A Christmas Story featuring all of our Magnificent Seven, plus Mary, Rain and Inez. Thanks to the wonderful MOG for this universe.
It was cold and dark and crowded in the place he lay in and he opened his eyes, shivering a bit as he looked around, blinked, surprise in his hazel eyes. Sighing, feeling like he was dreaming, he closed his eyes, and then was flung sideways, bouncing into something soft, like cushions.
“Sorry about that, lad,” boomed a large, jolly voice, seeming to come from outside his area. “Those left turns are still pretty wicked. I’ve talked and talked to my driver about that, and you’d think he would get it right this time.” The man laughed with good humor. “Lad?” he questioned more seriously, as he had not received a reply.
“Why am I here?” JD asked softly, trying to make sense of his surrounding.
“Because you were on the list, lad. Six lists to be exact, the only thing on them. Made me reconsider, you know, especially since they haven’t been exactly what I would call the best of boys this year.”
“I must be dreaming,” JD muttered, “and this has to be the strangest dream ever, even for me. Ouch!” he called as something fell onto his head.
“Easy there, lad! We’ll be dropping off a few of those items, so you won’t be so cramped.”
JD was getting restless from the closed in and cramped surroundings. He shifted slightly and could swear two large eyes were staring and blinking at him. To the left were several figures wearing bikinis. “If this is some kind of joke, Buck . . .”
“Awww, Buck! That one surprised me. Usually his list is hundreds of beautiful women of all sizes and hair color. He lives and breathes women. Not that I don’t admire a beautiful girl or two, lad, but this missus would not like it. But this time he only has one wish in his heart.”
“Can’t imagine Buck wanting anything besides a beautiful girl or two,” JD murmured sleepily. “But the others, Chris . . .”
“Ah, Chris,” the man said, voice softening. “Yes, his list has been very small, with only one thing on it each year. Something that cannot be given. Except this time, and the only thing on his list this time matches Buck. And Vin, Josiah, and Nathan. Those three don’t surprise me, good men, doing a lot of good this year with only a few infractions. Josiah lost his way only a couple of times. And then there’s Ezra.”
“Let me guess,” JD snorted. “Money, power, gambling, money, money . . .”
“Very good, Lad. And every year but now, you would be right. But this year only, his wish is the same. A deep, heartfelt wish with promises of good behavior for the rest of his life. An unselfish, loving wish.”
“My Lad, you are the key to all of this. You are helping me this year. Now get your rest. We have a ways to go.”
JD heard the twinkling of bells as he yawned.
JD rested and the dream turned to another scene, a bedside perhaps? Quiet sobbing and silence and despair and fear . . . the figures shifted slightly into focus, and though he could not see them clearly, a room with six men around a prone figure in the bed. Buck, he saw, Buck with tears running down his face as he clung to a smaller hand from the bed, stroking dark hair and muttering in a loving voice. “Open your eyes, JD. Please, please come back to us.”
Chris was pacing back and forth, and Vin stood quietly by the door, sad eyes locked on the figure in the bed. Josiah sat in a large chair, praying while Nathan kept checking vitals and a chart at the head of the hospital bed. Ezra was staring out the window at the falling snow. Every once in a while, Ezra would swallow, say, “I wish . . .” and then stop abruptly. After a few minutes, a doctor slipped into the room, checked vitals, then frowned. He met Nathan’s eyes and gave a silent shake of the head, and Nathan’s head dropped and he went to his knees.
“Why don’t you men go home and get something to eat,” Dr. White advised, though he knew as well as anyone none of the six was going anywhere.
“Josiah, the Christmas dinner, you always help," and Vin faltered as he saw the big man shake his head.
“I know they need my help, so many are sick this year with the flu and can’t help out, but I just can’t leave JD,” Josiah answered, troubled.
Ezra abruptly left the room as the others stared. About fifteen minutes later, he returned. “Do not worry, Mr. Sanchez. I have called in favors from my favorite restaurants as well as a couple of my personal chefs, and they will make sure everything runs smoothly at the shelter.”
Josiah got up, and squeezed Ezra’s shoulder. “Thanks, Ezra. I know it will be the best meal they’ve ever had."
“You’re most welcome, Josiah.” Ezra looked over at Nathan. “Do not fret about the Children's Cancer Ward, Mr. Jackson. All the toys and stuffed animals the children need will be delivered tomorrow along with Santa and his elves.”
Nathan, startled for a moment that he had forgotten his promise to help, nodded to Ezra gratefully. He had been so consumed with worry about JD he had totally forgotten; he checked his messages to spot one from Rain, also telling him of Ezra’s help and to just focus on JD. He let out a grateful sigh of relief. He would have felt guilty leaving JD or guilty not seeing to the children, his special project this year. “JD had volunteered to be an elf this year,” Nathan said, caressing the small hand gently from the other side of the bed.
“And to help with the Christmas dinner, too,” Josiah added.
“Help with the ranch so I could be with Mary and Billy in Branson after Christmas this year,” Chris added. He had let Billy pressure him into going.
Vin looked guilty. “Aww, hell, JD said that because he knew I was feeling bad about the holidays and wanted to take off alone for a few days.”
“I told the Kid he was spreading himself too thin,” Buck continued. “I was going to help with everything, but when Tina called and asked me to meet her . . .” and his voice broke and trailed off. “Damn kid. Never thinks of himself. Trying to keep busy so he doesn’t miss his mother. She’s only been gone two years . . . .”
“Doesn’t get easier after ten,” Chris said flatly.
“All he really wanted was for us to be together this holiday,” Buck continued regretfully. “And we are here . . . but . . .”
They could all finish the thought in their minds, as they looked where JD lay comatose since the accident. A bad slip on the ice and he had yet to regain consciousness.
“You dropped this,” Vin said to Ezra as he held out an Christmas card.
“Mother,” Ezra said expressionlessly. “Another large check. Money. As if money buys happiness . . . or love . . . or . . .” and suddenly Ezra crumpled the check and threw it to the floor in distaste.
“Ezra,” Josiah chided gently. “She means well.”
“Well, I won’t spend a penny of it, it feels so wrong right now with JD fighing for his life," and suddenly Ezra stopped, picked up the check and stared. “Nathan, what is the cancer research like in this hospital?”
“It’s one of the best, Ezra, and they could always use support,” Nathan replied, beginning to understand.
“I’ll donate the check to cancer research in JD’s name, no wait, in the name of his mother, Bridget Dunne,” Ezra said resolutely.
“JD will appreciate that, Ezra. You’re a good man,” Chris smiled slightly.
“No, Mr. Larabee, I am an extremely selfish man. Even now, I can only give of money while that boy always gives of his heart. His gift will always be much richer than mine.” Ezra bowed his head.
“Look, Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets their wings,” a little girl’s voice said from the television where the classic movie, It's A Wonderful Life was playing. Six men turned from the television where their startled eyes had gone, and sucked in their breath as they looked towards their youngest, with everyone thinking their youngest deserved his wings, though everyone said silently, ‘Please, God, not now.”
The night stretched on, various members of Team Seven sprawled in awkward positions in the dark room, only leaving to eat or change. No one tried to get Buck to leave, others brought food and clothes for him; urging him to shower, which Buck completed in record time so as to miss as little time as possible by his adopted little brother’s side. The doctor, though mostly quiet, seemed to shrink into himself each visit after seeing there was no change in the boy lying in the hospital bed. The six men picked up on this, also knowing that JD’s chances of getting well dropped the longer he stayed in a coma.
Chris and Vin would stare out the window, bitterly resenting the colored lights of the season seeming to blink insultingly at their sorrow. Josiah’s hands tightened on his Bible, reading aloud the Christmas story by JD’s side. When a few of the others looked over, Josiah said simply, “JD’s mother read him the story of the birth of Jesus every Christmas Eve. I’m hoping he finds comfort in it.”
Nathan felt relieve he could stay by JD’s side, but also guilty about not being there for the children in the cancer ward. He visited briefly with Rain and left convinced she had everything under control. Rain kept the fear for JD and the tears in her eyes hidden until Nathan left, resolving to do everything she could to free up Nathan to be by JD’s bedside.
Mary Travis had stopped by briefly, long enough to hug Chris and kiss JD softly on his cheek and then, almost as if embarrassed, put a music box by his bedside. Seeing eyebrows raised, she said, “I felt almost compelled to get this in the gift store. Last year, I heard JD mention that his mother sang this song to him – his middle name is Daniel. I felt drawn to it and thought maybe it would . . . it would bring his mother closer to him.” And a couple of tears slipped from her eyes as she kissed JD softly again and left.
The men, puzzled, stared after the usually very-controlled Mary and then Chris lifted the box to hear the beautiful and haunting Irish folk song, Danny Boy. The music touched a chord in each one’s heart though it also gave them a slight chill. All had heard the lyrics and could imagine Bridget Dunne singing to her small, raven-haired son. Unbidden tears blurred their vision as their eyes fastened on the unmoving JD.
“Danny Boy,” JD breathed, encased in the confines of the space he was in. He was staring at the music box playing, but hearing the beautiful soprano voice of his mother, Bridget. His eyes were wide and teary as they always were hearing the song, and longing for and missing the cuddling his mother would give to her precious son as he climbed onto her lap after listening to her sing.
“Aye, Lad, 'tis a glorious song,” and the man’s voice was no longer jolly. “Your middle name is Daniel, isn’t it? Your mum has the most heavenly voice.”
Heaven, JD thought, where Mom would be singing with the angels. Is that where I am going? Feeling at peace, his eyes shut and he rested.
Christmas Day dawned with joy and laughter for many outside the hospital room where JD lay silent. Program after program of Christmas specials filled the television screen, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty, Rudolph, The Grinch and many more. A group of carolers sang outside the windows hoping to bring comfort to the ill and their families. Nathan could hear the rich alto of Rain, as well as Inez in the group. Religious and secular songs filled the cold air. The songs brought a small measure of comfort to the six men listening.
Finally, with the beautiful song, Angels We Have Heard on High, a heavenly soprano voice filled the hospital room as a ray of sunlight filtered through the clouds and onto JD’s face.
“I’ve never heard such a gorgeous voice,” Vin spoke in awe.
“So high and pure,” Josiah added. “A voice from the angels.”
Buck, enthralled by the song and singer, felt a small movement in his hand. “JD?”
“Wake up, Lad,” came from the man outside JD’s abode.
JD stirred slowly, realizing he no longer felt anything around him.
“Last stop, Lad. Everything else has been delivered. Excepting, of course, the best of all. It’s time, Lad.”
And with that the darkness seemed to fade and JD felt a warmth on his face as he heard Bridget Dunne’s voice singing her favorite Christmas song, Angels We Have Heard on High.
“JD?” Buck asked again, squeezing his hand as the others gathered round.
A small tear squeezed from JD’s eye and he blinked slowly as his eyes opened to his family’s beaming smiles, hearing a chorus of “Thank God,” “Good to see you back, Son”, and feeling the relieved squeezes on his legs and arms. JD’s eyes turned towards the window and the spectacular beauty of the sunrise. “So beautiful,” he murmured. “What day is this?”
“Christmas Day, Son,” Josiah answered.
JD frowned a bit. “Christmas . . . presents, going shopping for you all,” with a slight memory of a serious accident.
“Don’t worry, JD,” Chris soothed the boy. “All of us got the best Christmas present ever today.”
“The only one on my list,” Buck seconded, stroking the dark hair. The others murmured their agreement.
“That’s what he said, too,” JD said sleepily. Six pairs of puzzled eyes looked at him questioningly, but let it go, thinking JD was a bit confused.
“Just rest,” Nathan urged. “I’ll let the doctor know you’ve come to.”
JD’s eyes fluttered closed as six men shared hugs and smiles of relief. Church bells pealed and once again a small girl’s voice exclaimed from the television, “Look, Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets their wings.”
“And so I have, my son,” Bridget Dunne’s voice sounded inside JD’s head and he smiled in contentment.
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