Disclaimer: No, theyre not mine. *sigh.*
A huge big thank you to Mog for creating this awesome AUit fits the boys perfectly! And thanks to all the wonderful ATF writers out thereyou guys are great!
This is a sad little piece based upon the song by the same name performed by Mariah Carey. I cant help but think of Chris every time I hear it, but when I finally gave into my muse and wrote this little piece, the main character took a surprising twist.
Im a Ezra fan all the way, but my muse latched onto this story idea and demanded that it be written. Please be kind, as its only the second piece Ive ever attempted to write and the first I've posted anywhere.
Note: This takes place the Christmas before the team comes together.
The fire is burning
The room's all aglow
Buck sat in the darkened booth at the little bar, sipping at his beer. It was late, even by his standards. The room was small and reeked of smoke, alcohol and human body odor.Outside the December wind blows
Away in the distance the carolers sing in the snow
There wasnt a jukebox, but a small, battered FM radio with a coat hanger for an antenna sat on a shelf above the bar. A local station played Christmas songs quietly in the background while the few patrons sipped at their drinks and snow silently fell outside in the stillness of the night, covering the quiet street with a blanket of shimmering white in the soft light of the moon.Everybody's laughing
The world is celebrating
And everyone's so happy
Except for me tonight
Grief and loneliness were thick on the air and Buck grimaced at the morose feeling that washed over him. This was supposed to be a happy time of year, one filled with friends and family. He should be out at a party somewhere or better yet, snuggled up in front of a warm fire with a willing woman.
But he wasnt.
Instead, he was doing the exact same thing he had done last Christmas.
He was sitting in the corner of a cold, squalid little bar, sipping at a cheap beer and watching his best friend try to drown his sorrows and memories.Because I miss you
Most at Christmas time
Chris sat sprawled alone in the booth farthest from the door in the darkest corner of the room. Buck hadnt found him until about an hour ago, and by then, Chris had already been soused. It amazed Buck just how much alcohol his friend could consume.
The man should have died of alcohol poisoning a long time ago.
Buck watched his friend closely, trying to judge the right time to approach him. He knew from experience that if Chris wasnt drunk enough, he would be on the receiving end of all of the blondes pent up anger and grief which would be expressed with the scathing glare that the man was famous for, with cutting words and curses, and sometimes, a well-aimed fist.
Yes, Buck had learned a long time ago to let the broken man alone when he was in this kind of mood. Instead, he would track him down then keep an eye on him, play interference in case some fool tried to approach the darkly-clad man, and, when the time was right, quietly pick him up, drag him out to his truck and back home, and dump him into his bed to sleep it off.
Buck had lost count of how many times this particular scenario had played itself out.
The current song list ended with the stations hourly call-sign and the time before the next selection started.And I can't get you
Get you off my mind
Every other season comes along
And I'm all right
But then I miss you, most at Christmas time
Buck finished his drink and stood up to approach the dark booth. He quietly slid into the seat and stared at the pitiful figure across from him.
Chris was slumped over the table, his head resting on his outstretched arm, his right hand clutching the mostly empty whiskey bottle while the other gripped an empty shot glass. His bleary eyes stared straight ahead, focused on something well beyond the dirty, ripped vinyl of the seat. Buck didnt think he had noticed him until Chris spoke up.
"Its Christmas, Buck," he slurred quietly.
"I know, Pard."
"Sarah loved Christmas."
Buck closed his eyes and sighed. "I know."
Sarah Larabee had loved all holidays, but Christmas was, by far, her most favorite.
She would start her shopping months before, dragging Chris to all the sales all over town. Buck had joined them a few times, to provide his old friend some moral support. They both would just stand back in longsuffering amusement as she went from rack to rack and store to store, filling buggy after buggy. She would start playing Christmas music at the first hint of snow, and would drag all the decorations out the week of Thanksgiving.
Just like clockwork, every year on the fourth Friday of every November, she would chase Chris out of bed before dawn to bundle up and go traipsing out into the cold in search of the perfect tree, usually not returning until dusk. Chris had made the mistake one year of suggesting that they purchase a tree at a local lot, or, better yet, just buy an artificial one.
He had spent the night in the apartment behind the barn following that comment.
After the tree was brought home, Chris would have to shake it down, making sure that no unwanted houseguests were residing on the branches, before the tree was brought inside. They would leave it in the garage to thaw while they moved the furniture around inside to make room. Buck had to smile at the effort that always went into to trying to get everything situated just so for the petite woman.
Then came the wonderful fun of getting the entirely too small stand on the base of the tree. Sarah used an old-fashioned three-legged screw type base every year, and every year, Chris swore he was going to hurdle the thing over the nearest cliff. But finally, after a huge struggle and many curses, the tree would be standing in its rightful spot in front of the large picture window. As soon as that point was reached, his and Chriss work was thankfully done, and they would collapse on the sofa and recliner with drinks in hand to watch her decorate the tree while old Christmas records played in the background. After she was finished, she would insist that the trees lights be turned on and the overhead lights be turned off. She would then curl up under Chriss arm and admire all their efforts.
Buck remembered how homey and comforting those quiet moments were and his own heart ached with grief.I gaze out the window
This cold winter's night
At all of the twinkling lights
Alone in the darkness
Remembering when you were mine
Chris shifted in the booth and released a quiet belch. Buck watched him sadly, comparing the broken man before him to that vibrant one in his minds eye.
After the tree was up, the inside decorations followed quickly. Usually by the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the Larabee ranch house resembled a winter wonderland. Pine scented garland would hang from every available shelf and doorway, while candles and ceramics would line all level surfaces. Sarah had all kinds of little Santas and reindeer, nativity sets and snowmen. The coffee table would be transformed into a miniature Santas workshop, complete with a little house that lit up from a light in the base. The fireplace mantel would hold the antique cut glass nativity scene, while the more durable wooden one would rest on the curio cabinet in the dining room. Christmas towels would be placed in the bathrooms and kitchen and flannel Christmas sheets would be fitted on all the beds while Christmas quilts would be spread across the tops as bedspreads. Mistletoe would hang from strategic locations, hung by Chris Larabee himself, and Buck remembered the boyish gleam of mischievousness that would enter his old friends eyes as he worked hard to maneuver his wife under a sprig for a quick kiss.
Buck squeezed his eyes shut tightly against the memories, clamping them down and shoving them to the back of his mind.
Those days were long gone, and remembering them brought only hollowness and loneliness and misery.
And right now, he had a job to do.
A soft snore from across the table caught his attention, and he turned his gaze back to the slumbering form of his old friend. He let out a long, miserable sigh as he climbed to his feet and rounded the table, reaching down for the blondes arm and pulling the man into a semblance of an upright position. "Come on, Stud," he whispered softly as he pulled Chriss arm around his shoulder and reached behind him to grab his belt. "Lets get you home and into bed."
"Home?" Chris muttered as they slowly weaved through the smoky haze and maze of tables toward the front door.
"Yeah, Pard," Buck answered, trying to keep his unsteady friend from tripping and sending them both to the floor, "Home."
He nodded to the barkeep as they made it the front, and paused for a second, trying to balance the drunken man between the bar and his hip while he reached for his wallet. "What does he owe ya, Joe?" he asked.
The old man just shook his head and motioned for Buck to stop. "Dont worry about it," he said lowly. "Ill put it on his tab. Just git im home safely."
Buck nodded his thanks before gathering his friend up again and heading for the door. The bartender watched the pair step out into the cold, quiet night, and shook his head in sympathy.
It took some doing, but the pair finally managed to cross the slush-covered road and the covered parking lot and reach the black Dodge parked forlornly in the furthest corner. Buck balanced his friend against the side and dug through his pockets for the keys then wrenched the passenger side door open and dumped the man onto the seat, taking care to pull the seatbelt around him before slamming the door shut and skirting around the front to the drivers side. He slipped the key into the ignition and quickly fired the large vehicle up, flipping on the lights and checking the gas gauge before slipping the machine into four-wheel drive. As they pulled out onto the deserted road, he glanced over at his friend who was now deep in an alcohol-induced sleep.The whole world is rejoicing
And everyone's embracing
Except for you and I
They drove through the quiet streets of the suburbs, past the twinkling bright lights and gaily decorated houses and their happy families within before turning onto the interstate, heading for the more sparsely populated areas to the west. Soon they were enveloped in a darkness broken only by the silvery light of the full moon overhead and an occasional passing car.
Sarah had always insisted on decorating the outside of the house as well, despite her husbands protests that they lived out in the middle of nowhere and that the only creatures that would be seeing them were the elk and bears. Still, he would find himself climbing a ladder to string lights along the eaves of the house the first weekend in December. Sarah would have him putting lights up for hours, lining doors and windows, eaves and shutters, and even the bushes along the side of the house.
The one decoration that Chris truly detested putting up, though, was the Santas sleigh replica complete with nine reindeerone with a brightly blinking red nosethat lined the peak of the roof near the chimney. Every year, he swore he wasnt going to put the monstrosity up, and every year, he found himself and Buck balancing on the snow-covered shingles, struggling to secure the plastic pieces against the wind and connect all the lights to the extension cord stretched across the roof for that purpose. Chris would always complain about the scene, but Buck knew that despite the griping and the grumbling, nothing would have stopped the blond from the treacherous task, simply because it brought that delighted smile to his wifes face and that bright twinkle to her eyes.
Chris would do anything the diminutive woman asked just for that smile.In the springtime those memories start to fade
With the April rain
Through the summer days
Till autumn's leaves are gone
I get by without you
Till the snow begins to fall
Buck slowly navigated the driveway leading up to the darkened, silent structure that had once housed the entire Larabee family. The house, which in Christmases past had been brightly lit up with love and laughter now stood forlornly in the snow, looking sad and lost, almost as if it missed the joy it used to shelter as much as its lonely occupants did.
He parked as close to the front door as he could get then pocketed the keys where he could get to them easily before rounding the front to drag the limp form of his partner from the leather seat. He wrestled his semi-conscious friend up the steps to the porch and into the house, fumbling only for a few seconds before getting the door open.
He balanced his friend against the back of the couch while he reached for a lamp and the thermostat, hoping to kick the furnace on and chase away the cold chill that permeated the house. Chris started to slide across the back, trying to sprawl across the cushions on the front, but Buck caught him and pulled him to his feet. "No no, Pard," he said quickly with a grunt. "Youre sleeping in your own bed."
They stumbled across the living room, dodging the piles of beer cans, whiskey bottles, garbage, and clothing scattered on the floor as they worked their way to the back of the house.
Christmas in the Larabee house was always a big occasion, and when little Adam joined the family, it became an even bigger affair. The boys wonder was infectious, touching each of the adults and bringing out the inner child in each of them. When Adam was old enough, Chris, Sarah, and Buck would often take a Saturday afternoon and go snow tubing down the hills and across the fields of the back pastures. They would spend hours playing in the snow, racing each other down the hill, making snowmen, building snow forts, and initiating snowball battles. The little boys laughter would ring across the fields, warming the hearts of the adults with him. Afterwards, they would all head back to the house where Sarah would serve up a huge plate of Christmas cookies and steaming mugs of homemade cocoa to drink while they settled in the living room to watch Christmas movies. Chris and Sarah would snuggle up on the couch while Buck would sprawl in the floor with his godson to cheer on the heroes and boo the villains, all the while singing along with the cherished favorite tunes that he remembered from his own childhood. Many times, Adam would fall asleep with his head on his uncles leg, and Buck would have the distinct pleasure of tucking the precious boy into his bed.
Christmas Eve was by far the most enjoyable part of the whole holiday season, except for Christmas day itself, and the fun would start as soon as they could get the excited little boy into bed. Then Buck and Chris would set to work putting together the toys for the boy and wrapping them up with the fancy paper that Sarah liked. Sarah would always leave the toy-wrapping to Chris, knowing that he couldnt resist testing the cars and trains, games, and gadgets purchased for the child.
The next morning, Adam would try to run them all out at the crack of dawn to open presents, but Sarah always insisted on waiting until daylight. The boy would then go to the living room and sit on the rug, wrapped up in the quilt from his bed as he spent one more hour staring at the boxes under the tree and trying to figure out what each contained. He would be bursting with excitement when his parents finally emerge from their room. Sarah would then make a batch of cocoa and put on Christmas music before settling down beside her husband to watch the little boy and his godfather the big boy tear into their gifts. By the time the whole process was over, the floor would be covered in little bits of paper and ribbon, and Buck would wind up with one or more bows on his head and ribbon around his neck in a makeshift bowtie. One year, Adam had even managed to get his dad and uncle to wear Santa hats all day long.
While Sarah worked on Christmas dinner, the boys would play with the new toys. The year that they had bought the train set, Sarah had to threaten them to leave it alone long enough to eat. It had been a wondrous sight to see his friend stretching train track all over the living room with his son, their smiles bright enough to light the room as they watched the miniature trains glide around the track.
One year, they had purchased a small red radio controlled jeep for the small boy. Buck and Chris had spent most of the night racing the thing around the barn and had reluctantly wrapped it last. Imagine their surprise, though, the next morning when they unwrapped matching black and blue ones for themselves. The picture with the three of them holding up their toys and grinning from ear to ear while the tree twinkled in the background had been Sarahs favorite picture of all time. They had spent the entire day in the barn, racing their cars up the aisles and through the obstacle courses that they constructed.
Christmas time with Adam had always brought the little boy out in Chris.
When they reached the master bedroom, Buck dumped his old friend across the bed and pulled his boots off before gathering the blankets from off the floor and spreading them across the form. He paused for a moment, looking down at the sleep-softened features of the man before him. Even in his sleep, the pain and sorrow enshrouded the man, and Buck bowed his head, his heart aching with a shared grief. He turned the lamp off and left the room, making sure to leave the door cracked so he could hear when Chris got up.
The man would be sicker than a dog come morning.
Buck wandered back toward the front of the house and haphazardly worked at straightening the place up a bit, the morose feelings that had engulf him that evening refusing to let go enough to allow him to rest. He collected the dirty laundry and washed a load or two while he gathered up the garbage and washed up the weeks worth of dirty dishes on the counter. He even dug out the mop and damp-mopped the kitchen floor, trying to rid it of the sticky film that covered it in patches.And then I miss you
Most at Christmas time
And I can't get you
Get you off my mind
Finally, his own weariness overtook him and he sat down in a kitchen chair with a sigh, the room lit only by the soft glow of the light above the stove. He took a sip of the beer bottle in his hand while turning the small object that he had retrieved from the hall closet over in the other hand. He stared out the window, taking in the breathless sight of the snow-covered fields, forests, and mountains bathed in soft moonlight behind the house. He allowed his memory free reign then, the scenes from his past filling his mindpictures of his mother, of Chris and Sarah and Adam, of other friends, of happy moments and joyful parties, of quiet times, and times filled with laughter.
After emptying the bottle, he toyed with it for a moment or two before he squeezed his eyes shut tightly, a shuddering sigh escaping his lips and a lone tear trickling down his cheek.
Damn, but he missed them. All of them.Every other season comes along
And I'm all right...
He pulled himself together then, locking away the memories, the emotions, and the grief as well as he could before standing to his feet and setting the bottle down on the counter as he reached up and turned the light out. He headed for the living room and the couch where he planned on spending the night, but paused in the kitchen doorway, taking one last look out the window at the peaceful scene beyond. His gaze slipped down to the moonlight-bathed table top and he sighed sorrowfully once more before leaving the room.
The small golden-framed picture of the last Christmas that the happy, loving family had spent together sat alone on the table top, the smiles of the two men, the woman, and the precious little boy shined brightly in the pale moonlight. For a moment it seemed as though the faint echoes of warm laughter lingered on the air along with the faint smell of pine and baking cookies, but the impressions only lasted a moment before fading away, leaving nothing but the cold, frozen glow and the silence.But then I miss you,
|Miss You Most (At Christmastime)
The fire is burning
- Mariah Carey
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