The Christmas tree was currently being erected in the saloon and here the six men were, watching it rise and prosper, laden with handmade wooden ornaments of every shape and size and of every inkling of inspiration, yet their hearts heavy with the absence of their youngest member.
JD would no doubt be awarding them with a handful of atrocious jokes to brighten their spirits if he were among them, yet sadly enough the mere thought of one of those jokes sounded considerably better at the moment than this plague-esque silence and overall gloom. As it were, the boy had been severely injured in a bar brawl in this very saloon two days prior. According to Nathan, his young body remained in the throes of determining whether it wanted to rejoin the six men in their protection of the town and, Ezra absolutely did not nearly choke, in their adventures.
It was bothersome not to think of them as such, as the men had been together for a bit less than two years, sharing secrets and tales and many a sorrowful moment.
Ezra surveyed the room in his mournful boredom. An untouched glass of eggnog rested on the table before the gambler, and even Chris and Buck failed to partake in the seasonal beverage of choice, all the more unsettling as it was spiced heartily with whiskey. They had settled for dry whiskey instead, though it may as well have never joined their table with how little they relied on its supposed liquid courage. Vin and Nathan lingered up at the bar, dousing their uncertainties with the delicacies of Ms. Inez’s homeland.
Josiah was the only one of them aiding with the tree, though he seemed more doubtful than usual. His eyes were clouded as he took a step back to examine the towering plant, his thoughts supposedly a thousand miles away, or more likely resting across the street with the young man as Mary watched over him.
And Ezra, well, he had never been one for the holidays, having no one in his childhood to share such moments with, and he was even less appreciative with a dour one at that. Regardless of such disinterest, his beloved cards held little appeal as his troublesome thoughts rudely would not leave him be.
An especially melancholy Mr. Wilmington broke the increasingly uncomfortable silence. “Sure wish the kid could see that tree. Can’t think of anything more beautiful.” Except to see JD upright and healthy once more, Ezra heard and reciprocated the remainder of that desire. Like every previous year, Ezra had neglected to ask for a gift except for - perhaps regretfully - a letter from his infamously inconsiderate mother, as he had sent her barely a week prior. At this very moment, however, Ezra’s uncharacteristic Christmas wish echoed the desperation and genuineness of Buck’s own.
Chris clapped Buck lightly on the back and Josiah bowed his head, murmuring an audible: “Amen, brother.”
“He will,” Vin interjected, raising a glass and connecting it with Nathan’s once the healer offered his own. “We’ll make sure it stays up ‘till after Christmas. So’s the kid can see how we celebrate the holidays ‘round here.”
Chris raised his glass before quenching his thirst. “It’ll be a nice surprise.”
Ezra tipped his own glass in answer and took a small sip of the eggnog, savoring it. After a long moment, he offered the room his consideration again. Josiah now seemed more apt to participate in the tree’s decoration, giving orders and advice as surely as he would in any other moment in their lives. Vin and Nathan exchanged toned down words, the latter chuckling at something the tracker related with a small smile, both then engaging in clearing their barely touched plates with more enjoyment than their previous attempts. Chris sat back and drank more heavily, though his mood seemed considerably improved as he watched the preacher, occasionally offering his own advice.
And Buck... well, Ezra watched him in surprised fascination as he discreetly carved something held just barely above the table. Chris, not so discreetly, gave him suggestions on that as well, much to Buck’s dismay, and Ezra suspected with an indulgent smile that it was a gift for JD. Perhaps his own ornament.
As for Ezra himself, his attention fixed itself once more on his cards, fingers shifting nimbly over their well-worn though still smooth surfaces, reveling in their serene familiarity. The room melted away from the gambler, as did his dark thoughts, as he imagined JD gracing them with his presence, eyes lightening with wonder at the Christmas tree.
For now, the six men would merely have to wait until that young face and its accompanying joyous enthusiasm would truly ring in the holidays.
~Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,
You ’ll ever be unchanging
A symbol of goodwill and love
You ’ll ever be unchanging~