Vin Tanner was in a funk.
He had been here before and knew that it would work itself out over time. He knew
that part of it was the holiday season, but Christmas hadn't gotten him down since
he had found himself with not just the one brother he had always dreamed of having,
but six brothers that he thanked God for regularly.
"Vin, you okay?"
lean Texan nearly jumped out of his skin, as he turned to face the team profiler,
"Fine, just a little down," Vin assured the older man.
stood looking at him. He had known Vin when he was a teenager living on the streets
and had taken him under his wing. A little over a decade later, he could still
read the man fairly well.
"Got two ears if you need them. You know where to
find me if you want to talk," he said, squeezing Vin shoulder and heading back
to his own desk.
Someone had put a CD of Christmas Carols on as defense against
another round of either Jimmy Buffet or Elvis Christmas CD's all of which Buck
was proud to own.
"What's the first Carol you learned" JD suddenly asked the
Nathan looked up at him, "Away in a Manger, had to sing it for Christmas
service when I was in children's choir. Momma loved carols so she had us singing
them with her as soon as we were able, but I think that was the first one I remember
Josiah leaned back and thought. "Guess it's be Angels We have Heard
on High. Um, um like that song. Mom taught it to Hanna and I, that was back when
things were still okay. Mom loved to sing and Hanna and I would join in, but that
was the first one I sang in front of anyone."
Chris took a sip of his coffee,
and answered from the doorway he was leaning on. "Silent Night, it was for a school
program. Folks liked Christmas music so we had carols around as long as I can
"I was required to participate in a truly dreadful performance of
the Twelve Days of Christmas as a child and was given the task of singing the
song as I was the only one capable of remembering all twelve verses. It was less
embarrassing than having to be one of the children acting it out," Ezra shuddered.
Buck grinned and sighed, "Jingle Bells, leaned it for my first school concert.
Momma and I would practice while we did house chores and such."
you JD?" Buck asked.
"Hark the Harold Angel, Father O'Malley had heard momma
and I singing while we were making some extra money cleaning the church and asked
if I would sing at Christmas Mass. She was really proud of me."
"I bet she
was, brother," Josiah beamed at him.
"What was your first carol, Vin?" JD asked
turning to face a now empty desk.
Everyone stared, it wasn't like Vin to suddenly
get up and leave like that with no reason or explanation.
Chris headed for
JD followed before anyone could stop him. Somehow the young tech
had upset his friend, and he needed to apologize. He wasn't certain what for,
but he still had to.
Vin was in
the park across the street from the Federal Building. He often went there when
in need of breathing space or to clear his head. He was a nature boy, but this
would do in a pinch.
Chris sat down on the bench next to him.
The two men
just sat there, silent.
"Mamma and I, we, we never had no money fer nothin',
but she always said joy don't cost a thing and we'd make decorations from color
paper and sing Christmas carols. That was about all we could do, but it made the
time special," Vin explained, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.
and Sarah used to do that too," Chris sympathized.
"Used ta be that I could
close my eyes and hear her singing with me. I can't hear her anymore," Vin almost
sobbed. "It's been so long since I heard her that I can't remember her voice anymore."
Chris took a deep breath and let it out. Words of sympathy and "sorry" wouldn't
help Vin anymore than they had helped Chris when he had realized he was starting
to forget what Adam had sounded like calling him Daddy. He could still bring it
up, but it was getting more and more vague all the time.
The blonde quietly
laid a hand on the Texan's shoulder.
Looking over at the path he had taken
here, he saw JD quietly step into view and sign that he would let the others knows
they were taking a half-day. Chris nodded his thanks, and JD left.
tech bit his lip not to start crying. He had never wanted to upset Vin like that.
He had heard the carols on the CD and remembered singing at the church and was
curious if the others had done the same as children. He would apologize later,
Vin needed Chris now not him.
By the time he reached the building, he was smiling.
Maybe there was something he could do for his friend. Now, if he could just figure
out how to do it.
"Conference room," JD called out, entering the team bullpen
ten minutes later. He was already seated before he realized that HE had just ordered
the remaining team into the room. And they had dropped what they were doing and
"As you've requested our presence, might I assume that you are
in need our assistance?" Ezra asked when the younger man was silent.
"We need to help Vin."
"What kind of help does he need?" Nathan, always practical
and to the point, asked.
"He's losing his ma, he can't hear her anymore," JD
"Painful time when that happens," Josiah sighed. He had long since
forgotten what his own mother sounded like, but he remembered the pain when it
hit him that he couldn't remember her voice.
"Any ideas?" Buck asked, ready
to do whatever might be needed.
"It's just an idea, but this was what I was
thinking," JD began.
He explained the plan to the other men. They organized,
discussed, tweaked, and left ready to do battle on their friends behalf. Buck
agreed to bring Chris up to date on Operation Tanner.
"JD!" Chris called from his office. It had been two days since the carol incident,
as they were calling it, had happened. Even Travis had commented on how subdued
the normally out of control group was acting. Vin was in a worse funk than before
and the others were acting like normal, well-behaved civilized ATF agents. Orin's
order to Chris had been clear: whatever was going on, fix it and fix it yesterday!
Chris had assured him everything was under control. Now to find out if he had
been lying or not.
The young tech came in as bellowed for, and was motioned
to sit down. Chris got up and shut the door.
When Chris left the blinds open,
JD started to breath again. Closed door only meant that the conference was private,
closed blinds meant that you were in deep kimchee and about to get the chewing
out of a lifetime.
"Buck brought me up to date on the plan and what you needed
from me," Chris told him, having returned to his chair. He slid a folder across
the desk to JD. "That should cover what you need from me. Let me know if there
is anything more you want from me."
"I will, thanks, you were the only one
that had access to this information. Well, legally at least," JD added.
gave a half smile, "Let's keep things legal JD. We are law officers."
is what I do as a law officer."
"Not without permission," Chris reminded him.
"How is the plan going?"
"Great, all I was needing was this," he held up the
"If you don't want Vin to know about it where are you going to work
on it?" Chris asked. Vin was in and out of Buck and JD's condo all the time.
and Misty are letting me work on it at their place."
Chris stared at him in
disbelief. Buck was evidently corrupting him.
"Buck's never told you about
the twins?" JD asked wide-eyed.
Chris closed his eyes. JD was hanging out with
Buck's twin lady friends. This was NOT good.
"You're sure that's a good idea?"
"They're out of town and we're keeping an eye on their place, so it seemed
like a good idea," JD answered.
"Let me know it there's any way I can help,"
JD nodded, and getting up he left.
Once at his desk he
looked in the folder. He had a starting place. The information was quickly and
quietly e-mailed to all but one team member. Now came the hard part.
Janet Tanner collected the day's mail and stopped for coffee as long as she
was in town. Yawning, she scanned the pile. She stopped at one that was addressed
to her and from someone named JD Dunne. She didn't know anyone named JD. Opening
it she read.
Dear Mrs. Tanner,
My name is JD Dunne. I work with your nephew,
Vin Tanner. I have a favor to ask of you. I am making a memory book for him about
his mother. If you could write down any memories you have of Elizabeth Tanner
and send them to me in the enclosed envelope, I would really appreciate it. If
you have any spare pictures that would also be appreciated. I am especially looking
for any audio tapes that might have her on it.
a deep breath and biting her lip she made a decision. She was not going to allow
her husband to stop her from helping. Her heart still ached for the sad little
boy with big blue eyes that she cared for for two years. She should have left
back then and taken him with her, but she had always been too frightened to go.
"I failed you once Vin, when I should have protected you, I swear I will not this
It was Team Seven's Christmas
Party, but somehow the usual festive spirit of the day was missing. Vin's funk
seemed to have spread. JD was the only one not there. When he arrived they would
start the festivities.
In classic JD style, he came barreling out of the elevator
and into the bull pen. He was carrying a wrapped gift. Josiah raised an eyebrow
as the younger man snagged the radio/cassette player box off his desk.
this works kid, Junior is lower than the Titanic," Buck told him.
Buck, this is gonna be great," JD assured him.
He laid the gift on Vin's desk.
"We're starting the gifts with you opening this."
The Texan lifted it up and
looked at it. "Who's it from?"
"All of us," JD answered.
Vin carefully tore
the wrapping off and gapped. It was a scrap book full of letters people who had
known his mother had written with stories about her. A great many had pictures
JD reached behind him and clicked on the tape player.
shot up and he whirled around as a voice he could identify as his mother's was
heard singing The Little Drummer Boy. It had been their favorite duet, Vin loved
doing the Par rum pum pum pum part.
"We tracked down everyone that we thought
might have known your mother and asked them for contributions and to alert us
to anyone else that might have known your mom and the results are in the book.
Your aunt Janet sent this tape that your mother made in the hospital so you would
have it on your first Christmas without her. But the woman you were staying with
misplaced it and when she found it she mailed it to your aunt. She apologized
for it not having gotten to you before and sent it.
Vin bit his lip as he eyes
watered. He had never thought he would hear that voice again.
"I can put it
on CD for you if you want, then it won't wear out," JD offered.
like that," Vin sniffed sitting and closing his eyes to listen to that wonderful
voice he loved and had missed for over twenty years.
Chris laid a hand on JD's
shoulder. "Good work."
The computer tech beamed. He had inadvertently hurt
his friend, and now he had been able to give him back something he thought he
had lost forever.
It was insane. It
was crazy. ADA Orin Travis looked at the man next him in the elevator and sighed.
It was also unavoidable. You did NOT just drop in on ATF Team Seven in the bullpen
unannounced and unexpected, especially when they were scheduled to have their
office Christmas party. Crandon Masters IV, the new DA, was just going to have
to learn that lesson the hard way.
"It'll be great to meet our most effective
team," Crandon looked over at him.
"Don't bet on it," Travis mumbled under
"I didn't catch that."
"It's sure to be memorable," Travis responded,
wishing again that he had had time to alert Chris they were coming so he could
tell the others to try and behave like the mature and professional men they were.
Of course the last few weeks, that had become their norm, which with that crew
meant that the insanity should be starting any time now.
The elevator opened
and the two men entered Team Seven's bullpen.
Crandon's eyes bulged and jaw
dropped. Orin tried not to smile too broadly.
JD was laughing like a loon and
running around with Buck hot on his heels swinging a rubber chicken. Ezra was
building a house out of cards. Nathan was flying a remote control dragonfly around
and landing it on unsuspecting heads. Josiah was demonstrating a native dance
of some type for the medic. Vin and Chris were quietly in a corner looking through
"MISTER JACKSON! I must protest your abuse and request that you
keep that menace out of restricted air space," Ezra growled as the dragonfly buzzed
his house, crashing the elaborate creation.
Crandon blinked, turned and left
for the elevator.
Orin chuckled. His boys were back, "Merry Christmas, Gentleman"
Seven voices returned the wish, and with a nod he left.
Chris watched and
knew that tomorrow he would learn who the stranger was and get yet another lecture
on controlling his men. For now, Vin had his mother back, and the next crisis
had yet to appear. It was a very Merry Christmas indeed.
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