The Gift
ornament by Mary Ann

Main Characters: Vin, Buck, Chris

Alternate Universe: One Soul

Author's Notes: Set in - towards the end of One Soul, just before Christmas

Thank you to my Beta: Rosalee

Not my guys, I just borrowed everyone for this little story

** ** Is their bond/connection thoughts – in this universe, it is a common occurrence

"What are you looking for Vin?" Buck asked the thin jean clad figure.

"I know it's here somewhere," Vin mumbled as he shoved things around on shelves in the tack room.

"What?" Buck asked louder, making the thin ex-Ranger jump.

"BUCK! You scared the crap out of me. What do you want?"

"Vin, I've been asking you for the last several minutes what you were looking for in the tack room."

Vin pointed to an empty shelf. "Oh ... I put Chris's gift out here for safe keeping, now I can't find it. I was sure I put it right there."

"Hmm I haven't seen anything here except a rat couple days ago and we got it. What is it and I'll help look for it."

Vin eyed the mustached man closely, but could feel his energy sliding slowly away and if he wanted to find Chris's gift he needed help.

Nodding, he pointed to Chris's tack on a saddle stand. "I got him a silver mounted bridle to go with his show tack, matches his saddle. Was in a box that was covered with a gunny sack."

"You didn't?"

Vin looked at Buck, puzzlement written on his face, "Didn't? If you mean that bridle at the feed store ... that's what I bought."

"WOW! He'll treasure that bridle! How'd you pull it off?" Buck asked as he stretched and checked the top shelves of the cabinet that he knew Vin couldn’t reach.

Vin sat down to rest on a small barrel of horse shoe nails. "It's hard having him in my head all the time but I think I've blocked him from knowing what his Christmas present is. I hope anyway. I seen it when Nathan took me in to be checked out at the hospital, and we stopped to pick up the grain. Put it sort of on lay-away and Nathan picked it up the other day for me. Now I can't find it anywhere, and Christmas is 2 days off... I don't want to lose that bridle," Vin replied getting agitated as he looked around the room. Chris had a nice show bridle, but the new one would really set off the horse he was riding. He didn’t want to lose the beautifully made bridle.

"Calm down Junior. No need to make yourself sicker than you already have been. Ithas to be here somewhere. Maybe Nathan moved it?"

"Don't know why he'd do that."

"Well, he is a good man and very helpful. And you’re still healing from your injuries and all that happened recently. Maybe he wanted to help you by putting it in a safer place where he was sure Chris wouldn’t find it. He does know some good hiding places around here. Okay, hold on a minute; let me see if JD knows where Nathan is." Buck's head cocked and he gazed at a spot on the wall. Moments later he smiled down at the longhaired young man.

"Well Nathan's at work but should be home shortly. JD said he was stopping in at the house before going to his. So you can ask him when he gets here."

Vin grinned in relief and tried to get up, a frown crossed his face when he couldn't seem to move, his mind began to take him to another place.

Buck saw the panicked look cross Vin's face and reached for his arm. "Let me help you up. I think we need to

get you inside and get something warm into you." Buck helped Vin to his feet, and smiled when Vin breathed a

sigh of relief, the panic look disappearing.

Buck knew the young man was still recovering from the ordeal of being a prisoner overseas, and so badly injured they didn't think he'd live. Then coming home to be robbed and left out to die in a snow storm. Only the strange bond that overcame Chris helped save his life. It had only been a couple of weeks since he arrived at the ranch, and though he was better, the injuries he'd received bothered him in the cold, Nathan and Rain had assured Vin that he would heal totally, but it would take time.

Buck shook his head as Vin forced himself to straighten up and slowly walked out of the tack room, heading through the huge barn. Buck stayed beside Vin, but didn't touch him, though he was close enough if Vin needed his help.

Nathan met them at the back door when they got to the house, a worried look on his face. "What's wrong Vin?"

"Can’t find Chris's gift."

Nathan smiled. "Got it covered. It’s at the apartment and fine. Rain got it wrapped and it’s ready for you to give to Chris."

Vin shook Nathan's hand, "Thank you for all your help, I appreciate that. Now I'm going to go lie down and get warm."

+ + + + + + +

Two nights later, everyone gathered in the large living room in the ranch house. Outside snow fell softly over the land, blanketing the countryside once again. Christmas music played softly in the background as the eight adults celebrated Christmas Eve together. The Christmas tree in the corner reached the ceiling and was alive with twinkling colored lights and all sorts of ornaments they had collected over the years. The whole house smelled of apple pie, cookies and mulled wine. Tomorrow they would have their Christmas meal, and celebrate their time and brother-ship together. It was warmed not only by the fireplace but the love between the people who were in the room.

After a filling dinner, everyone was relaxing in chairs and on the couches scattered around the warm, festive living room, talking about another good year that was drawing to a close.

Rain and JD had been elected to pass out the gifts that were stacked under the tree, and were happily doing it. Rain was decked out in a bright red Christmas shirt with ornaments embroidered on it, and a black skirt, an elf hat sat on her head at a rakish angle. JD was in dark jeans and a green tee-shirt with a Christmas tree printed on it; perched on his dark head was a Santa hat that seemed to make the rounds of the other men.

JD had no idea when Buck would snatch it again and place it on someone else’s head amid a lot of laughing and joking. While they passed out the gifts, everyone enjoyed the hot mulled wine that Josiah had prepared from a secret recipe, and cookies that Rain and Ezra had made.

Ezra wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but he loved to cook and was quite accomplished, but baking cookies was one thing he totally enjoyed doing. It was a wonder any cookies were baked given how Vin and JD were constantly testing the dough. He’d had to hide the cookies in different places to save some for their Christmas Eve get-together. At least Rain wasn’t bothered when she baked, since she and Nathan had their own living quarters, the younger men didn’t become a nuisance to her. He smiled as Vin stuffed another cookie into his mouth when JD handed him a gift to open. He couldn’t hear what they said to each other but Vin’s face flushed pink and he quickly swallowed then reached for another cookie that he handed to JD, who moved on with a huge smile. Looking around, to see if anyone was watching him, Vin stole another cookie and ate it before he turned to open the gift.

Ezra grinned at Vin when he opened the present, then held up a dark blue cashmere sweater. Blue eyes instantly landed on Ezra and Vin thanked him for the gift as he ran is hands over the warm sweater. He’d never had such a nice gift.

A little bit later, after everyone finished opening their gifts and everything had been admired, Vin sat down beside Chris on the end of the couch closest to the fireplace. He handed Chris a nicely wrapped box that had been hidden behind the couch.

*** What is this Vin? You didn't have to get me anything! You've only been here a short time ***

Vin smiled back. ***Just for you, and I wanted to**

"You two going to talk, or Chris, are you going to open that package?" Josiah asked.

Chris quickly opened the box and gasped in total surprise upon seeing the beautiful silver-inlayed bridle laying in the pale colored tissue paper. ***VIN! This is beautiful! I’ll treasure it forever**

Vin grinned at his soul brother, ***Good, and you better use it***

Everyone crowded around the two men as Chris lifted the silver mounted bridle from the box. "I will happily use it Vin, first show is in April. It is beautiful. Thank you!"His arm came up and Vin gripped his forearm in the special warriors grip they had, while the other men and one woman looked on with smiles on their faces.

It had been a wonderful Christmas for all of them.


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