It appeared on the corner of his desk mysteriously one morning a few days after they'd closed out their last, difficult case and about two weeks before Christmas. None of the others were willing to lay claim to its placement although Ezra strongly suspected either Buck or JD…or maybe even Vin. Of his associates, he was sure they were the only ones who'd be willing to walk out of a retail establishment with such a garish bit of holiday décor.
He looked from one to the other of them but none of them seemed to notice its existence on the corner of his desk. None said more than the usual good morning when he walked by. There was no hint of a smile or smirk to pinpoint the perpetrator.
He picked it up from his desk and looked around again to see if any of them would give himself away but the other five men in the bullpen were studiously going about their work. With a slight headshake, he carried it to the breakroom and left it on the table there. Nothing was said and no one claimed ownership for the appearance but, by the next day, it was gone from the breakroom and Ezra soon forgot about it.
He wanted nothing to do with any of jollity of the season. The case they'd closed had started out being about the sale of illegal alcohol. He'd been under for a week when he'd discovered the man they were after was also trafficking in children. Once he'd found out, he'd done his best to save all the children but there had been one little girl who'd been killed before he was able to get them to safety. He hadn't been able to shake the feeling that he'd failed even though the rest of his teammates all assured him he'd done the best he could and there seven children who'd be going how to their families for Christmas.
It was a couple of days later when, once more, the object found its way to his desk. This time, lights had been added to it and they blinked on and off in no particular pattern. Again, Ezra looked all around the bullpen trying to figure out who was responsible for the monstrosity's appearance. Again, no one seemed to be the likely party.
Reaching out, he stabbed the power button turning the lights off. Again, he scooped it up from his desk to carry it to the breakroom. As he did, he heard a snicker behind him but, when he turned around, everyone seemed hard at work and he couldn't pinpoint who the snicker came from.
Over the next week and half, it kept appearing on his desk on and off until Christmas Eve. This time, it was right in the center of his desk. Again, the lights on it were turned on except this time they were steady instead of flashing.
He looked at it from all angles before sitting down at his desk to stare at it head on. After a few moments he decided that, although it was garish, there was a sort of whimsy to it. Instead of moving it to the breakroom again, he slid it over to occupy the corner of his desk. Giving it one last look, he opened the files pertaining to his next undercover operation and began to immerse himself in them. He was so engrossed, he neither saw nor heard Chris come into the bullpen from his office and stop by Buck's desk.
"He trying to ignore it now?" Chris asked in a soft voice as he watched Ezra work.
Buck shrugged and looked over to Ezra as well. "Don't know. He stared at it for a while then started working. Seems almost resigned to it."
"Well, I'm glad he's leaving it there. His is the only desk that didn't have anything Christmassy," JD chimed in as he came over to join them.
"I don't think Ezra's been feeling much of the Christmas spirit after that last case. I doubt we'll see him tonight." Chris switched his attention to Buck and JD. "Which one of you stuck it there?" Both JD and Buck denied being the culprits. He caught Vin's eye and nodded in the direction of Ezra's desk in question and received another denial. "You think Josiah or Nathan?" he asked Buck now that the three most likely culprits had been eliminated…unless they were trying to pull one over on him as well. Again, shrugs were the only answer.
With the mystery of the holiday décor intact, Chris went back into his office to finish up some reports before they left for the day. Since it was Christmas Eve, they'd be leaving early.
At three o'clock, work for the day ended and they all started pulling on their coats and getting ready to leave. Ezra was the first one to head toward the elevator. Under his arm was the two-foot tall, pink tinsel flamingo with the Santa hat that had made mysterious appearances on his desk.
"Going somewhere with your new friend?" Buck asked. He was barely able to hold back a laugh.
"Since no one seems to want to claim him, I thought I'd give him a home for the holidays." He shrugged trying to look casual. "I have an empty place on the table in the front hall that will suit him."
"I'm sure it will," Buck agreed trying to be as serious and casual as Ezra was being. It hadn't escaped his noticed that Ezra had referred to the decoration as "he" instead of "it".
"I'll see you tonight at Chris''" Ezra said with a nod then headed for the elevator. He missed the surprise on the faces of the other at his announcement.
"Ok," Nathan said once Ezra was out of sight and out of hearing. "Which one of you bought that thing." Although the question was meant for all, he directed it toward Buck and JD who he also thought were the most like to have bought it.
"Does it matter?" Josiah asked from his desk where he was getting ready to leave as well. "Its appearances seem to have made an impact on Ezra. That last case hit him hard, but I noticed every time he saw Kringle on his desk, he smiled a little…something we haven't seen him do a lot of the last couple of weeks. Maybe he just needed to know someone cared about him enough to want to lighten his mood."
"You left it there," Nathan said catching that Josiah had given the decoration a name.
Josiah shrugged then nodded. "We all tried talking to him and it didn't seem to make a difference. I thought a different tactic might work." He looked in the direction Ezra had gone. "He said he'd be there tonight, so I guess it did."
"You sly dog," Buck said with a shake of his head. "Leave it to you to get past his barriers when the rest of us failed."
"I just observed, Buck. Sometimes, for Ezra, it's gestures that get through when words fail."
"Remind me to try a few gestures with him next time 'be here on time' doesn't get through to him," Chris said as he came up behind the two men. "In the meantime, it's time for us to all leave."
Everyone but Ezra had been gathered at Chris' ranch for over an hour. They were starting to think he'd changed his mind about joining them for Christmas Eve.
"Maybe we should call him," JD suggested for the third time.
"He needs to come because he wants to, not because we're forcing him," Josiah countered. "Give him some time. He said he'd be here."
Fifteen minutes later, even Josiah was giving up hope that Ezra would come when the doorbell rang. Chris didn't know if he should laugh or be shocked when he opened the door to see Ezra holding a box. Our of the top, seven pink heads topped with Santa hats peeked out.
"Sorry I'm late," Ezra said as he came though the door. "I had an errand to run and it took a little longer than I thought it would." He put the box down, took off his coat, then handed it to Chris to hang with the others. Picking up the box, he walked into the living room then set it down on a clear spot on the coffee table.
"I wanted to thank whichever of you gentleman it was that was so insistent on cheering me up but, since I couldn't figure out which of you it was, I thought it right to thank all of you since you all tried in your own ways." He started taking the Santa flamingos out of the box and handing one to each of the others until the only one left was the original one with the lights that had been given to him. "Thank you," he said simply once everyone was holding one of the pink decorations. "And Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas," the other responded. No more was said about the flamingos, but each man set his down close by. Garish, tacky, kitschy…any number of words could be used to describe them but, to the seven, they would symbolize family and friendship.