A Right Good Christmas
Universe: ATF LB (sort of)
Main Characters: Vin and Ezra, as well as everyone else usually mentioned in this universe.
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belong to CBS, Mirisch Entertainment, Trilogy, and MGM. Original characters belong to me.
Author's Note: Thanks to K. Poffenberger and S. Berry for creating the Little Britches AU. Thanks to Mog for the ATF universe. Judy, thank you so much for the quick beta! Thanks to Michelle, too. Special thanks to Pat Merritt for use of the adoption certificate from her story Outflanked (I highly recommend it). I don't know who first started the tradition of Buck calling JD "Little Bit", but I hope you don't mind if I use it. This snippet is part of a larger story, but it came to me first. Oh, and I figured that Vin and Anne were juniors when this universe started, so they're now in their senior year. This is for Lady Angel's Christmas Calendar. Follows His Choice and Picture Perfect.
Vin shook his head as he laid the phone receiver back on the base. "Nope. Sold out." He leaned back in the office chair. "Been sold out for months."
Chris squeezed the shoulders beneath his hands. "Maybe next year."
"Yeah. I'll definitely start calling earlier next year."
When the two exited the office, another set of heads swiveled to look at them. Buck frowned when he saw the downcast expression on the young man's face.
"Didn't get any?"
"Naw, they've been sold out for months." Vin sprawled on a chair, his face pensive. "I wish I'd known earlier. She really would have liked to go. Said it had been a tradition since she was little, but with everything going on this year with the baby and everything, her parents forgot."
Chris grinned. "Having a baby after 17 years of only having one child can be a little shocking, I would imagine. Anne doing okay with it?"
The teenager smiled. "She's real excited. Says it's probably the best Christmas present she's ever gotten."
Buck looked at the time and then nudged the dark-haired teen on the floor. "Time to get ready for bed, Little Bit."
JD rolled his eyes and then rolled over. "Are you ever going to stop calling me that?"
The teen sighed and scrambled off the floor as he jogged to his room. "Night, everyone."
Vin rose and sauntered towards the doorway. "Night."
The two men called out their goodnights. After several minutes, Buck looked over at Chris. "Know anyone who can get him tickets?"
The blonde shook his head. "I've tried everyone I know."
Twin sighs of disappointment echoed in the room as the two men got up and prepared to close the house down for the night.
The four men sat in the conference room, enjoying coffee and bagels as they waited for their fifth to call in with an update on his assignment.
Ezra wandered around the small farmer's market, picking up various fruits and vegetables before he made his way to a public phone. His current undercover assignment had been slow-going, and he simply wanted to go home to his own bed and sleep for a week. He wouldn't even mind going in to work on time if it meant he could get out of this particular job.
Picking up the phone and dialing a special set of numbers, he waited until the call passed through several routing connections to ensure it wouldn't be traced and blow his cover.
"Good morning, Mr. Larabee. How are you and my fellow compatriots this morning?"
"Putting you on speaker, Ezra."
There was a click, and then the other voices could be heard. He listened to the conversation for several moments before Chris broke through the chatter. "We're all here, Ezra."
"Very good, Mr. Larabee, gentlemen."
"Hey, Ez." "Ezra." "Brother Ezra."
The undercover agent couldn't help smiling at the greetings. "I trust things are moving along with your part of the investigation."
"Yeah, we've gotten a lot of background info, Ez." Buck wiped his hands on a napkin as he spoke. "We're just waiting for you."
"Yes, well, Mr. Ponzini is more concerned with purchases for his assortment of nieces and nephews than in making any sort of arrangements to sell firearms."
"Think it'll go past Christmas?" Nathan frowned a bit, knowing the team was planning on celebrating together.
"Indubitably, Mr. Jackson. I have been subjected to more toy stores than JD or Vin ever dreamed of visiting."
The group heard the sigh, hearing the fatigue in the other man's voice.
"You going to be okay, Ezra?" Chris leaned forward as he spoke into the phone.
"Undoubtedly. I shall endeavor not to display any ennui while accompanying Mr. Ponzini and his associates to yet another toy store in search of the perfect Barbie."
That caused the other three men to laugh before they called out their goodbyes. Ezra returned the salutations before disconnecting.
"He sounds tired." Josiah leaned back in his chair.
"Yeah. I think he misses us." Buck nodded decisively as the remaining two looked at him.
Chris shook his head as he stood and then moved to the door. "Let's get back to work. We need to be ready in case Ponzini does decide he wants to deal."
"Yes, that is correct. You will deliver the package tomorrow? Very good. Thank you." Ezra ended the call and dialed again. "Good morning, Mr. Tyler. There will not be a problem with the arrangement? Wonderful. I have a courier stopping by to pick up the envelope. I certainly do appreciate your promptness with this request. Yes, and a Merry Christmas to you, too."
He ended that call and looked up to see Ponzini standing in front of him, three bodyguards standing behind.
"You seem to have been busy, Mr. Simmons."
Ezra slipped his phone into his pocket. "Arranging one of my nephew's Christmas presents."
"Oh? And what did you get him?"
"He wanted to take his girlfriend to see The Nutcracker. Unfortunately, he did not call soon enough to procure seats, so I arranged for my season tickets to be at his disposal. I also arranged formalwear, dinner, and a limousine to ensure they arrive home safely." A smile blossomed on the Southerner's face as he stared off towards the mountains. "I wish I could see his face." He turned back to the gunrunner and straightened. "Are you ready to journey onward for your next purchase?"
Ponzini studied the man in front of him. He had been a little leery of Simmons, not quite sure what to make of the man who seemed to keep himself at a distance from everyone. Now, seeing the delight in those eyes at doing something for his family seemed to make up his mind. As they walked towards the Lincoln, Ponzini looked over at the man.
"So, Mr. Simmons, how many weapons did you want to purchase?"
Vin signed for the package, staring at it as he closed the front door. He walked towards the kitchen as he opened it then pulled out the envelopes. As he opened each one, his eyes grew wider.
"I don't believe it!"
JD looked up from his seat at the table, staring at his brother's expression. "What's up?"
The older teen showed him the certificates for the tuxedo, the limousine, and dinner, then held up tickets to the ballet.
"Where do you think they came from?" JD studied the gifts.
Vin shook his head as he studied the certificates then suddenly smiled. "Ezra."
"How do you know?"
Waving the certificate for the tuxedo, the blue-eyed young man grinned. "It' s Ezra's tailor. Remember how he always used to say that Mr. Tyler could work wonders on a suit? That's where I'm supposed to get the tux."
"Looks like everything's worked out fine, then." JD then sighed. "I wish Ezra could be here for Christmas, though, and not off on assignment."
"Me, too." Vin nodded. He moved towards the phone. "I need to call Mrs. Johnson and make sure Anne will be ready on Saturday."
He called his girlfriend's mother and asked her to keep it a secret, simply telling her Vin was taking her some place special and to wear something formal. The woman agreed, chuckling softly as she listened to Vin tell her about his gift.
The operation went down without an injury three days later. Josiah arrested Ezra to keep his cover intact. Mr. Ponzini and his men were escorted down to the jail, as was the undercover agent. When everyone was processed, Chris heard Ezra complaining about the ink used to fingerprint him and the possible ruin of his French cuffs.
"C'mon, Ez, let's get outta here." The blonde threw an arm over his teammate 's shoulders as he pulled the man from the building.
They returned to their office to start the mountains of paperwork that always seemed to follow their cases.
Saturday evening found Vin slipping into his tuxedo. He couldn't help smiling at the red vest Mr. Tyler insisted he wear to commemorate the season. As he slipped on the red bow tie, he heard the front door open and close, and the soft murmur of voices. He figured some of his uncles, if not all, would have come over to offer him advice and good wishes for an enjoyable evening.
His jacket was the last item to be donned, and he slid his arms into it and pulled it up to settle on his shoulders. Reaching up, he brushed a curl back and looked at himself in the mirror.
"I reckon you'll do." With a soft laugh, he tucked his wallet into his back pocket after making sure the tickets and the certificates for dinner and the limousine were in there.
Vin walked downstairs to find Ezra standing near the fireplace enjoying a glass of what appeared to be scotch. At the sight of his nephew, the Southerner nodded approvingly.
"I trust you will have a most enjoyable time, Master Tanner."
Not even hesitating, Vin walked over to the older man and wrapped his arms around him. Ezra was stunned for a second before he returned the embrace. There were times he ached for the long-ago years where freely given hugs and kisses from two small boys were a standard part of his day. That sweet ache made the hug even better.
"Thank you, Ezra." The voice was soft.
"You're welcome, Vin."
One final squeeze was given before the two separated. Chris remained hidden by the kitchen door until they were done. He ventured out when they separated, the honk of a car horn alerting him to the fact that the limousine had arrived.
"Have a good time. Call if you need anything." He patted his son's shoulder as he walked Vin to the door, standing in the doorway until the young man climbed into the luxury car and was driven away.
The two men settled into the den, relaxing in front of the fireplace. Chris looked up from his contemplation of the flames and stared at the other man.
"You never mentioned what made Ponzini move forward with the deal."
Ezra smiled as looked at his glass then looked at his boss. "Vin."
"What?" Confusion was clearly written on the blonde's face.
"I was making arrangements for tonight, and Ponzini wanted to know what I was doing. I told him I was arranging a Christmas present for my nephew. I imagine I reminded him of himself, and he decided to go ahead with the deal."
They were silent for several moments before Chris raised his glass. "To Christmas and kids."
The next week, Vin and Anne made their way to the Federal Building after school. Anne played with the box in her lap, smiling as Vin laughed at her. They went through security and up to the team's office. The couple smiled at the men before making a beeline for Ezra's office.
Looking up at the knock, green eyes widened in surprised. "Whatever are you two doing here?"
"We wanted to give you something, Mr. Standish." Anne smiled and walked forward, placing the box on the desk.
"Hmm." Ezra opened it quickly, folding back the tissue to stare at the gift. He pulled out the gilded frame that surrounded the picture.
"My mom took it before we left for the ballet. I hope you like it." The young woman was a little nervous.
"It is simply lovely, Miss Johnson. Thank you very much." He stood and moved around the desk, holding out his hand.
Ignoring it, Anne moved forward and wrapped her arms around the surprised man. She whispered softly, "Thank you so much for the tickets. It meant a lot to both of us."
Ezra, recovering quickly, patted her on the back. "You are very welcome, my dear." He then patted Vin on the back before escorting the two back out into the room.
Chris looked at his son, who just grinned as he grabbed Anne's hand. "We just wanted to drop that off, Dad. We're going to Anne's to work on calculus. I should be home before 6:30."
"Bye." Waving, Chris turned to look at Ezra, who still had a bemused expression on his face.
Fifteen minutes later, the rest of the team heard a pounding in their undercover agent's office. They gathered around the door to find Ezra carefully arranging a picture on the wall. The men smiled and left their friend gazing at the various pictures arranged there.
There were school pictures, camping pictures, birthday party pictures, Christmas pictures, Easter pictures, pictures taken during obscure holiday celebrations from Josiah's travel stories that the boys insisted they honor over the years. In the middle was the adoption certificate that told the undercover agent he was loved by two small boys who had grown into two exceptional young men. His first Christmas after being adopted had been more special than he could put words to, but Vin had wrapped a tiny arm around his shoulders and told him he reckoned it was a right good Christmas.
As his eyes drifted over the full wall, Ezra leaned back in his chair and smiled. "I reckon it is."