A Saturday In December

by Amber F. Drabble

FEEDBACK: Good reviews are welcome, flames will be used to make s'mores and hot dogs.

ORIGIN: I just had to post this. I know I've never said anything before, but this game is special. I know this is the second silly, pointless, sports-related thing I've written about The Boys. I really will write them in something serious someday. I've got both an OW and an ATFE project working, it's just dealing with my 'come-a-day-go-a-day' muse and her guru.

DEDICATION: Happy Birthday, Daddy! (US Navy, 1959-1963. USS Randolph CV-15 'Randu Cando' and USS Constellation CVA-64 'The Flaming Lady') GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY! And beat CSU!

SUMMARY: Thar' be no plot here. Two Navy vets and three Army vets in one place, the Army-Navy game is going to come up. I'm just glad none of The Boys were in the Air Force, I don't think I could write a kind word about the Zoomies, especially Zoomie U. down in CO Springs.

Motto of the Army-Navy Game:
"Rivals for 60 minutes, comrades for life."

Chris' place
Summit Co., CO
Saturday 3 December 2005

"Lo, though I may walk through the valley of the shadow of Death ... "

"What th' Hell you doin', boy? You leave yo' brain in yo' room?"

"Not that way! Naw! T'other way! Aw hell, fergit it! If'n ya ain't gonna run, jist lie down an' die!"

Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington just clinked their Old Dusseldorf long necks together -- having connections in the brotherhood of the SEALs sure came in handy sometimes -- and laughed.

J.D. Dunne and Ezra Standish had long ago retreated to the safety of the kitchen. Most of the time, being the only non-military veterans on Team 7 didn't affect them. But the first Saturday of December ... five-sevenths of Team 7 collectively lost their minds on the first Saturday of December.

It had started so innocently, Nathan Jackson walking in the office the Monday after Thanksgiving, their first year together, and saying, "Hey, Army-Navy Game's comin' up. How 'bout we bet a steak dinner on it?"

Buck winced. "I need to get some things for my truck, I'm not sure I've got enough cash to float a steak dinner for The Monster Who Ate Texas over here." He chucked a thumb at Vin Tanner, who was kicked back in his chair, grinning hugely with his arms folded behind his head.

"Concedin' defeat already, Bucklin? Where's yer Navy Pride?"

Chris rolled his eyes. "Please, don't ask. You know that riff Ron White has, about bein' drunk in public, and havin' the right to remain silent but not the ability?" He pointed at Buck. "The Alexandria, Virginia PD still keeps a file on this joker. They use him as a case study in the police academy."

"I get in one little dust-up with one barful of ground-pounders, and he never lets me forget it. Jeez, Pard, that was goin' on twenty years ago, now."

"Yeah, and when I went back to Virginia to train for this job, I stopped at that bar one night. The bartender remembered me." Chris sighed and looked at Nathan. "So, what are we talkin' about here? This is Denver, after all, we've got steakhouses on every corner in this town."

"Remind me!" J.D. interjected. "I wish I'd realized how landlocked I was gonna be before I got talked into this hayride!" After an upbringing on the East Coast with that morning's catch on that night's supper table, J.D. was having a hard time adjusting to a city where he had to go on a scavenger hunt for so much as a halfway-decent clam roll.

Chris slanted J.D. a quick look, but otherwise ignored him. "Between The Waffle House and The ChopHouse, there's a lot of options."

Ezra folded his tongue inside his mouth. Finding Waffle Houses in Denver had been a pleasant surprise, but he'd undergo severe torture before admitting he ever graced the inside of one.

Vin snorted. "We'd best start with Th' Waffle House an' work up from there. If'n by some miracle th' Mids did git lucky, I cain't swing Th' ChopHouse."

Nathan grinned. "I was thinkin' somewhere in the middle to start with. Outback or Stuart Anderson's, or that Texas RoadHouse out on Mississippi."

Vin barked like a seal and grinned at Ezra. "Hey, Ez, ya happen ta have a recipe fer marinara sauce? I got me a sudden hankerin' fer Squid."

"The appropriate terminology is 'calamari,' Mr. Tanner. As it happens, I was once the acquaintance of an older Italian gentleman who loved to cook, and bequeathed to me the wealth of his knowledge. This included no less than five variations on marinara sauce."

And that was how it had begun. In the beginning, J.D. had rooted for Navy, "because I do want a place to sleep tonight, y'know." And Ezra "for reasons of my own," had rooted for Army. But after a few post-game revenge pranks had exceeded even their tolerance levels, they'd decided to hide in the kitchen until the game was over.

In the time since Team 7's inception, one thing the men had discovered about each other was that they were all sports junkies, and their team loyalties stretched as far across the map as their points of origin. J.D. would become physically combative if anyone dared insult the Boston Red Sox, and a verbal attack against the Dallas Cowboys was a good way to land on Vin's prank list. And Vin could be ungodly creative; more than one person had let themselves be lulled into complacency by his 'don't-mind-me' attitude.

They'd learned very quickly not to bet large amounts of cash money with Ezra around. Buck had bet the rent -- without first consulting J.D. -- on a UNLV game during March Madness. Paying one month's rent all by himself had put J.D. two months behind on his bike payments. Josiah Sanchez helped J.D. cover the gap, taking it out in 'sweat equity' by having the younger agent help out with his never-ending list of home repair projects. Chris had laid down the law -- no cash bets over $100.00.

Enforced creativity had led to some interesting situations. Josiah's and Nathan's houses were both fixer-uppers -- Nathan called Josiah's north Denver Victorian a 'faller-downer,' just because the hot water and electricity in his own circa-1930's Park Hill bungalow worked more often, but he was just as likely to answer his cell phone inside Lowe's or Home Depot -- so offering a weekend and a pair of hands was always good for them. Ezra got around that by buying gift cards. There was likewise always something that needed doing at Chris' ranch, but he'd take a ticket to whatever country artist that happened to be playing in-state. Some wagers were settled with something as simple as a 24-pack of soda -- J.D. would drink just about anything -- but he'd gotten Ezra's Jag to take Casey out for a night on the town, once when the Atlanta Braves Assassin Squad pitching staff had let the undercover agent down.

Another time it had been an Atlanta Hawks-Dallas Mavericks basketball game, and Vin had gotten a little tired of Ezra's high-toned behavior. "Awright, Ez. The Hawks win, I'll go ta th' opera. Th' Mavs win, yer goin' with me ta Th' Grizzly Rose." A saloon in northern Denver that was one of the primary venues for country music.

Ezra had smiled, smugly confident in the Hawks' ability to win the game. After all, weren't no less than three of Dallas' best players on the bench? "You have a bet, Mr. Tanner."

The Mavs had rolled through the Hawks like they didn't exist, and the whole team had accompanied Vin and Ezra to the Ty Herndon concert. Nathan brought a camera, to provide proof that Ezra had been seen inside The Grizzly Rose. To say it had been a profitable evening for Buck was beside the point.

Ezra winced as Nathan, Josiah and Vin shouted again. "Can you imagine if any of them had actually attended either West Point or Annapolis?"

"We'd have to tie them down. And Navy's got that bowl game coming up against Colorado State." J.D. was hunched over the Sports section of the Saturday Post-News, wielding a magnifying glass over the college basketball reports. UMass had to be in here somewhere ...

"Oh, my Gawd!" came out of Chris, punctuated by a wild rebel yell that could only be Vin Tanner.

"Hook 'em, 'Horns! Thank ya kindly, boys, I really needed that today!"

J.D. screwed up his courage and ventured out. "What gives?" Vin was standing in front of the TV, arms raised in triumph over his head with a gleeful expression on his face. Chris was glaring at him with a look he usually only reserved for their professional quarry. Buck was gathering himself to jump, just in case he had to physically keep Chris away from Vin. The Denver Broncos had beat the Dallas Cowboys -- by one field goal, in overtime -- on Thanksgiving, and Vin had attempted to exact retribution out of Chris' hide. It had also been the only time anyone could remember Vin picking at Ezra's cooking -- or anyone's!

"Texas 70, Colorado 3! Hook 'em, 'Horns, th' Buffs got trampled today!"

Rolling his eyes, J.D. beat feet back to the kitchen. "Why can't they just all get drunk, like I did when the Red Sox won?"

"And how many dead soldiers have we retrieved from in there?" 'Dead soldiers' was slang for empty bottles -- or cans, in Vin's case.

"I quit counting."


Nathan hollered over the back of the couch. "Hey, Ezra! Them brownies done yet? I need somethin' to drown my sorrows!"

Ezra eyed the oven timer. "Five more minutes, Mr. Jackson! And your sorrows have only begun!" The Georgia Bulldogs were playing the Louisiana State Tigers later, and Nathan was rooting for the Tigers only because Ezra was rooting for the Bulldogs.

J.D. glanced out the window, where snow had been falling since last night. No chance of going on a ride today, he'd just have to hope that nobody actually did take a go at each other. At least not badly enough to need Nathan's attention. He grinned as he picked up the magnifying glass again. Oh well, who was he to complain about a little shouting during a game? Between the Red Sox and the Patriots, he'd done his share of hollering. Be nice if the Celtics and the Bruins would get on board, too, but he wasn't making foolish wishes. He glanced at his watch.

"Too bad we didn't do this at your place, you could have the brownies in one oven and the roast in the other."

Ezra grinned. "Too many breakable items at my place."

"Oh yeah, so why'd you put that crystal magnolia Olivia gave you on your desk at work?"

"For the same reason Mr. Tanner put the crystal yellow rose she gave him on his desk." Putting down the Entertainment section, Ezra poked his nose out, just as Josiah started in on the Lord's Prayer -- in Aramaic. Shaking his head, he sat back down, sharing a smile with J.D. "Honestly, is there anywhere you'd rather be today?"

"Unless the alternative involves Casey, hell, no."