The Twelve Days of Chris'mas

by Squeakypeep

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Part 6/7

Disclaimer: Not Mine blah blah..No profit..blah blah….You've heard it all before and others are more eloquent than I.

Rating: Language a bit harsh in places. Slushy, romantic, suggestive.

Acknowlegements: Mog's Universe, apologies to anyone whose toes I've stamped on - I've read so many fics I can't recall who belongs to whom. Angel belongs to me and this is my first fic - go easy. I'm Irish so Texas speak was a challenge and I have a UK spellchecker - you have been warned. I still have to have the American jokes in these fics explained to me!

Warning: OFC If you don't like the boys getting hitched this Series is not for you. Think M7 meets Mills and Boon!

Comments: - be nice.

Note; Before you all start correcting me, I am aware that traditionally the twelve days of Chistmas run from St Stephen's day to the Epiphany (January 6th) but wanted to end on Christmas Eve so we start twelve days before Christmas. I also prefer to make the epilogue humorous but felt levity was more appropriate in this instance.

13th December
On the first day of Christmas….

Mary Travis came out of her office absently flicking through the pile of papers in her hand. As a headline reporter on the Clarion she was always busy and she answered the call of her name without looking up.


'Yes Stella, what is it?' Stella Davison was Mary's highly efficient PA.

'You've got a delivery.' Mary detected humor in the voice and glanced up.

Sitting on the secretary's desk was a small tree in a clay pot. There were small individually wrapped chocolate pears hanging from the branches and perched in the middle of the tree was a colourful stuffed parrot. Raising her eyebrows she approached and reached for the gift tag tied to the parrot's foot.

On the First day of Christmas
Not a partridge could be found
But I will not falter
Until, to me, you're bound

Mary sighed looking up at the secretary who was regarding her with interest. 'It's from Chris.' She handed over the note.

'Thought it would be. What are you going to do?'

'Nothing. There's no RSVP. I don't know what he thinks this will change.'

'Maybe he's courting you?'

'I don't need courting. This changes nothing.' She ran her hands over her slightly bulging belly.

'He wants to marry you Mary. Be fair, it's his baby too.'

'Don't start with that again, Stella. He didn't want me before I found out about the baby…'

'You don't know that!'

'I would always wonder. I can't compete with Sarah and I won't try. I'm not going to deny his paternity, I just don't want him for the wrong reasons. Now, I'm not prepared to discuss this further, let's get back to work.'

Stella rolled her eyes at Mary's departing back and began to wonder what would come tomorrow.

On the second Day of Christmas…

'Mary. Delivery.'

Ensconced behind her desk Mary raised her eyes as Stella arrived carrying a small wrapped package.

Ripping off the wrapping she uncovered a velvet jewellers box. Holding her breath she flicked it open. Nestling on the plush interior was a gold pendant, two small lovebirds sitting in a heart. Tucked beneath was the card.

I know you think you can't compete
With those who went before
But don't you know that this old heart
Can love a little more?

Mary sighed. His poetry left a lot to be desired but the implication had her thinking. Was she being unfair? She loved Chris. She had loved Stephen. She didn't love Stephen any less but Chris had made his own niche in her heart, could she honestly believe that he was incapable of the same emotions? It just troubled her that the proposal had come hot on the heels of her revelation. It wasn't fair to Billy or to herself if she built their lives on such shaky foundations.

She fingered the pendant and then slowly removed it from the cushioned interior and put it on. Looking up she saw Stella watching her.

'What? It's pretty.'

'That it is Mrs Travis.' Stella smiled and returned to her desk.

On the third day of Christmas…

Eggs. He'd sent Eggs. Sitting in an egg carton were three boiled eggs. No ordinary, run of the mill grocery eggs. These eggs had painted faces. One was wearing a blue and white striped T-shirt, a Mini skirt and a beret. The second looked like a dancer from the Moulin Rouge and the third had Marie-Antoinette hair and a ball gown.

Stella had been surrounded by some of the secretaries from the typing pool and they joined Mary in her laughter.

Wiping the tears from her eyes she shooed the audience from her office and reached for the card. Now what?

On the Third day of Christmas
Came three young hens from France
My proposal came from deep within
And not from circumstance

Oh Lord. It seemed like he was reading her mind. She thought that was Ezra's speciality.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas…

Nothing. She'd waited all day but there had been no delivery. Maybe he'd given up. Maybe he was busy at work. Maybe… what if one of the team had been injured… or Chris? She reached for her phone but resisted it. It was 6pm. Time to go home. Casting a last look around her office she flicked the lights and stopped at Stella's desk as she passed.

'Still here? Don't you have a home to go to Stella?'

'I can't believe he'd give up so quickly. I've been watching the door all day waiting to see what would come next. Chris doesn't strike me as a quitter.'

'He's not. That worries me somewhat. I think he's hoping to wear me down.'

'You know Mary it wouldn't hurt…' Stella was interrupted by the ping and swish of the elevator arriving. Both women turned, hopeful expressions on their faces.

A uniformed Security Guard arrived carrying a large box.

Mary and Stella exchanged a look.

As soon as the delivery was signed for they tore into the box like a couple of kids. Inside were four phones. Mary nearly choked.

Stella let out a peal of laughter. 'I bet that rogue Wilmington had a hand in this!'

Mary stared at the contents of the box for a full minute, mouth opening and closing repeatedly before managing to gasp out, 'They're obscene!'

'Calling birds!'

The phones were all shaped like women, in various states of undress and in lewd poses.

'Now we know why he waited so long. He didn't want to embarrass you. You have to give him extra credit for his consideration.'

'Let's see what the card says.'

On the Fourth day of Christmas
Inspiration wouldn't come
The poses make me wonder…
Want to have some fun?

P.S. Buck and JD would like to keep these if you don't want them.
Their wives might have something to say about it though.

'Very funny.'

'Lighten up Mary. He can't possibly keep saying the same thing every day - there are eight more days to go.'

'Frightening thought. Wrap them up and send them back to Buck with my best wishes.'

On the Fifth day of Christmas…

'Morning Mary.'

'Stella. Why are you grinning?'

'Have you forgotten what day it is? Five Gold Rings! Do you think…?'

'Stella, so far Chris has been nothing if not creative.' She winced remembering the evening before. 'Don't count your chickens.'

'Or French eggs…' Mary shut her office door but allowed a small smile. She had to admit to a feeling of anticipation. Life with Chris and his troupe of clowns would never be boring.

Sure enough, during the morning another package arrived. A small package. Stella was drooling as she leaned over Mary's shoulder.

Inside was a small carton of German Christmas tree ornaments. Small filigree golden bells. Taped underneath was the card.

On the fifth day of Christmas
I send you five gold rings
It's you, not I, who's frightened
By the addition of some strings

'Is he right? Are you thinking that strings attached will change things?'


'Mary, Chris loves you. You love Chris. Okay, so the bungee-jumper you're carrying is an additional string but Chris doesn't strike me as someone who would bow to convention, his being the 'bad element' and all. Why do you think he'd propose to you if he didn't really want to? He doesn't do anything he doesn't want to, even for Orrin. It's not something he'd enter into on a whim is it? Does Larabee even have whims?'

Mary laughed. 'I see your point. I just don't want to make a mistake. It's a big step for me and for Billy.'

'Billy thinks the sun shines out of Chris.'

'True but he's a child. He thinks WWF is real.'

'Isn't it?'


The older woman laughed as she left her boss's office. 'At least he's got you wavering. Don't deny it Mary. Give it some more thought over the weekend. I'll be calling to find out what deliveries you get, don't think I won't.'

Later that evening at the ATF office of Team 7 Chris Larabee had a guest.

'How am I doing Stella?'

'You've got her on the run Chris, she's definitely reconsidering her options. I had to wonder about the phones though. You know how straightlaced she is…'

'Buck's idea. Definitely a last resort. You've got to admit she's more relaxed than she used to be. Sometimes even my boys antics fail to shock her.'

'Eventually even the truly bizarre can seem normal. Familiarity breeds contempt. What have you got planned for next week? The rhyme starts getting trickier with the introduction of people.'

'Got Ezra and Vin working on that. You know how they can be.'

'Now I'm really worried.'

'Hey I heard that! I think we're unappreciated Ez.' A disembodied texan drawl drifted into the office.

'Some individuals lack the imagination necessary to appreciate the subtlety of true Genius Mr Tanner. It is the duty of the gifted to enlighten the general populace to the inherent..'

'Can it Ez.'

'Quod et demonstrandum, Mr Wilmington, thank you for providing us with a prime example...' The bickering faded into the recesses of the elevator.

On the sixth day of Christmas…

Billy arrived back from Scouts with a package.

'Mum, this was outside. It's addressed to you.'

Mary took the proffered gift. 'Billy You shouldn't have touched it. You know you should have come and told me…'

'It's Chris's writing mum, I knew that. What's in it?

Mary had opened the parcel. 'Lunch.'


'It's a carton of eggs Billy. Go wash up, we're having omelettes.'

As her son took off at a run for the bathroom Mary extracted the card.

On the Sixth day of Christmas
The geese have been and gone
I'll love you through forever
But don't make me wait that long

On the Seventh day of Christmas…

Mary woke and stretched. Glancing out the window she could see the snow falling. She always thought that watching snow fall was best done in silence, to enjoy the tranquillity, but silence was a rare commodity with a child in the house.

Muffled by the closed door of her bedroom she could hear Billy playing on the playstation. He always got himself breakfast on Sundays, allowing her the luxury of a lie-in.

Seven Swans-a-Swimming. Try as she might she'd been unable to anticipate what Chris would come up with for today's verse. She'd fallen asleep the previous evening and dreamt of Chris and his boys dressed in feathered tutu's dancing around to the strains of Swan Lake. She grinned. Ezra had the legs for it and Chris sure filled out those tights nicely but poor JD had resembled a consipated chicken on speed.

Still laughing she climbed out of bed and headed for the shower.

Singing a song she'd learned in childhood, 'I'm not a knock-knee'd chicken, I'm a bow-legged hen', she was startled to look up from rinsing her hair to find Billy in the Bathroom.

'Billy! How many times have I told you? My bathroom is mine and I can manage alone!'

'Chris was here. He asked me to give you this, right now...' He held out a small package, '...and no, he's gone.'

Mary reached for the parcel and shooed her curious son out the door. 'I'll see you in a minute.' She shut off the faucet and grabbed a towel before sitting on the edge of the bath to open the present.

The damp paper tore easily and she was soon looking at seven small white pieces of soap, each whittled into a swan, more or less. Some looked quite lifelike but the last looked like one of Josiah's crows had had a really nasty shock.

The ink on the note had been splashed with water and she hurriedly dried it before attempting to read the words.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas
My feelings are not new.
Believe my declaration
When I say that 'I LOVE YOU.'

Not new. Then why didn't he say before I told him about the baby? Believe his declaration. I do, I really do, but such feelings don't necessarily lead to a proposal - that has to be purely because of the baby.

Two hours after receiving the soaps, Mary was voicing her thoughts to her sister who she'd found raiding her refrigerator when she'd returned from Sunday services with Billy.

'Honestly Mary, I think you're over-analyzing this. Let's get back to basics. Do you love Chris?'

Mary nodded.

'Does he love you?'

Another nod.

'And Billy?'

'Of course. I just...'

'Okay. That's the basics.' Angel interrupted before Mary could relaunch her doubts. 'So as I see it, the only question you have to answer is this - before the baby, did you see your relationship (a) continuing, (b) ending or (c) evolving?'

Gathering her sleeping infant, his car-seat and all his paraphanalia, Angel delivered her parting shot as the apartment door swung shut behind her, 'Chris was never one to stand still, Mare, this was the logical next step for you both, all you are doing is making him suffer because he has a man's sense of timing.' The door clicked shut.

Mary rolled her eyes, her sister always did love dramatic exits. She had a point though...

Monday Morning.

'Vin my office...' Vin raised his head as the black-clad leader issued his order, watching as he ducked the flying jelly donut JD had just launched toward the ever hungry sharpshooter on his way past. 'JD!'

'Oops, sorry Chris...' JD ducked behind his own terminal, hastily getting back to work and sticking his tongue out at Buck who was grinning and shaking his head reprovingly whilst resting his feet on his desk.

'Buck, you need me to find you something to do?'

Buck jumped. 'I'm on it Chris.' Buck scowled at the smirking JD.

Vin closed the door of his boss's office and took the proffered chair, slouching comfortably. He raised an eyebrow.

There was silence for a full minute as they regarded each other. 'Dammit Tanner...'

'Easy Cowboy don't bust that vein, the boys'll have to find something else to bet on.'


'I sent Angel over, like ya wanted.' Angel was Mary's sister but she was also Vin's wife.


'She wasn't too happy Cowboy.'

'Oh God. I've blown it!' Chris put his head in his hands, elbows on the desk.

'Yep. You know Angel, she don't take kindly to being SENT anywheres, an' ya can be sure she's gonna make ya pay.'

Chris looked at Vin incredulously. Angel?

'Let me get this straight. You're talking about Angel? Angel wasn't too happy?' Vin nodded and smirked. 'God Dammit Tanner I'm gonna shoot ya! Get to the point!'


'I'm getting my gun...'

'Okay, sorry Chris, too good an opportunity to miss. 'S not often I ken catch ya.' Seeing the dangerous glint in his best friend's eyes, 'Said she's thinkin' on it.'

There was a pause.

'That's it?'

'Sorta. Ya want the details?' Vin interpreted the glare as confirmation. 'She asked Mary where she saw your relationship going before all this happened. Reckoned gettin' hitched was a natural progression an' ya jest had shitty timin'.'

Chris gaped for a minute but let the insult pass. 'So the verdict is not yet in? Okay, so what have you and Ez planned for eight through to twelve?'

Chris Larabee, fearless leader of the most feared ATF team in the country, was surprised by the frission of nervousness that coursed down his spine at the decidedly unholy grin that crossed the face of his sniper.

'Ez, get yer lazy southern butt in here, we got plannin' ta do!'

On the Eighth Day of Christmas...

Oh my god. What was that smell? As quickly as she opened it, Mary slammed shut her office door. Stink bombs? A Skunk? Taking a deep breath she gingerly opened the door again and glanced inside. The odour seemed to be coming from her desk. She cautiously approached.

Another parcel. A large smelly one. What on earth? Mary poked it with a pencil. No movement. A DEAD skunk? She dashed outside and took another lungful of air, scowling at a wide-eyed Stella.

Tilting her head in the direction of the offending item they advanced on it together. Safety in numbers.

Mary untied the ribbon and the wrapping fell away.


Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Camembert...four other oozing masses she didn't recognise along with a couple of bottles of expensive French red wine and two crusty baguettes.

Stella plucked the card as both women bolted for the door. It was too early in the morning for Ezra's odiferous Gallic delicacies.

Slamming the door closed they leaned against the glass wall and laughed at their unladylike behaviour. Mary glared at the gaping office staff and opened the embossed parchment envelope.

On the eighth Day of Christmas
The milk now vintage cheese.
Like our love, it's just maturing,
slowly, by degrees.

'Admit it Mary. You are starting to enjoy this, aren't you?'

'I never said I wasn't, Stella. I have to admit that he's making me think things through again.' She held up her hand at the delighted grin crossing the face of her friend. 'I'm not committing to anything...'

'Goodness Mary, I know that. That's the whole problem!'

'The biggest problem right now is how to fumigate my office. You sort it out. I have an interview.'

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...

Mid-afternoon saw Mary sorting through her notes from the previous day's interview. Her concentration was destroyed by stifled giggles coming from outside the closed door. The first notes of 'The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fary' drifted in and Mary held her breath. Surely not. Vin in a Tutu? Buck in tights? She swallowed.

The door opened and in pranced one adult and eight mini ballerinas, none older than six and all wearing pink leotards and delighted grins. Mary was enchanted by the small performers, as enraptured as they seemed to be at performing for a live audience. They were adorable, all pink and scrubbed and giggly as they stamped around like a herd of elephants.

Joining the appaluse of her office staff, Mary accepted the bouquet of daisies and the note from the adult dancer who, having completed her task, danced off down the corridor with her flock following on her heels.

How did he arrange that? Mary glanced at the note.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas
I trust you liked the dance.
A child of ours in future?
Would you like to take the chance?

An image of a small, blonde haired, green-eyed ballerina popped into her head. Mary rubbed her bump and smiled, maybe. She nearly choked on her coffee as the imaginary angel in her mind looked up and Glared. A mini-Chris with the addition of feminine wiles - scary.

Driving home later in the evening Mary found herself playing a cassette of Christmas music. When it got to Ten Lords a Leaping she began to worry about tomorrow.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...

'She did what?' Larabee was impressed. 'Let me see.'

Ezra opened the DHL envelope and put the video cassette into the conference room machine and team seven watched as ten Lords, real ones, bungee jumped one by one off a bridge in England. Each one introduced himself before launching himself into space.

...'Charles Winterbourne-Browne, Viscount Peters. The things I do for my friends, you'd better make it worthwhile Mary.'

...'Edward Montmorency, Lord Winterstone. I can't believe anyone would go to this much trouble, it has to be serious!'

...'Aloysius MacCormac, 9th Earl of Fitzrock. But you knew that already. Hello Mary. When Kezzie asked me to arrange this I thought she was joking. But having met all of you I can see that anyone would need some convincing to willingly take on Chris and those preschoolers from Hell he calls his team. You do realize, my dear, that you take one you take them all?' Al grinned at the camera and then disappeared backwards off the bridge. The next shot was Al surrounded by nine smiling friends, all with their feet firmly on the ground.

...'So Mary, there you have it. Ten Lords have leapt. Don't make our hard work for nothing. Love to Kezzie and Ez, Hi to Chris and the boys, and to Billy of course.'

'I'm supposed to read out this verse now.' He held up a piece of paper and ten cultured English voices broke out in unison;

On the tenth Day of Christmas
To make the rhyme come true
Ten English Lords have risked their lives
To hear you say, 'I do'

'Be sure to let us know how this turns out, we're rooting for you.'

One of the Lords behind Al piped up with, 'What the Devil will he do for an encore?' to which Al responded, 'Have I told you about Denver's 'Magnificent Seven?...'

As the screen went dark everyone turned to look at the poker faced undercover operative.

'Well Gentlemen, what is the point of having a real Aristocrat in the family if we can't use him?'

The others shook their heads and filed out.

Chris stopped his undercover man with a hand on his arm. 'Brilliant Ez, thanks, I owe you.'

'No Mr Larabee, you owe no-one. Your thanks I will convey to my wife, or perhaps her brother. We, sir, are family and that, as I am oft-times told, is what family does.' Ezra dimpled at his boss.

'I think you've finally got it Ez.'

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...

Thursday. Only two days to go. Mary knew what she would do, her mind was made up, but she was saddened that the fun was drawing to a close.

It was lunchtime and Mary and Stella had embarked on a last minute shopping expedition. Curiously, Stella kept glancing at her watch.

'Don't panic, your boss won't fire you if you're late back, oh, wait, I am your boss.' Her attempt at humor fell on deaf ears.

'Hmmm.' Stella looked at her watch again.


Suddenly Mary found herself being grabbed by the arm and propelled outside. Stella was staring into the crisp winter sky as if looking for something.

'Stella what...?'

'Look, there.' Stella pointed to the horizon.

In the distance Mary could see several small aircraft. The group of eleven flew overhead in convoy, turned and flew over again. As ten aircraft left, one broke away and a thick plume of red smoke trailed from the tail. A sky writer.


'Oh my God!'

Stella chuckled at her slack mouthed friend. 'They're 'PIPER' Alphas! That's Bella Wilmington.' Buck's new wife was a airline pilot who voluenteered for an aerial display team. 'Those were your Eleven Pipers Piping.'

As the smoke message dispersed, the reporter turned to her assistant. 'You. You're in on this!'

'Yeah well, Chris needed all the help he could get. I never knew in advance Mary I swear!' She blushed, 'except today. Larabee call last night, he needed to make sure you got the message, speaking of which...' she handed Mary an envelope, 'I don't know what it says, I promise!'

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas
Tomorrow, Christmas Eve
I hope you'll have an answer
for the heart that's on my sleeve.

'He wants an answer? I'll give him an answer. Stella, tell me honestly do you know what is planned for tomorrow?' At the negative response, Mary set off for the office. 'Quickly, we have plans to make and people to contact.'

Back at her desk Mary got to work. Sort of. The Clarion would never see the benefits but... they owed her! She wrote a list of calls she needed to make...

Later, in the Saloon...

'Vin, you got hold of everyone, thanks.' Mary surveyed the large crowd gathered in the bar. Six members of Team 7, all their wives, Nettie Welles, the Travis's, Stella and, of course, Inez.

'Ladies and Gentlemen, I need your urgent assistance.' That got everyone's attention. Even Buck and JD stopped throwing pretzels into Ezra's champagne. 'I assume you are all aware of what's been going on?' She eyed the group, resting on the Tanners, Standishes and Willmingtons for a long period before settling on Orrin and Evie Travis who nodded and grinned. 'I need to know who has the plans for tomorrow and what those plans are.' She held up her hands to ward off all the denials, 'Please, It's time to turn the tables and send a verse to Chris. I think Twelve Drummers should be enough to hammer my answer into that thick skull - what do you say?'

The doubtful looks were replaced by speculative ones.

On the twelfth Day of Christmas...

The Larabee Ranch, newly extended to add space for the growing family, was brightly lit with festive decorations. With Chris, Buck, Vin and Ezra concentrating on 'operation Mary', the decorating had been left to the remaining three members of the team. Mary and Billy, along with Nathan and Rain Jackson and their son were the last to arrive for Team 7's Christmas Eve gathering. Everyone would be staying the night, ready for the big day tomorrow.

Vin, in worn Jeans and hooded sweatshirt opened the door and ushered them inside. He nodded to Mary and winked at Billy, who was hopping from foot to foot with excitement. Nettie called a greeting from the kitchen where she and Inez were trying to cook enough to feed the masses.

'Ya keepin' the secret tight aintcha Billy?' Vin whispered.

'Yep. I won't tell anybody. Are we gonna do it soon?'

'Do what soon?'

Chris emerged from the direction of the very noisy kitchen. He searched Mary's face and found nothing but a serene expression.

'Merry Christmas Chris.'

'Mary.' He glanced down at Billy who was clinging to his leg. 'Do what?'

'Why put the stockings out for Santa naturally Chris.' Kezzie Standish, nearly as much a favourite with children as her husband, took Billy by the hand concealling her wink. 'We saved you a spot right next to Chris's. Come on I'll get Ezra to help you hang it.'

'Don't that qualify as manual labor, Kez?' Vin grinned at the Englishwoman.

'It's menial labor I object to Mr Tanner, there is a difference. Come Master Travis, I think there is a sugar cookie with your name on it awaiting your attention.' Ezra put an arm over his wife's shoulder and led the pair away. Vin and the Jacksons followed.

'I've missed you. How are you?' Chris stepped up to Mary and cautiously wrapped his arms around her.

'Thank you for the gifts Chris. It was very creative. I'm fine, we both are.' He leaned back and looked at the bump caught between them. He met her eyes. 'Mary...'

'Later, when we can talk without interuptions. Please Chris.' She looked sightly regretful and Chris felt his blood draining from his face.

'Sure. Come into the Great room, there's a good fire going.'

The Great Room had been added over the Summer to accommodate the growing numbers of the family.

The Wilmingtons, Buck and Bella, seemed to be involved in a game of 'Slap and Tickle' on a couch in the corner. Vin was in his usual spot on the rocker with his stockinged feet on the coffee table and Angel on his lap. Their son Adam lay sprawled, Tanner style, on a rug in the centre of the room along with Joey Jackson, whose parents were curled on the other couch with Josiah taking up the other end. JD and Casey were setting up a game of chess on the floor, JD earning a cuff on the head from his wife when he asked where the batteries were.

'Leave him alone Casey that's my job.' The Slap and Tickle war had been resolved with Buck's hand under Bella's sweater as she rested back against his shoulder.

Orrin Travis had an overstuffed armchair to himself. No arguing there.

Chris and Mary settled down in a vacant spot to enjoy the atmosphere. Chris was shooting lots of looks in Mary's direction, much to the amusement of the others.

It was a relaxed happy evening. Chris looked at each member of his family and saw the changes the year had wrought. Everyone alive, no injuries to mar the festivities, nothing could be better. He amended that as he looked at Mary, feeding her nephew his bedtime bottle. He was still on edge. All was not quite right. Sarah, help me.

It was nearly midnight when a tired Billy Travis eventually agreed to head for bed since Santa needed to get on with his deliveries and couldn't until he was asleep.

'I need to go say goodnight to the horses. Chris may I?' Chris looked at Mary who sighed dramatically before she agreed. 'Okay. Dress warm and don't be too long.'

'Come on Chris.'



'Fine. I needed to tell them Merry Christmas anyway, anyone else?'

'Naw, you go on Cowboy, we'll stay an' keep the fire warm.' Vin got a glare in response as Larabee dragged himself to the mud room.

'Gloves Billy.'

'Okay I'm ready Chris'

'I think you still need your boots, kiddo.'

Billy looked at his feet. 'But I got my mittens on!' He held up his hands to prove it. Chris sighed and put the boots onto the child. Taking the small gloved hand in one of his own, he grabbed a torch with the other and the two set off through the snow for the barn.

'... so have you been a good horse this year Chaucer? Does Santa know what you want? I don't suppose you want anything since Ezra gives you so many treats anyway. Peso I think you better be thinking carrot rather than new saddle blanket. Vin is always cursing you. Oh, you think you're alright do you? Well you should take lessons from Bailey, JD says...'

Chris rolled his eyes. How long could this take? 'Billy we've been out here half an hour, it's already Christmas. You better let them sleep or Santa won't get a chance to come.'

Billy looked up at Chris, gauging his mood.

''Kay. Better listen to Chris guys, he's the boss. You sleep well now.' Billy headed for the door and a grateful Chris followed.

The pair trudged through the snow back to the house and took off their outerwear.

'It's awful quiet Chris. Do you think they all went to sleep without us?'

Chris considered this. With the wives his team had found themselves, sleep was a remote possibility. Billy was watching him. 'Er...No I don't think so, Let's find everyone and say goodnight.'


Chris led the way back to the Great Room. Was greeted him was NOT what he expected.

Eleven Drummers.

There were eleven, he counted.

The Tanners, the Wilmingtons, the Jacksons, the Dunnes, the Standishes and Josiah - all dressed like a marching band, began to beat out on their Drums.

Chris smiled. 'There's only eleven of you.

Behind him Billy had removed his sweatshirt to reveal a matching top and taken the not-so-big bass drum provided by his grandmother. He banged his drum in time with the others and cried 'I'm number twelve. Surprise!' Joining his band everyone began to sing.

On the Twelfth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Twelve Drummers Drumming
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six geese a Laying
Fiiiive Gooolllddd Riiinnngs!
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves

Deafening, absolutely deafening! Everyone was laughing and talking at once. Mary stepped forward from her place in the shadows by the door and the noise abruptly stopped.


'On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
My love I vow to thee.
Christopher Michael Larabee
Will YOU marry ME?'

Unable to contain his wreathing smiles, Chris said, tongue in cheek, 'How can I be sure you're asking for the right reasons. Maybe I should take some time to think about such a serious step.'

He glanced around at the expectant faces, settling on Billy. He kneeled down 'What about you Billy?'

'I want you to marry us Chris. Say yes.'

Chris stood and looked at his lover, soon to be mother of his child. She smiled softly at him, promise in her eyes.

'I love you Mary, and you Billy. I will if you will?'

Mary nodded. 'Yes, Chris, I'll Marry you.'

'Me too!' Billy couldn't hold out and grabbed his mother and soon to be father and pulled them together. 'Get the slurpy stuff over quick, Santa's coming we gotta go to bed!'

Now that, thought the members of team seven, was a plan.

5 months Later

'...I baptize this child Vincent Christopher Larabee...'

In the shadow of the nave, two ghostly figures looked on.

'I got that baby brother I wanted mommy. I'm gonna watch over him real good.'

The russet haired woman looked down at her son, stroking his hair. 'You have two new brothers, Adam, and with those troublesome uncles and all your cousins, I'm sure Daddy and Mary could use all the help they can get!'

'We're a big family now aren't we? Do you think they still remember us?'

Sarah looked up, her eyes meeting those of her husband's new wife. They smiled at each other. 'Yes darling, they will never forget.'

Chris looked at Mary, in time to catch her nodding in acknowlegement towards a darkened corner of the Church. Seeing the tears in her eyes he frowned in concern. 'Mary? Is everything alright?'

Holding Vince in the crook of his arm, his right hand sought hers. Mary gripped his hand and placed her other on her elder child's shoulder as the tears trickled down her cheek. 'Yes my Darling. Everything is perfect.'

The End

To Part Seven: A Twist in the Tale

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