by MMW

Little Britches Universe

Author's Note: Just a short bit of fun for Ezra's first Christmas as an uncle.

Ezra looked at the pile of presents resting on his bed and released a heavy sigh. He had never really enjoyed Christmas. If his mother didn't have him running a con, he had been at some relative's house, unwanted and ignored. He had only meant to get each of the boys one thing since he knew neither Buck nor Chris had a lot to spend on them, but somehow he had ended up getting quite a bit. Perhaps he was trying to make up for his own childhood.

With another heavy sigh he sat in the armchair and tried to figure out what to do. He couldn't give the boys everything he had bought, Chris and even Buck would make him take some of it back and be upset with him. There should be something else, some other way to get the presents to the boys without being identified as the contributor.

Deciding he needed to think, he headed down to the saloon.

He had been sitting playing a game of solitaire, it being too early and the saloon too empty to attract anyone to a poker game when he heard the racing of little feet charging down the boardwalk before bursting through the saloon doors.

"Uncle Ezra!" Vin cried, racing up to the gambling man, excitement lighting his eyes. "I got an A on my spelling test!"

Ezra smiled. He knew Vin struggled with his schoolwork and this was indeed a cause to celebrate. "Why that is indeed wonderful, Mr. Tanner. Why don't you have a seat and we will celebrate with a glass of milk."

"Thanks, Uncle Ezra!" he cried taking a seat.

Ezra motioned for Inez to bring over a whisky and a glass of milk as words began pouring out of Vin at a rapid pace. Smiling at his young friend, he tried to pick out the important points of the narrative and thought he had finally followed the skip in conversation from school to riding Peso to the forthcoming holidays when a small dark head popped through the doors.

"There y'are Vin! I was wondering where ya'd gone."

"Hey JD!" Vin greeted his young cousin. "I's just talkin' with Uncle Ezra."

"Great!" cried the irrepressible JD, climbing into a chair.

Ezra leaned back as JD joined Vin's jumble of words. Sitting back in his chair, he let the words flow over him. It was unusual for Vin to do so much talking, but he was enjoying seeing the boys be, well, boys. As they were rambling on about the day, their plans for the upcoming weekend and more, Ezra picked up on something JD said.

"Saint Nicholas?" Ezra asked, leaning forward.

He watched the boys eyes get big as they explained, once more, that the teacher had told them how different people in different countries celebrated Christmas and some of what they believed. In one country, they put their shoes outside the house and the next day they would be filled with presents or fruit and nuts. In another, it was believed hanging stockings by the fire would result in the same. Somehow during the night, a person would stop by and deliver presents.

Ezra sat back in his chair, contemplating this story as the boys continued to talk. Secret midnight deliveries of toys,he thought to himself. Yes, that could be an answer. He couldn't keep the smile from his face as he thought out of the mouths of babes...

Christmas Eve arrived. It was a dark, overcast night with the threat of rain. A little nervous about the gifts he would be dropping off getting wet, Ezra got a flour sack and carefully placed the gifts in it.

Once he felt everyone at the Larabee ranch would be asleep, Ezra took his sack and made his way down to the livery. Saddling his horse, he headed out. Stopping a ways away from the ranch, so as not to alert anyone of his approach, he walked to the porch in the light drizzle, Quietly placing the sack by the door before making his way to his waiting horse.

He could not remove the smile from his face as he headed back, imagining the boys excitement in the morning.

As he settled into his featherbed after getting back to the saloon, he still smiled and let out a happy sigh. It had felt good to do something like that for people he cared for - and his mother would be appalled. This last thought brought a gentle chuckle to his lips as he fell into a peaceful sleep.

The End

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