A/N: I wrote this one as thank-you gift for another M7 writer that randomly gave me a cool LJ gift. She asked for some Chris hurt, but on a very minuscule level (like paper-cut small). Anyone who knows me would know how challenging it was for me to write "tiny whump," so I bent the rules a bit to make it fit my needs, too, lol. It's all good fun, and in case you're curious, she loved it. ;)
It was one of those picturesque early summer days where the sky was so blue you could still see the full moon bedding herself even as her sister sun was already well past her rise. The air was at that perfect temperature where the body was in sync with the atmosphere, making one completely comfortable in whatever clothing they chose to wear for the afternoon. With flowers blooming new life, branches rustling in a gentle breeze, and fresh-cut grass rippling like calm ocean waves, everything had the familiar smell of green. It was the type of day where no one wished to be trapped indoors and man took advantage of Mother Nature's offering with childlike abandon, and the men of ATF Team 7 were no exception.
A rough-and-tumble football game was in full throttle in a field at the ranch house belonging to Team 7's leader, Chris Larabee. The teams were small and uneven, no score was being kept, the men played just for the sake of expelling energy and allowing themselves to enjoy utter reckless freedom away from the stressful career they equally loved and dreaded. It was a game of wild, enthusiastic, lawless fun that washed away the layers of tension built from the bricks crafted by everyday villains, and lifted the spirits of everyone involved.
And irritated the crap out of the two men who were forced to sit on the sidelines.
Buck Wilmington and Ezra Standish, sporting a wrist cast and ankle support-wrap respectfully, were forced to sit on the sidelines and watch. Both were injured not on a bust but simply playing good Samaritans as they helped squash a near-riot that took place in a sports arena following the defeat of the favored team. After their rather short hospital stay they were shuttled off to the Ranch so they could recuperate in a relaxed environment, and so Chris, normally the hardened lawman, could play Mother Hen to his heart's content.
They had been there for a week and were frankly getting sick of it.
They watched from their lawn chairs in bitter silence as their teammates laughed and shouted and rolled over one another and generally flaunted their good health…until Fate or Luck or Loki or Vengeance (depending on the point of view) stepped in. Icarus, the little orange and black tabby that was curled up in Ezra's lap, suddenly hissed and scrambled out of the gambler's grip, shooting off straight towards the raucous game in a blur. A half second later another blur - a much bigger, black one – flew past the two men on Buck's side. Before anyone could even think to issue a warning, dog and owner collided in a fantastic flurry of limbs and paws and heads and tails. Father Time stopped his watch for what seemed like an entire minute before the silence was broken by a resounding, "DAMMIT, DOG! GET OUT OF HERE!"
Thoroughly chastised, Diablo slunk away with his ears hanging low and his tail tucked between his legs as Chris sat up, inspecting a tear in his jeans and the distinct flash of red that was flowering just below his kneecap. A chorus of, "Chris, are you okay?" sprang up from all directions of the field as the other agents rushed to check on their leader and friend.
A very disgruntled, "I'm fine, just skinned my knee up," followed; coupled with an annoyed wave of his hand as Chris stiffly got to his feet.
The two previously foul mood-ridden decrepits exchanged twin impish grins.
Buck eased himself to his feet first, then helped Standish get settled on his crutches before they both made their way carefully across the field. The others were so busy invading Larabee's personal space to notice that the two chair-confined men had gone AWOL from their designated positions until Buck spoke up in a loud, alarmed voice.
"Hell, Chris, that knee looks pretty bad. I don't think you should be standing on it." Before the man could protest, Buck slipped one of Chris's arms over his shoulder and forcefully took some of the team leader's weight.
Ezra leaned down slightly to inspect the barely bleeding wound. With a grim look, he nodded and shifted his own weight onto his good leg, placing his crutches in front of him. "My, my, that does look terrible. I think you may need these more than I at the moment."
"Good idea, Ezra," the ladies' man nodded, taking the offered walking supports and shoving them under Chris's arms before moving to help steady the Southerner.
"Boys," Chris began to protest.
"Boys?" Ezra repeated in exaggerated alarm. "Mr. Wilmington, this is worse than we imagined. I do believe Mr. Larabee must be falling into a state of delirium. Or are there children on the premises that I was not made aware of?"
Buck shook his head. "Hell, Ez, you know if there were any kids here, they'd be all over them card tricks of yours. Nope, I think you're right. Chris is hallucinating. We gotta get him inside, quick."
With that, Buck suddenly shoved Chris towards the house, catching the man off guard. He would've fallen again if Vin hadn't reached out and caught him. With a sly smile of his own and a wink towards Ezra, the sharpshooter decided to join in the game.
"Hell, Chris, I think they might be right," he added. "We really should get ya inside and get that knee looked at." His response was met with a long-suffering Larabee glare.
"Now, Chris, don't be lookin' at him like it's his fault," Buck scolded. "He's just worried about ya. Junior, why don't you help him so Ezra, here, can have his crutches back."
Chris shook his head and tried to pull away from Vin's grasp, but that only made the sharpshooter tighten his grip that much more. "May need some help with him, he's gettin' difficult," he grunted as Chris continued to wrestle with him.
"Dear lord, someone restrain him before he further injures himself," Ezra pleaded. "Use caution, though. I fear in his current mental state he may not recognize friend from foe."
"Ezra, shut up," Chris snapped, growing tired of the game as he nearly got into a full-on grappling match with Tanner, dropping the crutches to the ground. Nathan, choosing to remain a neutral bystander, snatched them up and slipped them back to the thankful undercover agent, his lips quirking up into an amused smile.
With an excited grin, JD jumped into the fray and got a grip on one of Chris's arms. "I got this one, Vin, you get the other one," he laughed.
"Careful boy, Chris's known to fight dirty. Watch the legs," Buck warned.
"Oh, don't worry about them," Josiah grinned, pushing in to grab Chris's ankles before the man could lash out with them.
Chris twisted in the three men's grips for a minute before loosing a frustrated laugh and going limp. "All right, you all had your fun. You can put me down now."
Ezra quickly shook his head. "I have used that very same tactic far too many times for it to be effective any longer, Mr. Larabee. I fear you are in grievous need of medical attention. Gentlemen, shall we?"
As the smirking men literally carried their boss across the field towards the house, Chris shot Nathan a "please, for the love of God, help me," look. The medic almost crumbled under those begging eyes until he saw the bright smiles on Buck and Ezra's faces, the first good cheer he'd seen those two exhibit for days.
"I really should take a closer look at that cut," he decided, much to Chris's dismay and everyone else's delight. With an apologetic shrug he followed the agent-turned-medical professional team into the house.
Buck quickly pushed forward a kitchen chair and had the others plunk Chris into it. "Better tie him down, he might bolt with his mind being so clouded by the pain and all," he suggested.
"Buck," Chris growled in warning.
The ladies' man looked at his oldest friend sympathetically and patted him on the leg. "Just hang in there, pard, we're gonna get you all patched up and feeling better in no time."
Larabee actually felt himself shudder at the twinkle in Buck's eyes.
Half an hour later six men stood admiring their handiwork on the seventh. Chris, still tied firmly to the chair and scowling as if Christmas had just been stolen from him, looked like a war casualty fresh off the field. Not only was his knee carefully wrapped up (courtesy of Nathan's professional healing touch), but a roll of gauze was wound around his head and down over one eye; his right arm was taped up from fingertip to elbow; his left was strung up in a sling; his good leg was missing the shoe and propped up on a stool with a heating pad taped to his ankle; an entire roll of purple Koflex was wrapped around his chest; and just about every other area of exposed flesh sported ghastly neon band-aids here and there. Where the boys had scrounged those up from, he would never know.
"Can we please go finish our game now?" he asked, his voice straining to keep up the unfelt courtesy.
Buck sighed. "Now I know you wanna go out and play, but you're just not up to it, Chris. You need to rest and let yourself heal up proper. Ain't that right, Nathan?"
The medic looked from the threatening gaze of his employer to the hopeful ones of his other five compatriots. "His knee was a little swollen," he offered as a factual truce.
Buck slapped him hard on the back. "There, see? Straight out of the doc's mouth. Now if you promise to be a good boy we'll let you out of that chair."
Hanging his head in defeat, Chris finally nodded slowly. "Can you at least take all this other crap off?" he asked as the bindings slowly became undone.
"On one condition," Ezra shot out, sharing a knowing look with Buck.
"Which is?" Chris asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
Simultaneously, both injured men responded with, "Let us go home!"
Chris stared at them in disbelief for a few seconds before spitting out, "Well, hell, why didn't you just say so? I'd have let you go days ago if I knew that's what you wanted."
A long silence in the room was followed by a round of laughter from everyone. Chris, not getting the joke, arched an eyebrow at them until they settled down. Buck squatted down in front of him and quickly began undoing the unnecessary bandages.
"What's so damn funny?" Chris asked, wincing as the medical tape pulled at his skin.
Buck wiped a stray laughter tear from his eye. "You," was his vague answer.
Ezra shuffled forward to further explain. "If my count is correct, the last time young Mr. Dunne was incarcerated here he asked to be released from your care no less than five times, Josiah's count was three, Mr. Jackson's was seven, poor Mr. Tanner had asked at least eleven times, and during this particular stay, between the two of us we've asked precisely sixteen times. You have never once granted the request until you are personally satisfied that we are, in fact, grown men who are capable of taking care of ourselves."
"If you were taking care of yourselves better you wouldn't keep winding up here in the first place," Chris argued.
"Like you're much better," Buck shot back good-naturedly and snapped a finger at Standish. "What's the injury log?"
"This year? Mr. Larabee is holding the hospital record with four times in six months." Ezra quickly rattled out.
"Why the hell do you keep track of all this stuff?" Chris asked, genuinely flabbergasted.
Ezra flashed a gold-toothed smile. "For times just such as these, Mr. Larabee. You never know when you'll need solid numbers to prove a point."
"So is it proven?" Buck asked hopefully.
With the shake of his head and a disbelieving smile, Chris finally relented. "You think I'm a little over protective, I get it."
"And?" Buck prompted.
Chris sighed. "And I'll try to be a little more respectful of your damn stubborn independence."
"Glory be, he sees the light," Ezra praised.
Ignoring him, Chris looked at all the others. "Now can someone help Buck get all these damn band-aids off so I can start up the grill?" A sudden thought struck him and he relaxed back in the chair with his own sly grin growing across his face. "Unless you all think I'm too injured to cook. If that's the case, I guess Vin'll just have to do it."
Matching looks of horror were passed around the room as the men scurried to remove all evidence of their fun lesson from their desired chef. Once free, Chris stood and began to make his way back outside. He got halfway there before he abruptly turned around and marched over to Ezra, yanking the phone from the startled agent's back pocket and sifting through it until he found and deleted all the photos Standish had secretly taken of the entire incident.
"How did you…?" the undercover began to ask, then dropped the question. Chris just knew him too well.
But not well enough to know that Ezra had had just enough time to forward all the photos to each of the other five potential victims to future Larabee Mother Hen-ness.
Once Chris was safely back outside and beyond hearing range, Buck clapped Ezra gently on the shoulder. "We make a pretty good team," he chuckled as he looked at the incriminating pictures on his own phone before re-forwarding them back to the Southerner.
"That we do, Mr. Wilmington, that we do," Ezra whole-heartedly agreed.
With matching grins that wouldn't disappear until sun and moon traded places once again, the two joined their friends outside to enjoy the rest of their now-perfect day.