A M7/ATF Christmas Fable
Author's Note: I admit, I'm not much of a Christmas person, and after the hundredth time I've heard a Christmas carol I tend to make up my own words. That's what created this little bit of silliness. This is for you, Jessie - you are sorely missed.
Larabee had a rule in the office when it came to Christmas music - the first and foremost being absolutely, positively NO Christmas music before December 1st. Then, of course, came the addendums: no Chipmunks (that rule was by unanimous decision), no hip-hop or rap versions (under penalty of death or threat of being the official liaison with the Feebs for a month), and no volume level above three if the music was being played out loud. If you had headphones, then it was perfectly alright to deafen yourself if you really wanted to.
Then there was the unspoken rule about singing along. Vin was the reason for that particular one. The ladies in records - well, the ladies in the building in general, anyway - may believe he had the face and body of an angel, but his team could attest to the fact that he sure as hell didn't have the singing voice of one. Ezra claimed he still woke up in sweats over Vin's rendition of 'Deck the Halls', the fa-la-la-la-la's echoing through his head like the howl of a wounded coyote with its leg caught in a trap.
Violation of any of the aforementioned rules resulted in Larabee immediately confiscating the offending CD, and over the years he had acquired quite a stash. Where they were remained a greater mystery than the actual fate of Jimmy Hoffa, or how people considered David Caruso a great actor.
But despite the tyrannical rules regarding Christmas music, it didn't stop the rest of the team from getting into the holiday spirit. Buck's Santa hat and mistletoe was always the first to appear. Hell, he probably had the mistletoe ready for weeks in advance, and the personal delivery of records during that month really picked up, much to the team's (and Buck's) delight. The next thing to show up out of storage was Josiah's handmade nativity scene. It was done in a western style, the dark red clay simply painted. The baby Jesus was a little fat cheeked papoose, and even thought it wasn't quite fitting, the angels dancing Kokopelli figures. But they made for a joyous scene, anyway. He found it in Flagstaff one year, and it was as unique as the man himself. It always sat in a place of honor on the filing cabinets just inside the doors. They weren't sure, but they swore they saw a ghost of a smile crack Larabee's face the first time Josiah set it up. It was probably due to the fact that the three wise men were craggy gunslingers on horses instead of camels. Or it could have been gas from lunch. One never knew around him.
Nathan always supplied garland and window decorations, and JD the lights. This year the kid strung an eclectic assortment of chili peppers, kayaks, and penguins along with the traditional ones. But no blinky lights - Larabee couldn't stand blinky lights. Vin would bring a fresh cut tree, never more than four feet tall (office regs, go figure) that was always absolutely perfect, and some fresh pine bought to drape across the windows. The smell of pine always made the holiday real, and even Larabee would snatch some of the fresh stuff to put in his office. For the smell, of course.
As for Ezra .... He never decorated his desk, or heaven forbid wear a tie with a holiday theme, and he was usually quite vocal in the placement of the office decorations (to the left, no, your otha left). No, he didn't contribute to that happy horse-hockey, but oh lordy the man would bring the most amazing assortment of holiday cookies and treats every week. He said he had a special supplier, but when pressed for a name he'd reply, "It would be positively criminal to reveal mah source." Buck once suggested that maybe Ezra was the closet confectioner, and that resulted in a vitriolic - but very polite - tirade that would have made Stonewall Jackson himself go crying for his dear, sweet mother.
"Maybe it is his mother," JD whispered once. Josiah blew coffee out of his nose, and everyone else laughed so hard they all went into coughing fits. Except for Ezra, and Larabee - well, he did actually snort.
Though Larabee had a reputation as a hard ass, and a grump, and a bit of a Scrooge (okay, a whole helluva lot of a Scrooge), he actually did make an attempt at decorating his office. With the exception of the pine boughs, his only concession was a foot tall 'reindeer' that sat on his desk. At least the team thought it was supposed to be a reindeer. It was made with honest to God deer hide. Or maybe it was elk. Or then again, it could have been cow - the thing was so old and worn and scabby it was speculated that only a DNA test would be able to prove what species the hide did indeed came from. Its crooked antlers didn't match the shape of any known animal, alive or extinct, and what was once a bright red nose was now a leprous pink blob. Poor Rudolph was dying from a terminal case of toxic nasal drip. Nobody had the courage to ask him where he got it, or when he was going to retire the mangy thing, so every year there it sat, its slightly mismatched and insane eyes just daring anyone to ask and shedding just a little more fur into Larabee's In box.
It was a week before Christmas and the holiday spirit was sorely lacking. The season usually brought out the crazies - this year they were coming out faster than zits on a sixteen-year-old the night before prom. Between the ten day long stakeout that started the month and the shootout in Cheeseman Park that would have given Quentin Tarantino and the A Team world class chubbies, the team was more than ready for some eggnog flavored with real Southern Comfort.
At the moment the only sound in the office was the rustle of paper, the click of keyboards, and the occasional barking seal cough from JD. The kid caught a cold after the stakeout, and combined with the long days and lack of sleep had managed to turn it into a full blown case of bronchitis. Nathan visibly cringed with every hack, but since they were all very behind in their paperwork he got the kid some of the good cough syrup and made him promise to get some sleep as soon as he was done. Or as close to done as was possible. At the rate he was sucking down Mountain Dew and Red Bull, Nathan was pretty sure JD would be getting some sleep sometime around, oh, Valentine's Day. As he watched the kid empty his fifth Dew, he decided caffeine was a good idea himself and got up to go get some coffee and stretch his legs.
Josiah saw Nathan get up out of the corner of his eye and decided a break was a good idea, too. He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his tired eyes. It had been snowing at lunch - the big fluffy flakes that came straight down and made everything, including the blocky federal building, look positively Rockwellian. He opened his drawer and flipped through his stash of Christmas CD's. Ah, that one would do - it was all instrumental, tastefully done, and shouldn't incur the wrath of Larabee. He hit play and soon there was a little more joy to the world, albeit at an unobtrusive level. Pretty soon he could see Vin's head bobbing to the music, and he was thankfully mouthing words silently.
Another coughing fit from JD brought all attention to him. "Christ, kid," Buck blurted out. He fully expected to see part of JD's lung on the desk across from him. "When was the last time you took something?" His Santa hat threatened to slide off and he readjusted it. The new angle was more drunken than jaunty.
JD looked at him and blinked a few times. "I dunno. Awhile ago, I think."
"Then, please - take something," Ezra said, the pleading in his voice just short of a whine. "Your expectorations are making my throat ache."
"My what?" JD asked somewhat muzzily.
"Your hacking up your lungs like you're in a damn TB ward," Larabee's voice rang out from behind his cracked office door.
"I'll take something now," JD said guiltily and dug in his backpack. He pulled out the bottle Nathan gave him, took a couple tries to get the child-proof cap open, and just upended it.
Josiah raised a hand. "Uh, kid? Shouldn't you be, ah ...."
"I'm good," JD said and flashed the older man a thumbs up. He capped the bottle, screwing the lid down tight enough it clacked several times, then dropped it back into his pack. Then he was back at his computer.
"Okay," Josiah said and glanced worriedly at Buck. Buck just shrugged and mouthed I ain't his mother. Nathan stepped back into the room and noticed the exchange, but didn't think much of it as he took his coffee to his desk and sat.
The next fifteen minutes passed in relative peace. The music provided a nice light tone that had been previously lacking in the office, and they'd only had to tell Vin to hush once when his mouthing of words started to become sub-vocalizations. He blushed faintly and buried his nose back into his paperwork. 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' started and he made a visible effort to clamp his lips down.
Then JD giggled.
It wasn't a happy, I-just-heard-a-funny-joke giggle. Oh, no - it was definitely a drunken, goofier-than-all-get out giggle that made everyone look up. JD had his arm on the desk, his head lying on it, and he was typing on his computer with his left hand. From the looks of it, he was only hitting every other key he was aiming at. Then he started to sing, and he was actually in tune.
"O' little gob of greenish phlegm/ how sweetly I see you flyyyy. Across the office partition/ to hit Ezra in the eyeeeee." And he giggled again.
Ezra smacked the file he was holding down onto his desk blotter. His shoulders slumped, he rolled his eyes, and he let out a beleaguered sigh from his toes that would have done a debutant proud. Everyone else was just staring at JD. They couldn't help it - it was like a particularly gruesome car accident. Their eyes were just ... stuck.
"And in the shock filled siiiilence/ there came my joyful cry. Be thankful I'm no elephant/ for then you would surely dieeeeee." The he broke into drunken laughter, which promptly started another coughing fit.
Nathan found his voice. "Um, Buck? How much cough syrup did he take?"
"I dunno. He just ...." Buck mimed putting a bottle to his lips and tipping back.
They all heard Larabee slide his chair away from the desk and the thump of its back hitting the wall. Then he stomped out into the main office, his eyes shooting full blown swords at JD. JD didn't even notice - he was too far gone into his caffeine and codeine induced cheer to really care at that point. Larabee marched over to Josiah's desk. He didn't bother with the CD - he just picked up the entire boom-box, yanked the power cord out of the back, and stomped back into his office. He slammed the door so hard it was a miracle the glass didn't shatter.
Silence filled the office. Except for JD's giggles. Then Josiah pointed at Buck. "You owe me another stereo."
Buck sputtered. "Me? Why is it always my fault?"