Stressful Day

by Hombre


I was having a really bad day when I wrote this. Someone I worked with really wound me up and I fumed for several days afterward. The person involved was one of my bosses so I couldn't let rip at him to relieve the buildup of tension!

Have to say that since starting writing about the Mag7 men my language has gone downhill rapidly so there is quite a lot of swearing in this fic.

Anyway, the poem/prayer that is in this story is something I have gotten stuck on the wall at work as it always calms me down after upsetting episodes and makes me smile again. I am afraid I don't know who wrote it although I have tried tracking it down so I will have to attribute it to the author of many works, Anon.

I seem to have done a few of this type of 'bad day' fic. One for Ezra, one for Vin and now it's Chris's turn. Poor boy sure let's his temper get the better of him in this fic but I hope I haven't gone too far for you Chris fans. He just seemed to be the best channel through which to relieve my tension! Please don't take it personally.

This did start out as just a Chris fic but, sorry, Ezra pushed in again but only as a secondary main character!

He'd known that the day was going to be bad when he'd had to resort to clothes that weren't his favorite color. That was always a sign of trouble lying ahead. His last clean pair of black jeans had been consigned to the wash after a rather messing session of play with his dog, Arnie, the previous evening so he'd had to put on a light tan pair instead. It, at least, gave him the opportunity to wear some new boots of the same color though. The boys had been harping on about his drab dress sense so he thought about teaching them a lesson by turning up in clothes that were nearly white without actually being so. Tan was the nearest he would dare contemplate and he even found that much too bright. He complemented the pants and boots with a light blue t-shirt and smiled at his reflection in the bedroom mirror. That'll show 'em, he thought to himself before hurrying down to the Ram.

Chris finally arrived at work and sat down heavily in the chair behind his desk and scowled. It had taken him twice as long to get into the office that day because of the volume of traffic on the freeway. Whether there had been an accident to cause the queues, he didn't know, but it made him even more convinced that things were going downhill fast.

His thoughts turned to work and he switched on his computer with a jabbing finger and waited impatiently for it to boot up. After what seemed like hours he managed to log in and he began typing up a huge report that had to be in to Travis that afternoon. He tapped the keys on the keyboard at high speed but saw he was making errors galore when he flicked his gaze up at the screen. He was the sort of typist who had to look at the keys as he typed rather than looking at the screen. This method still didn't mean he hit the correct letters though, as his present document was proving.

He heard the rest of his team arrive but other than words of greeting they thankfully left him alone, not even commenting on the color of his clothes. His men could always tell when he was in a questionable mood just by looking at him and they knew better than to disturb him at such times.

After a couple of hours, he finally finished typing as he edited the last mistake. He then tried saving the document to his hard drive. He clicked on the save button but instead of the reassuring egg timer and computer disk symbols that he should have seen, the screen went blank. He stared at it in horror.

"Shit! What the hell ya doin' ya damned piece of junk?" he said as he pressed the enter key in the hope of it coming back to life. Nothing happened and he slammed his fist on the desk in frustration before slapping the side of the monitor. "JD? Get yer scrawny butt in here, will ya?" the blond yelled.

The youngster appeared in the doorway anxiously when he heard anger in his boss's voice. What have I done now? he wondered. "What's wrong, Chris?" he asked tentatively.

"Damned computer has chosen this minute to lose a twenty page document that Travis wants to see this afternoon. I only went to save the last section I'd done and it went blank on me."

"Okay, shove over and I'll see if I can retrieve it." JD moved to stand next to Chris and the blond rose and stood directly behind him.

The youngster fiddled about and finally the screen lit up and asked for Chris's password again.

"Shit! Does that mean I've lost it?" Chris asked as he typed his password in again.

"Not necessarily. Just give me a bit of time to check," JD requested slightly irritably. He felt hot and flustered with his boss watching everything he did while standing exceedingly close to him. "Why don't ya go and get a drink, Chris?" the youngster finally pleaded when Chris huffed impatiently and looked at his watch pointedly.

Chris nodded reluctantly and left the room while JD heaved a sigh of relief. He might get somewhere now that he was alone without Chris breathing down his neck every second.

The blond, meanwhile, went to pour a cup of coffee. He lifted the percolator and poured some of the strong liquid into his mug. He heard footsteps approaching behind him and he turned round quickly expecting it to be JD coming to tell him about his computer. He forgot to stop pouring the coffee before he moved though, and his boots turned from tan, to tan with brown splotches in a matter of seconds. Chris looked down on hearing the sound of splashing and when he saw what he'd done he jerked the pot upright again to stop the flow. He saw the state of his boots and scowled when he also noticed the dark marks up the front of both pant legs. Without looking where he was putting it, he smashed the percolator down and knocked over a jug of water, which tipped all over the floor to add to the mess already there. The brown coffee puddle diluted to watery beige and spread slowly across the floor under Chris's feet.

"Godammit. I only bought these boots last week and now look at them. My pants look like Arnie's cocked his leg up them and it's all your fault, Ezra," Chris shouted as he looked at the man who had interrupted him.

The undercover agent stared at the man as he allowed his mouth to hang open in disbelief. "My fault? I don't see how, Mr. Larabee. You were in charge of the percolator at the time of the upset," the dark-haired retorted indignantly.

"If you hadn't come in I wouldn't have done it."

"That's like saying because the remote control was lost you couldn't switch on the TV. Did you get out of the wrong side of the bed this morning?" Ezra asked.

"No, I did not. Get a cloth and clear that up," Chris snapped as he pointed to the puddle by his feet.

Ezra fixed the man with a stare and tapped his foot as if waiting for something. Eventually he demanded, "Did I hear a please in there somewhere?"

"Just shut up and do it, Ezra. You can pay for the cleaning of my clothes too."

"I most certainly will not. It's your mess, you clean it up. If you'd worn black as you normally do it wouldn't have noticed, would it?" Ezra said pointedly as he turned and walked away.

"Godammit," Chris muttered as he scuffed the puddle with the sole of his boot instead of mopping it up properly and then looked down again at his once pristine clothes, knowing that Ezra was right in what he'd just said. He made a half-hearted attempt at cleaning his boots and clothes before walking out of the room to see how JD was getting on.

+ + + + + + +

Back in Chris's office, JD's fingers flew over the keys and he smiled in relief when after only a few minutes the lost document reappeared.

"I amaze myself sometimes," he said with a grin. He then stood up and went to the door just as his boss arrived back. He saw the blond throw a savage look at Ezra and wondered what had happened between the two men in the short time Chris had been gone. "Chris? Got it back but you'd better see if it's complete."

The blond hurried into the room and quickly scanned the document. "Looks like I only lost the last few pages. Gotta correct all my mistakes again too by the look of it. Dammit, I'm gonna be late."

"Yeah, well, I'm always telling you to keep backing up yer work as often as ya can. Do it every minute if possible 'cause the more you save the less you lose," JD preached.

"Yeah, yeah, I can do without the lecture, kid," Chris chided as he sat down and began typing again without a work of thanks. The blond was totally fixated on getting the document done in time and didn't look at JD again.

JD acknowledged that Chris was under a lot of pressure but still sighed at his boss's lack of manners. He shrugged his shoulders and wandered back out to his desk to get on with his own work. He caught Ezra's eye and said, "If looks could kill you'd be dead, Ez. What did you do to upset Chris?"

"He spilt coffee over his boots and professed that I was to blame. I enlightened him of the fact that if he'd attired himself in black as normal it wouldn't have noticed but somehow I don't think that comment was taken in good heart."

Chris could hear Ezra's voice and he knew the man would be telling the others about their altercation. The blond, however, was too busy with typing to get involved in the conversation. He would get his own back at some point later in the day when he wasn't so busy.

He finally finished the document, printed it off and sat back to read it through. Inevitably he found a few errors so he corrected them with pencil rather than do it on the computer again. Halfway through writing some extra notes on the cover for Travis the pencil lead broke. He opened his desk drawer to look for a pencil sharpener but couldn't find one.

"Dammit! Has someone got a fucking pencil sharpener?" Chris yelled as he slammed the drawer shut angrily.

Buck appeared in the doorway with the requested item. He held it out and said with a broad grin, "No lead in yer pencil, pard? Don't know that this device will remedy that problem." The man laughed at his joke but stopped when Chris grabbed the sharpener from his hand irritably.

"Shut up, Bucklin. I can do without yer crude remarks today."

Buck put his hands in the air and muttered, "Ohhh, 'scuse me for breathing." He then made a hasty retreat in case Chris took offense to that comment as well. The ladies' man sat back at his own desk and exchanged glances with JD who grinned back at him totally unsympathetically.

Chris emerged from his office a few minutes later and headed off to see Travis. The six men watched him leave and breathed a sigh of relief but only a short time later they heard stomping, angry footsteps coming back down the hallway. They could almost feel the tension in the air sweeping toward them like a tidal wave and there could only be one person to have such an effect on the atmosphere.

Chris appeared moments later looking furious and he stormed into his office and slammed the door behind him. The whole building seemed to shake and rattle in the aftermath of the loud bang and it caused the six men in the outer office to almost die of heart failure. The group of men exchanged glances before getting back to work, used to their boss's notorious temper.

Buck muttered to no one in particular, "Jeez, he looked set to kill. Wonder what's got him stoked up this time."

"Does he need an excuse, Mr. Wilmington?" Ezra asked. "I'm sure he is sometimes disagreeable just for the hell of it. He's been in bad humor all day."

"Give him a break, guys. He don't lose his temper for no reason," Vin chided.

"Yeah, well as long as he stays in there and I'm out here, I'll feel a lot safer," Buck said. "I've been on the end of more than one of his outbursts over the years and I ain't volunteering to be his punch-bag again."

"Would anyone enjoy a beverage? It seems we may need one of Mr. Jackson's herbal creations to calm our somewhat ragged nerves," Ezra asked as he stood and looked at his teammates with a raised eyebrow. Funnily enough no one took him up on his offer for herbal tea, much to Nathan's annoyance. Everyone, except him, settled for strong coffee instead. The undercover agent disappeared to make a fresh brew of coffee in the percolator after collecting a chamomile-flavored teabag from the medic for his drink.

+ + + + + + +

Meanwhile, in the blond's office, Chris was standing in front of the window clenching and unclenching his fists angrily.

"Fucking bastard. I ain't taking that lying down."

He began pacing round the office swearing and scowling. He circled his desk continuously and then kicked the wastebasket across the floor. A trail of litter was strewn across the carpet in its wake and Chris kicked a few bits of that too for good measure. He felt like doing someone, anyone, actual physical harm but for the moment he would try and confine his abuse to inanimate objects. He knew that if someone spoke to him, no matter what about, he wouldn't be responsible for his actions. His eyes got a faraway look in them as he kept going over and over in his mind what had just happened. He felt hot, shaky and sick the more he thought about it. He hated being put in this position. He felt that he had no room for escape.

"Shithead. Blackmail, nothing short of blackmail," he ranted as he stomped on a Styrofoam cup that was amongst the litter on the carpet. He then ground the cup with his heel like he was squashing an insect. "Jeez, I wish that was your head, you fucking bastard," he snarled as he thought of the cause of his re-stoked vile mood.

He continued on his way when he'd reduced the cup to crumbs but he didn't feel any better for it. As he passed by a table with various books and papers piled on it he reached out an arm and swept them off. The paper flew threw the air and then fell back to earth like feathers, covering the carpet with a blanket of white. The blond walked over them, his feet crunching and slipping as he went. He didn't care what he was treading on in his quest to walk off his adrenaline rush. One sheet stuck to the bottom of his sole and he waved his leg irritably in the air to try and shake it off. When that didn't work, he grabbed the offending item and ripped it off before balling it up and throwing it forcefully at the window.

"Shit. God, this is one time I could joyfully commit murder. You sanctimonious bastard. I hope you get what's coming to you. Oh, fucking hell!" Chris growled as he knocked over a chair.

He leaned over and picked it up and his gaze was drawn to a picture frame hanging on the wall above it. The frame contained a poem. Well, perhaps prayer was more realistic as that word was in the title. Vin had given it to him and the blond stopped to read it as he had done on many occasions before when he was in danger of letting his temper get the better of him.

A Prayer for the Stressed

Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I cannot accept, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those I had to kill because they got on my nerves.

Also help me to be careful of the toes I tread on today as they may be connected to the feet I have to kiss tomorrow.

Help me always to give 100% at work.. 12% on Monday 23% on Tuesday 40% on Wednesday 20% on Thursday and 5% on Friday.

And help me to remember when I am having a bad day and it seems that people are trying to wind me up:

It takes 42 muscles to frown 28 to smile And only 4 to extend my arm and smack someone in the mouth.

"Thank you, cowboy," Chris said quietly. He was now grinning from ear to ear as he felt his mood lift. "You sure know how to cheer me up, don't ya?"

"You talking to me, bud?" Vin asked as he somehow managed to keep any expression off his face when he saw the devastation in Chris's office.

Chris whipped round and smiled when he saw Vin standing in the doorway. "Yeah, as it happens."

"What brought on that last fit of bad temper then? Pants too tight?"

Chris grinned sheepishly. "No. Travis just blackmailed me into dressing up as Santa Claus for the kid's Christmas party next week."

"He did what?" Vin squealed as he doubled up laughing.

"Yeah, laugh it up, Vin. If you don't take care I'll make you my assistant elf."

"Hell, I don't look like no elf." Vin said indignantly as he sat down on the couch.

"And I look like Saint Nicholas?" Chris retorted wryly. "Least you've gotten kinda pointy ears."

"Have not!" Vin disagreed as he put a hand up to touch his aural instruments just to make sure. He then looked back at Chris and said, "I can tell ya why Travis picked you though. Yer developing a beer gut, Larabee."

Chris couldn't help but look down at his stomach and he even lifted up his shirt to study his flat abs. Vin could almost see his friend thinking am I fat?

"Just kidding, Chris. God, if you were any thinner and turned sideways you'd be invisible."

The green-eyed man looked up and laughed. His good humor restored once again by the only man capable of getting him back from the brink of murder.

Vin smiled and said, "What I came in for, was to ask if you wanted a coffee. Ezra's gone to make us some and I thought you could do with one. Or, come to think of it, coffee might make you too hyperactive and put you back in a bad mood again."

Before Chris could answer though, both men heard a startled yell and a heavy thud. Chris came out in goose bumps as he remembered the puddle of watery coffee that he hadn't cleaned up properly. He propelled himself out of his office and flew to where he knew Ezra would be. None of his men had yet had a chance to move a muscle so the blond raced past them and got there first. He came to a sliding halt when, as he feared, he found Ezra flat on his back looking dazed and in pain.

"Shit. Stay where you are, Ez. Nathan?!" The slender, blond man knelt beside the injured man and made sure he didn't move.

"What happened, Ez?" Nathan asked as he entered the room.

Chris thought he'd better come clean and 'fess up to his guilt. "I think it's my fault, Nate. I didn't wipe up the coffee and water I spilt earlier and I'm betting Ezra slipped in it."

"Quite correct, Mr. Larabee," Ezra replied quietly through gritted teeth.

"I'm real sorry," Chris apologized.

"Stand aside, Chris," Nathan snapped angrily when he heard the cause of Ezra's mishap. "Where do ya hurt, Ez?"

Ezra inevitably tried to sit up but groaned at the pain and stayed lying down while answering haltingly. "My rump, I'm embarrassed to admit, and the back of my head. I sat down rather abruptly and then slammed my head against the table."

Chris stood up guiltily and watched Nathan examine his friend. He felt his anger returning but this time it was aimed at himself rather than at the surrounding world. He took one last look at Ezra and walked out feeling like crying. Vin sighed and went after him and caught him before he could lock himself in his office as the blond quite often did when very upset.

"Chris? You okay?"

The blond turned round and said quietly, "No. He could be seriously hurt 'cause I let my anger override my judgement."

Vin frowned when he saw just how upset the man was. "Come on, Chris. It's no use crying over spilt"

"That ain't funny, Vin. He could really be hurt."

"I know. Nathan looked none too happy, did he? You may get a lecture from him in his capacity as health and safety officer."

"Yeah, well I'd deserve it. I can't believe how stupid I was. It's just been one irritating thing after another today but I shouldn't have let it affect me so much."

"Everyone's entitled to an off day, Chris. Can't stay cool, calm and collected all the time. Hell, even I can lose it once in a while so don't beat yerself up about it. Come on back and see how Ez is getting on. Ain't no good hiding in yer office 'cause you gotta face the fallout at some point and the sooner the better, I reckon." Vin put a hand on Chris's arm and pulled him back to join the others.

"Nate?" the sharpshooter asked.

"He's got a bad cut on his head that needs stitches and he may have bruised the base of his spine. It coulda been a lot worse, Chris. I hope you realize that he coulda done serious damage to his back. You should always clear up when you spill something."

"Yeah, I know, Nate, and I'm truly sorry. I want to apologize to you all for my behavior and I hate that Ezra had been hurt as a consequence." The blond sighed before turning to the medic. "Nate? Please can I help take him to the hospital?"

Nathan looked up and saw how distraught the blond looked. "I've called an ambulance just in case his injuries are worse than I think they are but I'd appreciate the company, Chris."

The paramedics arrived and as a precaution put a neck-brace on the injured man and strapped him onto a backboard. Chris and Nathan went with their injured colleague and after a long session at the hospital Ezra was allowed home with an embarrassing piece of equipment to use.

"I'll never live this down. Fancy having to carry around an inflatable ring to sit on. I just hope it doesn't spring a leak and sound like one of those joke cushions that makes rude noises when you sit on it," he grumbled as Chris settled him into the ranch's living room.

Chris laughed out loud knowing Ezra would be exceedingly embarrassed should that happen. He then said apologetically, "Well, when you don't need the ring anymore, you can strangle me with it in payment for me hurting you in the first place. It's no more than I deserve."

Ezra grinned. "Well, I will let you off your death sentence if you promise to at least try and curtail your temper in the future. It can lead to unforeseen circumstances."

"It's a deal," Chris replied with a smile. "Anyway, you can have a good laugh at me next week when I play Santa Claus. That should cheer you up no end."

"I should say so. I can just picture you with a snow-white beard and a pillow stuffed up your shirt to make you a bit cuddlier. Just try and put a pleasant expression on your face or you are more likely to frighten the dear little children away."

"Gee, thanks, Ez." The blond looked Ezra up and down and said, "Seeing as Vin refused to be my elf I think you'd make a good substitute."

"Oh, no. I've never seen an elf with an inflatable ring attached to his posterior. I think I'll decline if it's all the same to you." Ezra laughed as Chris scowled at the thought of having to face hordes of children on his own. "Looks like you're in for another stressful day next week then, doesn't it?"

Chris nodded as gloom descended once again. "Yeah, you could be right."

"Well, be on your best behavior or you'll have some irate mothers after you for upsetting their little angels. Handbags can be lethal weapons when they catch you unawares, you know," the undercover agent said with a broad grin.

Chris couldn't help but return the smile, his bad mood lifted once more.

The End