Keeping Things in Perspective
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This is a response to the Thanksgiving Day gathering challenge. Thanks to Kerry for the very speedy beta.
Warning: Bad language, lots of it.
"It's your fault, and no one else's, so don't go bitching to me Larabee! Post holes - hah! Who the hell digs post holes on Thanksgiving? No one, thats who. What kind of hard assed fucking moron digs postholes at seven A fucking M on Thanksgiving? That is not what Thanksgiving is for."
"Oh yeah, well what is Thanksgiving for?"
"I'll tell ya, it's fer staying in bed, an havin a nice long lie-in. It's fer eating what you want for breakfast, and t' hell with cholesterol, it's fer watching a cheesy movie on TV before you even get dressed, and it's about eating that bird. Roast turkey an' all the fixin's, eating it 'till you can't move any further than the couch to watch the game. That's what Thanksgiving is for, not digging fucking stupid holes!"
Look Tanner, you invited yerself to my home, dont go bitchin about what I do in that home, no one asked you you know?
You said you was gonna have a nice relaxin Thanksgiving at home, an I said want some company? an you said if ya want. Thats what you said, everyone knows that means yes!
Josiah said he wanted a nice relaxing Thanksgiving at home too, why didnt you ask him if he wanted company?
Cause he aint got a wide screen plasma TV fer watchin the game and the cheesy movie on! An now were here anyway and its all yer fault! Stupid, hard assed mother F
VINCENT MICHAEL TANNER!
Vin turned abruptly to face the owner of the doorstep they were arguing on.
You will not use profane language like that in my home or even on my doorstep, not on this day!
Tanners fury melted in an instant. Hi Josiah! he greeted breezily. "How are you? Havin a good Thanksgiving?
On what we want dummy, Chris commented, shooting daggers at Vin.
Dont call me dummy I aint the one who
Enough! Josiah cut in, before the argument could re-start. Do I take it you two are, for some reason, homeless?
You could say that, Chris admitted, while Vin continued to mumble under his breath that it was all Chris fault.
I see, so why is this, no, no I get the feeling I may need a stiff drink to hear this one. Why, if for some reason you cant stay at the ranch, didn't you go to Vins place?
Vins head came up and he grinned at Josiah, knowing he was about to score points with the big man. Cause my place is full, see I knew Id be at Chris all weekend,
Naturally, since you invited yourself, Chris muttered, though Vin ignored him.
An Sophia, shes having all the family over and no room for em, so I said they could all crash at my place. Now I cant turn up and tell em all to get out, can I? Granddad Genes ninety one!
Josiah smiled benevolently, as Vin knew he would. No, you cant do that. But you could have called me first.
We tried to, Chris explained. Youre lines busy.
Oh, Josiah looked over his shoulder into the house. yes, that was, yeah okay, fair enough. What about my cell?
Not working, Vin informed him.
Josiah frowned, reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his cell phone. Damn that thing, he cursed. Battery's died, I only charged it yesterday.
You probably need a new one. Can we come in?
Sanchez took a deep breath, then shook his head with resigned amusement. Why not, come one, come all. He stepped to the side and with a sweeping gesture, ushered them into his home.
+ + + + + + +
Hi guys! JD greeted as he walked into the hall. Heres $20 for the phone call. He handed a $20 bill to Josiah.
It can't have cost that much.
JD grinned. I know, but take it on account, its gonna be a long weekend."
JD, arent you meant to be in Cleveland? Chris asked.
Yeah? Vin joined in.
Long story guys, JD explained as he headed back to the living room. So why are you two here?
Long story, Chris growled.
His fault, Vin stated firmly.
Will you just quit that!
Im jist statin the plain truth. If you hadnt a started t dig
How was I to know wha
Stop it! Josiah managed to bellow without actually raising his voice. Buck is asleep and Id like him to stay that way for a bit, so just leave it, until you can explain it without yelling. No go in and sit down and Ill put some coffee on. Do not wake Buck up.
Looking suitably chastised, Vin and Chris followed JD back into Josiahs spacious living room. The house was Victorian and thus the rooms were all generously proportioned with high ceilings. Josiah had purchased it in poor condition, the neighbourhood at the time, while not as bad a Vins, was still poor. These days it was one of the city's most desirable residential districts, and the house was now worth nearly 7 times what Josiah paid for it. Not that his battle to restore the old place ever seemed to be won, every month he seemed to have a new restoration project or new domestic disaster to keep him occupied. He complained, but the others all reckoned he really loved it.
In the big living room the furniture was arranged in a loose semi circle around the fireplace, where a log fire now blazed. The TV, a normal, regular TV, stood to one side of the fireplace. There were two huge Chesterfield type leather sofas, two recliners also leather, and a rocking chair. Buck lay stretched out on one of the sofas dressed in what looked like blue hospital scrubs and sleeping under an old afghan throw.
What the hell happened to him? Chris demanded in a hushed snarl.
JD dropped down into one of the recliners. Like I told you, long story.
Chris went to sit in the other recliner.
Chris! JD hissed.
Not there, thats Josiahs chair, he gets cranky if you sit in his chair.
With a dramatic sigh, Chris pulled himself back up and sat down on the other couch, keeping as far as possible from Vin, who was lounging at the other end.
So tell us this long story, Vin prompted.
Okay, Buck was gonna spend the weekend with Beth, they had a cabin booked.
We know that bit, Chris commented.
Buck had informed them of every little detail of his planned four day break, alone in the mountains with the fair Beth.
Right, but see the lady downstairs, the mad one
You have a mad lady downstairs? Vin looked dramatically over the arm of the sofa at the polished floorboards.
Not here, you idiot. At the condo, theres this old lady, shes, well you know? Shes a bit confused and shes been feeding the animals.
Animals? Vins curiosity was now peeked even more, after all Buck and JD lived right in the city.
Stay dogs and cats, racoons, foxes, pigeons, you name it, she puts food out. Reckon shed feed snakes if she saw one, she really is nuts.
Get to the point kid, what does one little old lady have to do with you not being in Cleveland and Buck being in scrubs? Chris fixed JD with a glare.
Okay, okay, Im getting to it, I just wanted to give you guys the whole story.
Yeah, leave the kid alone, let him tell the story. Vin turned back to JD and smiled. Go ahead JD, tell us.
Thanks Vin. Okay so shes feeding all these animals and where you have food lying around in a city, you get
Rats, Vin supplied.
Right, so she starts feeding them too.
Oh yes, me and Buck didnt notice, but then were on the third floor and we're hardly ever there.
And you hardly ever take the trash out, Chris added.
We do too. Well anyway, the other residents, mostly the ones lower down, complained, but she didnt stop so they went to the city, public health hazard and all that. Last week the city took out an injunction, stopping her from feeding the animals and yesterday pest control came by to put down poison.
Bucks been poisoned? Chris asked, suddenly very concerned.
Well what did happen, exactly.
See they didnt want to kill anyones cat or dog, so they put the stuff in these traps with poison bait, mostly around the dumpster, I guess thats where the rats go, mostly. Anyway, when I got to the garage, after he took the trash down
Buck took the trash out? Vin asked with clear incredulity.
Yes, we do take out trash, the CD I mean our place, isnt that bad you know?
Yeah it is, Chris insisted.
Look Chris, do you want to hear what happened or not?
Their leader rolled his eyes dramatically. Oh tell us by all means, Mark Twian.
JD was about to ask what Chris problem was, but Vin just shook his head, so he let it drop.
Buck was gonna drive me to the airport, so I met him downstairs and we headed out, cant have gone more than, say, half a mile and Buck starts taking his hand off the wheel and rubbing it, saying its burning. I took a look and he had this rash, all over his hand. So he pulls in and I take over the driving and tell him to go to the hospital after he drops me off, but about a mile further on he starts gasping for breath and clutching his throat, so I call in a 911 and headed for the hospital, lights flashing, horn going for all Im worth. By the time Im pulling in hes unconscious and theres this crash team waiting for us. Any sarcasm or irritation had left Chris face. Never been so scared in all my life.
Ill bet, what was it?
Vin audibly gasped. Josiah came back in with four mugs of coffee and sat in his seat. It was clear hed heard the story already but still found the tale worrisome.
By the time they had him in the ER hed crashed, heart, breathing, everything had stopped. I couldnt see it all, but they stuck him with needle, that was the adrenaline, and shocked him, and " JD waved his hand at the slumbering Wilmington. "he came back."
"Is he okay?" Chris asked anxiously.
"They were worried about brain damage, 'cause he stopped breathing, but he seems to be fine, and then they did all kinds of tests to find out what caused it. He told me to go to the airport, see if I could get another flight, but there was nothing, not even first class. First flight I can get is on Friday afternoon, and thats on standby."
"That's tough kid," Vin sympathised. "What did you tell Casey?"
JD shrugged. "The truth, we had a long chat this morning."
Chris was still watching Buck sleep. "So did they work out what he's allergic to?"
"Oh yes, rat fleas. One of them bit his hand. Apparently rat fleas don't like human blood much, so they only bite us if they're desperate."
"The rats in the garbage all died so they were desperate?" Vin offered.
"Apparently. The docs said to be safe the apartment and the garage have to be fumigated along with all our clothes and bedding. Luckily I had these in my bag." he indicated his own rugby shirt and jeans. "They were new, still in their wrapping. The hospital loaned Buck those scrubs he's got on and gave him one of those Epi-pens, just in case. But they say rat flea bites are really rare."
While JD went on to explain how long they were going to be homeless, Josiah answered the phone.
"Hello? - Yes you too, and send my love to Rain - What? - You're kidding - Man, that is bad luck. - No you're right, not worth the risk. Why didn't you call yesterday? - Well it didn't work out that way, come on over, bring any food you've got. - I'll tell you when you get here but Buck, JD, Chris and Vin are all here. - Just come on over - Bye."
When he put the phone down three faces were fixed on him. "What's up with Nate, I thought he and Rain were heading out to her folks in Atlanta?" Chris asked.
Josiah shook his head. "Rain's nephew's come down with mumps, apparently Nate's never had it or had the shot."
"Not something you wanna risk," came sage words of wisdom from the couch.
"Buck, how long have you been awake?" JD demanded.
"Long enough." Buck sat up, his hand automatically going to his hair, trying to rake it back into some kind of order.
"You okay?" Chris asked.
"Apart from having had almost no sleep, a chest that feels like a line backer ran into it, more needle holes in me than a pin cushion, being homeless, clothes-less and having to be afraid of fucking rats - I'm fine." He grinned as Chris continued to view him critically. "I'm fine. Hey coffee!"
"That's mine." Vin snatched it away.
"I'll get you some," JD offered, "anyone want chips?" A chorus of affirmatives greeted his offer. "Get him to tell you about the movie we watched this morning!"
+ + + + + + +
"What movie?" Vin asked, sitting back, cradling his coffee protectively.
"Nothing special, we watched this cheesy movie this morning on Hallmark."
Chris looked over at Josiah. "Hallmark?"
Sanchez shrugged. "It came with the movie package."
"See Larabee, cheesy movies before ya get dressed, that's what ya meant to do, not dig fuc- sorry Josiah - dumb holes!" Vin groused again.
"Holes? What holes?" Buck asked, eager to turn the conversation away from the movie. "Just why are you two here anyway?"
"It's all Chris' fault, see he -" Vin began.
"So tell us about the movie," Chris prompted Josiah quickly.
"Oh it was an epic tale of the frontier, in which -"
"Nothing much happened," Buck cut in. "boy meets girl, few ups a few downs, boy gets girl. No big deal."
"Boy! He was a man, and he looked -" Josiah corrected Buck, taking back the narrative.
"Nothing like me!"
"Exactly like you if you were a few years older and few pounds heavier."
"He did not."
"Yeah he did." JD came back handing Buck a mug of coffee and placing several bowls of chips around the room, the largest ones he placed next to Vin and himself. "He had your eyes and your laugh, but he sang better than you."
"No he didn't, I sing way better than that!"
"So you admit he looks like you?" JD challenged.
"No! So when is Nate getting here?"
Josiah considered torturing Buck more about the man in the movie, but decided not to. He could tell that the night's events had taken more out of the easy going man, and scared him more, then he was ever going to admit.
"Soon, I hope he's got plenty of food, otherwise it's going to be a lean lunch."
"Oh darn, we've got food," Vin suddenly exclaimed. "It's in the car."
"Its a truck, don't call it a car," Chris growled.
"I'll call it a car so long as you call the jeep 'an unreliable death trap'."
"It is 'an unreliable death trap', my Ram is a truck."
"You two just quit it, just go get the food in from the truck." Josiah glared at both of them.
Shaking his head, Buck rose, stretched and winced as the movement caught his bruised chest.
"You okay?" Josiah asked softly as Vin and Chris left, still bickering.
"Fine, I'm gonna get dressed."
"I put some clothes on the bed, hopefully some of them will fit you."
+ + + + + + +
Buck eased his way into the drawstring sweat bottoms that Josiah had left out for him, along with the plain blue long sleeve T-shirt, both hung off his lean frame, but they were better than the hospital scrubs. Once he'd tugged on the thick socks Josiah had left out, he pulled out his cell phone and, on a hunch, dialled Ezra's number.
"Who else would be answering my home phone?"
"I was just gonna wish you a happy Thanksgiving, how's Maude?" There was a long pause. "Ezra?"
For a master of deception Ezra was doing a very bad job of hiding his feelings.
"She's not there, is she?" Buck just knew she'd let Ezra down again, he wasn't sure how he knew, he just had a gut feeling. Ezra hadn't responded. "Ez?"
"No, she wasn't able to make it, something came up that required her attention in Boston."
"Ah hell Ez, come on over to Josiah's place, we're all here."
"Thank you, but I am quite happy here, I have sufficient supplies for the whole four days and I don't intend to set one foot outside my door until Monday morning."
"Damn it Ezra! I know this weekend was gonna go to hell, we should never try and do Thanksgiving separately, never!"
"Indeed, interesting theory. So just why are you at Mr Sanchez's, where you not going to spend a romantic weekend in the mountains with the paramedic from heaven?"
"Oh, yeah long story, I got delayed and in the meantime she got called into work. Seems two of the crews scheduled to work today had a pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving dinner and all got food poisoning, so all the unmarried paramedics got called in to cover. Come on over Ezra, please."
"You say the others are all there, how did this happen?"
"I'm not gonna tell you. You wanna know, you gotta come, but-"
"Even I don't know what's up with Chris and Vin, but Vin is madder than a wet hen and Chris is meaner than a bob cat with a nose full of porcupine quills."
"So come on over and find out what's up."
"Come on, bring yer fancy food too, there is only so much chilli a man can eat!"
"We'll be waiting."
+ + + + + + +
Under the threat of being sent to Buck and JD's condo to spend Thanksgiving with the rats, fleas and exterminators, Chris and Vin called a truce while dinner was prepared and the table set. It was an unusual meal, there was a small stuffed turkey breast, tinned ham, some sausages, mashed potatoes, fries, peas, yams, garlic mushrooms, asparagus, apricot and sausage meat stuffing, no less than three different kinds of gravy, traditional cranberry sauce and fancy European recurrent jelly with port. To follow there were two pecan pies, a creme brulee and ice cream with chocolate sauce. There would have been a turkey, but Chris and Vin had left it in the freezer at the ranch.
"Right," Josiah announced. "The meal will be ready in about ten minutes, before we sit down and eat I want you two -" he pointed at Chris and Vin. "- to tell me what is going on."
"It was his fault!"
"I said tell me, not assign blame, Vincent!"
"Sorry, see Larabee here thinks Thanksgiving is fer diggin' post holes - "
"We got that bit. Chris, you wanna explain why diggin' fence posts leads to you two being homeless?"
Chris took a deep breath, glared once at Vin, a clear warning to keep quiet, then began, "It was the top field, the one that runs up into the tree line." The others nodded, they knew the place. "The fence has been falling down for a while, so I was gonna take these four days to fix it - don't look at me like that, it's my weekend, I can do what I like with my time - so I start digging the first hole and I found a box."
"A box?" Buck asked. "What kind of box?"
"A box full of fucking dynamite!" Vin explained.
"Vin!" Josiah warned.
"Dynamite? What the hell are you doing with dynamite on your land?" Buck asked.
"It's not mine."
"No way, it's older than him," Vin explained.
"Old dynamite?" Nathan asked, horrified.
"Yeah, very old, sweaty dynamite," Vin confirmed.
"Shit!" JD exclaimed.
Chris shook his head. "There's that big rock in the field," the others nodded. " and I just about remember my granddad talking about getting rid of it, guess he got the dynamite for that, but never used it. Probably buried it out there because Gran wouldn't have it near the house."
"So what did you do?" Josiah asked.
"Ran," Vin stated simply.
"And called the bomb squad," Chris explained. "They cordoned off the place and told us not to come back until Saturday, we only just had time to get the horses over to the neighbour's."
"See, I told you it was his fault, no one digs post holes on Thanksgiving! Now we're never gonna hear the end of it. ATF's toughest team leader with illegal, degrading dynamite on his land! Oh they are gonna make us pay and pay!"
"What's with the 'we'? It's my land."
Vin looked shocked. "Well hell cowboy, we're still a team."
"Amen to that, so let's eat," Josiah announced.
+ + + + + + +
They all helped get the meal on the table and then sat down to eat.
"Guys before we eat, I want to say something," their host declared. "We didn't plan this, but now we are at this table together, I want us to be thankful that we are here - together. We have food on the table, a roof over our heads and a fire in the grate and most of all we have each other, friends, all of us fit and healthy. To my mind that is a lot to be thankful for."
"You said it brother."