Disclaimers: I do not own any of the characters herein.
Notes: Thanks to Gemini for the quickest beta ever!
Set in the Haven AU
This was Vin's second Christmas since becoming part of the team, and he was determined to enjoy it as much as he had the previous year. With that goal in mind, he convinced Chris to go along with him on the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. JD, Buck, and Nathan stayed at the house; they were spreading the trimmings out, getting ready for decorating the tree. Ezra and Josiah were stuck away in the kitchen, cooking up a Christmas Eve feast. Tomorrow, the Seven would travel to Nettie's place and spend Christmas Day there. Orrin, Evie, Mary, and Billy Travis were planning to be there as well.
The snow was heavy and wet; it had been falling steadily for the past two days. The wind was blowing hard, but it was not extremely cold. Vin and Chris each carried a flashlight; Vin also had a rope to drag the tree and Chris held onto the saw.
When he found his flashlight barely made a dent in the approaching darkness, Chris commented, "Should've brought Buck along. He could've lit the way."
Vin snorted. "An' he prob'ly woulda burnt the whole damn forest down. It's safer this way."
"Famous last words," Chris muttered.
After Vin vetoed five trees -- absolutely fine-looking ones in Chris' opinion -- the telekinetic asked, "So what does this perfect tree look like?"
"'Member that one last year?" Vin asked in return, eyes still scanning the nearby trees.
Chris' eyes widened. "That big? Took five of us to carry it."
"Don't have ta be big, jest perfect." Tanner's tone clearly added "duh" at the end of the sentence.
"Perfect but not bigger," Chris smirked. "Right."
"Bigger don't mean better," Vin said. You oughtta know that, Scrawny, he added mentally.
Larabee barked out a short laugh. "Look who's calling the kettle black, Twig. How long are we going to look for this tree?"
"Until we find it."
"How will you know?"
"Maybe you should've invited Ezra. He may have gotten a 'vision' of the perfect tree."
"Yer a regular stand-up comic tonight, ain't ya, Larabee?"
"Thank you, I'll be here all week!" Chris called to his imaginary audience as Vin rolled his eyes.
After twenty more minutes of tromping through the knee-deep snow, Vin pointed to an evergreen standing about ten feet away along a small rise. "There it is."
"That's not that big," the blond mused aloud.
"I done tol' you already, size don't always matter. 'Least that's what Mary mentioned last time she was here," Vin told his friend, gesturing below Chris' belt.
"How about I leave you here to drag this thing home alone?" Chris offered irately.
"How 'bout I tell Miz Travis what ya really think o' her?" the telepath shot back.
"Anyone ever tell you you're evil?"
"More than you wanna know," Vin admitted with a wink. He made his way up the hill and sized up the "perfect" tree. "If ya cut it from here, it'll fall that way," Tanner stated wisely, motioning the direction it would fall.
Vin shot him a look. "Trust me."
"And with those words, the world was destroyed "
"Jest stop yer jawin' and start sawin'."
Chris scowled, but did as suggested, and began to cut the tree trunk where Vin had indicated. It didn't take long for the saw to bite through.
The tree started falling exactly the way Vin had said it would. That is, until a sudden gust of wind caught the branches and sent it sideways directly on top of the telepath.
Vin saw it change direction, but couldn't dodge quickly enough. The bulky tree pushed him deep into the snow covering the ground. He wasn't hurt, merely uncomfortable with the pointy branches sticking into him and the snow soaking through his jeans. Tanner let out a few choice curses.
The tree's movement took Chris by surprise, and he stood frozen in shock. But once he heard the swearing come from under the tree, he lost it. Knowing that his friend wasn't hurt -- just trapped -- released his sense of humor. Deep-throated laughter bubbled out and he doubled over, tears streaming down his face.
"Don't jest stand there laughin'," Vin called from below. "Help me!"
Chris was cackling so hard he could barely breathe, but he managed to sputter, "M-merry Christmas!"
Sitting in the cold, wet snow, covered with sticky sap, and being poked with sharp needles was not Vin's idea of fun. He thought that Larabee should share his displeasure. He decided a headache would be worth it. Wincing with the effort, he called upon his psychokenisis and gave his best friend a mental shove backward.
Larabee rolled down the short hill, landing in a heap at the bottom.
Chris spit snow out of his mouth and yelled, "Dammit, Tanner!"
"And joy ta you, Cowboy!" Vin yelled back. "Now git this thing offa me!"
Standing up and shaking the snow off, Chris journeyed back up the short mound and called upon his TK, easily lifting the tree off his friend.
With grumbles and more than a few chuckles, the two friends tied the rope around the tree and dragged it back in the direction from whence they came. Soaked to the skin and shivering in the windy air, the two hunter/gatherers returned to the ranch house.
JD spotted them first. "What happened to you?!" he asked as they pushed past him and practically ran to the fireplace.
"We got a tree," Vin said matter-of-factly as he rubbed his hands together in front of the roaring fire.
"Yeah," Chris agreed. "It's outside."
Nathan looked at them questioningly but went along with JD to go and recover the tree.
Buck sidled up alongside Vin and plucked a twig out of his long hair. "Um, just exactly what were you two doing out there for so long?"
Vin shook out his hair, spraying drops of cold water on the nearby sentient.
"Damn, boy, you're worse than a dog!" Buck complained as the water dripped inside his collar. "'Least they're housetrained."
Two hours later the tree was set up and shining in splendor and the men were eating the superb meal the chefs had prepared. After dinner, they settled in the main room, appreciating the hard-won Christmas tree. Josiah recited the poem, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," and the men sat quietly listening, sharing a bottle of wine, and watching the lights twinkling on the tree.
"Y'know," Vin said after Sanchez had finished, "the last couple years have brought me two great gifts."
"Yeah? What's that?" asked Nathan, looking curiously at the telepath.
"Well, last year I got a new family." He paused and looked at the six men sprawled around the room. "And this year we got our freedom."
They all thought for a moment about the struggle they had been through to rid the world of Baines and the Guild that had oppressed sentients for so long. Finally, they could live without the fear of persecution or arrest for using -- or simply having -- their natural psychic abilities.
"Yes, Mr. Tanner, you are correct. Those are remarkable gifts," said Ezra.
There was a murmur of agreement from the others.
Chris lifted his glass. "I propose a toast, gentlemen. To family and freedom."
"Hear, hear!" The others lifted their glasses and drank to the toast.
The scent of pine from the tree permeated the room and the glittering bulbs and tinsel reflected the shimmering lights as the men returned to a contemplative silence.
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