This story takes place in the MCAT AU created by tannertexaslady, but isnt a part of the series.
It was a Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks before Christmas and all of the Wild Bunch children, except for the three youngest, gathered together in the pony barn at Reins of Change. Cody Larabee, and Trey and Bren Tanner were down for their naps in the daycare center, under Sally Reeders watchful eyes. Most of the adults were out doing some Christmas shopping, taking care of last minute business details, or enjoying some alone time together.
Caitlyn Broderick and Williard Robard had brought the Larabee Seven children down to the barn to see a couple of the new foals that a couple of Reins mares had given birth to. The two adults had left the children alone in the front part of the barn, while they took care of some business. Jason Tanner and Caleb Wilmington thought it was the perfect time for them to discuss some business of their own with the other Larabee Seven kids.
Did yall bring your money with you today? Jason asked the other kids after they had formed a circle together on the hay strewn wooden floor.
Ive got Sarah, Maria, Tannis and mine, Caleb said, pulling out a set of different colored socks and emptying their contents onto the wooden floor.
Heres mine, Andis, Brens and Treys. Jason added the money he and Andi had collected by doing chores around the Tanner household to the pile that Caleb started. They also added money for their two little brothers to the pile as well.
This is all the money that Adam and I have, Joanne said, emptying a coin purse full of dollars and change into the pile.
The Dunne twins and Jackson children added what they had into the pile, and then Jason and Caleb set to work counting all of it together. Soon they had a total.
We have twenty-five dollars and seventy-eight cents, Caleb told the group.
Wow, thats lots of money! Andi crowed with delight, her blue eyes wide with delight.
The other children made other sounds of excitement as well when they heard the amount of money they had collected. Jason shushed the group up so he could talk.
Now that we know how much money we have, what are we going to get our folks?
Hmm good question, Caleb placed his chin on his fist and considered the question that Jason had asked.
The rest followed suit and silence settled over the group for a few moments before Maria spoke up,
Why dont we have our pictures taken together?
The folks would like that but how are we going to arrange it? Sarah asked. Well need a big person to help us.
Caitlyn cleared her throat. She had finished with helping Williard and had returned to the front of the barn to gather the kids together and take them back up to the main house, but when she found them in such a state of concentration, she had not wanted to interfere. She had taken note of the neat stack of crinkled bills and change and realized that the children were planning some sort of surprise for their parents. Her assumption was proven accurate a few moments later when Sarah had voiced her concerns aloud.
She waited until all the children had turned her attention onto her, before saying, Can I be of any help to you?
Jason stood up and walked over to her, his blue eyes serious. You have to swear that you wont tell any of our folks what we are planning, and that includes Uncle Ra and Aunt Barbara.
I swear. Caitlyn said solemnly.
Pinkie swear, Jason held out his hand to Caitlyn, pinkie raised, and waited to see what she would do.
Caitlyns lips twitched, but she forced back the smile, slipped her pinkie finger around Jasons, and repeated her earlier vow. Then she allowed Jason to lead her over to the rest of the children.
Okay, we want to have our picture taken together so that we can give it to all of our folks for their Christmas present from us. Caleb explained once Caitlyn and Jason had sat down on a bale of hay. This is how much money weve got. Is it enough?
He picked up the crinkled bills and the loose change and handed it to Caitlyn. She quickly counted it and then said with a smile, Of course it is enough. Now, I will arrange to have a friend of mine who is a photographer come out here to Reins of Change. We can take the pictures here. I do think though, that I am going to need a little help in getting all of you together without making your folks suspicious. Therefore, would it be all right if I asked Max and Walter to help me?
Jason and Caleb glanced at each other and silently agreed that what Caitlyn asked was okay. Alright, but you will have to make them pinkie swear not to tell anybody else.
Im sure they will have no problem doing that. Caitlyn said. Now, lets head up to the house for some hot chocolate and cookies.
The children followed her out of the barn and back up to the big house.
There was an edge of excitement to all of the children over the next couple of weeks. Operation Christmas Pictures had gone over smoothly, with none of the parents catching on to the surprise. Caitlyn had arranged to have all of the children come to Reins of Change again for a sleepover and the pictures had been taken. She had contributed some of her own money toward the Christmas gift she knew all the parents were going to be thrilled to receive, and bought matching outfits for all the children to wear, along with cowboy hats. Besides copies of the whole group together, she had had her photographer friend do family portraits as well.
Max and Walter, who were sworn into secrecy, had contributed some of their own money to the surprise as well. They had bought ornate silver frames to hold all of the pictures, and had carefully wrapped the items up for the kids to give on Christmas Eve when the Wild Bunch family gathered to exchange gifts.
On the evening in question, all of the children were positively glowing at the thought of the surprise they were going to give their parents. All thoughts of opening their own brightly colored presents under the huge tree in the Larabee home were forgotten as Jason and Caleb got permission from their fathers to accompany Walter down to the Andrews residence to retrieve the brightly decorated baskets that held their presents for their parents, and beloved aunts and uncles.
After everyone was seated in the living room, Jason and Caleb took the floor. We know that usually this evenings gift giving starts out with one of our Dads or uncles handing things out, but tonight we want to start. Jason said.
The other kids, Jason, and I put our money together and with the help of Miss Cait, Max and Walter, we planned our own surprises for all of you. Caleb continued.
The two boys gestured for their siblings to join them on the floor, while all the other adults exchanged questioning looks with one another. Together the children handed out their packages to each set of parents, and to their Uncle Ezra and Aunt Barbara.
Now you can open them! Sarah and Andi said together, once all the gifts were distributed.
Tears filled the eyes of each of the adults at the beautiful gifts that they had been given, and a round of hugs and kisses passed through the room. The Wild Bunch children were delighted that their Christmas surprise had been accomplished and their parents were thrilled with their gifts.