AU: Little Britches ATF – Little Ambassadors Series
Disclaimer: Not Mine, Never Were, Never Will Be
Note: Huge thanks to Sue and Nancy for the very speedy beta and editing work.
Ever since the trip to London the boys had sensed that something was not right. Their fathers were keeping something from them. Of course it was getting close to Christmas so they might be keeping secrets about presents. The boys themselves were keeping secrets from their fathers, so it was only fair that their fathers were doing likewise. All the same Vin was worried. He kept telling himself he wasn't to worry about the 'what ifs' but he still did, a bit.
Concerns aside it was a good time. Christmas was getting ever closer, and this Saturday morning Mrs Green had called by to 'feed' their cake.
"You's can't feed a cake, it don't have no mouth,” JD told her as she set her bag down on the kitchen table.
"Plants don't have mouths either, but we still feed them,” she pointed out.
"Venus fly traps have mouths, I seen it on TV and they snap shut and catch flies and eat them,” JD told her confidently. He held his hands in a V shape and then snapped them together to demonstrate his point.
Both boys turned to look up at Jane.
"They have you there,” Buck commented as he lifted the cake down from the cupboard.
"So it would seem. Nonetheless I am here to feed your cake, oh and I brought more mince pies.” She handed an eager JD a sealed plastic box full of the small treats.
"Yay, thank you very much Miz Green!” JD literally clapped his hands in glee.
Buck shook his head as he removed one pie, before putting the box away. “Don't forget to save some for Chris.”
Vin had been right, Chris loved mince pies, while Buck and Vin could take or leave them.
The three of them watched as Jane pricked the top of the cake with a skewer and then carefully spooned a little brandy over it.
"There, all done, until next week.” She looked up at Buck. “I'll set a date with Ieuan to ice the cake with the boys just before Christmas.”
"I know they are looking forward to it,” he assured her.
After Jane Green left, Buck gave both boys a drink of milk and handed Vin a shortbread biscuit, since JD had eaten a pie.
Sporting an impressive milk moustache, JD looked up at his father. “Da.”
"When we gonna get a tree?”
Normally they would have put up their Christmas tree just after Thanksgiving, but the British tradition was to wait a little longer, since they often didn't take them down until the 6th of January.
"Well, as it happens, we were planning to go and get one this afternoon…” Before he could continue, the boys were whooping with joy. Vin stopped mid whoop.
"Did we bring all our decorations?” he asked.
"Nope, they were too bulky and the lights won't work here anyway.”
Two small faces fell.
"So,” Chris announced as he came into the kitchen. “We are going out right now to buy some.”
They headed to the town of Maidenhead with the plan of purchasing decorations. They did not intend to bring them back to the US, so they planned to buy cheap, with the exception of the lights, where safety was more important than cost, and as it turned out they weren't that expensive. Once Christmas was over, they would donate them to charity.
After purchasing a set of lights for the tree, a smaller set for the den and two small battery LED sets for the boys beds – that they could take back home with them - they hit the charity shops, Pound Land and other budget retailers.
By the time they finished shopping and had lunch at Pizza Express it was already getting dark. While being vaguely aware that London lay on latitude some way north of Denver, the shortness of the days approaching the winter solstice had been very noticeable. Already the sun was setting before four and not rising until almost eight. Nonetheless they headed to the garden centre to buy a tree. They had wanted a tree with roots that they could plant in the garden when they were done with it, but were unable to find one big enough, so had to settle for a cut tree.
Chris' shoulder was aching, so he decided to let Buck and the boys choose a tree while he sat in the comfort of the Range Rover with the heater and the radio on. They were gone so long he began to worry they had abandoned him, when he saw them, marching toward him across the dark and muddy gravel of the car park. JD was in the lead, carrying the tip of the tree over his head, Vin behind him with the next section on his shoulder, while Buck, carrying the real weight of the tree, brought up the rear.
"What took you guys so long?” he asked as Buck strapped the tree to the roof of the car.
"We had to get a perfect tree Dad,” Vin told him.
"We saw this one at the beginning but we didn't know if it was the bestest one so Da hid it while we looked at all the others then we went back and got this one,” JD explained.
Chris looked over at Buck as he climbed behind the wheel. “You saw this one first?”
"More or less.”
"But you hid it, then checked all the others?”
"Well not all the others, only the six and seven foot ones.”
"Oh well, that's okay then.”
Buck looked over at Christ, only to find the Larabee glare turned on him at full power. “What? We had to find the perfect tree – right boys?”
"Right!” both boys agreed.
Chris rolled his eyes. “Of course. Can we go home now?”
By the time they got home, it was too late to set it up. The boys had been very disappointed but reluctantly agreed to wait until the next day to set up the tree.
"Are they asleep?” Chris asked, as Buck flopped down onto the sofa.
"More or less, you can check on them in a bit.” Buck looked over at his friend. “How are you doing - really?”
Chris shrugged, then winced, shifting his arm in the sling he still needed to keep the shoulder he had dislocated immobilised. He'd been injured when he and the bag thief he was chasing fell down the escalators at Oxford Circus tube station. The miserable thief was now suing Chris for assault. They were expecting a letter at any time confirming the date of the preliminary hearing. For now, court was still days or even weeks away, and tomorrow they had a house to decorate. That thought made Chris smile.
"What?” Buck asked.
"Hope you're feeling strong.”
Now Buck was suspicious. “Why?”
Chris looked down at his injured shoulder. “Well I'm not going to be much use, am I?”
"Ah hell, you know what JD's like about Christmas. It'll be a full time job just keeping up with him.”
"Best get your beauty sleep then.”
"Vin?” JD whispered, or at least what JD considered a whisper.
"What?” Vin wasn't really asleep.
"Is it time to dec'rate the tree yet?”
"We can't decorate it until Buck puts it up and we haven't even had breakfast yet.”
JD sighed. “Vin?”
"Why's Da and Chris sad when we's not looking?”
Vin opened his eyes and rolled over to face his little brother, he'd hoped JD hadn't noticed their fathers' tension.
"I don't know, but Ieuan said grownups get stressed at Christmas.”
"When you talk too much in the car, and Chris is driving and tells you to be quiet, he's stressed then.”
"Oh,” JD finally whispered. “So they's not sad, they's just stressed?”
"I reckon.” ‘I hope so’ Vin silently pleaded. ‘Please God make it just that.”
"Boys!” Buck's voice boomed up to them. “You awake?”
"Yeah!” they shouted back in unison.
"Well hurry up and get dressed, these dogs won't walk themselves.”
After a quick breakfast, the boys pulled on their wellington boots and warm school coats. They were then surprised when Buck handed a bag to each of them. Buck himself had a larger bag and a pair of secateurs. Two small faces looked at their bags and then up at Buck.
"You'll see,” he told them.
With that the family of four, plus two dogs set out for a walk in the woods, where, with the boys help and direction from Chris, they collected branches of holly, heavy with red berries, vines of ivy and branches of laurel. Back at the house, warmed and fortified with hot chocolate, cookies and mince pies, they set about decorating the house. Buck set up the tree in a bucket, wedging it in place with rocks and old bricks from the garden. They then decorated it with their new lights and simple decorations. Buck lifted JD up to place the gold star on the top, after which Vin had the honour of turning on the lights. Once everyone had 'ooed' and 'ahed' and admired it, the boys decorated the ends of their beds with the battery lights. Buck used the greenery they had collected, along with the branches he had to trim from the bottom of the tree and the pine cones the boys had found to decorate the curtain tops and fireplace. Chris tried to put the lights in the window, but it hurt too much to stretch his arm over his head, so he reluctantly let Buck do it, while he made a quick call to the pub and booked them a table for Sunday lunch, with all the trimmings.
Since Chris was restricted to light duties until his shoulder was fully healed, he and Buck were stuck at Scotland Yard observing procedure – which was their collective idea of hell. Mid-morning on Monday Chris' cell phone rang.
"Hi mate, it's Ieuan, don't worry the boys are fine.” The boys' carer wanted to assure the men nothing was wrong as soon as possible.
"Okay, so what's up?” Chris responded.
"A letter's come for you, it's from the court.” After dropping the boys at school Ieuan would return to the house and tidy up after breakfast, the mail usually came just as he was leaving. “I thought you'd want to know.”
Chris took a deep breath. “Open it,” he instructed.
"I'd rather know now, just open it and read it to me.”
Ieuan did as requested, it was the date and place for the preliminary hearing. He read out the date.
Both men exclaimed simultaneously.
"What?” Buck asked, as he came to stand beside his friend.
"The court date is the same day as the boys' Christmas play,” Chris explained.
"Shit!” Buck exclaimed. “That's, I mean, that just sucks.”
Back in November the boys had brought home letters inviting their fathers to apply for tickets for their class Christmas play.
"So what's this play called?” Chris had asked.
Vin shrugged. “Don't know.”
"Okay, what's it about?”
"Christmas,” Vin told him.
"You walked into that one Pal,” Buck pointed out.
Chris frowned, it was all rather vague. “So what part do you have in this Christmas play?” he asked his son.
"Can't tell,” Vin told him with a conspiratorial smile.
“’Cause it's a secret,” JD finished with glee. “We's not allowed to tell you, 'till you see the show.”
"Don't you need costumes and stuff like that?” Buck asked.
"Nope, the school has all the stuff.”
None the wiser, tickets were ordered and the subject was dropped; until the date, ringed in red on the kitchen calendar, began to loom ever closer. Now it was too close. Chris would have to appear in a central London court at twelve-thirty that afternoon. The show started at three.
The school was putting on three plays. The senior class performed their play on the penultimate evening of the school term, the kindergarten class would perform their play in the morning of the last day and then go home, leaving the junior class, Vin and JD's class, to perform their play in the afternoon. After the play was over they would go home to begin their Christmas vacation.
If the boy's didn't know something was wrong before they surely did when they saw their fathers dressed their court suits that morning.
"Boys,” Chris began. “Me and Buck have to go to court today, to give evidence.”
Vin looked deep into his father's eyes. “Is it 'cause your caught the guy at the station?” he asked.
"Yes.” It wasn't a lie as such, it was just being 'economical with the truth', at least that was what Chris told himself.
"Will you be back for the play?” JD asked hopefully.
"Sure,” Buck told him, but then he looked at Chris, who gave the slightest shake of his head. “We'll try our best,” he qualified.
There were two people who were never going to be at the play. The Greens were away, visiting their daughter and her family. Little did the boys know, but Ieuan would be out that morning as well. He had volunteered to keep an appointment for Chris and Buck, that the court date had prevented them from keeping in person. If everything went well they would all be back at the school by two-thirty, and the boys would never know there had ever been a problem, but a lot of things needed to work like clockwork for that to happen.
Chris didn't know how Vin was coping with his stage nerves, all he knew was, he was struggling with his own. He'd given evidence in court before, many times, for the prosecution. He'd been a defendant in court before, though not often, and only for misdemeanours when he was drinking heavily. This was different; he was in a foreign country, a different court system, and possibly different standards. They might speak the same language, mostly, but he didn't know how British courts thought, how to read the judge or the prosecutor, he wasn't even sure how to present himself.
"Be yourself,” Buck told him, “ but sort of toned down a bit.”
Chris stopped pacing outside the courtroom long enough to glare at Buck.
"See, there you go, less glare, more serious consideration and you've nailed it.”
"You are so full of cr…”
"I know and we're in a courthouse, so try less cussing as well.”
Both men turned to see Chris' lawyer approaching them. Chris' professional association, FLEOA, were paying his legal bill via the British Police Federation. The improbably named Sutherland Kingdom was a tall Scotsman, with a soft accent and a crooked nose.
"On time, neat and tidy, good, good,” Kingdom muttered absent-mindedly.
All three of them glanced at the clock over the courtroom doors, it said twelve-fifteen. Buck and Kingdom settled down to wait, Chris went back to pacing. The clock ticked up to half past twelve and on to twelve-thirty-five, twelve-forty, forty-five. Finally a court usher appeared.
"Larabee?” he asked.
"Yes?” Kingdom answered, waving Chris into silence.
"The last hearing over-ran, so the court is breaking now for lunch and your case will start at one-forty-five. “
Buck grabbed Chris' wrist to prevent him from saying or doing anything he'd regret.
Vin pushed his food around the plate. The school had served Christmas lunch the day before, today was a meal was known as BBC– bangers, beans and chips – and it was a school tradition to serve it on the last day of term. Normally it was a meal he'd love. He sighed and looked up at the clock, why did it have to be so long until the play started? He wanted it to be now.
JD was going over his lines out loud while munching on his sausage at the same time. He swallowed the last bit of sausage.
"Do you wish it was time already?”
The dessert was ice cream cones, they both had one. Buck always said no matter how bad things got, ice cream never made anything worse.
Chris didn't think he had ever been so conflicted, he wasn't looking forward to court, but at the same time he wanted to be in there, so he could get it over with and be on the road and heading to the school. As things stood, they wouldn't make the start of the show, but if the case was over quickly they might make the end. So there he sat, waiting for the judge to finish lunch and return to the court. On the dot of a one-forty-five, the door behind the judge's bench opened and they all rose as she took her seat. Since this was only a preliminary hearing to determine if there was a case to answer, there was no jury, only a judge. Hopefully that would speed up the process.
Once everyone had been introduced, the lawyer for the prosecution, Mr Singh, a tall, good looking Sikh man with a well-trimmed beard and a sombre, dark blue turban, outlined his case. The judge listened and took notes. Then Sutherland Kingdom stood, and explained why Chris wasn't guilty. The man's argument was persuasive, his accent reassuring and he used his commanding height to project confidence rather than intimidation. Chris began to think they might be out of the court in no time.
When both lawyers were finished the Judge, a large woman, with a pile of blond curls held in a bun with a large wooden pin, began to ask questions.
"Mr Larabee, or should I call you Agent Larabee?” she began.
"Mr is fine Ma'am,” he assured her.
"Your Honour,” Sutherland hissed beside him.
"Sorry, Your Honour,” he corrected.
"Don't worry about it,” the judge assured him. “I appreciate you are unfamiliar with our court protocol. Mr Larabee I can't help but notice that you have your arm in a sling.”
Chris looked down at the sling that he was still wearing to keep his shoulder as still as possible while the muscles around the joint healed.
"Yes, Your Honour.”
"Did you injure your arm when you fell down the escalator?”
"Yes Your Honour.”
"And did you sustain any other injuries.”
"Nothing too bad…”
Before he could finish Sutherland rose to his feet. “If Your Honour will look at document 2B, you will see the doctor's report regarding Mr Larabee's injuries.”
The judge peered over her half-moon glasses at him. “Mr Kingdom, are you suggesting I didn't prepare adequately for this case by reading all the papers pertaining to it?”
"No, of course not,” he assured her hurriedly.
"Oh yes you did.” She continued to hold his gaze for just a second longer than he was comfortable with, before tuning to Singh.
‘Damn it,' Buck silently cursed, 'Point 'one' to the bad guys.’
Chris glanced up at the clock behind the Judge and cursed under his breath.
The judge was speaking to Singh who had to admit that his client had only received superficial injuries. Further to that he also had to admit that the man, one Dean Hackett, wasn't present in court as he was attending a different court.
"This is because when he was arrested, that day at Oxford Circus, the police ran his name and finger prints thought the police computer, didn't they?”
"Yes Your Honour,” Mr Singh was forced to admit.
"Mr Hackett was remanded on bail in August on a charge of GBH. He failed to appear in court in September and has been wanted ever since.” She turned back to Chris, just as he was looking at the clock again. “Mr Larabee, that is the second time you have looked at the clock and by my count your friend has looked at his watch three times, are we keeping you? Is there somewhere more important you need to be?”
Chris Larabee, a man not known to be intimidated, all but blushed. “No, Your Honour, of course not.”
"Then why are you looking at the clock man?” she asked him more bluntly.
"I do have another engagement, I was hoping to make on time, after this.”
"Your court time was originally twelve-thirty?”
"So what is this engagement?”
Chris glanced back at Buck, who just shrugged and nodded toward the judge. Turing back, Chris addressed the judge. “Our children's school nativity play.”
She looked at him for a second or two, then drew up the papers before her. “Mr Larabee you lied to me.”
Kingdom leapt to his feet. “Your Honour, I can assure you that Mr Larabee has…”
The judge held up her hand to stop him. “There is somewhere more important you need to be.” She then looked around at the whole court room. “This case if frankly a waste of the court's time. I am unable to fathom why the CPS thought justice would be served in any way by persecuting an officer of the law for doing his duty, and I feel duty-bound to apologise to you on their behalf. I find no case to answer. Case dismissed.”
The young prosecutor actually looked relieved. Buck got the distinct feeling the man had drawn the short straw with this case and didn't believe in it.
Chris had turned to shake Sutherland Kingdom's hand, when he realised the judge was speaking to him.
"Yes Your Honour?”
"I suggest you dispense with the customary congratulations and niceties and 'leg it',” she advised.
"Run man, run! Your children await.”
The parents arriving for the school play were ushered into the children's classroom, where they were entertained with tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cakes. Upstairs, in the art room, the children changed into their costumes. Vin stood at the window, from where, with no leaves on the trees, he could see the all the way down the lane where the parents' cars were parked. He couldn't see an orange Range Rover. There were several small black cars, but none that he thought was theirs. He looked up and down for an old blue Citroen, but he couldn't see that either. He sighed and looked around at JD standing beside him, the window was too high for JD to see out of.
"Can you see them?” the small boy asked tentatively.
"Not yet.” Vin looked up at the clock, there was still ten minutes to go; the parents would be taking their seats any minute now.
"Even if they can't come, they can see the film,” JD reminded him.
The school didn't charge entry to the play, nor did they ban photography – as many schools did – but they did ask that anyone wanting to take pictures did so without the use of flash and that they stood at the back of the hall. They did ban filming. The play would be recorded and then made available to download from the school web site, for a small fee.
"Yeah,” Vin agreed, trying to muster some kind of enthusiasm.
"They's still be able to see the play,” JD persisted hopefully, willing Vin to agree that would be just as good as having his beloved Da watching him.
"Yeah,” Vin said again.
Just then Mrs Schmitt clapped her hands. “Gather around children, it's almost time.”
The cast of 'Nativity, The Untold Story' trooped down the stairs in their costumes and walked into the school hall.
“’Xcuse us! Coming thought! Move it!” Chris bellowed as he and Buck ran thought the crowded lobby of the courthouse like two men possessed.
They almost made it to the doors when they came face to face with two burly, uniformed police constables.
"Christopher Adam Larabee?” one of them asked ominously.
"Yeah?” Chris all but challenged.
"Please come with us, Sir.” The policeman looked over at Buck. “You too.”
"Me? Whad I do?”
"Please gentlemen, don't make it any more difficult, come this way.”
Furious, but seeing no way out of it; they walked with the officers to a side door. Outside was a parked patrol car.
"Well get in,” the driver called as he gunned the engine.
"Where are we going?” Buck asked.
"Apparently you two need to be in some back of beyond place called Bisham Green by three?”
"Well if we leave now, with blues and twos all the way; you just might make it.”
"For real?” Chris asked, staring at the grinning men around him.
"Just get in the damn car!” Buck grabbed Chris and all but shoved him into the car, as the blue lights began to flash and the first note of the siren sounded.
The car threaded its way though London, the traffic parting before it like the Red Sea before Moses. Buck quizzed the driver.
"Is this legal? I don't know about you guys, but where I come from using a police car for private business is against the rules, using the lights, will get you in a world of trouble.”
"No, and same here,” their driver answered the questions in order.
"So?” Chris asked, his own curiosity now piqued. “How come you're doing it for us. As much as we appreciate it, we don't want you getting into trouble because of us.”
"Orders from the Guv, 'get them there on time' he said, 'I got orders from God'.”
The cast trooped into the school hall, every one of them had butterflies in their stomach. Vin couldn't decide what was causing him more discomfort, nerves because of the play or nerves because he didn't know where his father was. He and JD were in different parts of the play and had to take up different positions on the stage. The inn and the stable with Mary and Joseph were in the middle, Vin was with the characters on the far side of the stage, while JD was with those on the end, closest to the doors. The lights in the hall were low, but it wasn't so dark he couldn't see the audience. Any minute now Mrs Hilary was going to start playing the piano and they would have to sing the song 'Torches'. He scanned the faces in the audience as fast as he could. There he was! Chris was right there, three rows back near the middle. Buck was beside him, but he wasn't looking at Vin, he was looking down the stage at JD, Vin glanced over his shoulder, to see if JD had seen his father.
JD was concentrating on walking in line and listening out for the music, suddenly something made him look one more time at the audience and then he saw it, a big smile, and a hand waving, his Da! He was so excited he almost missed the start of the carol. As they started to sing, the lights went all the way down, plunging the audience into darkness.
As the piano began, Vin quickly scanned past Chris and Buck and was relieved to see Ieuan beaming at him. Then, as the last of the light faded he thought he saw a familiar outline beside him. By now he was lined up on stage with all the others singing out. He glanced down the line to see if JD had seen what he thought he had seen, but the five-year-old was now singing lustily, if he *had* seen what Vin thought he'd seen he'd be too excited to sing.
The play started with Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. Along the road various animals encouraged their donkey on, before the whole cast sang 'Little Donkey'. They then arrived in the town and at the inn. In the kitchen of the inn, the staff complained about all the extra work and were appalled when their boss turned away a pregnant lady. The cook put together food for her and the steward collected blankets. They all gathered around the crib to hand over these comforts, as everyone sang 'Away in a Manger'.
The action then moved to the far end of the stage, where the shepherds were gathered. One shepherd sat by a fire.
"Where have you been?” Vin asked as he stepped into the circle of light.
"I had to go behind the wall to, you know…?” the seated shepherd replied.
"Well,” Vin, standing tall, squared his shoulders, his hands on his hips. “While you were behind the wall, half the flock wandered off, and me and Shemmy had to round them up.”
Shemmy was being played by a petit girl with red hair, she came up behind Vin carrying a toy lamb.
"This little one is very cold, I'm going to keep it by the fire.”
"What about the mother?” Vin asked her.
"She'll stay close.”
On cue, one of the sheep from the road scene came and 'stood' by the fire and bleated, much to the amusement of the audience.
Just then an angel, illuminated by a very bright light, came up behind Vin. Shemmy and the other shepherd cringed and fell back in fear.
"What's the matter with you lot?” Vin asked.
The others pointed behind him in terror. Vin turned to face the angel. “Who are you and what do you want? We're just poor shepherds, we have no money and we harm no one.”
"I bring a message from the Lord,” the angel began, addressing Vin.
"What Lord? This is free land, and we work for no Lord.”
"*The* Lord,” the angel emphasised. “The Lord of lords.”
"You mean the mayor?” Shemmy asked from behind Vin.
"No!” the angel fumed. “*THE* Lord!”
"Caesar? What does Caesar want with us?” the third shepherd asked.
By now the audience were laughing as the fuming angel threw up her hands in despair. “God! God has sent you a message!”
Shemmy shook her head. “Why didn't you just say so?”
More laughter erupted from the audience.
"Well what is it?” Vin asked, fixing the angel with a fair imitation of the Larabee glare. If he could have seen them, he would have seen Buck give Chris a playful prod at this.
Three more angels arrived behind the first one and in unison, they said. “This night, a baby has been born in the town of Bethlehem, he is of the line of David and he will be the king of kings. Glory to God on high.”
The four angels then looked expectantly at the three shepherds.
"Really?” Vin asked.
"The Lord has chosen you to welcome the holy child this night,” the angel told him.
Shemmy stood up “Then we must go and see this child. Come on you two.”
Vin nodded, then turned back to the angel. “How will we find this baby?”
"Follow the star.” The angle pointed to the star hanging over Mary and Joseph.
"Follow the star? You couldn't just give us an address?” the third shepherd asked.
Vin shook his head. “God needs to work on his communication skills.”
While the audience laughed, the shepherds made their way to the middle of the stage to greet the baby Jesus and when the laughing and clapping died down they all sang 'Go Tell It On The Mountain.”
The action now moved to the other end of the stage. The kings trekked across the stage; discussing the star and how long they had followed it. Behind them came three servants. The first servant had on a back pack with a rolled up mat tucked under the flap at the top.
"Just how long must we follow this star? How do we know where it leads us or when it will stop?” she asked.
"My master is a genius astronomer, he knows where we are going and he will know when the journey has ended,” the second servant stated confidently. He carried a small bundle on the end of a stick over his shoulder.
JD, as 'king's servant three' dragged a cloth bundle, bigger than him across the stage.
"What do you think?” asked the first servant.
JD let go of the bundle he was dragging and dropped down onto it. “I's pooped!”
The audience erupted into laughter as the three kings turned back.
"Come, don't lag behind, we are close to the end of our journey,” One of the kings commanded them.
"Easy for him to say,” the first servant muttered.
"My master knows what he is doing,” the second servant stated again. “He's…”
"A genius; we know, you keep telling us, right?” The first servant asked JD.
"I's still pooped.” Wearily JD picked himself up and took hold of his bundle again, dragging it with exaggerated slowness across the stage.
The kings presented their gifts to the baby as their servants watched.
"Very expensive gifts for a small baby,” the first servant commented as his master handed over the gift of gold.
"Yeah, you'd think the mother would want something more practical. What does a wee baby want with frankincense?” the second servant added, stuttering slightly over the big word.
JD knelt up. This was the line he had been rehearsing, over and over again until the last minute and he belted it out. “I think, that my master is a very wise man and he would not bring myrrrrrh to this baby without a good reason. This is a very special baby.”
To the backdrop of more laughter, the other two servants nodded sagely and turned back to the baby.
The whole cast then sang 'The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy' and 'Ding Dong Merrily on High'. The audience then joined them in singing, 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas'.
Wild applause erupted from the proud parents and grandparents in the hall, and more than a few tears were shed. When it died down Miss Grant stepped out on stage to congratulate the children and to promise the parents that they would be changed and be ready to leave as soon as possible. Just then there was an ear splitting squeal from the cast.
Locating the source of the sound she bent down to speak to a small servant.
"JD, dear, is there something wrong?” she whispered.
"My Uncle Josiah's here!” JD told her excitedly, while jumping up and down and gesticulating wildly.
Miss Grant looked around to see that the boy's family had indeed been joined by a large man with a toothy grin.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls apparently we are holding up a family reunion. Children please lead off the stage and go and get changed. Vin and JD go meet your uncle.”
Needing no second bidding the boys ran to the edge of the stage. By now Josiah had threaded his way past the other parents and was there to meet them. He scooped the two boys up, one in each arm and spun them around as they wrapped their arms around his neck and planted big wet kisses on his cheek. Around them the audience broke out into spontaneous applause.
It took some time for the boys to calm down. In the car JD told and retold the story of their exploits on stage, despite the fact that Josiah had been there and seen it. Once home, and with two dogs dancing around them the boys gave Josiah the full house tour. Once he had admired their newly put up Christmas tree, they settled down to hot chocolate and Mrs Potter's homemade cookies – brought all the way from Denver by Josiah.
"She sends you all her love and as much as she's enjoying more free time, she misses her boys very much,” he relayed.
Josiah in turn told the story of how his plane was delayed and Ieuan had been pacing and watching the clock at the terminal.
"I was expecting to see one of your fathers at the airport, instead I met Ieuan, who grabbed me by the arm and said 'Run!'. Luckily I've been hearing all about him from you guys, so I knew I could trust him. Good job too or I'd have missed your show.”
"Are you here for Christmas?” JD asked, a mug of hot chocolate in one hand and an iced cookie in the other.
Josiah glanced at their fathers and then back at the boys. Sitting between the two of them, he placed an arm over the shoulder of each boy.
"I have to leave on Sunday,” he explained, “I'm only passing through.”
Josiah was on his way to Switzerland for a symposium. He would meet up with Ezra while he was there. He had explained to Chris and Buck that, in the communications he'd had with Ezra, it was clear their friend was still dealing with some inner demons and was not quite ready for the strain of a big family Christmas. Josiah was however, confident that within a month or two, they would have their Ezra back again.
"But,” he announced to the boys. “I will be back for Christmas!”
“Yes!” JD cheered, his arms shooting into the air, showering himself, Josiah, the table and the floor with lukewarm hot chocolate.
"Oops,” he apologised, putting the now all but empty mug down on the table. “I's sorry Da.”
"JD,” Vin commented with clear exasperation.
"Don't worry about it. It's okay, I needed a shower anyway. Looks like you do too.” Josiah stood up and looked down at JD.
Eventually everyone was clean, chocolate splattered clothes were in the wash and they had feasted on one of Ieuan's best casseroles followed by chocolate steam pudding and chocolate custard. After Josiah had told them a story, JD fell asleep on the sofa, his head on his uncle's lap. Vin, who had been sitting cross-legged on the hearth rug, stood up and came to sit on the arm of the sofa.
"Will you really come back for Christmas?” he asked softly.
"I will, so long as my plane gets here on time.”
"When's Uncle Ezra coming to see us?”
Josiah took a deep breath as he glanced at Buck and Chris. “Well, I can't tell you when, not for sure, but he will come. I know he's been missing you something fierce.”
"So why can't he come for Christmas?”
Josiah put his arm around his nephew. “Your Uncle has the most difficult job in the ATF.”
"You mean when he goes undercovers?”
"Yes. And now he needs a long rest.”
"Uncle Ezra had lots of feel bad thoughts before we came here,” Vin told him confidentially.
"Yes he did, and you know that sometimes a man needs time to work though those feel bad thoughts.”
Vin nodded, he knew that very well.
"Don't you worry, he'll come see you very soon.”
Vin leaned in and gave Josiah a big hug. “Give that to Uncle Ezra for me.”
"I will, promise.”
"Pooped-chocolate-star-angels,” JD muttered in his sleep, causing Vin and all three men to burst out laughing.
Continues in Very Nearly, Almost, Christmas
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Bangers – affectionate British slang term for sausages
Chips – Fries
GBH – Grievous Bodily Harm
CPS – Crown Prosecution Service, equivalent to the District Attorney in the US
"Leg it.” – run
Guv – short for Governor, a nick name given to a police officer above the rank of Sergeant, by his or her immediate subordinates.
Commissioner – The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
‘Blues and Twos' – Slang for an emergency vehicle (most commonly the police) driving very fast using lights and sirens. British emergency vehicles use blue lights and it is illegal for any other vehicle to display blue lights. These days most services have replaced the old two tone horn with more modern sirens.
Film of a Met police car, using 'blues and twos' to cut though London traffic. This car uses 3 different sirens, including the old two tone 'nee nar' siren.
Away In A Manger
Go Tell It On The Mountain (in English and Welsh)
The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
Ding Dong Merrily On High
We Wish You A Merry Christmas