Neither a Sender Nor a Larabee

by Beth Green

Rating: PG, for language

Author’s Notes: This was written in response to Robin’s Chris Fic Challenge #6, in which our dear Mr. Larabee does something he really wishes he hadn’t.

Chris Larabee glared at the skeletal remains scattered before him. Up until a minute ago, the pile of plastic and wires had been his desk phone. What he’d really wanted to do was to slap some sense into the person he’d been talking to: AD Travis. However, a man couldn’t tear his boss a new one and expect to remain employed. Therefore, Chris had vented his anger on the hapless telephone. It hadn’t helped damn near enough. Chris was still angry enough to shoot the next person who walked into his office.

He could see the members of Team Seven as he glared through the plexiglass of his office window. "Look at ‘em, running like scared rabbits, tryin’ to look busy. I know for a fact that not ten minutes ago JD was surfing the web, Buck was making personal phone calls, Vin was working on perfecting his game of wastepaper basketball, Ezra was trying to catch a nap, Nathan was reading some medical journal, and Josiah was . . . Well, whatever Josiah was doing, I know for damn sure it didn’t involve the ATF."

The members of Team Seven had been together long enough that they knew that they were targets for Chris Larabee’s wrath the minute the crashing sound from his office signaled that another telephone had fallen victim to Chris’ homicidal tendencies. If the sacrificial telephone were not enough to tame the beast which raged within, Chris would next enter the office proper and proceed to inflict the Wrath of Larabee upon the first man who caught his eye. In self defense, they had become experts in the art of looking busy.

Chris was even more pissed off over the fact that he’d just destroyed another office phone. After the last phone mishap, AD Travis had warned that he was going to start deducting the cost of telephone repairs from Chris’ paycheck because he’d damaged too many of the damn things. The Team Seven leader fumed at the absent AD. "Hell, it’s not really my fault. There wouldn’t be a problem if those bureaucratic tightwads at the ATF would shell out a few more dollars for some decent office equipment." Chris conveniently overlooked the fact that telephones were not designed to survive high impact collisions with solid objects.

He took a few deep breaths, trying to contain his rage. He didn’t want to use any of his men as a surrogate target in absence of the real source of his anger: AD Travis. The previous week, Chris had received a verbal reprimand from his superior. The Assistant Director had the nerve to accuse Chris of using excessive force while apprehending one of the slimeball gunrunners arrested in Team Seven’s recent takedown operation.

Chris had no problem in offering reasons for his actions. "Hell, that goddamn fuckwad asshole would’ve left a trail of bodies as he shot his way out of there, if Vin hadn’t ‘ve put a bullet through the bastard."

AD Travis waved off his explanation. "Be that as it may, once the man had been shot, there was no reason to slam him face first into the concrete when you handcuffed him."

Chris was livid. The suspect in question had damn near succeeded in killing Chris with his last shot. The bullet had passed by close enough that the Team leader had heard and felt when it whistled by within an inch of his right ear. It took every once of self control Chris possessed not to yell at his boss with his reply. Through clenched teeth, he stated, "I do not consider the force used to control the suspect to have been excessive."

The AD continued, "Not excessive? You broke the man’s face! You’d better pray he doesn’t take it into his head to file a lawsuit. Given the circumstances, I’m keeping this to a verbal reprimand. However, I strongly suggest that you attend the next session on Anger Management when it is offered by the department."

Chris had no intention of following the AD’s recommendation. His anger helped to keep him sharp and focused. Dulling that edge would endanger both Chris and the men that he worked with. He satisfied himself with a silent fantasy involving slamming AD Travis’ face into the concrete. Travis had been out of the field for too long. Chris got the feeling that the man was starting to get delusions of being the next Director. As such, his boss didn’t want anyone under his command doing anything to screw up his chances for promotion. Chris silently cursed. "Goddamn bureaucratic assholes who don’t remember what it’s like in the real world."

Chris’ anger at the reprimand had not cooled in the week that followed. Therefore, when he got the latest call from his superior, he came damn near to snapping and telling the man what he really thought of Team Seven’s latest assignment. He’d tried reasoning with the AD. "This is bullshit, and you know it. It’s like sending the Denver PD’s Major Crime squad out on the streets to write traffic tickets. My grandmother could do this."

Travis was unmoved. "I’m not asking your grandmother to do this. I’m telling you. Team Seven is going to check liquor licenses so that we can make more efficient use of your down time, as well as help out during the department’s current hiring freeze. The ATF simply does not have enough manpower to get everything done unless we redistribute some of our resources."

Chris argued. "My Team has had precious little down time. We went six straight weeks without a break on the Delaney operation. My men need a little time to decompress before tackling another major case."

"I’m not denying that they do. I find it difficult to think of any job less stressful under my command than the task of checking liquor licenses. I’ve emailed you the list of areas that I need you to cover. Have a nice day."

Chris lost it at the AD’s final sarcastic comment. His phone went flying before he could say something that would get him fired. He sat, seething. He was not going to indulge in his previous habit of verbally abusing his men. Chris had no intention of following in Travis’ footsteps. He didn’t want his head so high in the clouds that he forgot the impression he made on those under his command. They would suffer enough once they found out their latest assignment. No need for Chris to add to their misery.

He had no idea how long he sat before he felt that he had himself enough under control that he could use his computer without throwing the monitor across the room. His screen seemed to be taunting him with the email "Message Waiting" signal. His hand hovered over the keyboard, his lips drawn together in a tight grimace. After a moment of indecision, he declared, "Fuck! I can’t do this."

His fisted hand slammed his desk in frustration. "I’ll give Travis his ‘email’, alright." If anyone who knew Larabee had been present to witness the transformation which took place, they would have quickly retreated from the room. His eyes narrowed, and his mouth twisted in a sadistic grin. His entire being radiated the potential threat to do great bodily harm. His voice low, quiet and deadly, he muttered, "Maybe I’ll just send a little email of my own."

Chris’ hands flew across the keyboard as he conducted his own personal anger management therapy.

Send mail to:
Subject: Fuck You

Message: "I’ve run into some incompetent assholes over the years, but they all pale in comparison to you."

Chris poured all of his feelings into the message as he typed. He’d managed to develop quite an extensive vocabulary of profanity over the years, and proceeded to use each word he knew as he exercised his creativity in cursing his superior. He included every slight, both real and imagined, that he’d suffered at the hands of the AD. He was offering his opinion of Team Seven’s current assignment when he was disturbed by a hesitant knock on his door. Not pausing in his efforts, he stated, "Come in."

Buck cautiously entered, keeping the door between himself and any possible thrown objects. His voice tentative, he asked, "Chris?"

The man in question was in the middle of a particularly colorful description of the AD and barnyard animals. He reluctantly lifted his eyes from his work. "What?"

Buck slowly walked into the room, not anxious to be on the receiving end of Chris’ temper. He scuffed the toe of his shoe along the floor, finding it a more fascinating place to fix his gaze than on his superior. Buck kept his tone of voice respectful and apologetic. "You know that email from the DA you forwarded to me the other day?"

Chris had no trouble in recalling the message. He’d just forwarded the note yesterday. He snapped, "What about it?"

Buck winced, but he had to ask, "I don’t suppose you kept a copy?"

Knowing where Buck was going with his question, Chris decided to make him sweat a bit. He rested his chin on his fisted hand, pondering. "Hm. Did I keep a copy?" He watched Buck shuffle anxiously from foot to foot while he waited. After a minute, Chris decided to leave off torturing his friend. "Actually, I haven’t deleted it yet. Give me a minute, and I’ll send it to you again."

Buck was visibly relieved. "Thanks. You’re a life saver." He headed back out to his desk to collect his message.

Chris made sure not to delete his current work in progress when he clicked over to his Email Received file. He quickly located the message from the DA and sent it on to Buck. Mission accomplished, he clicked back to his current email in progress. Huh. That was strange. He couldn’t find it. He hadn’t been anywhere near the delete key. Damn computers, anyway. How could his masterpiece have just disappeared? Maybe he’d accidently forwarded it to Buck?

He walked out to his teammate’s desk. "Hey, Buck, did I send you anything besides the DA’s email?"

Buck double-checked, then answered, "Nope. Just the one message I asked for. Thanks again."

Chris waved off the thanks and headed back to his office. There was one more place he had to check. But, it wasn’t possible. It wouldn’t be there. It couldn’t. He held his breath, his hand tightening on the mouse. Hoping against hope, he clicked on his "Mail Sent." There it was, right after the forwarded email from the DA he’d sent to Buck. Mail sent to: Subject: Fuck you.

His mind screamed, "No! No way!" He couldn’t have done it. Yet, there it was, staring balefully at him from the screen: "Mail Sent." Oh, God. He quickly clicked on the "delete" key. The computer scolded him, "Cannot delete mail sent." He refused to believe the message, pounding frantically at the "delete" key. The message did not change.

Chris ran to his door, shouting, "JD! Get in here, now!" The kid was good with computers; real good. If anyone could make the message go away, it would be JD. The man in question had come running at Chris’ frantic call. Chris dragged him over to his desk chair, forcing him to sit in front of the computer. Chris quickly explained the situation. "That message, there." JD’s eyes widened as he read both the "Send to" and "Subject" lines. "The computer says I sent it. That’s a lie. There’s no way in hell I would’ve done such a stupid brain-dead thing."

JD clicked on the message, his jaw dropping open in shock as he read the contents. "Oh, my."

"So. I need you to make it go away."

JD echoed, "Make it go away?" Chris did not want to accept the answer written on JD’s face. The kid slowly shook his head, genuinely sorry. "God, I wish I could. But, I can’t. It’s already been received by the AD’s computer. I’m sorry, Chris. There’s nothing I can do."

Chris tried to keep his face free from all expression as his head nodded jerkily in response. He collapsed more than sat in his chair as JD vacated it. "Shit." He was vaguely aware of JD’s voice drifting in from the outer office as he explained Chris’ dilemma to the members of Team Seven. Various exclamations of , "He said what? He called him a what? With a sheep and a cow?" were uttered in response. Chris’ eyes narrowed when he heard Buck’s too enthusiastic question, "Can you get me a copy?"

JD spoke up on Chris’ behalf. "Guys, this is serious. Do think that the AD is gonna just laugh this off?" The silence which greeted his question was more than enough of an answer. The Team proceeded to rally around their stricken leader, crowding into Chris’ office.

Chris had his panic well under control. No hint of his inner turmoil showed when he stated, "I’ve made a few enemies since I took on this job. All I gotta do is tell Travis that I didn’t send the message."

JD quickly vetoed the idea. "Sorry. It’ll be all too easy for the AD to prove that the message was sent from Chris’ computer."

Chris was not yet defeated. "Don’t matter. I’ll just tell him someone’s trying to frame me."

Nathan snorted. "Yeah, that’ll work real good when he finds out the only prints on the keyboard are yours."

JD pulled out a handkerchief and began wiping down the keyboard. "Damn it, the only one gettin’ framed by anybody is the guy who sat down at your keyboard and tried to help you out."

Chris put out a hand to stop JD’s frantic efforts. He began to swipe at the keys with his own handkerchief, stating, "No one’s gonna take the fall for this but me."

Josiah interrupted their housekeeping efforts with a glimmer of hope. "Just because the message has been sent, does not mean that the AD has read it."

Buck’s response did not inspire much confidence. "Yeah, just because Travis is a desk-bound bureaucrat don’t mean he’s actually sittin’ at his desk."

Vin was not about to give up on his best friend. He was already on his way to his desk when he stated, "I’m gonna call and find out." The team reconvened at Vin’s desk, anxiously gathering to overhear the conversation. Vin obliged them by putting the call on the phone’s speaker.

The AD’s secretary, Peggy Fair, answered on the third ring. "You’ve reached the office of Assistant Director Travis. How may I help you?"

"Is Mr. Travis in?"

"Whom shall I say is calling?"

"This is Vin Tanner."

Having passed the secretary’s screening, she replied, "I’m sorry, Mr. Tanner, but AD Travis has gone for the day. Would you like to leave a message?"

"No, that’s okay. Can you tell me how long ago he left?"

"That would have been fifty-five minutes ago."

Vin’s "Thank you. Thanks a lot!" was excessively friendly. It reflected his relief at the reprieve they’d been granted. Now, all they had to do was to break into the AD’s computer and delete the message. When Vin suggested that they do just that, JD immediately shot him down.

The kid was their resident computer expert. He pointed out, "Despite what they show on TV, hacking into someone else’s computer is a damn difficult thing to do. With all of the safeguards and firewalls put in by the ATF, our computers are more secure than most. Much as I wish I could, I can’t help y’all."

Buck offered, "Well, hell, maybe we should just blow the damn thing up."

Chris snorted. "If we’re gonna do that, I might as well as go and shoot the damn thing. The end result will be the same. It’ll be traced right back to us." Chris slumped in his chair, the picture of defeat. "There’s only one thing to do. I tell Travis I’m sorry, and hope he’s in a good enough mood not to fire me."

Vin shook his head. "No way. JD told us what was in that email. Seems like you really got a way with words. You knew all the right buttons to push to send the AD right over the edge. He’ll fire you in a heartbeat, and maybe sue you for libel or defamation of character, to boot. You may be willing to put your head in a noose, but don’t think we’re gonna sit by and let you do it."

Chris sighed. "The noose is already tight around my neck. It’s only a matter of time until the trap door opens underneath me."

Much as his teammates wanted to disagree with the statement, no one had anything further to offer. At least, not until JD broke the oppressive silence. "You know, I’ve been thinking. I may not be able to hack the AD’s computer. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t log on to it." He paused as all eyes stared hopefully in his direction. "Now, logging on won’t do me a darn bit of good without the password. So, all I need to do is get the password."

Buck stared, disbelieving. "You get his password. Just like that."

JD waved a hand to silence his friend. "Actually, you’re the one who gave me the idea. The AD is an older guy, like you," JD teased. "You know how you can’t remember your password for shit. You’ve always got it written down someplace handy. I’d be willing to bet that Travis does, too. Even if he doesn’t, he probably has kept it to something simple, like his birthday." JD’s enthusiasm was catching on. "C’mon, it’s certainly worth a try."

Chris was not so easily persuaded. "Not that I’m not grateful for the offer, but I have no intention of letting you get caught breaking into the AD’s office."

Buck stated, "I’ve been thinkin’ about that. I don’t think he has to break in. I think he can just kind of wander in when no one’s looking."

Chris vetoed the idea. "If the office is closed, the security guards and cameras will be all over JD. If the office is open, there’s no way JD’s gonna get past the Dragon Lady." Dragon Lady was one of the kinder names the team used to refer to the AD’s secretary, Peggy Fair. Never was a lady less appropriately named. Ezra had voiced the suspicion that Ms. Fair was a refugee from the Russian women’s hockey team. She had all the femininity of a defensive lineman. She guarded Travis’ office with the zeal of a momma bear protecting her cub.

JD continued, "You’re forgetting one thing. The Dragon Lady has a weakness, remember?"

All eyes turned to Vin Tanner. He grimaced. "Ha-ha. I don’t think so."

Buck grinned. "Oh, yeah. We’ve all seen her and heard her. Anytime Vin is around, she gets all soft and starts givin’ him those cow’s eyes."

Much as Vin tried to deny it, all of his teammates were nodding in agreement.

Buck continued, "As sweet as he was to her on the phone today, she’s probably ready to go ring shoppin’." Vin looked horrified at the suggestion. "So, Vin and JD make some excuse to visit the AD’s office. While Vin is makin’ time with his lady Fair, JD takes care of our little computer problem, slick as you please."

Chris found himself outnumbered, six to one. Much as he wished he could be the only one at risk here, he realized that Vin and JD were definitely the men for this job. When they told him that they intended to carry out their mission, regardless of whether or not it met with his approval, Chris reluctantly conceded. "Damn it, I don’t want anyone else takin’ the fall for somethin’ I did. But, if I have to listen to one more argument about how we can’t break up the team, I’ll end up takin’ you all with me when I go."

Vin offered one last argument. "Hell, Chris, if it was one of us that sent that email, and Miss Peggy was sweet on you, you’d be the first one in her office." Chris nodded, having no words to counter the truth that was known to all.

As Vin and JD discussed their strategy, Ezra interrupted. "Gentlemen, I beg of you. If you would please hold off for one more hour before your foray into enemy territory, I will be able to furnish you an additional weapon to use in your attack." Ezra refused to tell them any more, beyond, "Trust me. It should prove well worth your while."

A few minutes before Ezra’s scheduled return, JD approached Buck. "Hey, Buck, I thought of something you can do to help. I need to borrow something of yours."

Buck jumped to his feet at the offer. "Alright, kid, anything you want, it’s yours."

JD answered with a one word reply: "Henrietta."

Buck took a step back, shocked. Henrietta was the name he used to refer to his beloved rubber chicken. Henrietta had been with him through a lot of rough scrapes. Buck denied that he was the superstitious sort. However, the idea of parting with his silent partner was rather unsettling. Nevertheless, if JD wanted Henrietta, he’d get Henrietta. Buck reached for his desk drawer. He gently handed over his treasure, patting her in fond farewell. "Okay, now, JD’s gonna take real good care of you."

Buck was about to ask JD about Henrietta’s role in the plan. He was sidetracked by Ezra’s return.

The undercover agent produced a handkerchief from his pocket. He carefully pulled back a corner, revealing the plastic ziplock bag concealed in its folds. "Gentlemen, this is a portion of the earthly remains of one of the most evil men who ever walked upon this earth."

Buck had been leaning in close, as curious as the others. He quickly retreated when Ezra revealed that the powdery substance was human remains.

Ezra stated, "I’m not asking you to believe in the power of curses or ancient religions. However, the man who shared this with me assures me that the evil which permeated every cell of the deceased man’s body can affect anything that it comes into contact with. I recommend that you scatter the contents of this bag liberally upon the computer in question."

Vin refused to touch Ezra’s offering. JD shrugged, reaching for the handkerchief. "It can’t hurt."

Ezra held back for a moment before releasing his offering. "Be that as it may, I strongly suggest that you do not allow the contents to come into contact with any portion of yourself personally."

JD carefully took the package and tucked it into his briefcase, where Henrietta was currently residing. He stood, announcing, "I’m as ready as I’ll ever be." Vin and JD headed out, leaving behind five extremely worried friends.

+ + + + + + +

Less than an hour later, the two returned. The expression on their faces told the story. They looked like they were on their way to a funeral. Vin could not find any words to say. They stuck in his throat when he looked at his best friend.

Chris gave a slight nod, saying, "Thanks for trying. Seeing as you’re not under arrest, I guess y’all didn’t get caught."

JD flopped into a chair. He quickly disagreed. "Oh, yes we did." He began to relate the details of their failed mission.

"Everything started out like we’d hoped. Vin managed to gain all of Miss Peggy’s attention so that I could sneak off into the AD’s office." He grabbed his head in frustration. "I searched every place I could think of trying to find the damn password. I’m sorry. It was nowhere to be found. I finally ended up turning on his computer and trying any names and numbers I could think of that could be connected to the AD."

"Of course, all of this took time. Too much time. Peg-zilla got the wind up and came lookin’ for me. Thank goodness, Vin had time to warn me. Even though I didn’t have time to get the hell out, I did manage to shut down the computer. When she walked in on me, she caught me red-handed, settin’ Henrietta up in Travis’ chair. She didn’t seem near so mad at me for prankin’, as she was mad at Vin."

Vin took up the story. "She gave me one ‘a them ‘if looks could kill I’d be dead’ stares. Then, she starts in on me. ‘So, all of that nonsense you were spouting back there was only to help your friend to sneak around behind my back.’"

"I wanted to say, ‘Hell, yes!’ Instead, I started gettin’ as mushy as ol’ Buck, tellin’ her, yeah, I was coverin’ for JD, but I wasn’t lyin’ when I said I wanted to go out with her. It took some fancy words on my part, but she finally got over bein’ mad at me." He sighed. "We’re goin’ out this weekend." Vin was gifted with various sympathetic looks at that statement.

JD offered, "I did leave Ezra’s fairy dust behind when I left. Maybe that’ll do the trick." No one gained any comfort from that statement. They all knew that, more than likely, Chris Larabee would get fired tomorrow.

Buck stood up. "Well, if this is Chris’ final night with Team Seven, I say we owe him one hell of a sendoff." His teammates agreed. They reconvened at the saloon, attempting to drown their sorrows. They were not much successful.

+ + + + + + +

The next morning, they were all gathered when Chris received the call to go to the AD’s office. They watched the minutes tick slowly by, waiting for their leader’s return. When he walked into the office, his face had an unusual expression. They couldn’t quite figure it out.

Chris walked up to Ezra. The undercover agent was the first to realize the truth, being privileged to witness the grin which broke out on Chris’ face. He declared, "Thank God!" extending his hand for a high five.

Chris stated, "No, thank Ezra." All of Team Seven gathered around, exchanging whoops, hollers, and hugs. Through the noise, Chris announced, "It seems that AD Travis’ computer has suffered a major system failure. Anything I may have sent him over the last twenty-four hours has been irretrievably destroyed."

The noise level rose considerably at that pronouncement. Team Seven had prevailed.


Team Seven once again rallied to support one of their own. They huddled around Vin, thanking him for taking on the fearsome Miss Peggy. True to his word, he had gone out on a date with the woman. It had been every bit as bad as he’d feared. "She spent most of her time criticizing damn near everything about me. The rest of the time, she spent telling me stuff I didn’t care to know, and want to forget as quick as I can. Thank God, she didn’t expect no good night kiss."

Buck shuddered. "My Ma always said, ‘Ain’t no such thing as an ugly woman; only a lazy one.’ My Ma obviously never met Peg-zilla."

Josiah offered, "She’s not that bad."

He was immediately shouted down by his friends. Buck observed, "I don’t see you datin’ her. Besides, she’s got a mustache!" Vin visibly winced at that reminder.

Chris stated, "I want to thank y’all again for gettin’ my ass out of the line of fire. I owe you, big-time."

Vin smiled. "Hey, Chris, glad to hear you say that. There’s something else Miss Peggy shared on our little date. As much as she used to like me, the person who she really wants to get to know up close and personal is none other than our own Chris Larabee."

Chris smiled. "Okay, Vin, pull the other one."

Vin raised a hand defensively. "I ain’t lyin’. As a matter of fact, she asked if I could fix her up on a date with you."

Chris frowned, shaking his head.

"Payback’s a bitch, Chris, and so is Miss Peggy. She’s waitin’ on your phone call." With that pronouncement, Vin dropped Ms. Fair’s business card in front of a stunned Chris. Pointing at the hand-written number on the back, he added, "That there’s her home phone number. Enjoy your date."

Chris sighed, surrounded by laughing teammates. Maybe getting fired wouldn’t have been such a bad thing, after all.


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