Comfort and Joy

by Dawnsunrise

SUMMARY: Vin makes a big decision without consulting his teammates.

DISCLAIMER: The following is a work of fan fiction using characters from the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. The story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written for the Vinfeedback list "Finish the Story" challenge. The first paragraph was provided--the rest is all mine.

And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace . . .

There had been a time when Vin hadn't needed to consider how his actions might affect anyone but himself. That time was gone. He now had family. A family that would stand with him no matter the consequences of recent events. He looked around at the others and wondered . . . Could he have done anything differently?

Buck shook off his surprise and spoke first. "What the hell you been up to, Junior?"

Josiah leaned one arm on the door jamb and peered over Vin's shoulder. "Bible says we should make a joyful noise unto the Lord, brother. Looks like you're well on your way."

Ezra appeared equal parts stunned and horrified. "Good heavens. I knew I shouldn't have worn this new sweater."

J.D., as always, was blunt. "Wow, that's a lot of kids."

Nathan clucked his tongue against his teeth. "They keep that up, an' someone's gonna get hurt."

And Chris, the picture of calm but for the way the corners of his mouth kept twitching: "Something you want to share with us, pard?"

A loud crash cut off Vin's response. "Aw, hell. C'mon on in," he snapped, darting inside the apartment.

Just as he'd feared--his tabletop Christmas tree sprawled drunkenly on its side in a puddle of tinsel and broken ornaments while four-year-old twins Elena and Hector huddled together with their small hands clasped behind their backs.

"Look what you did," Isabel scolded with all the superiority of her eight years, baby Anna propped on one hip. "Uncle Vin told you not to touch. You two are in big trouble now."

"Sorry, Uncle Vin," Elena sniffed, while Hector wailed, "We didn't mean to!"

As if he could possibly resist the tears in those big dark eyes. "Don't go scarin' 'em, Izzy," Vin soothed. "Accidents happen, and I'm sure--"

"Uncle Vin, Javier won't share the sparkles," six-year-old Sophia protested, kneeling precariously over his glitter-speckled kitchen table as she tried to grab the jar from her three-year-old brother.

Javier stuck out his lip and tightened his grip. "Mine."

"Now, hold on a minute," Vin warned, detouring around the fallen tree, one hand stretched toward the wrestling siblings. "If you ain't careful that glitter's gonna--"

Sophia pinched Javier, who howled in outrage and promptly dropped the jar, sending an avalanche of glitter across the kitchen floor.

"--spill." Vin rubbed the tense muscles at the back of his neck. He could feel a killer headache coming on. "Hell."

"Mama says God hates swearing," Isabel said reproachfully. "And Anna's got a stinky diaper."

Vin sighed. "'Course she does."

He'd almost forgotten about his teammates until Chris took his elbow and the others gathered around them. "What's going on, Vin? Thought you wanted us here for Christmas Eve dinner. Did we get our signals crossed?"

Vin's shoulders slumped. "No, you--" His eyes slid to the activity in the kitchen. "Hector, don't touch them broken ornaments, you're gonna cut yourself." He looked back at Chris. "--you didn't get it wrong. I got all the food, an' I was gonna start cookin', but--" He glanced over Chris's shoulder, eyes widening. "Sophie? Javier don't want glitter in his hair an' you're makin' a bigger mess. Cut it out!" He blinked and looked at Chris. "What was I sayin'?"

"You was tryin' to explain why your apartment's suddenly crawlin' with pint-sized terrorists," Buck said helpfully.

"These are your neighbor's kids, aren't they?" Josiah asked, deftly rescuing the glitter jar before Javier could bop Sophie on the head with it.

"The Garcias." Vin looked around at the chaos, feeling defeated. "I know I promised y'all dinner, but Mario an' Esperanza didn't have no one to watch the kids so they could go Christmas shoppin', an' I couldn't stand the thought of them little ones wakin' up to no presents under the tree, an' . . ."

"It's okay, pard," Chris said, stopping him with a hand pressed to his chest. "We get it."

"'Course we do!" J.D. chimed in. "We didn't have much, but my ma always made sure I had at least one new toy for Christmas."

"You've done a good deed, Vin." Josiah gave his shoulder a squeeze. "I'm proud of you. And I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say we'll be happy to lend a hand."

Ezra squeaked, but subsided under Josiah's glare.

Vin winced at the spike of guilt the big man's words provoked. "Y'all might not feel that way when you hear the rest."

"Wait--you got more rugrats hidin' around here somewhere?" Buck searched the apartment as if he were being stalked by a particularly dangerous wild animal.

"Igave'emallthemoney," Vin mumbled, ducking his head.

"What?" Puzzlement echoed in his teammates' voices.

Vin glanced at the children and lowered his voice. "Mario--Mr. Garcia--got laid off two weeks ago. The unemployment check he gets barely covers the stuff they need. Him an' Esperanza, they was tryin' to figure how to tell the kids Santa wasn't comin' this year."

"Had a few Christmases like that myself," Nathan said quietly, his gaze fixed on little Hector.

"Yeah, well . . . I couldn't let that happen." Vin squared his shoulders. "I gave 'em the money for the cabin. All of it." He bit his lip. "I know it don't mean much now, but . . . I'll pay y'all back."

Determined to take advantage of Travis's Christmas gift of downtime, Vin had called in some markers, getting them a deal on a cabin in the mountains where they could spend the week between Christmas and New Year's skiing, ice fishing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling to their hearts' content. They'd each kicked in $75 to cover food and rent. Just over 500 dollars--a wad of cash he'd placed in the tearful Garcias' hands before shooing them out the door to go shopping.

He'd given away their vacation, spoiled holiday plans they'd anticipated for weeks, all without consulting them or asking permission. Vin braced himself for their well-deserved anger.

"Can't think of a better use for the money," Josiah said after a brief pause, his warm blue eyes showing nothing but approval. "Now how about I get a broom and sweep up those ornaments before the terrible twosome cut themselves?"

"We'll help." J.D. took Hector and Elena's hands. "C'mon, kids. We've got to get this cleaned up before Santa comes." He sent Vin a wink over his shoulder.

"Personally, I've never understood the allure of braving the elements." Ezra looked down at the tug on his pant leg. When Sophie lifted tiny, glitter-covered hands, he hesitated only momentarily before scooping her into his arms. He flashed his gold tooth at Vin. "A glass of wine by the fire is a far preferable activity I can experience in the comfort of my own home."

"He means it can get damn cold in the mountains in December," Buck said, tossing Javier into the air until he erupted in giggles. "Hey--we'll just camp out at Chris's. Saves all that time drivin' in the car." He smirked at his friend's glare, proceeding to airplane Javier across the room.

"Hell, someone woulda caught cold or broken a bone, for sure," Nathan said. "Maybe now I can actually relax." He locked eyes with Vin, his expression solemn. "No one should go without on Christmas. 'Specially when God's given some of us more than enough." He smiled and took the baby from Isabel. "Let me deal with this little one. Compared to patchin' up y'all, one dirty diaper's a piece of cake."

Vin blinked stinging eyes, his throat too tight to speak.

Chris's warm hand covered the back of his neck. "You okay, Cowboy?"

"I was sure y'all would be mad. I mean . . . I shoulda asked first."

"Yeah, you should. You got a family now, pard. Means you need to consider the rest of us before you go making decisions like this." Despite the rebuke, Chris gave Vin a playful shake. "Fortunately, it also means you got people who'll stand by you, even when you don't." He released him with a grin. "Merry Christmas, Vin."

Vin listened to delighted giggles and watched as his apartment was swiftly set to rights. Seemed like Santa had come early this year--at least for Vin Tanner. He smiled. "Merry Christmas."