Part 6 of the "Crossed Paths" series.
The day was Christmas Eve, everybody was home, and they had planned to go to Chris' ranch for the long weekend, but to their surprise, Vin had turned down the invitation, planning to be at home, alone. Ezra didn't like the fact of Vin being alone on Christmas Eve. He knew very well about that, Maude always had had to work at that time of the year, but although she always managed to have some quality time for him, it was never enough and the good byes and see you later were always very painful for him. So he was resolved to get Vin out of his home and on the road to the ranch in less than two hours.
He climbed the several flights of stairs that separated Vin's apartment from the street and rang the bell, nothing. He rang again and waited. The sound of heavy feet walking on the other side told him the Texan was at home and had been sleeping. The door was opened and the red owlish eyes looked at him quizzically.
"Hey Ez" he said as the only thing that came to his fuzzy mind.
Ezra nodded to him and answered "Mr. Tanner." Then putting aside his normal rules of etiquette he entered the apartment without so much as by your leave. Vin landed on the couch yawning at the same time. Ezra looked at him again not believing the tiredness he saw in Vin's features. So he made up his mind, he needed to get Vin out of the house soon, before he knew what was going on. So he went to the kitchen and made a pot of good strong coffee, with the special blend Vin had always stored for him in his house. Then he looked inside the cabinets for something to go with the coffee, it had to be something very sweet.
After he opened several cupboards and drawers he still had not turned up anything that he needed. Finally, he found it, a small little cupboard to the side of the stove. Inside was exactly what he was looking for. There were packs of different cookies in it, but the choice was easy and he took them. He put them on a plate and took the tray with the mugs of coffee and the plate full of cookies.
When he was in the living room, he saw Vin had fallen asleep again, what was with the man today that he couldn't keep himself awake? What had happened to him?
He shook the shoulder and offered the coffee mug as a sign of peace for waking him up. Instead of getting a glare from him, he found the Texan relaxed, smile and say quietly, "Thanks Ez, I sure needed this". He sat up on the couch and had a lost look while taking several sips from the coffee mug.
Then, in an unexpected series of movements, both of them set the mugs of coffee on the table, snagged a cookie, twisted off the cover, closed their eyes and put the half with the cream on it straight in their mouth enjoying the creamy sweetness. After finishing the creamy part each exhaled with a satisfied "Mmmmm!" at the same time.
The sound startled them and, opening their eyes each saw the other holding a lone chocolate part of the cookie. Vin was first to talk "What ya doing Ez?" he said pointing to the hand of his friend
Ezra started to reply "Mr. Tanner, there is only ." but Vin ended the sentence for him.
"One way ta eat an Oreo cookie, I know that." and the memory flew to his mind so fast he was dizzy with the new information, and he pointed to Ezra with his finger right to the chest, like wanting to see his under shirt ".Clark"
Ezra looked back at Vin, he hadn't made the connection until right this precise moment when Vin called him Clark, and he was back at the park, seated under the tree with that scruffy boy beside him teaching him how to eat an Oreo. He smiled at the thought and blinked once to get back to the present, and then he said with a broad smile in his face "I see you are a very good learner, Mr. Tanner, that was what -- sixteen years ago?"
Vin shrugged and smiled back, a warm feeling was running through his entire body, and he didn't feel the loneliness that had prevented him from heading to Chris ranch and share his memories about Christmas times. He always thought they were tearful memories, but he'd been wrong all the time. No matter how bad all seemed to have been, for each of those sad memories; he now remembered a lot of the good and happy ones.
Grinning he turned to Ezra and said, No matter, I learned from one of the best. then he added "I don't know what ta say, you helped me that day, more than ya know 'n more than ya can imagine. What ya think if we head ta Chris' ranch now 'ntead of being in here, I don't wanna miss any of the Christmas' fun!"
He went to his room, gathered some clothes in a bag, his coat and was waiting by the door while Ezra cleaned up the coffee in the kitchen. Ezra looked at him and took a bag from the kitchen. Putting the remaining cookies from the plate in the bag he said as they walked out of the apartment, "I think you could use some more practice lessons with these, don't you?"
Vin smiled at the memory that assaulted him again and said "Oh yeah!" with a big smile painted on his face. This was going to be a very good Christmas, "Ez, ya think ya could stop by the shopping center, I need ta buy some more presents."
"Yes, of course Mr Tanner, I also need to buy more", he'd had the same feeling about Christmas all day long, and just now he'd realized he'd come to get Vin because he'd known what it was and how it was to feel lonely, and he needed the help as much as Vin. All week he had been avoiding the mall, and he had no presents to share for he'd expected something to come up to prevent him from going to the ranch. Now he was eager to go. Vin's joy had been contagious, or maybe the shared memory had brought out the new feelings in him, too.
And this Christmas would be special for both of them, the partnership, more than that, the friendship was here, a long time forgotten friendship was here to stay.