Chris Larabee was the subject of several glares and a mumbled curse or two as he stopped abruptly in the middle of the snow covered sidewalk. He'd suddenly realized that he was humming a Christmas tune.
Badass ATF agents--DID NOT--hum Christmas carols. Not even when out on a snowy December day as they shopped for the perfect gift for their new lover.
He blushed as he realized that although he had stopped humming, he was standing on that same snowy sidewalk with a huge grin plastered on his face as he thought about the slim Texan who had first awoken, then stolen, his heart.
Who had, in the past week, taken the final step by giving up his apartment and officially moved in with him at the ranch.
Not that there had been much left to actually shift from the fourth floor apartment. The past months had seen a gradual migration of most of the things that the younger man needed on a day to day basis. The move had been finished in one trip, the Ram and the Jeep full of the remaining items that Vin had been unwilling to leave behind.
Chris shook his head and started to move down the sidewalk. There was a small shop down the block that specialized in vintage and collectible items, and was rumored to have some items from the Civil War and old west. He hoped that they might have something special for him to give Vin for their first Christmas together.
The shop proved to be a disappointment as far as finding a gift for Vin, but as he headed for the exit his attention was caught by an item in the vintage Christmas display.
It was a 1950's copy of a Christmas story - complete with "sleigh bells" attached, just like the one from his childhood. The one that his family had read together each Christmas Eve.
Just like the one that he had read to Adam on each Christmas Eve during his too short life.
Just like the one he had burned following the deaths of his wife and son, unable to bear remembering the good times.
He paused, then reached out and touched the heavy cover. A vision of Adam's shining eyes rose up and this time, he smiled. The story had been his favorite.
He checked the price, amazed at how much the shop wanted--many times the original price, but for some reason it didn't matter. It was almost like reclaiming a piece of Adam...and of his own happy childhood.
Tucking the securely wrapped parcel under his arm, and smiling again as he heard the muffled sound of the bells, Chris headed out.
He still needed to find a present for Vin.
He was late getting back to the office. A single hour for lunch was way too little time for seasonal shopping, and he was then teased mercilessly since he had read the riot act just the day before when several of the others had run overtime. His glare was ignored by all, and he finally conceded that maybe, given the proximity to the holiday and their lack of a pressing case, he would allow each men to take an extra long lunch this week in order that they could get some shopping done.
He entered his office and was surprised when Buck followed on his heels, a huge grin splitting his face.
"Well, well, well," Buck began, his tone teasing, "looks like married life has mellowed the Grinch a bit."
Buck's referal to the relationship between Chris and the team's sharpshooter might have annoyed Larabee, but after his experience in the shop, nothing could sour his mood.
"Yeah, Buck," Chris replied, smiling wistfully, to the big man's surprise, "Maybe you're right."
Buck just grinned. He'd waited for a long time to see the old Chris Larabee re-emerge, and today he had gotten the best Christmas present he'd had in years. He slapped his oldest friend on the back and headed back out to his desk, adding in a sotto voice as he did... "Ding dong... the Grinch is dead..."
A week later, after the rest of the team left the ranch following a Christmas Eve get together, he and Vin settled onto the big sofa in the den. The lights were low, the fireplace burning and the tree was sparkling with tiny multi-colored lights and colorful ornaments. It was the first tree that had decorated the ranch since the deaths of Adam and Sarah.
And the first Christmas Eve that he hadn't spent alone with a bottle of whiskey and his 9mm.
The first Christmas Eve with his new reason to live; Vin Tanner.
Vin stretched and rose, heading into the kitchen for a fresh beer, feeling relaxed and content. Life just didn't get much better than this. He reached the kitchen, grabbed two fresh longnecks and slammed the refrigerator door, only to have a brown wrapped parcel slide off the top. He leaned down and heard a muffled sound as he retrieved the package.
What the heck?
He shook the item and heard the distinct sound of bells.
Now he was really curious.
He headed back to the den, beers in one hand, mystery parcel in the other.
Arriving in the dimly lit room, he set the bottles on the end table and leaned over the couch, gently shaking the package over Chris's head.
His eyes closed, Chris had heard Vin's soft tread as he reentered the room but was surprised when he heard the soft ringing sound. He opened his eyes and met blue ones that held a question.
Vin gently shook the package again, drawing Chris's attention to the package.
"Oh, I completely forgot about that."
"Yeah?" Vin asked. "What the heck is it?"
"This," Chris declared, gently taking the parcel from his lover, "is a piece of my childhood."
Chris peeled back the paper to reveal the title, and opening the book, displayed the primitive, but effective, sound effects included.
"Today this would be a microchip."
"So, this was yours when you were a kid?"
Chris sighed softly. "Not this exact copy...but one just like it."
"Oh," Vin murmured, not quite getting what was so great about an old Christmas book.
"Every year on Christmas Eve, my mom and dad would cuddle up with me and we'd read this together."
"Sounds nice," Vin stated softly, with a kind of longing in his voice.
Chris suddenly realized that this was one more thing that Vin had missed out on in his life--one thing that, tonight, he could change.
Vin looked over at his lover and saw the smile on his face. He snuggled closer. "Got something on your mind, Cowboy?"
Chris's smile widened. "Not what you think."
"No?" Vin returned with a slight pout.
"Well, not for a little while anyhow...got something else to do first."
"Ummm, ya sure?" Vin asked as he nuzzled up under Chris's chin, licking and kissing gently.
"Yeah, I'm sure...we've got a tradition to keep up."
Chris shifted slightly, reaching over to flip the switch on the reading light next to the sofa.
Vin blinked at the brightness, waiting for Chris to continue.
Wrapping his arm around Vin, Chris opened the book and began to read..."Twas the night before Christmas..."