Title: The Weedhacker Incident
Rating: K+, for some violence and implied character death (or Really Severe Maiming, anyway).

Summary: RJ's more affected by the family of foragers he's got collecting food for him than he admits even to himself. One-shot.

Disclaimer: RJ and any of the characters mentioned from the movie Over the Hedge are not mine, and belong originally to Michael Fry and T Lewis. Any characters not taken directly from the movie are mine.

Author's Notes: I wrote this fic coming directly out of the theatre the first time I saw OtH. Now, it's months later, and I present the finished product for your enjoymennt!

Three raccoon heads popped from the hedge bordering a suburban backyard no different from any of its neighbors. One was larger than the other two, and its owner held back the smaller raccoons when they would have run heedlessly out into the yard. Though her mate beckoned from atop three gleaming garbage cans, Sonia made her own scan of the yard, only releasing her sons when she was sure it was safe.

Ricky and Ron zipped across the neatly trimmed yard with all the energy and enthusiasm of youth. "Knock it over, Dad!" Ricky begged of their father.

"Yeah!" cheered Ron. "Knock it over!"

Their father leaned over the edge of the can to look down at them. "Aw, I dunno," he drawled. "I'm not all that hungry anymore. I think I'll just--"

"Come on, Dad! Just open it!" the boys chorused.

"Yeah, all right," he relented. Talented raccoon paws popped the lid and he tipped the can, riding the wave of garbage down with a flourish. The boys ignored their father's showmanship to dive into their meal (literally); Sonia only rolled her eyes over it.

"I swear, RJ, you're going to get us killed one day," she groused. It was the opening line of an old argument, oft revisited, but RJ wasn't going to play tonight. She could tell by the mock-reverent way he was bringing her a slice of pizza--minus the crust.

"Don't worry, babe," he said smoothly. "I'm know what I'm doing."

Sonia accepted the pizza, but she took it with a frown. She itched to pursue the topic, but he was smiling in that cocksure way of his that made her melt, and she simply couldn't. "I know you do," she murmured, and if her heart wasn't in it, at least she'd said it aloud. That would be enough for him.

Nestled in a hollow in the center of the thick, somewhat overgrown hedge that separated the Exclusive Acres Selective Community from the surrounding rabble of less organized suburbia, three-fourths of the raccoon family slept. Ricky and Ron were curled against their mother, nothing more than balls of gray fur with stiff, bristly tails sticking out.

RJ lounged separate from them, awake and watching his family sleep. He could see the sun peeking through the screen of leaves; the sound of an alarm clock, blaring shrilly, drifted to his ears, and he knew that the entire neighborhood would soon be awake and slumping along in their morning routine.

That was his cue.

Moving with as much stealth as he could muster (which was, in fact, a rather lot, even for a raccoon), RJ slipped out of their den and out into the strictly regulated, highly regimented suburban paradise of Exclusive Acres. Quick as a flash, he bolted across the yard and snuck around the side of the house.

Right on schedule, a motor began to rumble in the garage, lifting the garage door to allow a slouched figure in a bathrobe and slippers to shuffle out. It was Mr. Johnson retreiving his newspaper, as he did in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time, every day. The human shuffled to the end of his driveway, picked up his paper, and shuffled back. He left the door open.

RJ slipped inside and made his way unerringly to a stack of brightly colored, plastic shrouded, cardboard cartons. Inside was a treasure; each was a family pack of popcorn and potato chips, separated into tiny individual portions by mylar bags. His blue eyes lit up and he picked over the contents of the box.

"What to eat, what to eat?" he mused.

The sound of shouting disturbed his painstaking selection; Mr. Johnson and his wife were bickering again. Just as RJ dismissed it from his mind, the garage door slammed open and Mr. Johnson stormed out. RJ dove for cover--the last thing he needed right now was to be seen in the house.

The human, still clad in his pajamas and bathrobe, stormed across to the far wall from the door into the house and snatched down something hanging there, nearly toppling the tower of chips in his haste. The head of a weedhacker dropped into RJ's view.

"Fine!" Mr. Johnson was houting. "Fine! I'll trim the stupid hedge! I'll do it right now! In my pajamas! Are you happy?! " And he stormed out.

RJ was frozen in his hiding place, one paw resting on the bottom-most carton in the stack. He remained perfectly still, listening intently. Outside, the weedhacker started with a scream. Its buzzing drone was loud for a minute, then faded as its wielder moved away, around the side of the house.

Releasing the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, the raccoon reached into the box and resumed the task of selection. He chose quickly, impelled to haste by the near-discovery, plucked two of the bagged snacks free, and abandoned the garage.

From the sound of it, Mr. Johnson was already very busy with the weedhacker. RJ's indulgent chuckle for human drama died in his throat when when he came around the corner of the house...and saw what it was, exactly, that the human has hacking.

Hacking was a singularly appropriate term for it. Johnson was slashing savagely at the hedge, not only cutting away the overgrowth but erratically, indiscriminately chopping huge hunks out of it.

"No!" RJ screamed, stricken by the fact the part of the hedge being attacked was perilously close to the den where his family was sleeping. He was painfully aware of everything around him, and the world slowed ponderously with the overload. Tiny details he'd never have had time to notice before were overpoweringly clear--details like the pitting in the siding of the house, the rattle and rustle of the bags of chips falling from his paws to the grass, the bright green color of the woody branches of the hedge under the bark.

He began to run, shouting for his mate and his sons as he did. The hedge was thrashing, rattling as Sonia and the boys tried to evade Johnson. He could make out snatches of their coarse gray fur--each individual hair visible, it seemed--and so could the human. Johnson lifted the head of the weedhacker high and then swung it at the den maliciously.

"NO!" RJ shouted again, cursing his size, cursing his lack of speed, cursing his short legs as he leapt desperately at the irate homeowner. There wasn't a thought for himself in his head--all he wanted to do was distract the human. Johnson rotated--slowly, too slowly--and his eyes widened in surprise as he realized there was a raccoon flying through the air at him. Reacting instinctively, he turned and ducked a shoulder, swinging the head of the weedhacker up defensively...

RJ woke up so violently that he early fell off the branch that had been his bed the past three nights. His heart was pounding still from the sheer intensity of the dream, and his paws trembled against the bark of the tree where he was clinging to it. The realism of what he'd just been living was shocking; he could still see the spinning head of the weedhacker rising towards him, and the fur all over his body stood up at the mere thought of it.

A breeze rustled through the branches of the tree and he shivered. He'd never admit it, even to himself, but he was unnerved; he very rarely remembered his dreams. So why was he having so many vivid nightmares recently? The one that had woken him two nights ago was understandable--angry grizzly bears could give anyone nightmares, he suspected--but what was up with this?

"Calm down, RJ," he told himself sternly. "Ya got nothing to worry about." His eyes were drawn down and around, to the log barely visible in the clearing below. "You'll get what you need, you'll pay the bear, and everything'll be fine."

He rearranged his golf bag against the main trunk of the tree, attempting to return some semblance of comfort to it, and laid back down. Already the details of the dream were fading, and his hearrate was gradually returning to normal. It still took him a long time to quiet his mind and return to sleep, though, and probably the most unsettling part of the whole incident was that he couldn't tell what had freaked him out more: the very real fear he'd felt at his impending dream-death on the weedhacker...or the just as real and very warm feeling he'd experienced at the acceptance and reliance of his dream-family

Author's Notes: All feedback is welcomed; let me know what you thought! Thank you!