Part 1 of the "Crossed Paths" series.
The saloon was decorated with pumpkins and cobwebs, skeletons and monsters' masks hanging from the walls. It'd been a lot of work, but Vin didn't mind the effort. He was actually looking forward to a grown-up Halloween party. He had only vague memories of trick or treating once when he was very little. He was at an orphanage at the time.
He never even had a chance to wear a costume that his mom made. She had died when he was only five and had been sick prior to that so she had never made him a costume, or carved pumpkins or roasted pumpkin seeds. This year he had helped Chris help Billy do all those things (well at least the carving of the pumpkins and they had all eaten the roasted seeds)
The team had just wrapped up another successful case and they were due a little down time. Buck and JD had started lobbying the team a couple of weeks prior about a costume part at The Saloon. Nathan had been pretty willing right from the start. He and Rain were looking for a chance to get out and about at someplace festive. Once Nathan was on board Josiah was a shoe in. Vin secretly wanted in on the fun so he watched as Nathan, Josiah, Buck and JD wrangled with Ezra. He knew that Ezra wanted to go as well. Try as he might, the suave, sophisticated undercover agent had led a deprived childhood in many ways and he enjoyed playing with children and acting like a child whenever he could get away with it.
Vin knew that Ezra would give in after a suitably appropriate period of time and do so with an air of exasperation. After all, appearances are important, you know. Once Ezra had fallen Vin decided to take things into his own hands. He watched as five of the seven began conspiring on the remaining two. With a nonchalance that was the envy of many, he slipped into Chris' office and quickly convinced him it was better just to give in now and avoid the badgering. At least they would have some respite from the constant pressure to join in on the fun if they just joined in at the beginning. Besides, Vin figured, it would be fun to watch the looks on Buck's and JD's faces when all their grandiose plans on how to badger, trick, wheedle, coerce, persuade and pester went up in smoke.
So, as one, the leader and second in command strode from the office and announced that it was about time the other five had gotten their collective acts together and it was time to pick their costumes. The look on all their faces was priceless Vin had thought. Of course, he was looking forward to seeing their faces after he brought back their costumes. He had decided a few changes were in order, especially for Ezra.
After one final glance to make sure everything was set, he grabbed his keys, yelled a quick "See ya later, Inez," and raced to the costume shop.
+ + + + + + +
Vin made it back to the office just as everyone was getting worried about the time. Putting on his best poker face he went to each of the team members desks and dropped off the garment bags that contained their 'hand-picked' costumes.
Vin sat back at his desk and watched each team member as they discovered their garment bags' contents.
"What the hell!" Buck's roar split the stunned silence first. He turned beet red and then his mouth opened again and then shut just as quickly. He stood there stupefied as he looked for a second and then a third time at his costume.
JD was next. His eager excitement turned to dismay, confusion, and then excitement again.
"Cool." Vin just smiled. He knew JD would roll with the punches and get into the moment.
+ + + + + + +
Nathan and Josiah exchanged concerned looks as they realized that Tanner had been the wrong choice to go and collect their costumes. With great trepidation each man warily opened their bags arching their bodies back a bit as if afraid something would pop out and bite them. Josiah just grinned and shook his head, ever the patient one.
Nathan closed his eyes for a moment and then like a man plunging into icy waters on New Year's Day he simultaneously opened the bag and opened his eyes. To say he was shocked into silence would be an understatement. For a moment Vin was afraid he had sent the team's medic into shock.
Ezra was oblivious to the commotion around him. Instead he was dramatically going on about the exquisite taste he has in costumes.
". . .the line of the tailoring and the choice of fabric are what make the. . ."
The other four immediately focused on Ezra as his characteristic flood of words stopped.
"I couldn't possibly. Never. How could. . ."
"Hey, Ez, is that a tentacle?"
"Nah, I think it's an antenna."
"There isn't any possibility I would adorn my body in that... in that... horrendous, BLA. . .. I can't Mr. Larabee, I would like to have a tête-à-tête relating to this matter with Mr. Tanner, maybe there was a mistake.
As Ezra stood rapping his knuckles on Chris' door the others burst into laughter at his antics.
Then Chris came out of his office. Everyone stopped, not only at the unusual sight before them but the jingle of the spurs caught their attention as well.
Chris looked in amazement across the room. He watched as Vin just stared at him with a smile. In that moment he saw not the grown man, sharpshooter, best friend, most annoying, long-haired, Texan-drawled pain in the neck that he wouldn't trade for best friend ever, but he saw a scared, underfed, underloved, long-haired, Texan-drawled, lost little boy.
He closed his eyes and wondered if it was possible. Then he heard Buck's roaring laughter followed by Ezra's exclamations of dismay. He opened his eyes to see Vin holding up Ezra's costume as if sizing it to fit the undercover agent. He started to chuckle at how much this evening was going to bug Ezra. . .bug, he almost laughed out loud. This is going to be a lot of fun for all.
His previous thoughts vanished from his mind as if the wind swept them away.
It wasn't the wind, but it did have an ethereal-like quality. . .
Part 2: The Football Game