Disclaimer: Not being 'Ezra P. Standish, Attorney at Law', or having his fancy way with words, I'll simply say that all the standard disclaimers apply.
Author's Note: For those unfamiliar with the term, a 'Kris Kindle' is also known as a 'Secret Santa'. An anonymous Xmas gift exchange between co-workers or group members. (Thanks to Jan. AKA Jibber59, both for the inspiration and for permission to 'steal' the picture! :) )
All the other mugs mentioned are also real and can be found on Google.
It had not been a good week to be a drinking vessel in Team Seven's office.
First, Buck and JD had been playing with a nerf ball in the office and a badly aimed throw had hit Ezra's coffee mug - which he himself admitted had been badly placed on the edge of his desk - knocking it to the floor and causing a crack to appear down one side.
"Oh, shit! Sorry, Ez!" The youngest member of Team 7 looked sheepishly at his friend as the ball he'd been tossing missed its intended target and hit the undercover agent's coffee mug. "I was aiming for Buck, but he dodged and..."
The sharply dressed man gave a sigh at the juvenile antics of his co-workers, then frowned as he saw the sudden distress on the younger man's face. "Mr Dunne? Is something wrong?"
"It's broken." JD held up the cracked mug as mute evidence. "I'm sorry Ez. I'll get you a new one. It was my fault. I didn't mean to, but..."
Ezra held up a hand to stop the flow of words. "It is not a problem Mr Dunne. It was not one I was particularly fond of and at least it wasn't full." He smiled "Then I might have been annoyed."
"Hell, yeah, wastin' good coffee that way." The comment was delivered in a Texas drawl from the next desk over, where Tanner sat with his own mug held in a protective embrace. "Lot worse than just breakin' a prissy mug."
"It was not 'prissy' Mr Tanner," came back the sharp retort. "Just because some people do not appreciate the finer things in life..."
"Hell, Ez, lil' bitty thing, so thin you could see through it? That ain't a proper mug. That's just prissy!" Vin grinned at his friend's outrage.
"That, Mr Tanner, was Bone China! Not everyone takes their fluid by the quart, or is so ham-fisted as to require a vessel made of stone!"
Vin just pulled a face and took a drink from his mug, a big, somewhat chunky one that he'd bought years ago and that had survived a lifetime of abuse. (It had the scars to prove it, too!) "Y're just jealous." He watched in satisfaction as his opponent pulled himself up in indignation, but before the other man could say anything, a third voice was heard, overriding them both.
"And you both have reports to finish, I think. In fact all of you do." Larabee had come out of his office when he'd heard the first of the commotion and now stood watching as his team scuttled back to their various desks, and the tasks waiting to be completed.
Vin and Ezra exchanged glances. There had been no real heat in their exchange and it had served its purpose - JD was now smiling and obviously a lot less upset than before.
As Larabee left, JD turned to his friend, again. "Ez,... I'm really sorry."
"It was an accident, Mr Dunne. Please think no more of it. I have a very similar mug at home that I can use instead. I'll bring it in tomorrow." He smiled at the younger man and turned back to his computer, effectively dismissing the subject and with a sigh, JD did the same, just making a mental resolve to find a way of making it up to the Southerner, anyway.
Then, the very next day, after a particularly acrimonious phone conversation with the budget department, there had been a loud crash from Chris' office, producing winces around the main room. "There goes another phone," Vin opined softly, only to be proven wrong a few minutes later, when Larabee stalked out towards the break room, looking for a dustpan. "You broke your phone again, Cowboy? You know the Judge said the next one's comin' out of your pay."
The witticism earned him a glare and a muttered "Wasn't my phone. Was my coffee mug." He stalked off to garner the cleaning supplies from their place in the breakroom.
"That's two. I wonder what the third one's going to be?" JD looked up at the sudden silence. "What? Things go by threes. That's what my Mama used to say."
"Don't say that, Kid. You'll jinx us." No sooner were the words out of Buck's mouth than another crash sounded, followed by several loud swear words and the team rose as one, heading for the small back room.
"Who left their damn mug sitting on the side of the sink?" Larabee's mood had obviously not been improved by the accident.
"Umm..." All eyes turned to Nathan, who was looking somewhat sheepish.
"You??" JD expressed the whole team's astonishment. "But you're the one who's always telling US to be careful!"
Nathan just looked embarrassed. "I was putting it in the sink, when Buck stubbed his toe."
The men exchanged looks. They all remembered when, just an hour before, Buck had caught his foot getting up from his chair and in trying to stop himself from falling had somehow managed to stub his toe hard into the corner of his desk, giving vent to a yell that could be heard halfway down the corridor.
"You did make quite a racket, Brother," Josiah put in with a smile.
"I thought I'd broken it!" the ladies' man protested.
"All I heard was this God-awful howl, and I must have left the mug on the edge of the sink when I went to see who was hurt." The medic looked sheepish. "I'm sorry, Chris."
The team leader took in a deep breath and let it out again, slowly, obviously trying not to lose what remained of his temper, taking hold of the cleaning supplies and just walking silently back out, towards his office.
"And there's your third, Mr Dunne," Ezra commented quietly.
"Actually it's four." Vin gestured to the sink, where among the shards, was another mug, only this one was 'almost' whole, lying forlornly on its side with its handle broken off. They all recognised Josiah's, which had obviously been hit by the other one when it fell.
Nathan winced. "It looks like I owe you a new mug, Josiah. I'm sorry."
"Not a problem, Brother. Accidents happen. It was an old one and somewhat chipped. I'd likely have had to replace it soon, anyway." Despite the big man's words, his smile was a little wistful. He'd had the mug a long time - it had been a gift from a lady friend and he was sorry to see it go - but it had been an accident and there was no point in making Nathan feel any worse than he already did. Truthfully, it probably was time he got a new mug, anyway. What he'd said was true, the mug had been old and a little chipped around the bottom where it had been knocked off the table, that time when they had been...
He shook himself mentally and put on a smile. "The Lord's way of telling me I needed a new mug." Clapping Nathan on the shoulder, he walked back to the main room to continue the report he'd been working on previously.
He sighed as he sat down again, thinking of the now broken mug and the lady it had been a gift from. He wondered if he could retrieve it? It was probably not repairable, but just to keep as a memento... 'Don't Make Me Use My Preacher Voice' . It had been a private joke between the two of them. She had rather liked his 'Preacher Voice', as she called it. and had encouraged him to use it sometimes when they were alone, telling him that she was a 'sinner' and needed to be 'set back on the path.'... He sighed again. Well, what was done was done and it was likely in the bin by now, anyway.
His musings were interrupted by a quiet voice at his elbow. "Hey, 'Siah."
He looked up. "Vin?"
The younger man held out the pieces of the broken mug. "I slipped this out when the others weren't looking. Made like I was going to throw it away. It's not too bad. Just the handle's come off. I've got some glue that might work to fix it up again, if you want. You might not be able to use it, but I know you've had it a while and I've seen the look in your eye sometimes when you've looked at it...," he trailed off, blushing slightly.
'Well, thank you, Vin. I'd appreciate that. It does have a few memories attached to it." The big man smiled, touched by his teammate's thoughtfulness - and his perceptiveness. There was more to Vin Tanner than most people realised, he mused as the younger man nodded and moved away. The broken mug carefully hidden under his jacket.
+ + + + + + +
The following night, in the Saloon, the topic of the fast-approaching Christmas season had been broached, along with wondering if the bad guys would take a break or not, this year, when JD suddenly looked up. "Hey, I just had an idea."
"Treat it kindly, Kid, it's in a strange place!"
JD ignored his roommate and said "Instead of our regular Christmas Gift Swap, why don't we do a Coffee Mug Swap? With all the broken mugs, lately, we could certainly do with a few new ones."
After a few moments silence as the idea sank in, the team were all in favour.
"That's true." Buck looked thoughtfully around the table. "It's not a bad idea, actually."
"Yeah. Saves trying to think of what to get people, too," Vin added.
"I like it."
"Sounds good to me."
"A Coffee-Mug Kris Kindle. Intriguing."
"Kris Kindle," Josiah spoke up. "It's from a German term meaning Christ Child. It's often used for 'Secret Santa' swaps like this one, referring to the gifts the Wise Men brought for the baby Jesus."
"Cool. It even sounds good, too." JD looked to his team leader, who nodded.
"Okay, so if we're all agreed? This year's Christmas Swap is a Coffee-Mug Swap instead." Larabee smiled at the youngest member of his team, approvingly. "Good idea, JD."
"Way to go, Kid."
"Just one caveat!" Chris spoke up again. Looking around at all of them. "We'll be using these mugs at work - or at least some of us will - so keep it decent." He glared at his oldest friend, who promptly opened his eyes wide, trying to look innocent.
"Why you looking at me, Stud? You know me!"
"Yeah, he knows you, Buck. That's exactly why he's lookin' at you." Vin's quip drew laughter from the rest of the team.
"No naked ladies, Buck," Chris warned as the laughter died down.
"Oh, alright," the mustached man grumbled. "Though I saw this one, the other day - She only showed up nude when the mug was hot. If it was empty or you let it go cold, her clothes appeared again." The smile grew wider as the big man reminisced...
"Spoilsport," he grumbled good-naturedly and swatted at the back of JD's head.
"Hey!" the younger man protested. "What was that for? I didn't do anything! If you want to hit somebody, go hit Chris! He's the one who said it, not me!"
A gleam appeared in the mustached man's eye, only to be immediately killed stone dead by another glare from his leader. "Nah. You're closer!" He reached out again, but JD had already moved his chair away, out of his roommate's reach.
In the end, Inez was able to provide a pen and some paper for writing names and Buck swiped JD's newsboy cap to put them all in. "At least it's good for something," he said as he tossed it to Josiah who was holding the slips. The hat was shaken and passed around, so everyone could draw a name.
Josiah smiled to himself when he drew Nathan's name. He'd seen a mug just the week before which had made him think of his friend. He was naware that his friend was having exactly the same thoughts about him.
JD's eyes widened a little as he read whom he'd drawn. He'd have to come up with something special for this one. It was appropriate though. Buck just grinned. He didn't know exactly what he was going to buy, but he knew he was going to have fun looking. Then there was that pretty little lady that worked in the gift shop, downtown, too. He could ask her for help... His grin widened.
Ezra raised an eyebrow as he read his slip, concealing it carefully from view. Vin Tanner. This was going to be interesting. Well, it was a good thing he'd always enjoyed a challenge.
Vin smiled at the name on his paper. This was going to be fun. He'd actually seen something in the window of a gift shop, just the week before, which had made him think of his teammate - and the girl behind the counter was pretty, too. Maybe he could ask her opinion...
Chris looked at the name on his paper and snorted slightly. Well, he knew what Buck would like - except that he, himself, had put the veto on anything that could be construed as offensive, so he'd just have to look a little harder. That little gift shop in town sold coffee mugs. Maybe he'd start there...
+ + + + + + +.
Christmas Eve they all brought in their chosen gifts and piled them under the small office tree. Leaving them there until after lunch when the ceremonial unwrapping would occur.
"Why don't we start with you, Nathan?" Larabee looked at the man sitting next to him, deliberately ignoring his oldest friend, who had been poking at the gifts all day, first trying to work out which one was his and then trying to feel through the paper. Driving his team leader (among others) crazy with the crinkling noises. Josiah had ended up stepping in and taking the parcel away. Telling Buck that he could have it back when it was time for the swap (actually returning it to the tree a few minutes later, after the mustached man left for the bathroom).
Nathan opened his package carefully, ('Almost as if he's dissecting it' Vin whispered to Ezra sitting next to him.) savouring the anticipation, undoing each piece of tape separately and then unfolding the paper to eventually reveal the gift itself
The dark-skinned medic's eyes widened and his face took on a slightly wry smile as he read the legend emblazoned on the ceramic: "KEEP TALKING. I'm Diagnosing You". He looked up and turned it around, letting everyone get a look, nodding at the grins and snickers from around the table and finally turning his head to stare at the team's profiler. "Why does this have your name written all over it?" he asked, smiling.
Josiah grinned back at him. "I thought it seemed appropriate," was all he said.
Nathan laughed and shook his head tolerantly. "Thank you. I think you're next, by the way. That is, if we're going around the table?" He looked around and as there were no demurs, the profiler took up his package, turning it around in his hands, gauging the size and weight, deliberately prolonging the process before finally pulling at the tape holding the wrapping in place.
Drawing out another white mug, similar to Nathan's, he studied it for a moment, reading the inscription before starting to chuckle. "So true," he said, showing it to the table at large, prompting more laughter. The front of the mug read " I Can Do ALL Things Through Prayer And Coffee ".
Buck was next up. Less careful than the bigger man, he tore straight into the paper, impatiently. revealing a squat white mug emblazoned with a red stamp-style motif proclaiming 100% Certified STUD in big letters. Giving a deep, whole-hearted belly laugh, he proudly showed it to the others.
"Somebody knows you pretty well, Buck." JD, across the table, was laughing almost as hard as his friend.
"Yep - and this going right on my desk. Mandy can come home with me." (Mandy being the silhouetted female figure skater decorating his current office mug. Named after the long-ago lady friend who had given it to him, he always had a special smile he reserved just for her.) Drawing his eyes from his new gift, he looked around the table, judging who might have given him this one and his eyebrows rose as he looked at Larabee. "The look on your face, this has got to be from you, Stud."
"I thought that said you were the stud, Buck!" JD couldn't resist putting in.
"Oh, I am, Kid, I am, but ol' Chris here didn't used to be exactly a slouch in that department, either." Buck grinned at his oldest friend.
Larabee, refusing to be baited, just grinned back and said, "Tanner, your turn."
More grins appeared when Vin unwrapped a mug saying 'EVEN BAD COFFEE IS BETTER THAN NO COFFEE AT ALL'. "There ain't no such thing as bad coffee," the sharpshooter protested, with a grin of his own. "Just 'cause you fellas've got no taste..."
"That's the entire problem, Mr Tanner. We do have taste." Ezra put his nose in the air and pretended to ignore the face his teammate pulled at him, his tongue poking out in the gambler's direction. "And most of us are above such juvenile displays," he smirked.
Josiah stepped in before things could escalate further. "What did you get, Ezra?" The undercover man promptly forgot about his teammate and quickly but carefully unwrapped his own mug, smilingly displaying the contents: a plain white china mug with a black outline of a fanned out Royal Flush in Spades, fronted by an old west style pistol. "How appropriate. Thank you, Mr Dunne. I shall enjoy using it."
"You're welcome, but how'd you know it was me?
"You are the only one remaining who is likely to have chosen something so appropriate and yet tasteful." The Southerner smiled at his young friend, who was now blushing slightly at the other man's praise. He hadn't been sure if Ezra would like it. It was fairly plain, not fancy bone china or anything like that, but the mug had called to him from the moment he'd seen it and he'd ended up buying it anyway, despite his misgivings. Now, he was glad he had.
"I believe it is, in fact, your turn."
"Hey, yeah!" JD turned his attention to the parcel in front of him, tearing the paper in his haste to pull it off, making Standish wince and several of the others grin at the young man's enthusiasm.
Another plain white mug was revealed (they seemed to be popular) with block lettering reading: 'I TRY NOT TO LAUGH AT MY OWN JOKES BUT WE ALL KNOW I'M HILARIOUS'.
"Buck, this has got to be from you!" JD blushed even deeper than before as everyone (including himself) tried unsuccessfully not to laugh.
"I'm sorry, brother, but it is funny."
"Yeah, all those God-awful jokes you tell," Nathan put in.
"Hey, they're not that bad!" He grinned all the same and turned to his 'older brother', sobering slightly. "Seriously, it's great, Buck. Thank you, but... I might keep it for use at home, if you don't mind. The one I've got here at work - it works, you know what I mean?"
Wilmington smiled. "Yeah, I know what you mean, Kid." They'd all seen JD's ' I Turn Coffee Into Code' mug and they'd all agreed that it was a good fit for their young computer tech. Buck wasn't going to be offended if he wanted to keep it that way.
"What about you, Stud?" He turned to his oldest friend, the only one who hadn't unwrapped his gift yet.
Vin watched his friend nervously. Truthfully, he was just a bit unsure about what he'd bought and he was glad that Chris'd had a chance to laugh at some of the others first, before he opened his own. He just hadn't been able to resist it and he knew the others would find it as funny as he did. He just hoped Larabee wouldn't kill him after he opened it!
Somewhat mis-shapen, as if it had been crushed by a strong grip, the mug bore the legend 'I FLUNKED ANGER MANAGEMENT'
Chris looked at the mug, then the Larabee glare made it's way around the table, starting with Wilmington and a wide-eyed JD Dunne and stopping on an unrepentantly grinning Vin Tanner. "You got to admit, it fits you, Cowboy!"
The sniggers turned into outright howls of laughter as Larabee himself, slowly started to laugh, and responded good naturedly "I'll get you, Tanner!"
Tanner just grinned back, not at all fazed by the threat, rather, just glad his friend had taken the joke so well.
Josiah raised his new mug. "Merry Christmas To All!" he proposed, to cheers. "And To All A Good Night!"*
The first day of the new work year, Judge Travis had come to Team 7's office to discuss a possible new assignment with their leader. His eyebrows rose at the rather strangely shaped mug of coffee sitting prominently on the desk. "I Flunked Anger Management." he read, slowly, out loud.
"Ah.. it was a Christmas present from Tanner." Larabee flushed slightly, not quite meeting the Judge's eye.
"I see. I'm... not going to ask what happened to your old one." The older man knew when to leave some things be. "I actually came in here to talk to you about this latest assignment and whether you think your team would be a good fit?"
Some things were obviously universal, he reflected a little later, as he left - and coffee mugs were obviously amongst them. He thought of the #1 Grandpa mug currently sitting proudly on his own office desk, upstairs, as he headed for the elevators, smiling and whistling under his breath.
Comments to: Segues@hotmail.com
*'The Night Before Christmas' by Clement C. Moore.