by Winter

ATF Alternate Universe


As Christmas Eve got closer, Vin and JD were driving the others at work crazy. JD still hadn't been able to find just the right gift for Casey, and it was driving him crazy. Vin, on the other hand, had been eating large amounts of goodies and was on a sugar high. His eagerness to help the others get everything done before the party was becoming a distraction. Finally, Chris had sent JD and Vin shopping just to get them out of everyone's hair.

"Bless you, Brother Chris," Josiah said as the twin whirlwinds entered the elevator.

"Mr. Larabee, if it was in my power to grant you sainthood, I would bestow that honor to you for your benevolent actions here today," Ezra added.

"You think the two of them will be alright?" Buck asked worriedly.

"You worry too much, Buck," Chris said. "What trouble could they get into at the mall?"

+ + + + + + +

Vin and JD had decided to walk down to the mall. It was only eight blocks from the federal building, and it would be easier than trying to find a parking space. It was December 23rd, and everyone was making last minute purchases. The walk down had been rather cold, and JD said he wanted some coffee. It amazed JD that Vin hardly seemed to feel the cold. He wore only his leather jacket with a sweater underneath. They headed into the coffee shop, and JD ordered a cappuccino. Vin just ordered a coffee, black with four sugars. They made their way out of the crowded shop and headed for the department store. JD peered at the gold jewelry in the case.

"Hey, Vin, you think Casey would like some jewelry?" he asked.

"I don't know, JD. I'm not sure what women like," Vin said.

He looked around with JD when something caught his eye. He noticed three kids over by another counter acting suspicious. They kept looking at an elderly woman who was talking to one of the sales persons. Vin could see she was holding her pocket book loosely in her hands. He knew immediately what they were up to and grabbed JD.

"Let's go," he said.

As he headed in that direction, he explained to JD what was going on. JD nodded and moved to circle around the other side. Vin moved closer pretending to look at something. Before JD could get in position, they made their move. One of the boys grabbed the elderly woman's purse, and the other two pushed people out of their way so they could run. Vin ignored the woman as she screamed and went after them. They got out in to the main part of the mall just as Vin grabbed the one with the purse by the collar. He pulled back hard and the kid sprawled at his feet. When the others realized what was happening, they stopped to look. That's when Vin noticed the gang colors on their coats. Vin held onto the one with the purse as his friends came back to help him. A crowd had formed around the activity, and some of the women screamed as one of the kids pulled a switchblade. JD had finally pushed his way through the crowd, and Vin had him watch the one with the purse. The third boy was younger, and Vin could see he wasn't sure what to do.

"You don't want to do this, kid," Vin said.

"That's my brother you're holding, and I want him."

With that said, he lunged at Vin who easily stepped aside. As the blade passed harmlessly by, Vin grabbed the teen's wrist and flipped him. He landed face down, and Vin stepped on his shoulder as he pulled up on the arm holding the switchblade.

"Come on, man, you're breaking my arm!" the teen yelled.

"Drop the knife," Vin ordered.

He did as Vin said, and the knife clattered to the floor. Security was finally able to push through the crowd, and they handed over the purse-snatchers. The third one had gotten away in the confusion. The crowd clapped as Vin handed the purse back to the elderly woman. JD smiled when he saw Vin duck his head so his hair covered his face. He knew Vin hated all the attention.

"Thank, young man," the woman said, patting his arm. "Thank you both."

"My pleasure, ma'am," Vin said and ducked through the crowd.

"You're welcome," JD said with a smile as he followed Vin.

"Come on," Vin said grabbing JD. "Let's get out of here."

"But I still need a present for Casey," JD protested as he was pulled towards the exit.

"I know the perfect place," Vin said.

JD followed Vin outside, and they walked a couple of blocks past the mall. Vin turned down a mall street and headed for the western tack shop he knew. A bell jingled above the door as he walked in. The store was quiet with only a few people inside.

"What are we doing here?" JD demanded.

"You wanted a gift for Casey," Vin said as he walked to the back.

"Yeah, but here?" JD asked confused as he followed.

Towards the back of the store were the saddles and bridles. Nettie had told Vin that Casey wanted a fancy bridle for showing. She said Casey would be disappointed because she couldn't afford it this year. Vin walked over to the bridles and started to look through them. He found one that was a pretty golden color with darker braiding around the ear stalls. There were also silver conchos on either side of the spot for the bit. It would be perfect on Casey's Palomino, Butterscotch.

"Here ya go, JD," Vin said holding out the bridle.

"A bridle?" JD asked skeptically. "You want me to give Casey a bridle for Christmas?"

"Trust me," he said, putting the bridle in his hands.

Vin wandered around the shop, looking at the turquoise jewelry. He saw a bolo tie with a silver and onyx bear that he picked out for Josiah. He had already gotten the others gifts, but he needed something for Nettie. Vin looked up to see JD over by the hats. He watched as the kid tried on a bowler hat and stood in front of the pretending to be a quick draw. Vin went back to looking in the jewelry case. He finally saw a perfect gift for Nettie. It was a brooch of the Storyteller done in silver with turquoise, red coral, and onyx. The smaller children climbing on the Storyteller were done in different color of metals. He left his items with the sales girl and walked over to JD.

"Who do you think you are, Bat Masterson?" Vin asked

"What do you think?" JD asked putting on the hat. "Does it look good?"

"Don't you get enough teasing from Buck about that newspaper cap?"

"Yeah, I guess you're right," he said putting the hat back. "Are you sure Casey will like the bridle?"

"Nettie told me she wanted a fancy bridle for 'Scotch," Vin said.

"Thanks, Vin, I had no idea what to get her," JD smiled.

"We better start heading back, "Vin said

When they got to the counter, a pair of silver and turquoise horse earrings caught JD's eye. He decided to get them for Casey also. They finished buying the items and started to walk back. Vin suggested they pick up lunch for everyone as they went by the deli. They wandered back to the federal building and up to their floor.

"Damn, I hate that music," Vin complained as they got off the elevator.

"Look out!" Buck cried when he saw them. "They're back."

"Well, at least it was quiet for a couple of hours," Nathan sighed.

"I heard that," Vin said as they walked in. "Just for that, I won't offer you guys lunch."

They walked in carrying bags from their favorite deli. They dropped them on Vin's desk as he went to get Chris. The door was closed, and he walked in.

"Time for lunch, cowboy," he said with a smile.

"Did you stay out of trouble down at the mall?" Chris asked.

"I reckon," Vin answered.

They walked over to Vin's desk where Buck was handing out the heroes. They were frequent customers at the deli, so the owners knew what each of them liked. They ate lunch while JD told everyone what had happened at the mall.

"I thought you said nothing happened," Chris accused.

Vin shrugged, and the others laughed. Buck wanted to know what JD got Casey, but he was reluctant to show him. Buck started teasing him that it was fancy underwear, and JD punched Buck. He finally showed Buck, who was surprised by his choice.

"A bridle?" he asked. "Ain't very romantic."

"Quit teasing the boy," Josiah admonished when he saw JD doubt his choice.

"Let me see it, JD," Chris said.

He handed Chris the bridle, and the team leader looked it over.

"She'll like it," Chris said and handed it back.

"Thanks, Chris," JD beamed. "Vin helped me pick it out."

They didn't rush getting back to work. Chris knew the rest of this day would be shot. The federal building was closed the next day, Friday, since Christmas landed on a Saturday. They were just finishing their lunches when they heard caroling from the elevator. As the doors opened, a bunch of the women from administration and a few of the female agents walked out singing "Oh Holy Night". Josiah stood up and joined them, and his baritone blended wonderfully with their voices. Needless to say, he was hijacked to continue caroling through the building. Buck tagged along to keep the women company, but they begged him not to sing. Nathan and JD followed to keep Buck out of trouble. Chris headed back to his office to make a phone call. Ezra went back to typing on his computer. Vin leaned back in his chair and watched Ezra.

"Something I can do for you, Mr. Tanner?" Ezra asked without looking up.

"Was just wondering what you were planning on doing Christmas day."

"Well, since Mother is spending the holidays in Vienna, I will be spending a quiet day at home."

"Kinda lonely, ain't it?" Vin asked

"Perhaps," Ezra answered. "And where will you be spending your holiday?"

"Same as you," Vin smiled. "I'll probably watch all those old sappy holiday movies they have on, then order a pizza."

"That's no way to spend the holiday," Chris said eavesdropping. "The both of you will come out to the ranch after the party tomorrow and spend the night?"

"Are you implying misery loves company, Mr. Larabee?" Ezra asked with a smile.

"Yeah something like that," Chris smirked.

"Then I would be delighted to join you," Ezra agreed.

"Sure, why not," Vin said.

"Join you where?" JD asked as he walked back in.

"Chris didn't want me and Ezra mopping around by ourselves on Christmas day, so he asked us over to the ranch," Vin answered.

"Oh," JD said, sounding disappointed.

"You might as well come too, JD," Chris said. "I know you and Buck were only going to hang out at the apartment."

"Well, thanks, Chris, but I was actually going to spend the day at Casey's," JD said sheepishly.

"I'm surprised Ms. Nettie wasn't having you out to the ranch, Mr. Tanner," Ezra observed.

"That's cause she's at her sister's," Vin said, looking at JD.

"I see," Ezra said and smiled.

"Oh, come on, fellas, nothing's going to happen," JD said.

"Nothing's going to happen where?" Buck asked as he walked back in.

"JD will be spending Christmas day alone with his paramour," Ezra said.

"I know," Buck said as he wiggled his eyebrows at JD.

JD launched himself at Buck, and they wrestled on the floor. Josiah and Nathan came back as Buck got JD in a head lock.

"What started this?" Nathan asked.

"Don't ask," Vin said laughing.

"Well, I guess I'll just invite all of you out to the ranch for Christmas day," Chris said. "But don't expect anything fancy."

"Are you going over to see Mary and Billy?" Nathan asked

"I am, but I hadn't planned on spending the whole day," Chris answered. "They'll be over at the Judge's."

"You can count me in for later in the day," Nathan said.

"What about Rain?" JD asked, getting up from the floor.

"She has to return to New York that afternoon," Nathan said.

"Being the assistant to the head of UNICEF has its drawbacks, huh" Buck said, sitting on his desk.

"Yeah, but she loves it," Nathan smiled. "She gets to visit all sorts of different countries."

"So, Josiah, that leaves you," Chris said.

"After I help at the church, I'll be right over," he smiled.

"Hey, why don't we head over to the Saloon after work?" Buck suggested. "Have ourselves some fun.

They all agreed, and at 4:30 P.M., they headed over. When they walked in, the place was packed. Inez was swamped behind the bar, and Vin went to give her a hand. He walked behind the bar and started taking orders. Inez pecked him on the cheek and ran to the back to get more supplies. The others ended up standing around the bar giving Vin a hard time. Once Buck realized that some of the women were slipping Vin their phone numbers, he started to help also. Josiah and Chris ended up being bouncers when two guys started a fight. Everyone cheered when Chris kicked them out the door. For the most part, the evening was very enjoyable. A couple of the women had mistletoe in their pockets and held it over various gentlemen to claim a kiss. Vin managed to stay out of their reach by offering them Buck, which they didn't seem to mind. As it started to get late, the crowds started thinning out, and they were able to claim their usual table. Inez finally shooed Vin out from behind the bar, and he joined the others. Once he was seated, Ezra dealt the cards. Vin smiled, pulling his tips out of his pocket.

"If I had known tending bar would be so lucrative, I would have joined you," Ezra said when he saw the money.

"Hey, how come you made more money then me?" Buck demanded.

"Because Vin's cuter," JD said smiling.

"Out of the mouths of babes," Josiah laughed.

They each picked up the cards Ezra dealt and relaxed. Inez brought them all some of her famous chili. Around midnight, Inez kicked out everyone except the seven. She let then stay as she began to clean up. Vin excused himself and gave her a hand. They put the chairs on the tables, and Vin swept up. When he was done with that, he helped her with the glasses behind the bar. Vin invited her to the party over at St. Sebastian church down the block from the apartment. She said she would love to go. They were finished with the glasses when they heard a groan from the table.

"Damn it, Ezra, it's Christmas, and you're still cheating," Buck accused.

"You have yet to prove that, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra said as he pulled in a large pot.

"Well, I don't know about you, but it's time for me to be going," Nathan said. "I have pick up Rain at the airport early."

They all decided it was time to go, and Inez went over to unlock the door. Before she opened it, she pulled out her own piece of mistletoe and claimed a kiss from each of them as they walked out.When Vin didn't follow, Chris turned back to him.

"I'll wait for Inez and walk her out," he said.

"Right," Chris agreed. "See you tomorrow at the church around 6:00 P.M."

Vin saluted Chris with two fingers as he closed the door and locked it. Inez just straightened up a little more and was ready to go in twenty minutes. Vin helped her lock up and set the alarm. He walked her to her car.

"Thank you, Senor Vin," she said and kissed him on the cheek.

She climbed into her car, and Vin closed the door. He stepped back and waved as she pulled away. He walked over to his Jeep and got in. He turned the key, and the Jeep rumbled to life. He pulled out of the parking lot and headed home. He couldn't wait for tomorrow night.


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