ" must appear.

Moved to Blackraptor November 2009

 


"Oh, I see that you made itÖ" A set of keys came flying toward Ezra with Chrisí calm statement, making him flinch even as he reflexively reached up and snatched them before they could collide with his face. "Go grab the extra case of beer from my truck, will you? Kinda got my hands full here."

Ezra blinked, not moving for a few seconds as he digested the sight of Buck, JD and Vin parked in various places around his living room watching a football game, seemingly oblivious to his arrival. Their boss was stomping through the room collecting empty beer bottles and snack bags, muttering darkly about slaving over a hot stove while other people sat around and enjoyed themselves. Ezra shook his head and blinked again as he suddenly realized that Chris was wearing an apron around his waist.

The sound of flushing caught his ear and Josiah emerged from the hallway his right, wiping his hands off on his jeans. Catching sight of Ezra, the man grinned and reached over to give him a hearty slap on one shoulder. "Well, the prodigal returns! Hope you brought your appetite. Dinner should be ready any time now. Right, Chris?"

Larabee scowled and headed back toward the kitchen, now mumbling something about gravy mix and amateurs.

Nathanís voice could be heard from the vicinity of the kitchen, replying, "Donít blame me Ďcause you poured out all the drippings! It was packaged gravy or none at all."

A loud cheer erupted from the men in front of the TV. Vin turned around to say something and gave a cheery smile as he saw Ezra standing by the front door. "Hey, didnít hear you come in!" Buck and JD each grinned as they too noticed the new arrival to the party, but quickly became absorbed in the action on screen again before Ezra could do more than say hello. Vin waved him over. "Címon and watch the game, Ez. Weíre kickiní their asses this year!"

"Uh, no thank you," Ezra declined. "Perhaps later."

With a shrug, Tanner went back to cheering his team on to victory.

Josiah looked around the room and frowned, noting the lack of beverages. "We out of beer already?"

Remembering the keys in his hand, Ezra told him, "Thereís apparently more outside. Iíll justÖ" Trailing off, Ezra reached behind him and fumbled open the door, taking a large step backward and closing it firmly after him. He stared intently for a moment at the number on the door. For a moment he hadnít been sure, but this definitely was his apartment. A sharp pinch to his upper arm made him jump and confirmed that, no, he wasnít dreaming any of this either.

Still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that all six of his teammates were unexpectedly camped in his apartment, all behaving as though they had every right to be there, Ezra went to fulfill his errand. Beer, or pretty much anything else involving alcohol, suddenly seemed like a very fine idea. What was everyone doing here? Today was Thanksgiving Day. Didnít any of them have other plans? And why hadnít anyone been surprised to see him, when even he had thought heíd be spending the holiday in Saint Louis with his mother?

A few minutes later, with a case of beer in his hand and the mystery still dancing in his mind, Ezra returned to find that Josiah had joined the others in shouting at the television set. He hesitated a moment, then decided against trying to ask any of them what was going on. Better to just deliver the refreshments to the refrigerator and question Chris and Nathan.

The sight that met his eyes as he entered the kitchen drew a surprised laugh from the southern man. Chris had oven mitts on both hands, which were clamped in a vice grip around a slippery roasted turkey, holding it upright as Nathan concentrated on spooning dressing out of its interior. "What on earth are you doing to that poor creature?" Ezra asked in amusement. "Iím relatively sure the danger of its flying away is minimal at this point."

"You want to do this?" Larabee snapped at him, cursing as the bird he was juggling began to fall apart from the pressure being exerted to it.

Ezra laughed again and held both hands up in a warding-off gesture. "Far be it from me to interrupt culinary genius at work."

The blond man growled something about smart-asses and know-it-alls.

"Stir the gravy, will you?" Nathan asked distractedly. "And check the rolls. They should be just about done."

Ezra obediently rescued the golden brown rolls from the oven and removed the perfectly consisted gravy from the burner. "Anything else?" he asked, lips twitching as he observed Chris gleefully attacking the now de-stuffed bird with a carving knife. "Should I set the table, dish up the cranberry sauce, call 911 in case you slice off a finger?"

Chris shot him a menacing glare over the top of the carcass. Nathan grinned and suggested, "You can help me carry the food out to the table, if you want."

"My pleasure." Together the two men carefully set dishes of stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, corn, green beans, and mashed potatoes around the dining room table, leaving a large space in the center for the turkey platter. From the antique sideboard, Nathan retrieved two chilled bottles of wine and passed one over to Ezra to begin filling the glasses on his side of the table. As he poured, Ezra noticed with interest that the table was already set for seven. "Rain not able to make it tonight?" he asked innocently. For some reason he felt suddenly reluctant to admit that he didnít know what was going on, but he was certain that Nathan had said something about dining with his fiancée this day.

Regretfully, Nathan replied, "Nah, she got called in for an emergency at the hospital. Multiple vehicle accident, apparently. Told me to go ahead and join you fellas. Weíll make it up later, I hope."

"It looks like we have more than enough food," Ezra observed. "Why donít you save her a portion of everything, so she wonít have to miss out completely?"

A smile lit the dark face. "I was thinking the same thing. You mind if I borrow a couple of containers to carry it all in?"

"Not at all," he replied pleasantly, then laughed when Nathan admitted that he had already started. "How is it that our resident gridiron fanatics happen to be here today? I believe Mrs. Wells invited them over to share in todayís festivities, did she not?"

Nathan sighed regretfully. "Bad luck there. Casey came down with the flu and the guys didnít want to put Miss Nettie to the trouble of cooking up a big meal for them while she was trying to look after her niece."

"Poor girl. I certainly hope she makes a speedy recovery."

"Me too," the medic agreed. "I told Nettie Iíd come over tomorrow and take a look at her. Wouldíve done it today but they insisted I come here and spent the day with you all."

Ezra saw his opportunity. "About that. How is it that you all happened to converge on my-"

"Here it comes," Chris interrupted, entering the dining room with a heaping platter of sliced turkey. He set it down with a grunt and stood back, viewing the scene with satisfaction clear in his eyes. "Looks like I havenít lost my touch after all," he said smugly.

Eyebrows quirking, Ezra asked him, "Am I to understand that you produced this magnificent feast single-handedly?"

"Mostly," Buck agreed, entering the room. "Nathan helped. What the hell? We figured it was all Chrisí idea, so he might as well be the one to play Martha Stewart."

"Sheís in jail," JD reminded them unnecessarily as he came in.

"Fine, Julia Child then," Buck corrected.

"Dead," Josiah and Vin both blurted, grinning at each other.

Running out of options, Buck tried, "Emeril?"

"Bam!" Chris shouted, accepting the title with a grin.

Ezra laughed and inhaled deeply of the tempting aromas wafting through the room. "Well, whoever youíve chosen to emulate, Mr. Larabee, I am most impressed. I wasnít aware you knew how to cook anything that didnít have microwave directions written on it."

Chrisí eyes narrowed. "One more crack like that and youíll be eating by yourself."

"I rather thought I would be anyway."

The quiet comment caught everyoneís attention. "I called your motherís house this morning," Josiah revealed. "Figured Iíd wish you both a happy Thanksgiving before I headed out to Chrisí place for dinner. The servant who answered the phone said you werenít there; that youíd gone back home. We kind of figured you wouldnít come to us, so we talked it over and decided to bring the holiday to you."

Trying not to reveal just how touched he was by that, Ezra told them, "There was no need go to such trouble. I would have kept my change in itinerary to myself and the day would have passed in a perfectly normal fashion."

"But youíd have been alone," JD protested. "That wouldnít have been right. Not on Thanksgiving!"

"It wouldnít be the first one Iíve spent alone, I assure you." Seeing the looks of dismay his confession had caused, he added, "I had no intention or desire to interrupt all of your holiday plans."

"You didnít," Nathan told him with a smile. "Everybodyís plans kind of fell through on their own, so whatever happened with your mother, you fit right in with the rest of us by being here."

Ezra shook his head at the assurance. "It does seem as though Fate was insuring that we each had an excuse to spend the day together, doesnít it?"

"So what happened?" JD wanted to know. "Your mom didnít get sick like Casey, did she?"

"No," he said with a sigh. "I arrived yesterday morning to discover that the quiet mother and son holiday Iíd been promised had been set aside for a whirlwind weekend of elite social gatherings and financial opportunities. Mother was quite displeased over my lack of appreciation for the idea of sharing my Thanksgiving meal with some 75 strangers, assessing them all as potential business associates for her."

"Figure she wasnít gonna miss you much, so you left?" Vin guessed, giving a sympathetic shake of his head when he saw Ezraís cheek twitch, revealing the feelings hidden beneath an impassive expression and uncaring shrug of the shoulders.

"Well, I think you made the right choice," Buck announced cheerfully. "And I also think we should sit down, take our lives in our hands, and try out Chrisí cooking before it all gets cold!"

Amid a round of laughter, the seven men selected places to sit and began to serve themselves. When all the plates were filled, Josiah lifted his glass. "A toast. Hereís to friends who will always keep the latchstring out for a wandering soul. May we all be thankful for the food laid here before us, the brotherhood we all share, and the blessings that God bestows upon us each and every day."

Glasses clinked all around the table, signaling the start of the meal. As Ezra dug in to his plate he nodded in appreciation to his team leader. "This is excellent, Mr. Larabee. I appreciate all the effort youíve undertaken."

Understanding that he was not referring to just the food, Chris smiled. "Happy Thanksgiving, Ezra."

Ezra smiled back. It was indeed.

The End


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