God its good to be home, Larabee thought to himself as he let the Dodge roll to a stop in the driveway. He vaguely heard the sound of more engines being turned off, along with his own.
The entire team had decided to stay out at Chris for the weekend, away from their phones and lifes busy hassles. Just a nice relaxing weekend spent lying around and riding horses, weather permitting.
They had been on assignment for three weeks straight, no down time whatsoever. Although, on the lighter side of things, a few hundred cases of illegal arms wouldnt be finding their way onto the streets of Denver for the local teens and druggies to purchase.
Teenagers: the thought of them had one thing coming to Larabee's mind--Sam. She had been spending the last three weeks on and off either with Inez or with Nettie Wells, bouncing back and forth between the two, but it wasnt an unusual thing, and she didnt seem to mind it. He'd had Buck call Inez earlier and tell her to take the girl back out to his ranch, since they would be returning home that night. The woman had complied but said she had to work later, so she would have to drop Sam off at the house.
Slowly climbing out of his truck, Chris notes the tired movements of the rest of his team. They were all exhausted, and could use nothing more than a good night's rest. It was only five days until Christmas and they were glad that Travis had told them not to worry about getting the reports done until after the holiday.
The entire ATF team moved as one to the front porch, allowing Larabee room to unlock the door. Following doggedly behind one another they passed into the hallway. As they rounded the corner to the living room, all seven of them stopped in astounded amazement at the sight before them.
Standing in the corner of the living room, decked with lights, balls, and assorted ornaments was a medium sized Christmas tree. Some presents were wrapped and already placed under the low hanging branches. Above the fireplace, were seven stockings, hanging in a row, each one with the name of an agent, followed by the last stocking with Sam written across it.
The decorating had been done the night before by Sam, with the help of Nettie and Inez. Both women knew that the holidays, particularly Christmas, were important to the girl and to the men, so they had offered her a helping hand when she had mentioned the fact that the guys might not make it home for the holiday.
So, when Inez received the call from Buck telling her that they would be coming home, she made it a point not to tell the girl. Instead, Inez had told her that she was taking her out to the ranch house to help finish the decorating. Then she had left a little bit later, saying she was going out for more decorations, and left the girl sitting on the couch, looking at some pictures.
Larabee lets a small smile cross his face, as he notices the young girl curled up under a blanket on the couch.
As one, the entire team quietly makes their way into the living room, their exhaustion forgotten. JD heads over to inspect the presents, while Buck walks over to the coffee table to pick up the pictures she had been rummaging through.
He smiles to himself as he runs across some that were taken a few years back when the entire team had first met. Then there were couple of recent ones that were mainly shot outdoors with the men and their horses. He knew who had taken them, and remembered her sneaking about, snapping away with the camera.
"Should we wake her?" the Texan whispers to Larabee as Ezra passes them to walk into the kitchen.
"No, lets let her sleep," the black clad man replies quietly.
A few moments pass and the undercover agent walks back in from the kitchen holding a bottle with amber colored liquid in it.
"Look what Santas elf left out for us," he quietly informs the group.
Setting the bottle on the coffee table he looks over Bucks arm to see what has him so intrigued.
He too, smiles at the photographs, one of which has Buck kissing his beloved horse on the nose.
"She didnt think we would make it back for the holiday," Nathan muses quietly, walking over to the tree by JD.
"We almost didnt," the profiler comments.
Sam slowly walks into an old west saloon, not sure of how she got there. Glancing around the interior she notices Inez, or at least someone who looks like Inez. Everyone is dressed in 1800s clothing and she smells liquor and cigar smoke. Turning her gaze back to the bar she notices Vin and Chris, but theyre cowboys. Thats strange, she thinks to herself, then sees Buck and JD sitting at a table with Josiah and Nathan. They too are dressed as cowboys. Gawd JD, whos your fashion consultant? Where in the world did you get that hat? she wonders to herself, then takes note of the rather loud noise coming from her left. She turns to see a short staircase leading up to a small area, where a poker table sits with a few gentlemen seated around it. She hears a man yell and watches him throw his chair back and draw his gun on Ezra. What in the she thinks, then sees the other six men all draw their weapons on the upset man, as Ezra sits calmly back in his seat, a small gun located in his right hand.
Vaguely hearing voices, Sam slowly pulls herself from the depths of her dream. Rolling over to face the clock, she lets her eyes flutter open.
Instead of seeing the clock though, she notices JD and Nathan looking at the presents under the tree.
"Youre home," she states, her voice raspy.
She stretches and yawns, slowly lifting herself up on her elbows.
"Course we are," Chris replies, with a smile. "Didnt think wed miss this do you?"
"Well your case " she starts to say, and then a thought strikes her, "None of you are hurt, are you?"
"Not a one, for a change," the medic comments, with a grin.
"Good," she replies, then sits up straight on the couch, rubbing a hand across her forehead. "I just had the strangest dream."
The seven of them all look at her, ready to hear about the dream.
"Well, you were there, all of you, cept it was in the old west. All of you were cowboys, and Ezra was playing cards and this guy got upset and drew on him, but then you all pulled your guns out and protected Ezra. It was really weird," she tells them, rubbing her eyes some more. "Guess I shouldnt watch westerns before I go to bed."
Josiah laughs a little then turns his attention back to the decorations. "Did you do all of this?"
"Well, Nettie and Inez helped, but other than that, yeah," she replies quietly, yawning once more.
"I think it looks great," JD announces, standing from his crouched position by the tree.
"One question though?" Vin asks, as the girl turns to look at him. "Whered you get this?"
She glances at the bottle of Jack Daniels Vin has picked up and smiles a little.
"Well, I figured you all could use a dose of medicine after working so hard," she replies, with a tilt of her head and a sly grin.
"Just what the doctor ordered," Nathan states, walking over and taking the bottle from Vin.
Sam turns and watches as the medic disappears into the kitchen, then returns with the bottle and a small tray, lined with seven shot glasses.
She smiles as Nathan pours the liquid into each of the glasses and passes them out. All seven nod their heads to each other and down the shots, letting the fiery liquid rush down their throats.
"Now its off to bed," Sam states, as they set the glasses back down on the tray.
She stands up, gathering together her blanket and looking at the men patiently.
"All of you, shoo, off you go," she states, finally pushing Chris and Vin toward the stairs.
She receives a hug from each of them as they trudge up the stairs to their respected rooms. Deciding the couch was quite comfortable, she turns and heads back into the living room. Throwing her blanket on the couch she walks over to unplug the Christmas lights. Sitting back down on the couch, she looks to the pile of pictures she had been going through. With a smile she straightens the stack and pushes the tray of empty glasses and bottle over to the far edge of the coffee table. Reaching under the couch she pulls out the box she had wanted to rummage through earlier. Inez had picked it up for her at a local antique shop. The owner knew of the girls obsession of the old west and had said this package would please her.
She sets the package on the table and takes off the aged brown paper wrapping to reveal a fairly old box. Glancing around to make sure the men had gone to bed, she lifts the lid and gasps at whats inside. Slowly and gingerly taking out the contents, she stares wide-eyed in awe. Gently handling the old deck of cards, she rubs a finger across the case with a smile. Setting it aside she looks into the box further, realizing it held more than she first thought. After removing all the items she recounts them. A deck of cards, an old cross, a small knife set, a sheriffs badge, an old pocket watch, a spyglass, and a pearl handled six gun. Colt .45 Peacemakers weren't produced anymore, and to her eye, that's what kind it was. Her guess was that there was a few hundred dollars worth of items in front of her, if not more.
Looking back at the box she notices an old yellowed envelope attached to the underside of the lid. Gently taking it out and opening it, she removes the old black and white tintype and stares in awe at the men portrayed in the picture.
The same as in her dream, they were all there. Chris, Vin, Ezra, Buck, Josiah, Nathan, and JD with that stupid hat.
"But how?" she muses out loud to herself, staring intently at the picture.
A chill runs up her spine and she hears a voice.
"Some things are unexplainable."
She quickly turns around to look across the back of the couch. There, leaning against the kitchen doorway is Ezra, only it's a transparent figure, dressed in a red tailored coat and black hat.
He gives her a smile, a wink, and a two finger salute, then disappears.
Sam stares at the doorway for a second, then turns back around and leans back on the couch closing her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she opens them, sits back up and then gently begins placing the items back in the box. She needed to talk with Chris, but deciding shed wait until the morning, she sets the box off the table and curls back under her blanket. She slowly drifts off to sleep after trying to understand what had just happened.
"See, you all looked just like that in my dream," the teen states, staring at the black and white photo over Sanchezs shoulder.
"And youve never seen this before in your life?" the profiler questions, passing the picture to Chris.
"Never, not until last night, after you all went to bed and after I had that dream," she replies, walking around to sit on the couch arm.
Sam then reaches out and begins placing the other contents of the box on the coffee table. As she sets them out, each of the men draw closer to the table.
"Whoa, look at this," JD states, grabbing the sheriffs badge.
The young agent quickly stops what hes doing and stares at the badge for a second.
"You alright kid?" Buck questions, seeing the young agent pale slightly.
"Yeah," he replies, quickly placing the badge back on the table.
Sam watches as each of the men reach out and pick up different items. Buck the watch, Vin the spyglass, Josiah the cross, Nathan the knives, Ezra the cards, and Chris the pistol. She notices the slightly confused expressions on their faces as they turn the objects over in their hands, then place them back on the table quickly as JD had done.
"Strange, huh?" she questions, searching their faces for signs.
"A little. Sort of a déjà vu feeling," the profiler comments.
Vin stands up, the odd feeling in the room growing more intense.
"Hey Sam, why don't we go do that Christmas shopping?" he asks, ready to leave.
"Sounds good," she responds, standing up.
She walks with the sharpshooter to the front door, the conversation in the living room floating to her ears.
"Theres got to be an explanation for this," Chris states.
"Some things are unexplainable," the southerner comments.
No one in the household knew the reason why the teen had fainted by the front door, and if it was up to her, they never would. Otherwise she knew, they'd think she was crazy.