Team Seven of the ATF had hit the ground running. Once the last member was personally recruited by Team Leader Chris Larabee, they seemed to gel and work together like a finely tuned machine. They even enjoyed each others company outside of work, usually at least two if not more of the team would be together.
Buck and JD spearheaded a get together during Thanksgiving their first year as a team that was loud, rambunctious, and full of laughter. A case kept them busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas that year resulting in a successful bust, with no injuries, on December 23rd. With no plans made the seven men said their goodbyes and seasons greetings as they left work on the 23rd knowing they wouldn't see each other until after the first of new year.
Christmas eve Vin took a deep breath to calm his nerves as he knocked on Ezra's door. Ezra was a little surprised to find Vin at his doorstep.
"Is there something I can assist you with Mr Tanner," Ezra asked not inviting Vin inside his home.
"I thought maybe we could do something," Vin said willing Ezra to understand.
"I would think you would have taken refuse at Mr Larabee's ranch if you were lonely," Ezra challenged trying to find out what was really going on.
Vin's head dropped and Ezra thought he wasn't going to get an answer at first. Then Vin looked up to confess, "Chris is my best friend and I can tell him anything but he wouldn't understand not wanting to be alone again on Christmas."
"And you think I would," Ezra said harsher than he meant since his heart was pounding.
Ezra didn't miss the hurt that flashed through Vin's eyes just before he mumbled, "Never mind, Christmas is just a day nothing special," as he turned to leave.
"Wait," Ezra walked out chasing Vin, "Mr Tanner Vin I do understand. I've been feeling rather lonely and I apologize for letting Maude's teachings not to let anyone see what you are feeling come out so readily."
Vin turned back a soft smile forming, "I understand about hidin' your feelings too."
"I'd be willing to bet if we showed up together at Chris's he wouldn't ask as many questions," Ezra said excited at the prospect at having a friend around for Christmas.
"Especially if we showed up with dinner," Vin added his smile growing with his excitement that this might be a good Christmas after all.
The two men entered Ezra's apartment making their Christmas plans and feeling the warmth of the season fill them with happiness.
Their plans made, Ezra started for the phone to set things up for dinner with a chef friend of his. Vin stopped him saying, "Ezra, we don't have to go to Chris's I'm happy just to spend time with you."
Ezra felt warm all over, he knew Vin was trying to tell him that he didn't come over just for the con man to help him get to Chris. Vin came because he honestly wanted to be with Ezra. Suddenly a horrible thought occurred to Ezra, what if Vin thought he was trying foist him off on Chris so he didn't have to be with him. "As I would enjoy spending time with you my friend," Ezra said quickly not bothering to hide his feelings.
Vin started to laugh, followed closely by Ezra. "We're a pair ain't we."
"Yes, I'm afraid you are quite correct," Ezra agreed. "Years of guarding your feelings against the hurt that can come from revealing them has affects us both. Perhaps if we look at if as we are saving another friend from spending the holiday alone that would help."
"It's our moral duty to help Chris out," Vin agreed, his eyes twinkling with mirth matching the huge smile on his handsome face.
"Absolutely," Ezra agreed his green eyes glowing with the pleasure he was feeling. His smile dropped when he turned to Vin to say very seriously, "Thank you Vin, for reaching out to me. I do believe you truly understand what your actions have meant to me."
Vin nodded as he added, "Thank you too Ezra, you could have just slammed the door in my face." Vin reached out again, this time his hand. Ezra didn't hesitate to take Vin's hand, the two men feeling a bond that would remain between the two of them.
"Enough of this sentimentality, we have a plan to undertake," Ezra said reaching for his phone.
Three stops later they were on their way to Chris's, their overnight bags, gifts, and the Christmas dinner they were bringing sat in the back.
"You ready for this?" Vin asked as they pulled into Chris's driveway.
"Mr Larabee won't know what hit him," Ezra replied preparing to put their plan into action.
Chris was standing on the porch watching Vin's jeep drive up. Vin he wasn't surprised to see, he was hoping Vin would come out. Ezra was a different matter, as happy as it made Chris to see him getting out of the jeep he was the last man Chris expected to see unannounced.
"Hey, Cowboy," Vin called out, reaching in the back of the jeep to grab his and Ezra's bags. He handed them to Chris saying, "Here take these," before grabbing the bags of gifts.
"What's going on boys," Chris asked trying not to show them how pleased he was they were here.
Ezra managed to work to box containing their Christmas dinner out and started carrying it toward the house. "It would seem that a friend of mine ended up with an extra Christmas dinner," Ezra explained. "Mr Tanner and I felt after all the meals you have graciously provided for the team, it would be the considerate thing to do for us to share our bounty with you."
"You came all the way out here to bring Christmas dinner?" Chris smirked. "Christmas is tomorrow."
"Well, hell we know that, Cowboy," Vin laughed shaking his head at Chris. "Why do you think we brought out stuff."
Chris was left standing on his porch staring at the two men who were making themselves at home. He was broken out of his stupor when Vin said, "Ain't you coming in."
Vin dropped the bags of gifts in the living room then headed for the kitchen to help Ezra unload their meal. Chris was waiting in the living room when they finished, their overnight bags on the floor by his feet,
"I want the truth and I want it now," Chris insisted his arms folded across his chest.
"We told you Mr Larabee, the chef at the Palace Arms at the Brown Palace is a friend of mine," Ezra explained. "He called to inform me that one of their patrons cancelled after the holiday meal had been prepared and boxed. He is aware that several of the items are personal favorites of mine so he offered the meal to me."
Chris looked at Vin saying, "That true."
"I was with Ezra when he talked to the guy," Vin answered smoothly avoiding the true question. "Look if you don't want us here just say so."
"Hold on, I don't say that," Chris quickly said dropping his arms to his side as he relaxed his stance. "Tell you the truth, I was feeling kind of lonely, I'm glad you two are here."
Vin and Ezra shared a smile before Vin said, "We're glad to be here too."
Chris knew there was more to the story but he also knew to try to push either Vin or Ezra to find out wasn't the way to handle it. Besides did it really matter, truth be told he was thrilled to have his friends around to spend Christmas with.
"Hey, where's the tree?" Vin asked looking around the room.
"I've been busy, didn't get it up," Chris admitted.
"That won't do," Ezra stated lightly.
"Yeah, where will we put the gifts," Vin added smiling at Chris.
"Well, I suppose we could put one up now," Chris suggested joining in the playful mood.
"Great, I'll get the ax," Vin said starting for the tool shed.
"Vin wait, I have a fake tree we can put up. It's in with the other decorations Sarah had."
Ezra and Vin shared a look at that last remark. Chris noticed and added, "It's all right, Sarah loved Christmas and would be hurt to think her decorations were stuck in the attic."
"It's wouldn't be right to disappoint the lovely Sarah," Ezra said reaching for his bag. "If I may suggest, Mr Tanner and I will place our bags in a couple of your guest rooms and then we shall begin making Sarah proud."
"Good plan Ez," Vin said grabbing his own bag. "Meet you in the attic, Cowboy."
Chris couldn't hold back his laughter as he watched the antics of his two friends as they left the room. Turning to his stereo system Chris put in a CD, waiting for the sounds of Christmas songs to fill the air before heading to his attic to retrieve his decorations.
They had all the boxes down and the tree up when they heard a vehicle approaching. "It's Buck and JD," Vin said peeking through the window.
"Y'all having a party without us," Buck's voice boomed through the room.
"C'mon in and help with the tree," Chris called back.
"Hey Ez, we got enough of that bounty for everyone?" Vin asked, looking through the boxes of decorations.
"Certainly, more than enough," Ezra answered looking up from the last string of lights he was attempting to untangle.
"JD, call Josiah and Nathan and invite them out. Ezra and Vin brought Christmas dinner for tomorrow," Chris instructed plugging in each strand of lights to make sure they worked before they put them on the tree.
By the time Josiah and Nathan arrived the tree was decorated, gifts safely stored under it, and the friends working together to put out the rest of Sarah's beloved decorations.
"We brought dinner for tonight," Josiah announced holding up the pizza boxes he and Nathan brought.
Laughter was their companion for the next few days. Their Christmas gathering may not have been planned but all of them agreed it couldn't have been better. They made a pact to make Christmas at Chris's an annual tradition.
They finished the decorations, even watched Christmas Vacation before returning to their regular taste of action movies. JD insisted they eat breakfast before opening their gifts on Christmas morning. Vin cooked pancakes while JD cooked the bacon. Considering how busy they had been since Thanksgiving there was an impressive amount of gifts under the tree.
After the gifts, they dressed warmly to go for a ride. They had an early dinner, feasting on the excellent meal provided by Ezra's chef friend. After dinner they stretched out around the living room, some relaxing while some played with new toys.
Vin caught Ezra's eye and the two men shared a look, both acknowledging the best part of this Christmas was the friends that they shared it with.