THE SPIRIT OF GIVING by Andi and Charlie

"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

The boys (sigh) belong to Trilogy Entertainment and the Mirisch Group. Much thanks to Mog for creating the ATF Universe and to J.K. Poffenberger for the Little Britches universe. And to whomever was smart enough to combine the two. Hope you enjoy.

The song we talk about is Natalie Cole’s The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot"by Michael Carr, Tommy Connor and Jimmy Leach.

Sorry we didn’t get it out in time for Christmas. Hope everyone had a good one.

The elevator dinged, alerting the occupants of the seventh floor of Denver’s Federal Building that they had visitors. Before they even came into sight, they knew who the visitors were. There was no mistaking the loud, excited voice of five-year-old, JD Dunne. And where JD was, seven-year-old Vin Tanner wasn’t far behind. As quiet and shy as JD was loud and exuberant, the boys couldn’t have been farther apart in manner, or any closer than brothers.

The boys had been found several months earlier, living in a warehouse on their own. Taken in by ATF Agents Buck Wilmington and Chris Larabee, the two boys had pulled the two men and their teammates into a close-knit, if unusual, family.

Chris came out from his office at hearing JD’s voice. He spotted their housekeeper, Gloria Potter, holding each of the boys’ hands. Upon seeing Chris, Vin’s face lit up and he launched himself at the man as only someone confident of his welcome could do.

"Hey there, cowboy," Chris said, hefting the boy into his arms in delight. "How was school today?"

"It was okay. I’m just glad it’s Friday."

"Yeah, me too."

Before Chris could say anything more, he felt a tugging on his pant leg. He looked down into JD’s upturned face. The little boy had chocolate smeared on his cheek and a half-eaten candy cane clutched in his hand. "Hey, JD. And how was your day?"

"It was cool. We had a party, 'cuz it was Bobby Taylor’s birthday and his mom brought in a cake and cookies and even candy canes 'cuz Bobby’s birthday is in December just like Jesus’ and where’s Mr Buck, 'cuz I wanna show him my candy cane, it’s purple."

Chris tried not to chuckle as Vin rolled his eyes at JD’s non-stop sentence. "Buck took some papers downstairs, JD. He’ll be back in just a minute. And I bet the cake had chocolate icing, didn’t it."

JD’s eyes got real big. "How’d ya know?" he asked in awe.

Setting Vin on the floor, Chris knelt down and swiped a finger down JD’s cheek. "I guess you decided to save some for later, huh?" he asked the boy.

"I’ll take him into the restroom to clean up," Gloria said.

"No need," Chris told her. "We’ll handle it before we head out. I really appreciate you bringing the boys into town, Gloria."

"It wasn’t a problem. It gives me an excuse to come in and do some of my Christmas shopping without my little ones around. Well, boys, I guess I’ll see you both on Monday."

"Bye, Mrs. Potter," the boys chorused. As Mrs. Potter waved goodbye, the elevator doors opened. Mrs. Potter went to step in, only to pull back as Buck Wilmington went to step out.

"Oh, excuse me, Mrs. Potter," Buck said, stepping aside to let the woman enter the elevator car. "Merry Christmas, ma’am."

"You, too, Mr. Wilmington. Merry Christmas, everyone," she said as the doors closed.

"Buck," JD squealed, running over to Buck. "Lookit what I got," he said, holding up the candy cane. Unfortunately, Buck didn’t see it in the boy’s hand as he swung JD up in his arms, and the candy cane got tangled in Buck’s hair. "Buck, you got hair on my candy cane."

Buck tried to pull his head away and ended up pulling the candy cane and JD’s sticky hand with it. He made a face as Josiah and Nathan walked out of the break room, saw what had happened and started laughing.

"C’mon, Buck," Nathan said. "Let’s get JD cleaned up and we’ll get the candy cane loose. Ezra, hand me that pair of scissors."

"Now, Nathan..." Buck started, but Nathan cut him off.

"Buck, I’m not gonna cut a lot off, but you know it’s the only way to get it out of your hair.

Buck sighed. "Yeah, I know."

Chris looked down at Vin, who was still smiling at the antics of Buck and JD. "So, Vin, what did you do in school, today?" Chris asked him.

"Well, the teacher wanted us to write a letter to Santa."

"And did you?" Chris asked.


Josiah tilted his head. "Kind of?"

Vin looked toward the bathroom to make sure that JD wasn’t able to hear then looked up at Chris and Josiah. "Ryan Murphy said that Santa isn’t real, just somebody our parents made up. And I think he’s right. But just in case, I wrote and told Santa that he didn’t need to give my any gifts this year."

"Why not, Vin?" Chris asked, worried.

"'Cuz I already got the best present I could ever have wished for. I get to live with you forever and ever. So I told Santa that he could give my gifts to someone else who needed ‘em."

Chris knelt down and grabbed Vin in a tight hug. "Having you is the best Christmas gift I could ever get, too, cowboy." Vin beamed in delight then pulled his head away so he could look Chris in the eye.

"Chris, is Ryan right? Is Santa a" Vin stumbled, trying to remember the word that Ryan had used.

Chris gazed into those questioning eyes, wanting to let Vin hold onto those hopes, but remembering that he had promised never to lie to the boy. He checked to make sure that JD was still in the bathroom before answering.

"Yeah, Vin, Santa is a myth."

Vin nodded, not surprised. "I think it would upset JD, so let’s keep this to ourselves, okay, Chris?" The blond nodded.

Josiah laid a hand on the young boy’s shoulder "Vin Tanner, you are an exceptional young man," he said. Vin smiled and wandered over to look at the Christmas decorations that the team had put up in their area. He stopped when he came to an area right outside Chris’ door. A piece of garland was strung up low on the wall, about eye level for someone Vin’s size. Hanging from the garland where a dozen pieces of paper, folded in half like cards. Vin, taking his time due to his dyslexia, could see that the front of each paper bore the name and age of a child. He looked up.

"Mr. Chris, what’s this for?" he asked.

Chris knelt down so that he would be at eye level to Vin.

"Well, Vin, this is part of the ATF Foster Child program. You see, every year at Christmas time, the county agencies that handle the foster children put these up at all the police and fire departments in the city. They ask the children to write their letters to Santa. Then, they use those letters to fill out these cards." He opened the card and pointed things to Vin as he explained. "The people at the agency write down the toys that the kids want for Christmas. They also include the size clothes the child wears, along with that child’s favorite colors. Then they put them up. The idea is for us to take a child’s name and agree to buy that child a gift, wrap it up and bring it back here. We put it into the box here and the agency comes to pick it up and hold it until Christmas, when it gets delivered to the child."

Vin got a real sad look on his face. A look no child should ever have to wear. "These are the kids that Santa forgets, huh?"

"What do you mean, Vin?" Chris asked.

"I heard this song on the radio the other day, when Mr. Nathan picked us up from school. This lady was singing about this little boy without a dad, and how Santa Claus forgot him. He didn’t have any new toys, like all the other kids. Just the broken ones from last year." He looked at Chris. "The last Christmas with Mama, we were at the shelter. None of the kids there got what they had asked Santa for, including me. Oh, we all got something, coloring books or something. But not what we had written Santa for."

Chris made a decision. Although he had already bought toys for two of these foster kids and brought them in already, he figured that Vin might want to participate too. "Vin, would you like to choose one or two of these kids and make sure they aren’t forgotten by Santa?"

Vin looked up at Chris, his face brightening. "Could we?" he asked hopefully.

"Yeah, cowboy, we can. Why don’t you pick out two and we can go get stuff for them tonight?"

Vin looked at the cards. "How do I choose?"

"What is it you are trying to decide, Master Tanner," Ezra asked, having appeared from down the hall.

"Hi, Mr. Ezra. Chris said I could choose two of these ‘foster kids’ so Santa won’t forget them at Christmas. Even though I know that Santa is a my..myth." Vin smiled to have remembered the word this time. "I just don’t know how to choose which two."

"Well, that is indeed a dilemma. Perhaps by age, choose two children who are close to you in that regard." Vin nodded and went back to reading.

"Mr. Larabee, might I inquire as to what young Vin meant about these children being forgotten by Santa? Does he not believe in the jolly old man?"

"It seems Vin heard a song while he was driving with Nathan the other day about a little boy that Santa forgot. And no, he knows that Santa isn’t real. But we are keeping that a secret from JD. Vin says JD would be upset to find that out."

"Ah, that explains it. Natalie Cole did a song like that on a Christmas CD a few years ago. I happen to know that the CD is one of Nathan’s favorites. He remarked that he was going to have to purchase another copy, because his current one was becoming scratched from being played so often."

Vin came up, holding two of the papers and handed them to Chris. "Hmm," Chris read out loud. "Steven, age 7 and Timmy, age 8."

"Yeah. Steven says his dream gift would be some soldiers, just like in the song I heard. And Timmy wants a drum," Vin said.

"Master Tanner, do you think you could pick out two of the youngsters for me? I believe I would like to help."

"Get two for me as well, Vin," Josiah said. Vin grinned and hurried back over to the display.

"What’s going on, boys?" Nathan asked as he, Buck and JD returned from trying to fix Buck’s hair. JD was pouting because the remainder of the candy cane had to be thrown away. But he quickly forgot about that in his curiosity to see what Vin was doing. He squirmed in Buck’s arms until the big man set him down. Then he ran over to Vin.

"Whatcha doin’, Vin?"

"Choosing foster kids for me, Mr. Ezra and Mr. Josiah."

JD’s eyes got wide. "Are we gonna take ‘em home?" He turned around. "Mr Buck, Vin’s gonna get a couple of foster kids and we’re gonna take ‘em home. Where are they gonna sleep, Mr Buck? Are they gonna share a room with me and Vin?" He looked around in confusion as the adults laughed. Vin just sighed.

"No, JD, we’re not gonna take ‘em home." He pulled JD over to the display, winking at Chris over JD’s shoulder. "See, Santa needs some help this year, so we’re gonna go get some toys for these kids, wrap them and bring them in here. The kids are ones in foster homes or shelters. Since it’s kinda hard for Santa to find them, we get to help."

"Like elves," JD yelled, jumping up and down. "We’re gonna be elves. Do I get a pair of those funny shoes, the ones with the curly toes and bells and..."

Buck knelt down and put a hand gently over JD’s mouth. "No, JD, no funny shoes. But we can probably get you another candy cane while we’re at it. Okay?"

"Okay." And just that easily, JD was satisfied. The others breathed a sigh of relief. Vin took down four of the cards and handed them to Ezra and Josiah.

"Thank you, Vin," Josiah said. "Well, I am buying for Sally, age 2 and Latonya, age 9. Sally wants a dolly and Latonya wants a styling head." He looked up. "What is a styling head?"

"It’s one of those life size mannequin heads, with hair on them. The kids can curl it, braid it, even color it, just like a hairstylist would do," Nathan said. The others just looked at him in amazement. "What? Rain’s niece just turned eight and has been talking nonstop about asking Santa for one of those things. I was with Rain at the toy store last week when she picked it up."

"I have Monique, age 17 and Samuel, age 16. Monique’s dream gift is cosmetics and an Eddie Bauer jacket, while Samuel would like a Colorado Avalanche jersey."

"Well, I know the older kids are usually the last ones chosen. Most want to buy for the little kids, ya know?" Buck said. "And the older kids have alot of peer pressure to put up with. Some of their classmates probably get a new jacket every year, and probably whatever new fad of athletic shoes has just come on the market."

"No doubt you are correct, Mr. Wilmington. I do believe that these two young adults will find that Santa has been very good to them this year."

"Mr. Buck, do I get to choose, too?"

"Sure thing, little bit. Pick out two for yourself," he said, having already been told by Chris that Vin was getting two.

"Yay," JD ran over to look at the cards. Nathan smiled, deciding that like his teammates, he could handle a couple more. "JD, why don’t you pick out two for me as well." The young boy smiled and pulled two off, running them over to Nathan, then running back to pick his two.

"Well, who do you have, Nathan?" Josiah asked.

"I have Randall, age 12 and his twin brother, Robert. Hmm, twins." Nathan read over the cards. "They certainly have very different interests."

"How do you mean, Nathan?"

"Well, Randall wants a football, while Robert’s dream gift is a telescope."

"Well, even identical twins are separate individuals and should be treated as such," Josiah said.

"You got that right, Josiah," Nathan agreed. "They’ll always be twins, that will never change. But having separate interests is probably a good thing and should be encouraged."

"Most assuredly, Mr. Jackson. Besides, who can envision what those young men may do as adults? One may take the Broncos to the Super Bowl, the other may discover a comet on a collision course and save us all."

"I choosed these, Mr. Buck," JD said, waving his two in the air.

"Well, let’s see who ya got there, Little Bit. Montel, age 4 wants a fire truck and Peter, age 1 loves to fingerpaint. Sounds good little bit."

"Mr. Chris?" asked a soft voice.

"Yeah, Vin?"

"What about the other two?" Chris looked at the last two cards hanging from the garland. Chris smiled down at Vin and was just about to grab them, when a new voice spoke up.

"Ah, there are still some left. Thank goodness, I was afraid they would all be gone."

All heads turned toward the door. There, with his coat over his arm, stood their boss, Judge Orrin Travis. He beamed as JD and Vin both ran up to him, kneeling down to give both boys a hug. He winked at his agents. "It's good to see you boys. I just came down to choose a couple of the foster children. I’m glad to see there are some left."

"Just two," Vin said, holding up two fingers. "I’ll get them for you."

"I wanna get them for the Judge," JD whined.

"Boys," the Judge said, using his courtroom voice. "Why don’t you each bring me one, okay."

The boys ran over to the display, while Chris whispered in the Judge’s ear. "How much did you hear?"

"I came in about the time that JD was asking if the foster kids were going to share a room with him and Vin."

"Here ya go, Judge," Vin said, handing him a card reading "Paul, age 8."

"Here’s one, too," JD said. This one read "Shannon, age 13."

"Well, Paul wants a remote controlled car and Shannon would like a portable CD player. Thank you, boys. These will do nicely. Well, gentlemen, I have some ‘elf’ errands to run. Have a good weekend." The judge put on his coat, placed the foster child cards in his coat pocket and walked out.

"Well, Vin. What do you say we go get some dinner, then do our own ‘elf errands’," Chris said.


Christmas Day-Denver area

"Oh, wow! A telescope!!!!"

"Cool, a football. And it’s autographed!"

"Awesome, an Avalanche jersey."


"A drum. Wow."

"Oh, an Eddie Bauer (TM) jacket. And look, makeup!"

"It’s a fire truck. Just what I asked Santa for!"

"A CD player. And a gift certificate to the music store. Outta sight."

"Lookit all the soldiers. I can play army."

"A styling head. I’m gonna curl her hair. And look, all sorts of barretts and hair ties."

"A remote controlled Corvette. Wow."

"Look, Peter, Santa brought all sorts of paints for you. I’m just glad the note included assured me that they’ll wash off of walls easily."

Larabee Ranch

Jingle. Jingle.

"Look, Mr. Buck. Santa brought me elf shoes."

Jingle. Jingle. Jingle. Jingle.

"I’m gonna shoot Standish," Chris growled.


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