Summary: A family's first Christmas and it's one they will never forget.
Thanks to Phyllis for the beta
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em...damnit!
My thanks to Mog for ATF, to K Poffenberger and S Berry for the LB universe and Barbretta Haydn for LB/ATF and to all the wonderful authors who have made this AU so special.
It was two weeks to Christmas and Chris was ordered to a two-day conference in, of all places, New York. As he packed, his heart flopped in his throat at the anguish on the little faces of Vin and JD, neither boys wanting him to leave. It was the four's first Christmas together and the boys had been getting very excited about the plans their dads and uncles had been making, but now it was all on hold while Chris prepared for, and attended, his seminar.
"Will there be reindeer in Noo York?" JD asked.
Chris smiled and stroked JD's cheek. "I don't think so, Li'l Bit."
"Will there be snow, dad?"
Chris ruffled Vin's hair. "Yes, I believe it has been snowing there." He pulled the two boys onto his lap while he sat on his bed. "The day after Uncle Josiah takes you to the church to see the Nativity scene, I'll be back. Okay?"
Two sad little boys nodded while Buck leaned against the doorframe, watching. As Chris pulled them into an embrace, Buck pulled out his cell, walked away and dialed.
"Ezra I need a huge favor "
Three days on, Chris stretched and yawned. It had been a good conference, but all he could think of now as he headed back to the hotel was getting home. He attempted to enter his hotel room to pack and leave when the Customer services manager stopped him.
"Mister Larabee?" He smiled at Chris's nod. "Would you come with me please?"
They entered the elevator and traveled up. Chris frowned; they were heading for the suites.
"Excuse me, but I'm about to head home "
The manager smiled again as the doors opened. "This way, sir."
Willing to give the man one more minute before tearing his head off, Chris followed him, watching with interest as he swiped into one of the suites.
"Merry Christmas, Mister Larabee."
Chris peered inside followed by a sharp intake of breath.
Two little whirlwinds almost took him off his feet. Tears stung Chris's eyes as he looked up to see Buck grinning at him.
"Can't let you have all the fun, stud."
Still a little shocked, Chris kissed both boys and hugged them tightly. "God, I've missed you."
Vin squeezed his dad's neck tighter. "Missed you too, dad," he whispered.
"Missed you, Chris " JD gave him a big wet kiss on his cheek then without missing a beat, jumped up, almost taking Chris's head off.
" come see come see q-u-i-c-k "
Laughing, the blond stood and happily let the boys drag him into another room
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Chris stared at the beautiful twinkling Christmas tree standing in one corner of the room.
"Look, Dad, it's got an angel on top," Vin said, softly.
Chris nodded. "So it has."
"An' LOOK!" JD squealed, dragging Chris closer and reaching for Buck's hand at the same time. "We's got a gift SEE!"
Buck squatted down to lift the small package.
"To Chris, Buck, Vin and JD."
"Can we open it?" JD asked in his loudest whisper.
Buck grinned and nodded, standing and handing it to Chris who, with the boys' help, promptly opened it. He whistled.
"What is it, dad?" Vin asked.
"It's a three-day pass to a selection of attractions in the city, including a horse and carriage ride around Central Park."
The boys squealed. Chris looked at Buck and mouthed the words 'thank you'.
Buck winked. He'd tell Chris how Ezra and the guys helped later.
"Ho, ho, ho! Is anybody home?"
Vin and JD went pale and rigid as a large man with a white beard and wearing a red suit came through the door. His deep voice boomed out. "I've been told two very special little boys are staying here."
Vin froze and just stared, his heart pounding as his thoughts went to his 'little brother'. JD whimpered, stuck his thumb in his mouth and stepped behind his father's leg, clinging to the denim-clad limb. Josiah pulled his beard down, alarmed at the reaction.
"It's only me, boys!"
Vin relaxed. Turning to see JD was with Buck he ran to the big man. JD didn't move. Buck dropped down on one knee, shocked to see huge tears in his son's eyes.
JD sniffed, whispering. "I wetted myself I's sorry, Da."
Buck hugged him tight. "Aww, it's okay, son shh, you had a fright it's okay."
As Ezra and Nathan entered the room, Vin walked back to JD and took his hand, leading him to the bathroom.
"C'mon let's have a nice bath in the big ol' tub that makes the bubbles when ya switch it on."
JD brightened, skipping off with his 'brother'. "'Kay!"
"Be right there!" Buck called after them, his eyes filled with love as he watched their two little miracles skip off together. Larabee surprised him when he pulled Buck into an embrace.
"Thank you." He released his best friend and turned to the others. "Thank you all."
Buck squeezed Chris's shoulder. "It struck me as you were packing for your trip, how the boys hadn't really experienced Christmas properly, at least for a while, if ever, and they'd been getting so excited until you had to leave. Planning the trip with Ezra and the guys, kept the boys occupied until we left. Everyone threw money at it, and Ezra's gotten some amazing deals for us."
Ezra grinned. "Do not forget DA Travis, who kindly arranged for us to take a short sabbatical."
Buck slapped a still shocked Josiah on the back, laughing at the squealing from the bathroom as Nathan decided to join the boys.
"They're fine see? Even so we'd best get in there before the suite below is under water."
Three days of fun to look forward to, and it wasn't even Christmas yet. This promised to be a wonderful trip.
Josiah, Nathan and Ezra had taken the adjoining suite, already dropping through the connecting door once that morning to see how the little family was doing. The boys were finally sitting at the breakfast table, but still not fully awake. After spending the evening until late into the night just staring out over the vast city, the little ones were not quite with it and so the two fathers had decided to have breakfast in their room, after all, it was only 7am.
By the time they were done, Vin was beaming and JD was chattering his usual mile a minute. They grinned as their uncles came into the room.
"Good morning boys," Josiah called, "are you ready for a busy day?"
"YEAH!" they chorused.
"Where we goin' Unca Siah?" JD squealed.
Ezra answered. "Ah-ah-ah you'll soon see."
One cab ride later, the seven were at the heliport and climbing into a seven seater helicopter. Seated next to the windows, the boys were so excited they were physically shaking. Getting over their initial anxiety as the chopper took off, they 'oooh'd', 'ahhh'd and squeaked as they enjoyed aerial views of the USS Intrepid, the Chrysler building, the Empire State Building, Central Park and the Hudson River.
Still on an adrenaline rush from their trip, the seven took two more cabs and headed to the American Museum of Natural History, enjoying a much calmer visit, though JD almost had an apoplexy when he saw a dinosaur for the first time.
Buck drew comfort from watching Chris with Vin at the Native American display, clearly sharing his love of the Old West with his son. Josiah stayed with them as the two blonds spent a long time there. Buck too, loved the Old West, and had enjoyed his brief stay at the exhibit, with JD excitedly exclaiming 'cowboys and injuns!' as they viewed the display, but then he, Ezra and Nathan were led on a whirlwind tour of the whole museum as JD tried to absorb everything, making his father's eyes well up on several occasions with his knowledge of many artifacts on display.
Next stop was the observation deck at the Empire State Building and for the first time since taking the boys in, Buck saw JD 'fearless' Dunne disappear briefly as they looked out over the city, clearly thrown by the sheer height they were at. 'Fearless' soon made a return when Buck leaned into his little man, kissing JD's head and embracing him, while the two brunets visited a viewing podium and looked out over the city through the binoculars. Chris watched them with affection, wrapping an arm around Vin's shoulders to draw him close. How had they ever survived without these boys?
Onwards and upward the intrepid Seven went, their next visit, to the Statue of Liberty.It was a more subdued affair, likely caused by the boys' growing weariness, which temporarily disappeared, when all seven enjoyed the Harbor Lights Cruise to round off their day.
Not quite asleep, Josiah carried a yawning Vin to their suites while Buck carried an exhausted, but restless JD. Despite all the fine restaurants in the city, they only had sandwiches through the day, opting for take-out pizza for supper. A wise choice, as it turned out, when both boys fell asleep mid-bite of their second slice.
After settling the little ones down, the five men enjoyed a few drinks and each others company for a while.
"Dear Lord children are exhausting."
Chris chuckled at Ezra's words, nodding while swallowing some beer. Josiah sighed. "They are wonderful, aren't they?"
Buck answered, he and Chris grinning like loons. "Ain't that an understatement."
Laughing, they five men finished their drinks and bid each other goodnight. They had another big day ahead of them, tomorrow.
Despite being closed for the season, Ezra had worked his magic and got them into Central Park Zoo. Being the only visitors to the park, the seven had a personally guided tour with the head keeper, both boys leaving with a large, stuffed cuddly polar bear.
Splitting up for the first time since their arrival, Buck and Chris took JD and Vin Christmas shopping at Rockefeller Center, while Ezra, Josiah and Nathan paid their respects at Ground Zero, followed by a trip to the Ground Zero museum.
Meeting up later, the boys were treated to a visit to the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink, finally staggering around on their skates after the men managed to pry them away from the giant Christmas tree, assuring them they would still be able to see it while skating. Others on the rink occasionally stopped to laugh and applaud at the five men and two little boys slipping, squealing and laughing their way around the rink.
As Buck and Chris tucked the boys into bed that night, Vin spoke.
"This is a great trip. Thank you."
Chris smiled, "Yeah, it is, and you're very welcome."
Buck looked at a very sleepy JD. "Yes, son?"
"Can I has a cuddle?"
It was such a small request, but it filled Buck's heart as he swept JD up and hugged him close.
"Oh yeah, I think I can manage that."
Before long, both men had kicked off their sneakers and climbed onto the boys' beds. A half hour later, Nathan peeked in on them, returning to the others, grinning.
"They're all sound asleep."
Day two was officially over.
Day three was the day they would be returning home. Their flight was early evening, so the boys were taken to do a little more shopping; this time at Macy's, then on to Central Park for the much looked forward to carriage ride. Buck, JD, Chris and Vin approached their carriage and were introduced to the horse, Romeo. They all had a souvenir picture taken with the horse, and the boys each received a mug filled with Hershey's Kisses. Getting settled into their two carriages, Ezra approached the drivers, stuffing bills into each of their top coat pockets.
"Twice around the park, please, gentlemen."
Nodding their understanding, they set off. Buck and Chris wrapped the complimentary blankets around themselves and the boys and the four cuddled up against the chilly wind, the boys occasionally looking back and waving enthusiastically to their uncles in the carriage behind. At the end of their ride, the boys kissed Romeo goodbye and the seven headed off to the airport. Their trip may have been over, but all seven would have memories to cherish, forever.
One week later, each home received a small package, five men chuckling at the memories it evoked and causing two little boys to drag their dads to the photo wall, where their new, framed picture portraying the seven of them standing next to one of the carriages and Romeo the horse, took a central position.
The photo had been complimentary free, but the significance of it to all seven priceless.
This year would close with happy memories, and a Christmas to remember.