by Brate

Notes: This is my answer to Cin's Christmas Challenge to write a story containing the following items: Yule log, spiked eggnog, tree, bell, and snowman.

It takes place in my Haven AU, but doesn't occur at anytime specifically (well, except at Christmastime <g>).

Vin Tanner scouted the area from atop a ledge, before jumping down to continue his search. The Texan wandered around, looking for a something suitable. He was on a mission of great importance: he had to find the perfect Christmas tree. Wanting to take a break, the seven borrowed a friend's lodge in the mountains for the holidays. JD insisted on a traditional Christmas, the kind he and his mother used to have back East. The kid also wanted to make sure that Vin had an enjoyable Christmas. It was no secret that the telepath didn't remember a time when he celebrated the season; JD felt honor bound to ensure that Vin had a good holiday.

The young sentient convinced Vin to help him build a snowman yesterday. It was the first time Vin'd ever done that. Chris brought out a carrot, hat, and scarf to complete the snowman's ensemble. He handed them over with a sad smile. The telepath wondered why, until he caught a flash of Larabee decorating a snowman with his son, Adam. Knowing there was no way to help his best friend through this time of year he simply sent out a smile, filled with support.

After the snowman was finished to JD's satisfaction, he pushed Vin down in the snow, instructing him in the fine art of making snow angels. That Vin decided he could do without; it was way too cold in a leather jacket and jeans.

Marching through another patch of trees, Vin took a deep breath, absorbing the fresh mountain air. The tracker volunteered to go on the tree search, anxious to escape his friends. He loved those guys like family, but after so many years on his own, he needed some alone time to reenergize; remind himself why he was so lucky to have these men by his side.

Over the next hill he stopped short. There it was, the perfect Christmas tree. Tall and strong, with full branches and a beautiful green color. Even JD would approve of this one. He mentally fixed his position in order to bring the other six men to the site. Cutting down the tree would be a holiday bonding experience for the seven by orders of their youngest.

Vin made his way back through the forest, thinking about the next two days. Tonight after dinner they could come cut the tree, and then decorate it with the ornaments they purchased earlier that day, including the bell JD had required so he could ring it and make sure the 'angel gets its wings.' Tomorrow, Nettie and Casey would arrive to help them celebrate. Dunne had been running around for the past few days, basically driving everyone nuts. He knew Casey was coming and he was beside himself trying to come up with a suitable present for his sweetheart.

Each of the men had picked a Secret Santa to exchange with so they wouldn't be overwhelmed with the amount of gifts needed.  He was chosen as Chris' Secret Santa. Ez was chosen as his. Vin chuckled to himself because he knew his friends set it up that way figuring that Ez was the only one who Vin couldn't read; they wanted to make sure his gift was a surprise. The reason he was so amused was that he already knew what he was getting. He saw it the other day while he was scouting around; no mind reading needed… just a better hiding spot. Vin was excited to give Nettie her present. The telepath carved her a nativity scene; Chris had shown him how when he'd been recuperating and bored out of his mind.

As he drew closer to the house he heard the sounds of the six men; some shouts, some music, and lots of laughter. Vin was pretty sure he saw Buck spike the eggnog earlier -- wait until Chris found out about that. Larabee would be pissed; why waste good liquor in nog?

Walking in the house he heard the same argument between Buck and JD that started that morning. The black-haired sentient wanted everything to be traditional. Over the sound of the Christmas carols playing on the radio, the ladies' man voice could be heard yelling, "What the hell is a Yule log, anyway?"

Vin smiled to himself, Merry Christmas!

Feedback to: brate01@hotmail.com