Merry F'ing Christmas

by Brate

Alternate Universe: M7: Special Response Team

Disclaimer: MagSeven characters are the property of MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment.

The men of the Special Response Team had everything set for their first Christmas together. Francis Corcoran, their foreman, was busy preparing a fabulous feast for them to celebrate the Eve. The seven were gathered in the living room, putting the final decorations on the huge tree Tiny Davis, their mechanic, had found. Each of them had wanted to add their own ornaments to the tree, making it an eclectic collection. JD Dunne had just added his last ball when there was the sound of a helicopter's approach. Various pairs of eyes met in a look that clearly said, "There goes Christmas…"

With a resigned sigh, Chris Larabee went out to greet the chopper.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington groaned melodramatically. "Chris, Quentin Martin's a flake, a fruitcake."

"He's a friend of Travis," Larabee defended for the umpteenth time.

"Don't stop 'im from bein' a nut," Vin Tanner drawled.

"He calls every time he wants attention," Buck said.

Larabee attempted to continue his explanation. "His sources say he'll be dead by Christmas."

"Sources?" Nathan Jackson snorted. "Who… the voices in his head?"

Chris ignored the interruptions. "If we can keep him alive until Christmas morning, he should be safe."

Ezra Standish smirked. "Because then the hobgoblins will return to the netherworld from whence they came."

"You guys quit your bitching," Chris ordered, "we're going."

"Do all of us have to go?" JD asked.

"Yes," Chris said. "He 'requested' the entire team to protect him."

"He's notoriously paranoid," Nathan commented.

"Yet incredibly rich," Josiah Sanchez added. "So his condition is gently referred to as 'eccentricity' not 'insanity'."

Chris snapped, "All right, that's it! Not one more word about how stupid this mission is. You think I don't know that? But we have been hired for a job, and we are getting paid -- very well, I might add -- to do it."

+ + + + + + +

The monotony set in quickly.

"This sucks."

"Quiet, Robin," Larabee ordered.

"He's right."

"That's enough, Nova."

"I agree."

"All right, everyone. No one wants to be here, okay? But we have a job to do and we will do it… with professionalism."

There was silence for about thirty seconds after Chris' proclamation before a mumbled, "It bites," came over the line.

Larabee sighed shaking his head. He should never put Vin and Buck in the same position. He needed the two up high, but for some reason the more time spent together, the lower their collective IQ dropped. And being away from home on Christmas Eve did not brighten anyone's mood. He looked beside him to Nathan who shrugged.

"You're not gonna shut them up," Jackson said.

"Tell me something I don't know."

+ + + + + + +

Vin and Buck were definitely bored. The SRT had been on this inane stakeout for hours with no indication of any type of trouble. Though the two soldiers were certain their team's presence wasn't necessary, they obediently remained alert.

But that didn't mean they couldn't have some fun.

Winking at his partner, Buck keyed his radio. "Hey, Robin," he said conversationally, "did you have any Christmas traditions in your family?"

Following Buck's lead, Vin triggered his mike. "Gee whiz, Nova. We sure did."

He waited a beat, in order to see if Chris was going to tell them to shut up again. But, apparently, Larabee had decided that trying to make his men remain silent was an impossible task, and Vin was allowed to continue.

"My ma always used to let me put the angel on the tree. Dad would lift me up to set it on top." He paused, smiling in remembrance. "How 'bout you, Nova?"

"Well, now, pard… my sainted mother made her special dish every year." Buck licked his lips with an exaggerated flair. "Carrots mixed together with Cheez Whiz, topped with sweetened cornflakes."

Vin made puking noises. "That's disgutin'!"

"It's delicious!" Buck protested. "Scoff if you must, but you never tasted heaven - I did."

"Wonder if'n anyone else had some such tradition?"

Both men waited several tense moments, hoping the team would continue the conversation. Finally, the gravely voice of Josiah filtered across the airwaves.

"I do recall that my sister, Hannah, and I used to wake up real early Christmas morning. We'd open up all the little presents inside the stockings Santa had left at the bottom of our beds, but then we had to wait until our folks woke up to open the rest."

After this the others needed no prompting.

JD offered, "My mom always let me pick out one present to open on Christmas Eve."

"No matter where my mother was at Christmastime - usually apart from me - I received an old-fashioned, homemade pecan pie," added Standish.

"Homemade?" asked Buck incredulously. "Maude?"

"That, gentlemen, is what made the gift so special."

"My family all snuggled together on the couch, and watched It's a Wonderful Life." Nathan added, "Every time a bell rings…"

"An angel gets its wings," everyone chorused, then laughed.

"What about you, Shepherd?" Dunne bravely asked.

Larabee stuttered, "W-we never had any traditions."

Buck called out, "Now, Stud, you know that's jest not true."

"Shut… up… Nova."

But nothing - not even the wrath of Larabee - could stop Buck once he was on a roll. "Ev'ry year, he and Sarah--"

"Bu-Nova, I know where you live," Larabee threatened.

"He and Sarah used to 'bless' the Christmas tree by getting frisky under it."

Catcalls and hoots were yelled over the radio.

"Whoo hee, Cowboy," Vin cackled, "I'm glad I'm sleepin' on m'boat."

"I may want to stay over at your place tonight, Nova," added Dunne.

"No way, kid," Buck laughed. "You better just hope Shepherd isn't feeling playful."

"Um… we have movement," Ezra reported, interrupting the banter.

"What?!" Shock radiated from Chris' voice, the threats of violence forgotten.

Buck and Vin exchanged a look. "What?"

"Nova, Robin, ten o'clock from your position - along the fence line."

Vin looked through his night-vision scope while Buck used the goggles from his pack. Creeping along the fence was a figure dressed in dark clothes.

"Roger that, Cypher," Vin called, "we see him."

"Is he solo?" their leader asked.

"The bogey looks to be solo," Buck reported.

"Merlin, Wonk, apprehend with gentility."

Buck grinned at Vin. Chris' command told Josiah and JD to contain the trespasser with as little force as necessary. With the current mindset, and this being private property, they wanted to limit the possibility of a lawsuit.

Within a very short time, JD's voice echoed in their headsets. "Package wrapped. Escorting to base." Josiah and JD were bringing their captive to Larabee's and Jackson's location. Both Vin and Buck remained in their high location as sentry.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra reached his leader's position just before the prisoner was brought in. Larabee, Jackson, and Standish automatically drew their guns to cover their teammates' approach. Soon a brightly dressed man in red and white ambled in. His hands were cuffed in front of him, and he was flanked by Dunne and Sanchez.

Confusion registered on everyone's faces, as Chris asked, "Who the hell is this?"

JD shrugged. "Santa Claus." He took off the prisoner's hat and beard, showing a very young and handsome visage underneath.

"I can see that. What is he doing here?"

Josiah held up a red velvet sack. "Delivering presents."

The man in question was eyeing the men and their guns with trepidation. "I was hired to play Santa for some rich old guy."

"Merlin?" Larabee turned to face Sanchez.

Josiah had finished checking the sack he carried. "Innocuous but expensive gifts - no weapons, no explosives."

"Explosives?!" Santa shook with fear. "I don't know anything about that. I was told to leave those presents under the tree in the main hall. That's all."

"Who hired you?"

"Amanda Martin."

"The fruitcake's wife," Chris snarled. "Goddammit!" He spun and stalked away. Radioing Vin and Buck, he told them to pack up the equipment and assemble by the vehicles. The abruptness of his command warned them not to ask questions.

"I gather we are going to speak with our temporary employer?" Ezra inquired. He followed Larabee toward the main house.

"Here we go," Josiah said, dragging their captive along. JD and Nathan trailed behind.

Larabee pounded on the front door. Minutes later it opened to reveal an anxious millionaire and his very sleepy wife.

"Is that him?" Martin asked, seeing their prisoner. "You caught him."

"Yes, we caught your intruder," Larabee growled. "The threat to your life."

"Should I call the police?"

"No," Sanchez answered, certain Chris was about to throttle Martin, "I think we can handle this on our own."

Amanda Martin finally noticed the young man in the Santa Claus costume surrounded by the men in black. "Derrick? Is that you?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"I don't understand; why are you all here?" asked Mrs. Martin, tightening the belt on her robe.

Ezra moved forward. "We were hired to protect Mr. Martin - from Saint Nick."

"Quentin, you didn't make these men work on Christmas Eve, did you?"

"Well, I thought you were plotting to kill me!" he defended.

The men of the Special Response Team stepped back, deciding to stay out of the married couple's way.

Amanda was oblivious to everything except her husband. "What in heaven's name are you talking about?"

"I heard you on the phone, ordering a man to come quietly and make sure it happens by midnight."

"I was instructing Derrick to ensure he placed the presents under the tree in time."

Martin was rendered speechless, his mouth opening and closing without sound. Finally he managed, "You could have told me."

"I wanted it to be a surprise, you idiot!" Amanda yelled. "After thirty-two years of marriage you think I want to kill you now?" She chuckled mirthlessly. "Believe me, if I'd wanted to kill you, I wouldn't have waited this long to do it."

"Dear, please…"

"No, Quentin, you will apologize to these gentlemen and then you will go upstairs where you will think long and hard about how you will make it up to me." She turned to the men standing in her foyer. "I'm so sorry, boys. Don't worry, you will be compensated for your trouble, and," she shot her husband a dark look, "you can be certain Quentin won't be calling you again."

"Ma'am." Larabee bowed slightly as he signaled his men to leave.

"What happened?" asked Buck as the team trooped toward the vehicles. "Who is he?" He pointed at the costumed actor at the rear of the group.

"This is Derrick," Jackson offered. "We're dropping him off on our way home."

"Hi." Derrick waved weakly.

"What did we miss?" Vin shared a glance with Buck.

Sanchez quickly explained what had transpired.

"Told you that ol' crackpot would ruin our Christmas, pard," Buck admonished.

JD glanced down. "Hey, guess what?"

Nathan asked, "What?"

"It's 12:01 AM." Dunne displayed his watch.

"Merry fucking Christmas," Vin snarked.

"Don't worry, Vin," said Chris, slapping his friend on the back. "I'll have Josiah lift you up so you can put the star on top of the tree."

"Yer a prince, Larabee. A regular Saint Nick."