Tokens of Affection by Sue M

Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep `em…damnit!

Thanks to Mog for ATF

Summary: Orders to keep Christmas gifts simple and minimalistic, turn out to create some interesting choices.

This year, the Seven friends and members of Team Seven had decided only to give 'fun' presents for Christmas. Several hours before meeting at Chris's for the holidays, each man was frantically wrapping his gifts before heading out, or in Chris's case, heading in.
Chris had decided to make a wood carving for each of his friends. Vin's gift was a replica totem pole, copied from a book the sharpshooter had lent him a few months ago. It had been a tricky project…quite intricate, but, even if he said so himself, now it was painted it looked good.
Buck's carving was of his beloved Chevy truck. Next to JD and his friends, Buck loved his vintage Chevrolet, and Chris enjoyed recreating the shiny red vehicle he had grown to love almost as much as the big man himself. It was such an extension of Buck's personality, big, warm, bold and comfortable.
When trying to come up with ideas for the southerner, Chris recalled Ezra's recent fascination with an antique card box. The original item was way beyond the undercover agent's finances and, although Chris knew it could never come up to the same standards, he hoped Ezra would like and enjoy the oak varnished replica Chris made for him. He had even placed a deck of cards inside, for effect.
Nathan's gift was a full-size carving of a Bowie knife. Jackson had recently paid a visit to San Antonio and the Alamo. His fondness for collecting knives was known only to the team and a few close friends, and on returning home, Nathan had raved about seeing an original Bowie knife…admittedly behind a glass case…but that hadn't diminished the excitement. While the most Chris's weighty gift could do was hurt a toe if dropped, he felt sure Nathan would like it.
While predictable, Josiah's carving was of a cross. But Chris had chosen to copy an ornate symbol, one that was almost as intricate as Vin's totem pole, but it had been worth it. Varnished, and standing on its own plinth, it was a handsome piece, and reasonably close to the original, though scaled down considerably. Chris was looking forward to Josiah's reaction when he opened it. Taking up carving again, had been an enjoyable experience.
JD's gift carving was of his beloved horse. The little bay was adored by the easterner, and JD hated not being able to get out more to see him. Despite the remarkable likeness and the work Chris put into it, this piece had been the easiest to do…and yet emotionally, the hardest. The last time the blond carved a horse was for Adam, and Chris almost failed to complete the piece. However, once he overcame the memories, it became cathartic, and completing it was a moment Chris would never forget.
Hastily, Larabee scooped up the boxed, wrapped gifts and placed them under the Christmas tree. The guys would be here soon…time to break out the eggnog.
In his townhouse, Ezra smiled as he laid out six individual gifts. Each had been exquisitely and professionally wrapped…after all…why do something like that himself when, for a few dollars extra, someone far more competent could do it for him?
He would have to ensure they were opened simultaneously, for in his excitement over his idea, he forgot that once one was opened, the others would have a semblance of an idea as to what theirs might be.
The gifts consisted of six individual playing cards, sealed in clear Perspex, mounted on wooden plinths, and engraved on a brass plaque on the plinth. Chris's was the King of Spades, and his inscription stated, "A tough, strong leader whose dark demeanor hides his compassion, but whose friends know better." Ezra hoped Chris appreciated that the sentiment was from the heart, not merely an observation.
Buck's was the Jack of Hearts, and its inscription said, "A veritable Peter Pan, who steals ladies' hearts effortlessly, and loves his friends unconditionally." Buck was young at heart, even moreso since JD's appointment to the team, and Neither Ezra or the others believed he would ever change…and thanked God it was so.
Vin's card was the Jack of Diamonds. His quote…"A man whose attempts to conceal that he is a diamond in the rough, are futile to those who care for him." Tanner was indeed a gem. Many dismissed him purely on appearance, but the man had a sharp wit and a deadly aim. His loyalty was unswerving, and those who couldn't recognize that, weren't worthy of his friendship.
An Ace of Clubs depicted Nathan. His quote was, "A true stalwart, whose determination to stay top of his game, has been our salvation on many occasions." For Ezra, the single, three pronged pip of this card portrayed the man's single-mindedness, and the three facets of his character, compassion, integrity, and intelligence. He was a gentle, quiet soul, but that veneer hid a heart of gold and a man whose goal in life was to put the preservation of life top of his list, next to the love of his friends.
Josiah's was the King of Hearts. The plaque read…"You are the sovereign of our souls and well being. Long may you reign." The team's profiler was a man to turn to when in despair. His patience, wisdom, and compassion held no bounds, and he would not rest while one of his brothers suffered. He made one feel safe, loved, and wanted. Abilities envied by many, and practiced by few.
JD's was the Ace of Diamonds. Ezra had chosen his inscription carefully. "To some the Ace is high, to others, low, but to all, it is number one in its field, which you most truly are." Ezra had instantly seen the qualities this young man brought to the team. While clear JD was often dismissed due to his age and youthful appearance, it never deterred him from his objective. His skills and knowledge were way beyond his years, and the six men that held him close to their hearts were determined to nurture and teach JD all they could to enhance his capabilities, while attempting to protect the innocence and youthfulness that kept the team fresh and on their toes.
Packing up the gifts, the southerner looked across at his own choice…the Ace of Spades. He had no reason to use it as a depiction of himself, except for one, which was his inscription. "One of a kind, black in appearance, but in truth, necessary and wanted." It wasn't a direct quote, but culminations of comments from his dear friends when he recently felt outside interference overwhelm his self confidence.
Locking the door to his apartment, Ezra looked forward to the next few days, and the company of men he had come to love.
Nathan's gifts were finally wrapped, and all by his own hands, despite offers from Rain to 'do a thorough job'.
For Chris, he bought an odd little green, flexible, moldable figure. Its design was to be used to reduce stress…something he felt Chris was sorely in need of on occasion. But then, their leader's job was hardly stress-free, and while his team excelled all expectations professionally, they had a habit of attracting reprimands and injuries like pins to a magnet.
Buck's gift was a rather neat, embossed tin. Its lid decoration was that of a banana and two strategically placed plums, a rare glimpse into Nathan's sense of humor. Inside, it was filled to the brim with Buck's favorite condoms. He felt sure the brunet would find them useful. Nathan knew Buck was careful, but it never hurt to be his second conscience.
Nathan bought Vin a small propagator and a pack of Bluebonnet seeds, especially designed for indoor use. He hoped it would help the Texan experience a little of the outdoors and his home state, in his own home, and therefore help toward him relaxing after a hard day. Tanner rarely got back to Texas these days, and while he would never admit to it aloud, there were occasions when something that reminded him of home stirred his Texan blood and caused him to yearn, even if only momentarily.
Josiah's was a jewelry making set. He knew the big man loved to work with his hands, and had designed several of the cross necklaces he wore. Nathan felt sure this would give Josiah hours of pleasure after a long week at the office. Also, the kit was considerably larger than average, in case Josiah wanted to expand into selling his creations to raise money for his beloved shelter.
For Ezra, Nathan bought one pack of silk hankies, and one of linen, both embroidered with his initials. It seemed an 'Ezra' sort of gift, and the southerner's recent cold had demonstrated a need for more of the useful accessories that often peeked out of his top jacket pocket, but usually more for chic than application. Standish loved the finer things in life, but was never easy to buy for due to him having specific tastes, or already owning it. Nathan hoped he'd found something not only useful, but tasteful, too.
The team's EMT thought JD's would be easy, but it turned out to be the hardest gift of all. Nathan quickly realized, as well as impractical…and a little boring, he'd never find a kit bag big enough for all the medical supplies he wanted to give his youngest friend. So he settled on a chain, with a small, round locket that held not pictures, but all JD's vitals, contact numbers, etc. The fact that the medical insignia on the locket's front was held in the hands of 'Pat Patriot', the New England Patriot's mascot, was a bonus. JD could find trouble in a pile of feathers and bubble wrap, and if Nathan couldn't be there initially, at least now anyone with JD could locate his friends instantly.
Gifts in hand, Nathan kissed Rain and her sister goodbye, with a promise to return home to Rain on Christmas night. It was an arrangement that suited them both.
Josiah placed his gifts on the back seat of his car, and headed out. He had chosen slivers of birthstone gems set in cufflinks, matching their personalities as near as possible. Thanks to a good friend, the cost had been kept exceptionally low. Accompanying the cufflinks were histories and backgrounds for each stone.
For Chris, it was black onyx, a birthstone for July. The man favored the color, but these days, it was more due to preference, than a reflection of his mood. Its portrayal was of a somber, fearless, dedicated, dependable protector, a description that could have been written for Chris personally.
Buck's birthstone, also for July, was Fire Agate, to depict his passionate nature. Buck's zeal for feminine company, and the well- being of his friends was legendary, and the stone choice fit him perfectly. He was a warm, loving man, but with a flash point that it was never wise to be on the receiving end of, and was blinding when activated.
Josiah's choice for Vin's May birthday was a Tiger's Eye. He almost chose a bright blue Sapphire, to reflect the color of the Texan's eyes, but somehow, the Tiger's Eye was more fitting for Vin's personality…earthy, grounded, cautious, yet fierce. Its tones, at first, appeared lack-luster, but peering closer, its true beauty was breathtaking. A description fitting for both stone, and man.
For Nathan, whose birthday fell in March, Josiah chose a Bloodstone, a gem that represented the promotion of good health. He knew the man had saved his teammates on more occasions than he cared to recall, and felt the stone, while a strange mix of green threaded with fiery red, was perfect for his needs…in the mythological sense.
Ezra's was a no-brainer…Emerald for a June birthday. For some reason it fitted the man perfectly. Folklore suggested its powers enhanced intelligence and clairvoyance, a quality the team had often wondered if Ezra possessed when making bets. Maybe he already had several Emeralds tucked away somewhere, it would certainly explain his astonishing capacity to predict outcomes he wagered on.
JD…another July birthday, and Josiah's choice for him was Pearl. Like a Pearl, the boy was natural…in life, in work, in everything. Fresh, untainted, and quietly and industriously building lustrous layers to protect his soft, gentle, inner spirit. Josiah believed it to be the perfect portrayal of their youngest.
The profiler noted a landmark and was shocked to see he was almost at Chris's. He could already feel himself relaxing, knowing he would soon be in the company of six special friends.
Making his way to his jeep, Vin clutched his gifts to his chest for fear of dropping them. Inside each parcel, was a miniature wheel made not of wood, or steel, but of numbered stones…a Native American Medicine Wheel, representing the circle of life. Each friend had one of the numbered stones highlighted, depicting where Vin believed that man stood in relationship to their journey through life. It was accompanied by a detailed breakdown of what the wheel signified.
Chris was stone number fifteen…'Leadership without insistence'. Chris had a power no man could explain. Few people refused him, and yet he did nothing to force the issue. That of course did not count when the man was protecting one of his own.
Buck's was number thirty three…'Love, to delight in a higher power of appreciation'. The man was never happier than when his friends were, too, and if he could help that along, he was in Heaven.
Nathan's wheel number stood at thirty four…'Experience – Knowledge and understanding'. Nathan's skills were the reason the guys made it to the ER when injured. His thirst for knowledge in order to stay on top of his game was a quality they had all been grateful for…and admired.
For Ezra, the wheel number was thirty five…'Introspection – to look inside'. The southerner's ability to look beyond the façade and see into the inner self was surely the key to his accomplishments, and often a major contribution to the team's success. Vin recalled that Ezra was the first to shake JD's hand when the kid joined them. When the Texan queried it…due to the fact the southerner had shown very little warmth toward the rest of them up to that point…Ezra explained simply that he could see instantly that the boy hid nothing, was an open book, and someone he felt he could trust. Standish had been spot on, and Vin had trusted his instincts ever since.
Josiah's number was twenty nine…'Wisdom – Knowledge, sense, intellect, foresight'. Josiah was a mine of information. His compassion and understanding gave them someone to turn to in times of despair, uncertainty, and guidance. He had time for everyone, and always managed to help, even if it was just to ease a conscience.
For JD, Vin placed him at number twenty seven…'Purity – Clean and Innocent'. The Texan hoped daily that JD's fresh, naïve, and untainted outlook never left him. He was the ying to their yang, the other perspective. The team needed those qualities, while JD reminded them daily of why they started out in law enforcement, and ensured they never forgot.
As he drove to Chris's, Vin decided he would get the guys out on a trail ride…they'd need some fresh air after all that food. And there was nothing united them more both physically, and metaphorically, than when the Seven rode together.
"JD! You got five minutes, boy! Shift your butt!"
Checking one last time that he had all six gifts, Buck closed his bedroom door and tramped down the staircase to the ground floor of the loft apartment he and JD shared. All day the tricky little runt had been trying to get a sneak-peek at Buck's gifts, but now, when they needed to get on their way, he was nowhere to be seen.
Despite his hands being large, Buck's long, slender fingers were deft at wrapping and he was pleased with his efforts. His choice of fun gift was bandannas, just like they wore in the Old West. He'd read that the color choice depicted the owner's personality, or at least the one he wanted to portray, and so had chosen each one accordingly.
Chris's was black, with delicate silver tips. The color for their leader was more in keeping with his favoring it now, but once it was a reflection of the man's tormented soul. Buck was happy to honor the reason Chris first chose to wear black, and hoped the flourish of silver indicated the crossover from need to trend.
For Vin, who had taken him the longest, he chose terracotta, with a white pattern of paisley. For Buck, it spoke of a quiet soul, with the tiniest flash of a buoyant characteristic bursting to get out. He almost went for a black bandanna with white paisley, but kept returning to his original choice. It seemed more appropriate to choose a shade that reflected Mother Earth, something he and the others felt Vin was at one with.
Buck's color choice for Nathan had been a difficult one. The man seemed to have an aversion to tight things around his neck, and so it was difficult to picture a bandanna to fit his characteristics. In the end, he chose a soft leather mid-tan reversible bandanna. Damned if he could explain it, but something about leather around Nathan's neck and shoulders felt right.
Ezra's was a lot easier to choose. The store had an emerald green bandanna with a border of individual black spades, just like Aces. Recently, Ezra had chosen more natural shirt fabrics for their trail rides and cook-outs, and Buck felt sure his color choice would compliment the southerner's new garments perfectly…not to mention the color of his eyes which became clearer and more alive when the Seven were hanging out together.
When it came to Josiah, Buck sneakily got JD to do some research, and the color of wisdom and clarity of decision-making, turned out to be yellow. Realizing Josiah's clothes were mostly browns and dark grays, he tempered his choice with a brown pattern throughout the bandanna. The big man was a contemplative soul, and full of amazing insights which helped them all whenever they turned to him, be it individually, or collectively, and so Buck stuck by his choice. However, it was the only one he was concerned about, and hoped he had chosen well.
Using the website JD found for Josiah's choice, Buck was helped in deciding on a color of bandanna for his surrogate sibling. JD's energy leaned Buck toward red; fiery, exuberant, and bold. But…it lacked something, so he turned back to the guide and his mind was instantly settled. White. It stood for youth, purity, freshness, openness, and truth, but being a bland color, Buck wanted more. JD was anything but bland. When he came across a white neckerchief with a tasteful pattern of red cowboys on horseback, the brunet knew he had found the one.
Heading toward the door, Buck yelled out one more time. "I'm leaving, Squirt!"
'Yeah, yeah…Buck, I hear you…' "Be right there!"
Although his gifts didn't seem that big, they were weighty. JD had decided on belt buckles, but the sheer amount of choice had made it a longer affair than he would have liked.
Chris's was an impressive oblong, silver-edged pewter buckle with a black inlay and adorned with a red Dodge Ram motif and the word 'Dodge' in capitals across it. For JD, apart from reflecting the man's choice of vehicle, it epitomized his hero…commanding, powerful, strong, and tough…descriptions that could easily describe man or truck. He doubted Chris would ever wear it, but these were just fun gifts, right?
For Vin, JD chose an oval, pewter buckle with a with a border of various Native American symbols in turquoise, red, and black. They surrounded a silver raised inlay of an Indian chief on horseback, his body arched back as he released a war-cry. Tanner was heavily connected to Native Americans, and JD hoped his choice was the right one. He had almost gone for a Harley Davidson buckle, but something about this one spoke to him. It seemed to reflect more of Vin's inner self, the man he mostly kept private, except to his friends.
Ezra's again had been a torn choice between pewter buckles of a rather nifty Derringer, an ornate 'Lucky 7' with a large red number seven and two die, one on either side, and the one he finally settled on, four Aces, perfect replicas of four fanned playing cards, accented in red and black to depict the suites. Again, JD doubted Ezra would wear it but, like the others, it came in a rather nice box.
JD couldn't believe his luck when it came to choosing Nathan's. A new addition to the store's collection was an oblong pewter buckle, with blue inlay. At the top was three large letters…inlayed with white spelling 'EMT'. Below it, running top to bottom, was a five- point white cross, with a staff running down the length of the central point of the cross and which had a serpent wrapped around it. On the lower edge of the buckle, from left to right, were the words, in silver, `Emergency Medical Technician'. Nathan was a cop through and through, and a damned good one, but the role of EMT was his alter- ego, and a skill that had saved their team's members on more than one occasion. It felt good to honor that quality.
Josiah's was an easy option, although the sheer volume of choice was overwhelming. In the end, JD chose an oval, pewter, rope-style silver-edged buckle with blue inlay. Its feature was a raised image of a hill, with a cross at its summit, a moon or sun in the sky, and a cowboy kneeling at the cross's base as he paid his respects, while the reins of the horse at his back led from his hand back to the animal. Something about it seemed to fit his image of Josiah, who, in his spare time, adored reading about clerics of the Old West.
JD was frustrated at how long it took him to choose Buck's. There were so many that illustrated the man's love of life, and characteristics. Finally, JD settled on a pewter, wing-shaped, double mud flap, with two naked ladies back to back sitting on each mud flap. A round center pulled it all together, with the words 'Fast Lane' circling most of the sphere, and 'USA' at the bottom, to bring the buckle to a point at its central lowest edge. Buck had slowed his 'entertaining' down some, but he loved women…really loved them, worshipped them even, and it seemed a perfect choice to portray that side of his personality, a side that, for JD, showed a man of passion, and compassion, and the utmost respect for the gentler sex.
JD's head jerked at another call from Buck.
"Alright! Geez, keep your wig on, bro!" he called back. Not willing to risk Buck leaving without him, JD snatched up his gifts and raced after the big man.
Two days after Christmas, seven friends rode out from Chris's home on a trail ride, sporting bandannas and belt buckles, and grins as wide as their faces.
The End