Characters: Chris, Vin
Alternate LB Universe (1950's)
Chris Larabee looked up from the dish he was washing to find a lean and lanky boy with light brown hair and intense blue eyes quietly watching him. The blond smiled as he remembered another quiet boy with the same habit and the same eyes that looked right through you.
"Josiah, Nathan and Ezra are here with the tree. Can we do the village now, Grandpa?" Christopher asked quietly. He went by his full name so no one would confuse him with his name-sake.
"Sure, just let me grab Buck and JD and we'll start hauling the boxes out of the attic," Chris said, ruffling the precious boy's hair.
"Oh, Mom left on an errand and said she'll be back in a half hour or so. Grandma's trying to get Sarah to sleep."
Chris nodded and wished Maria luck at getting their granddaughter to nap.
"Tell you what, since you're in the double digits this year, why don't you put up the village?" Chris offered.
"I could plan it out and everything?"
"The rules are that when you're ten, you're old enough to help with the village and the first year you get to plan it out and do it however you want," he reminded him.
"Could Jamie help?" Christopher asked, wanting to include his best friend in everything.
"She's ten so, if she wants to, as far as I'm concerned she can."
"I wish dad was here to help too," the boy sighed.
"He'll be home soon," Chris assured him, hugging the boy. Vin's deployment in Vietnam was hard on everyone, but especially his oldest son. Christopher, like his father, was sensitive and missing his father terribly.
Chris found Buck and JD waiting for him at the stairs with everyone eagerly waiting. The two older men climbed up and handed boxes down to JD who passed them on to his daughter Jamie and Christopher.
Inez separated the Christmas tree boxes from the Christmas village boxes. She and Buck were frequently part of Maria and Chris' decorating for the season, as they were a part of her and Buck's.
"Grandpa said that we could do the village this year!" Christopher announced to Jamie as they began to open the boxes to see what was in each.
"Cool!" Jamie declared, joining him.
"Can I help too?" John, Vin and Barb's middle son asked.
"Not until your ten," Chris told him. "You can help with the tree."
Sighing heavily and scowling a little, he followed Chris and Buck over to Inez and the tree decorations.
Ezra was holding up a pine, while Josiah and Nathan secured it in the stand.
Chris sat down and little Evan, the youngest of the three Tanner boys, climbed up in his lap.
JD went over to act as advisor to the older children, carrying the board that would go on the library table as the village no longer fit on the large table.
Watching the two groups, and hugging the five year old boy, Chris remember another Christmas.
Chris wiped the last dish dry and put it away. He had always figured air drying was fine until he had gotten married. Sarah had pointed out that it left spots on the dishes. He had never minded drying them since it made her happy. He supposed that now it was just habit.
"I got all of the boxes down from the attic that say Christmas on them," Vin announced proudly as he bounced into the kitchen.
"Thanks son, I just wasn't up to those stairs," Chris ruffled the boys hair and pulled him in for a quick hug before limping into the living room. Thankfully it was not a work related injury, though landing under Buck and Josiah when the three had collided while playing a game of hoops with the boys had not been fun.
Chris settled on the couch while Vin eagerly opened the first box and started pulling out the bulbs. Next he found the lights. He handed them to Chris, who began untangling them.
Vin smirked as he pulled out the bead chains and put them on like a necklace and posed.
Chris chuckled, he rarely saw this goofy side of Vin. Reaching behind him to the end table he snagged the camera and took a picture of him.
Leaving the bead strands with Chris to straighten out, Vin went on to the next box. He was finally getting to have a real Christmas!
"What's all this snow for?" Vin asked, as he held up a bag of fake snow.
Chris looked over, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. "The village."
"What village?" Vin asked, quietly. This was kind of like Sarah and Adam, something that Chris didn't like to talk about.
"I didn't know that you had a Christmas village," Vin bit his lip and looked at what else was in the box.
"I got it from Uncle James and Aunt Helen. Tell you what, since you got it down, let's put it up," Chris suggested as he got to his feet.
"Where does it go?" Vin asked, excitedly. The Jenkins, a family he had lived with for awhile, had had a village and he had really liked it.
"Over here," Chris went to a table in the corner and took the lamp off of it and moved it to the end table. "You boys will have to be careful not to knock the lamp over."
"We will," Vin agreed readily.
"Okay, take it all out and then you can think about how you want to do it," Chris smiled.
Vin looked at him confused. "It doesn't go a certain way?"
"No, each time it's different. The person that puts it up gets to decide how it'll look."
"Cool! Um, can JD help?" Vin asked.
"Of course," Chris had wondered how long it would take for Vin to be asking to include his best friend.
One phone call later, Buck and JD where in the house and peace was long gone. That pair simply did not know how to be quiet.
"Hey, Stud!" Buck greeted his oldest friend.
"JD, we get to put up the village!" Vin called out.
"Great!" JD bounced over to his friend.
Chris smirked, and gave in easily, for once. "Since it seems that we're in for a party, why don't you give the others a call?"
"Buck called them right after you called us, they're on their way," JD laughed.
Chris tried to glare at his friend who just gave him a big huge grin. Irrepressible did not begin to cover Buck.
Buck started popping popcorn; apparently the boys had learned about stringing popcorn and cranberries and were begging to try it.
"How did you get the village?" JD asked as he and Vin began to empty the boxes labeled Christmas Village.
Chris smiled slightly as he plugged in the string of lights he had untangled to see if any bulbs needed replacing.
"My aunt and uncle started it. They didn't have any money when they got married so they bought the houses and put them under the tree. The next year they got some trees, the year after that some animals. Every year it would get added on to a little until it got to be what your seeing."
"So everything here represents something?" Nathan asked, having come in with Josiah and Ezra while Chris was answering.
"When did the horses come?" JD asked, unwrapping two of them.
"When they got the ranch," Chris replied.
"How about the manger?" Josiah asked.
"Sarah was Catholic and wanted a crèche, so that was the first year we were married," Chris said softly.
"I remember those beagles, that was when Uncle James got Auntie that Beagle, Victoria," Buck said as Vin unwrapped a beagle and puppy.
"There's a santa!"
"Buck got that for Adam when he was three and decided that we couldn't have a Christmas village without Santa," Chris replied.
"A police officer... might I guess that was the year you joined the force?" Ezra ventured.
"A whole family of deer!" Vin, the nature lover, gushed.
"When Sarah and I were given the village it had a stag and a doe, Sarah got a fawn for it the year we were expecting Adam."
Buck squeezed Chris's shoulder. The village had not been up since Sarah died.
"A village built of family memories. A powerful blessing," Josiah stated.
"Indeed," Ezra responded with a deep breath. Such connections and history did not exist in his family.
"A skier! We need a mountain," Vin declared.
"We got him the year that Buck went skiing and came home in a cast," Chris laughed.
"What's so funny about Buck getting hurt?" JD asked, sternly.
"It was the way it happened. He didn't break it on the slopes," Chris smirked.
The tree was never done as each item the boys unpacked brought out another story, many with laughter and a few with tears. All of them rich with the love of family and friends.
"So, the snow shoeing priest is from the time that Josiah had needed to check on a parishioner out in the boondocks. When he wasn't able to drive out he got out his snowshoes and went that way," Chris told the tale behind the figure being unwrapped.
"You really did that?" The child in Chris's lap looked in astonishment at the mostly gray-haired priest.
"I surely did, he was in need and no one else was able to get out to him," Josiah explained sipping his eggnog.
"Mom's home," Christopher called as he heard the garage door open.
"I'm home," a decidedly non-mom like voice called.
"Daddy!" Three children converged on the young man in an army major's uniform as he rejoined a family he had not seen for over a year and a half.
Chris smiled at his son as Vin hugged, kissed and greeted each of his offspring, save the sleeping daughter he had never met.
"Welcome home, brother," Josiah called as he got his hug.
One by one the family passed Vin around.
"Welcome home," Chris said quietly as he hugged the man who was still his boy. Christopher, not surprisingly, when the other kids let go had still clung simply moving with him to each group.
Vin settled in on the couch with a cup of coffee. His wife and Chris on either side and Evan in his lap.
"Where did the polar bears come from?" Jamie asked.
"Mom and I went on a vacation in Alaska with Vin and Barb," JD answered his son. All four adults grinned and blushed slightly as Christopher and Jamie had both been born roughly nine months after that trip.
"I remember the burro! We got him when we saw the Grand Canyon!" John smiled seeing the first thing he had picked for the village.
"How long has the village been going now?" Christopher asked as he began building the hill.
"Seventy five years," Chris answered.
"Daddy, how long are you home for?" Christopher finally asked the question he needed to have answered. The military life had not agreed with him.
"We're not moving again. I have to leave in a week to get my official discharge, and then I'll be home for good."
Barb kissed him and snuggled against his side while the other adults stared at him.
"Barb and I talked about it and agreed that I need to be home, so I'm going to the police academy in three months and then I'll be applying to the Four Corners police department."
"Congratulations," Ezra told him with a two fingered salute.
"Be good to have you home, son," Josiah gave him another crushing hug.
"I'm glad you're coming home," Chris told him.
Vin sighed contently; he was back home with the family he loved. He smiled as he looked over and saw the palm tree from his and Barb's Hawaii wedding. The little boy and teddy bear from when Christopher was born, the Mexican senoritas that joined the village when Maria and Inez had joined the family. Every family memory was represented. A funny black dog was a reminder of Obi, a large black mongrel that they had had. A cat that was Vin's first addition. Two children sledding that came when Vin and JD had joined the family. The angel choir that came with JD's marriage. Seventy five years of family history and memories in one Christmas village that, like the family, was never quiet the same one Christmas to another, but was always exactly right for that year.