The Defeat of the Magnificent 7

by Kathi Holmes

Purpose: This is the April Birthday fic for those who want Chris hurt I'll do my best to do that. I also plan to hurt all the others just for good measure.

Rating: PG13 there will be some bad words and threatened violence toward some cute animals.

Disclaimer: Not mine, if they were they'd still be on the air, and there would be a lot more hurt and comfort going on. They belong to the Mirisch, Trilogy, MGM and CBS and never has such a valuable property been treated so shabbily. A big thank you to MOG for creating the ATF universe and allowing the rest of us to play in it. If you want to sue, feel free you can have the cranky 11-year-old unhousebroken cat.

Author's Notes: This idea started after watching my mother do battle with the rabbits in our yard that seem determined to eat all our plants. No rabbits were hurt in writing this fic. My thanks to Sherri for Beta reading this. Any mistakes are mine and not hers, as I can't resist tweaking things.

Chapter 1
Chris lay awake staring at the ceiling. He couldn't believe all of them had been injured and/or hospitalized in this latest enterprise. Damn! He'd been hanging around Ezra too much he was starting to sound like him. This had seemed like a good idea when they started it. Nathan had been the first to mention it, but all of them had gone along with it.

Chris shifted and groaned, trying to find a comfortable position on the uncomfortable hospital bed. The nurse, Susan Walker walked into the room. "Having trouble sleeping, Chris?"

Chris groaned. "Hard to find a comfortable position."

Susan grinned. "I'll get you something for the pain. That should help." She left the room and returned in a moment with two pills in a cup. "Take these it will help."

Chris took the pills and drank from the glass of water she handed him. "Thanks, how is everyone else?"

Susan grinned. "I sent the walking wounded home and the others are all asleep. You want to tell me what happened that all of you got hurt."

Chris lay back with a sigh. "Might as well this story is going to get out one way or the other, and you might as well hear it from me. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Nathan started it, mentioned that I had all that room at the ranch, we ought to start a garden so we could have fresh vegetables all summer long."

Susan sat down next to the bed. It was a quiet night and this sounded like the start of a good story. "Go on, a garden is a good idea."

Chris groaned and shook his head. "You'd think so but you'd be wrong. Buck started talking about fresh corn on the cob, and before you know it, all of us were enthused about the idea. So the next weekend I got someone to plow up a large plot of land close to the barn and not too close to the woods. We spent the whole weekend fertilizing and picking out rocks. Late on Sunday we started planting the seeds, finished just as it got dark."

Susan grinned. "No one got hurt that weekend seems like it wasn't too bad."

Chris grimaced. "There were some blisters, oh and JD got a black eye. He stepped on the garden rake, and the handle hit him in the eye, but it was nothing that Nathan couldn't handle. Oh, and the birds ate some of the seeds before Josiah made a scarecrow and hung some old tin pie plates up that took care of them."

Susan winced. "Ouch, poor JD."

Chris went on. "We should have taken that as a warning to stop, before we got in any deeper. For the next few weeks nothing happened. Then the seeds started coming up, and it was time to set out seedlings for tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and some other things. Anyway when the plants got about two inches or so high, I looked out one morning and there were deer in the garden."

Susan stifled a laugh. "So what did you do about that?"

Chris glared at her. "That was a Friday. The next day all of us were out at the ranch putting up a fence to keep the deer out. Told ourselves it would pay for itself in the savings we would get from the produce this year and in the years to come."

Susan nodded. "I would think it would. I can see why you'd think that."

Chris shifted. "You'd think so. That weekend there were a few mashed fingers from wayward hammers. I'm sure Josiah's thumbnail will grow back just fine. Again, there was nothing that Nathan couldn't handle. But the deer were only the first wave. The real problem hadn't reared it's ugly head yet. Little did we know that this was the calm before the storm."

Susan shook her head confused. "So what was the real problem? "

Chris glared at her and growled. "Rabbits. The real problem turned out to be those damn rabbits. Who knew something so cute and harmless looking could inflict so much damage. They waited to attack, well maybe a better word for it is devour, the garden when the plants were just ready to produce."

Susan frowned. "So what did the cute little bunnies do?" She tried hard to hide the smile threatened to erupt.

Chris covered his eyes with his arm; she wasn't going to be happy till she heard the whole embarrassing story. "We researched various ways of getting rid of the rabbits. Josiah read about a way that was supposed to get rid of the rabbits but not harm them. Sounded like a good idea. Josiah came out with a couple of big boxes of mothballs. He scattered them throughout the garden and in any rabbit holes he found near the fence."

Susan could just see the big gray haired agent out in the garden scattering mothballs. She fought back the laugh she could feel building. "I take it the mothballs didn't work?"

Chris wondered what the chances were that the floor would open up and just swallow him now and put him out of his misery. "No, the damn crows were in league with the rabbits. They came and picked up the mothballs and dropped them all over the place. They seemed to like to use the driveway for target practice. That's how Josiah got hurt he was getting out of his Suburban and stepped on a couple of them and went flying. He was unconscious for at least 10 minutes and broke his arm when he fell."

Susan had to laugh at the mental image of the Josiah slipping and falling on the rolling mothballs. "Score one for the rabbits."

Chris glared at her. "You could say that, but it just made the rest of us that much more determined to win in the end."

Susan struggled to keep her face neutral. She wanted to hear the rest of this story and had the feeling if she laughed too much that Chris wouldn't tell her the rest of it. "At least Josiah's injuries aren't serious, and he'll be fine in a few weeks."

Chris sighed. "None of our injuries were that serious, more humiliating than anything else I guess."

Susan rose. "I'll be back to check on you later and you can tell me some more then if you're still awake. I need to go check on my other patients now."

Chris yawned. "You do that. I don't think I'll be going anywhere soon." He glared at the traction apparatus attached to his leg."

Susan made her way down the hall, looking in on the rest of her patients. It took her over an hour before she was able to get back to check on Chris. When she did, she found he was asleep. She hoped he would tell her the rest of the story tomorrow night.

Chapter 2

Chris woke some time later. He knew the night shift wasn't over yet. It was still dark outside. He figured it wasn't too long before sunrise, as the sky was a dark shade of gray as opposed to black. He shifted trying to find a comfortable position. He wished he could lie on his side but the traction on his leg made that an impossible dream. He heard footsteps in the hall and didn't know whether to hope they passed by or came in. He was afraid it might be Susan, and he would have to tell her more of the story of what happened.

Susan paused outside Chris' door and then entered. She hoped he was awake and felt like telling her some more of what had happened to him and the rest of the team. She saw that Chris was awake. "Chris, having trouble sleeping?"

Chris shook his head. "Not really, can't find a comfortable position. That, and I kept dozing off yesterday, just feel all slept out."

Susan moved over to the chair next to the bed and sat down. "Want to tell me some more of what happened to you and the others? I have to admit that it intrigues me to think that the seven of you could come to this state of affairs thanks to some rabbits."

Chris sighed. He might as well tell her the story. If he didn't someone else would, and they would embellish the story. This was one that they were going to have a hard time living down. "Sure, why not? Make your self comfortable. After Josiah failed with the mothballs, everyone went back to doing research to come up with a solution to the rabbit problem."

Susan nodded. "So what did you try next?"

Chris shifted. "Nathan was the next to try his hand at getting rid of the rabbits. He wanted to use something that wasn't dangerous to the environment and wouldn't hurt the rabbits. He read that they don't like red pepper. So he went out and bought red pepper in bulk. He went out and sprinkled it all over the plants in the garden. Might have worked too, except it rained that night. I went out to check the garden the next morning, and there they were having a wonderful time, one was nibbling on the broccoli and another was eating the lettuce and yet another was enjoying some brussel sprouts, and that was just the ones that I could see.

Susan smiled. "At least no one got hurt in that go round."

Chris groaned. "You'd think that, but after work that day Nathan came back out with more of the red pepper. He went right to work in the garden sprinkling it on the plants. He was bent over when a gust of wind came up and blew the pepper in his eyes."

Susan grimaced. "Ouch, I bet that hurt."

Chris nodded. "I ended up trying to wash the pepper out of his eyes, like he told me but that apparently just made things worse. Called 911 and they sent out an ambulance for him. He ended up spending two days in here and can't be without dark glasses for at least another week. Apparently the pepper damaged his eyes.

Susan nodded. "I imagine it did. Pepper can be very caustic to the body, the eyes in particular."

Chris frowned. "After that Raine made it clear that she didn't want Nathan working in the garden anymore."

Susan smiled. "Give her some time she may come around once Nathan's eyes are better and she's put some distance between herself and the accident."

Chris grinned. "I hope so. That garden is still out there and even if we don't ever get to eat anything we've grown, we're still going to have to clean it up when the growing season is over."

Susan nodded. "You are going to have some work to do, but I'm sure that you'll come up with a solution to your problem. You just need to keep researching what to do about the rabbits."

Chris groaned. "We did. The next of us to give operation "bye bye bunny" a try was Ezra."

Susan couldn't help but laugh. "Operation bye bye bunny?"

Chris smiled. "That's what we came to call it. Think we all got just a bit obsessed with getting ahead of the rabbits."

Susan stood. "I want to hear what happened with Ezra, but I have things to do before shift change. Hold that story for tonight."

Chris grinned at her. "It's a date. I don't think they're going to let me go anywhere for a while yet."

Susan shook her head. "No, I don't think the doctors plan to let you out anytime soon." She adjusted his blankets and then left the room.

Chapter 3

Susan found herself making her way to Chris' room as soon as she could after coming on duty; she had to admit she was intrigued with his story. She stopped to look into the room JD and Buck were sharing down the hall; Buck seemed to be entertaining at least half the nursing staff. She knew Josiah and Nathan were both at home nursing their injuries and that Vin and Ezra were together out at Chris' ranch.

Chris wished he could go home. Being laid up was bad enough, but he wanted to be home sleeping in his own bed and haveing his own things around him. At least at home people wouldn't be popping in and out of his room all the time. He was beginning to feel like a pincushion. They came and took blood at least once a day. What were they looking for anyway? He'd been here it felt like forever and today the doctor had told him that he'd be here at least another week. He looked at the traction attached to his leg and scowled.

Susan walked into the room to find Chris scowling at his leg. "Scowling isn't going to make it heal any faster, Chris."

Chris gave her a lopsided grin. "Sorry about that Susan. I'm tired of being here and want to go home. Doc told me today that I'm here for at least another week."

Susan grinned and straightened the room. "It'll go fast. At least here there are no rabbits to torment you. Want to tell me what happened to Ezra?"

Chris grinned. "Actually, I thought his idea might work. Ezra had been doing a lot of research. The Saturday after Nathan was injured Ezra showed up at the ranch early in the afternoon. I wasn't expecting him but there he was."

Susan sat down on the chair next to Chris' bed. "So what was Ezra's idea?"

Chris sat up straighter. "He showed up and told me he had the solution to all our rabbit problems, but I had to come and get it out of his car. I went to the car with him, and there was a kennel sitting on the seat. I removed the kennel, and the whole time Ezra was grinning at me like a damn Cheshire Cat."

Susan laughed. "I can see Ezra that way. He does have a way of looking very smug."

Chris relaxed. "Yes, he does. Anyway I opened the kennel and a full-grown beagle came bounding out and headed straight for Ezra barking enthusiastically."

Susan shook her head. "So Ezra bought you a dog?"

Chris laughed. "In a manner of speaking. I was informed his name was Plato and that beagles were known to particularly good at hunting and that Plato's barking would also help to scare away the rabbits."

Susan smiled. "I take it things did not go exactly as Ezra planned."

Chris gave a hearty laugh. "That's putting it mildly. The first night Plato was lonely, howled most of the night as he was in the garden. I wasn't planning to spend all my nights awake sitting in the garden keeping him company."

"So what did you do?"

Chris stretched. "I suggested to Ezra that maybe he should come and keep his dog company the second night. Since he couldn't come up with a good reason why he shouldn't, he came out that night. Since the garden was fenced, we were letting Plato run free to help discourage the rabbits. That turned out to be part of Ezra's undoing."

Susan gave Chris a confused look. "How could Plato being loose have led to Ezra's being hurt?"

Chris laughed. "Well, as I understand from Ezra several rabbits got into the garden driving Plato to fits of barking. This I can attest to as I could hear the barking all the way in the house. At that point, Ezra claims Plato was beside himself running from one side of the garden to the other. Ezra was trying to see where the rabbits were going, planning to fill their holes with rocks so they couldn't get back in."

Susan and Chris were both laughing at this point in the story.

Chris took a sip of water. "Anyway, I could hear the racket in the house. It seemed to be getting louder, so I went out to see what was going on. Just as I got to the back door, I could hear a change in Ezra's voice, and he seemed to be swearing whether at Plato or the rabbits I couldn't tell at that time."

Susan wiped tears from her eyes; the mental picture of the debonair southerner chasing around a garden in the dark was certainly comical. "So what did you find when you got to the garden?"

Chris grinned. "When I got to the garden, Ezra was laying on the ground holding his ankle Plato was running all over the place barking up a storm. It seems from what Ezra told me several things happened all at once. Plato cornered one of the rabbits. When Ezra moved to pick up the rabbit, Plato lunged to grab it. Plato missed the rabbit but took a nice chunk out of Ezra's wrist. The rabbit seeing his chance to escape took off. Plato went after the rabbit, tripping Ezra. Luckily, he only cracked the bone in his ankle, and since Plato has had all his shots Ezra will be fine."

Susan couldn't help laughing. "So where is Plato now?"

Chris gave an evil grin. "Well, that night Ezra was so mad he gave me the dog. So right now he's out at my ranch with a recuperating Ezra and Vin."

Susan got up. "I want to hear what happened to Vin but I better go check on my patients. I'll be back later for that story."

Chris chuckled. "I suspect that I'll be here."

Chapter 4

Chris had the head of his bed elevated and he was enjoying his visit from Vin and Ezra. It was nice to have a distraction from laying in the hospital with nothing to do all day.

Ezra cleared his throat. "Mr. Larabee, Chris, may I inquire why the nurses keep smiling and laughing when they think that I'm not looking?"

Chris raised an eyebrow. "I'm not sure, Ezra but it may have something to do with the fact that I've been telling Susan Walker the story of how we all ended up here."

Vin gasped, holding his ribs. "You haven't told her all of it, have you?"

Chris grinned evilly; he was enjoying this probably more than he should. "Not yet I haven't, you're the topic of the next installment, cowboy, as I've been telling her the story from the beginning."

Ezra tried to get to his feet, but his arm in a sling and a walking cast on his foot, it proved to be difficult. He sank back in the chair with a sigh. "Did you really have to reveal my embarrassing situation to the nursing staff?"

Chris shrugged. "Ezra, the story's bound to come out one way or the other. I figure if we tell the story at least it's the truth without added embellishments that could embarrass us more than the real one is bound to."

Vin shrugged. "I can see your point. And at least our stories aren't as bad as JD and Buck's."

Chris laughed. "This is true, how are the two of them doing?"

Ezra grinned. "I do believe that they will recover, but I don't want to be the one who tells them that you are going to reveal the story behind how they ended up in this lovely establishment."

Vin grinned. "Easy for you to say, Ez. Chris has already told your story."

Susan walked in to the room. "Sorry Chris, I didn't know that you had company."

Chris smiled. "Stay Susan; I was just telling Ezra and Vin that you were hearing the story of what happened to all of us. Why don't you stay, and I'll tell you what happened to Vin here."

Vin glared at Chris. "Just so long as I get to be here when you tell the story of what happened to you."

Chris shook his head. "I don't. . . "

Susan interrupted. "I think that's only fair, Chris. After all, you've told me what's happened to the others. "

Ezra nodded his head. "I do think that is only fair, Mr. Larabee."

Chris groaned. "I guess I brought this on myself. Susan, let's see we're up to Vin's story now. After Ezra was defeated by those sneaky rabbits, Vin decided that he had an idea. He'd been doing a lot of research on the Internet."

Vin nodded his head. "That's right. I found a number of different things that were all supposed to keep rabbits out of the garden."

Chris took up the story again. "Anyway, Vin came out to the house with a number of things he was going to try."

Vin grinned. "Figured if one of them didn't work that the others might."

Chris continued. "The first thing he did was plant marigolds all around the perimeter of the garden. Rabbits aren't supposed to like the smell. "

Ezra took up the story. "He also planted some other plants that rabbits aren't supposed to like the smell of lavender, catnip, rosemary, and echinacea."

Susan nodded. "All of them are aromatic, and besides except for the marigolds, you can use them for other things, too. I take it they didn't work?"

Chris laughed. "Vin wasn't done yet. He'd read that fox urine was supposed to repel rabbits."

Vin glared. "I couldn't find any of that, but I had found information that said dried blood would scare away rabbits. I did find that at the farm supply store, spread it all around the place. Then as a final touch I spread some human hair I got from one of Buck's lady friends who owns a beauty parlor. Rabbits are supposed to not like it."

Chris continued. "After all that, it was late so we went into the house for dinner. Before leaving Vin decided he wanted to take one last look at the garden, so we went out to look."

Vin spluttered from his seat. "Walked into the garden and there sat a big ole rabbit just chowing down on one of my marigolds."

Susan bit back the laugh she felt trying to escape. "So those rabbits weren't discouraged by the marigolds?"

Chris grinned. "Didn't even slow them down. They also seem to not mind the hair, as I saw one of the little vermin chewing on some of it. At the sight of the rabbits in the garden after spending all day out there working on keeping them out, Vin got a mite perturbed."

Ezra laughed. "Chris, you've been taking vocabulary lessons."

Chris glared at Ezra. "Comes from hanging around smart mouthed Southerners." He then continued. "Anyway, at that point Ezra's gift to me decided that he should join in the fun."

Susan laughed. "So Plato decided you and Vin would benefit from his input?"

Chris grinned as Ezra turned beet red. "And Plato proved to aid in Vin's undoing. Vin was rather angry at the rabbits and was trying to chase them out of the garden. Plato thought this was a great game and joined in whole-heartedly."

Chris and Susan were both laughing at this point, and Ezra was wearing a big grin. Vin tried to look angry, but finally smiled. Vin spoke next. "Sure did, in trying to avoid stepping on the damn dog, I stepped on one of those damn rabbits. By the way, they move when you step on them. The next thing I knew I was lying on my back, looking up at the sky. Old Chris tried to help me up, but was having problems, as he was laughing so hard."

Chris took up the story. "When I went to help him up, Vin damn near passed out. Come to find out, when he fell he managed to land on a rock that broke two of his ribs. In addition to that, he drove one of the little stakes Nathan had carefully used to label the various plants in the garden into the fleshy part of thigh."

Susan moved over to Vin. "That had to hurt." With that she leaned over and gave Vin a kiss.

Ezra spluttered. "He gets a kiss? What about me?"

Susan moved over and gave Ezra a peck on the cheek. "You need one too after all, the two of you are still trapped at the ranch with Plato, I'll be surprised if you make it out of there alive. I need to go see my other patients, who's up next?"

Chris grinned at her. "JD and Buck. They managed to get hurt at the same time."

Susan moved toward the door. "I'll be looking forward to that story."

Chapter 5

Chris lay in bed. He knew Susan had the afternoon shift and found himself looking forward to telling her the next part of the story. He was worried that after this part of the story it would be his turn, and he was pretty sure the rest of the team would be more than willing to tell her his part in the debacle that was bye bye bunny. He couldn't believe that seven of the ATF's best agents had been unable to win a battle against rabbits. He hoped that Susan would get there before the others showed up. It was easier telling her the story without the others listening in. He looked up as he heard a sound in the hall. So much for his hope of telling the story without an audience, he thought as Vin and Ezra entered the room. "And here I thought I was going to have a quiet afternoon."

Vin came in and took a chair beside the bed. "We wanted to make sure we were here when you told Susan the next part of the story."

Ezra hobbled in and took a chair. "We're not the only ones coming for story time; Josiah and Nathan should be here any minute with the other two of our comrades."

Chris straightened up as best he could. "The docs are letting them out of bed?"

Josiah entered the room pushing a wheelchair holding Buck. "They are at that, Chris."

Buck grinned at Chris. "You don't think JD and I would miss you telling the story of how we got injured now did ya', you old war horse?"

Chris groaned as Nathan entered pushing JD in a chair. "Just shoot me now and put me out of my misery."

JD grinned at Chris. "Why, Chris? Don't you think Buck and I already know what happened to us?"

Chris grinned at the kid. "I know you know what happened, but I imagine Buck is going to make it sound like he was some kind of a hero in this one to get the attention and sympathy of all the nurses."

Vin laughed. "Don't think he's going to come off too well in this one. The rest of us know what happened out there that night. Buck may have been a lot of things, but a hero wasn't one of them."

Nathan grinned. At last he had all of his teammates where he could keep an eye on them. "Now don't go spoiling things by arguing with each other."

Susan stood in the doorway with a smile on her face. The others hadn't seen her yet. She had to admit the friendship between these seven men fascinated her. They all gathered around each other at the first sign of trouble. She had girlfriends who wouldn't stick with her the way that these guys stood by each other. "Hey guys, try to keep it down just a little. There are other patients on this floor."

Chris smiled at Susan. "They will or they'll answer to me. Come on in, and I'll tell you the next part of the story. That should quiet them down quick enough."

Susan laughed as she entered the room. "I came in early so I'd have time to hear it. I have to admit I'm curious to hear how JD and Buck got injured, as they do have unique injuries."

Buck shifted uncomfortably in his wheelchair. "You could say that, darlin'. Sit here next to me, and old Buck will tell you the whole story."

JD gave a snort. "Don't believe a word he says, Susan, Buck wouldn't know the truth if it up and bit him." JD gave an evil grin.

Chris laughed. "I'll tell her the story, guys. I can imagine Buck's version, and it wouldn't have much to do with the truth. Well, after Vin was hurt he came out to the ranch to recover, along with Ezra. After all, Plato and I needed the company."

Ezra nodded. "After all, Mr. Larabee is not used to taking care of such a marvelous creature as Plato."

When the laughter died down, Chris proceeded. "Anyway Buck and JD decided that instead of research the old fashioned way of dealing with rabbits was best."

Susan looked from Buck to JD. "And dare I ask just what is the old fashioned way of dealing with rabbits?"

Buck grinned at her. "Why, a shotgun full of rock salt."

Chris interrupted. "Anyway, Buck and JD got a couple of shotguns and some rock salt filled shells and stationed themselves in the garden sure that if they filled a few of the rabbits with rock salt that the rest of them would go away."

Susan looked from a blushing JD to a shifting Buck. "I take it things didn't work out quite the way that you thought they would?"

The others all laughed. Chris then continued. "That would be putting it mildly. They waited till dusk, which seems to be when the rabbits are at their busiest. They stationed themselves on opposite sides of the garden. Each of them had a com link so they could communicate with each other."

Josiah grinned at the others. "You'd of thought they were going on a major bust from the amount of gear the two of them had."

JD spluttered. "We were. We were going to get rid of those damn rabbits. Pardon me maam."

Susan nodded, trying not to laugh at the thought of Buck and JD armed to the teeth, going up against a bunch of rabbits. "I'm sure it was a dangerous operation."

Buck nodded. "Let me tell you, between those little fur balls and that monster of Ezra's you don't know how dangerous it was."

Ezra glared at Buck. "Please leave Plato out of this, Mr. Wilmington. He can't help that fact that you aren't very good at hunting rabbits."

Chris held up his hand. "As I was saying, they were on a major mission to get rid of the rabbits. Things were quiet out side for quite a while. Then it sounded like world war III was being staged in my back yard. After the noise died down, the rest of us ventured out to see what had happened."

Vin grinned. "A more gruesome sight I can't recall. Both JD and Buck lying there bloody and those little hoppers just eating away as calmly as you please."

Chris waited for the laughter to die down. "From what JD and Buck were able to tell us while we waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the rabbits came into the garden and started to eat. Buck fired first and scattered a few of the rabbits. Though it's doubtful that he hit any. I think the noise scared them more than anything. Anyway, Buck shot again. As he stepped sideways, stepping in a rabbit hole, it knocked him off balance, and he delivered a full load of rock salt that was accidentally mixed with some stray buckshot to JD's rump."

Everyone was laughing now except JD, who was blushing furiously. Nathan got up to pull the door to the room shut to help keep the noise down. He smiled when he realized that a number of nurses were listening at the door. He left the door slightly ajar so the nurses could continue to hear the rest of the story.

Chris continued once the laughter died down. "Well, being shot in the ass kind of startled JD and he squeezed the trigger on his shotgun, and Buck not being where JD thought he was ended up getting a full load of rock salt and buck shot in his posterior."

The whole room was laughing which was a good thing as it covered the laughter that was coming from the hall.

Susan wiped her eyes. "If they were using rock salt, how did the buck shot get in there?"

Buck and JD became interested in something on the floor.

Nathan spoke up. "They thought they could reload some old shells and save some money, since they figured they'd only need a few shells. Problem is they didn't thoroughly clean out the old shells."

Chris glared at his team. "A mistake I'm sure they won't make again."

Buck glared at the others. "It wasn't funny. That buckshot came close to some of my most valuable assets."

The laughter that had started to die down picked up again.

JD grinned at Buck and looked at Susan. "Now, you really need to hear how old Chris ended up here."

Susan grinned at JD. "Oh I want to hear that, but first I have to go and see some patients, but I'll be back."

Chapter 6

Chris looked around the room at his so-called friends and teammates. They were waiting for Susan to show up and they all seemed a little too gleeful to him. He wondered what the chances were that the floor would open up and swallow him, or that his teammates would all be struck dumb before Susan got back. He knew his teammates were not going to paint him in a good light, and maybe he deserved that telling their stories, but damn, he wanted to tell his story, and he had a feeling that none of the others were going to let him be the one to do that.

Buck looked over at Chris. "Why so glum Chris afraid the pretty lady won't like you so much when she hears your story?"

Chris glared at Buck. "Buck, you are so full of it. I want to tell the story my way and have the feeling not one of the rest of you are going to let me do that."

Vin grinned at Chris. "Well, Chris we just want to make sure that you don't leave out any of the important details."

JD laughed. "Besides it was your and Plato's finest hour."

Chris growled. "That damn hound, Pluto, couldn't hunt rabbits if his life depended on it."

Ezra spluttered. "Now, Mr. Larabee you very well know Plato is named for a world famous philosopher, not that abominable Disney hound of indeterminate lineage."

JD looked puzzled. "What did he just say?"

Josiah grinned. "I believe he was stating that Chris insulted his dog."

Chris nodded. "Damn thing is a menace to life and limb."

Nathan laughed. "He is at least to your and Ezra's limbs."

Susan entered the room. "Sorry to keep you all waiting so long, but things have been busy. I'm on my break now, so we have time for you to tell me the next part of the story." Susan moved in and took a chair next to Chris' bed.

Josiah glanced at the others. "Just relax Chris, we'll tell Susan what happened to you. After all, you were kind enough to tell her what happened to all of us. The day after Buck and JD were admitted here, Chris decided that he would show the rest of us how to get the rabbits out of the garden. That night after we visited Buck and JD here we all went back to the ranch. Chris told the rest of us to stay inside, as he was going to take care of the operation bye bye bunny."

Nathan took up the story. "Anyway, old Chris here put on his blackest jeans and T-shirt, even a black ball cap and smudged his face. To make sure that he could see he'd brought home a pair of night vision goggles. So Chris took off for the garden along with Plato on his leash."

Ezra continued. "Chris had gone out and bought new rock salt filled cartridges and had his shotgun with him as well as a pistol and a flare gun."

Buck interrupted. "Just what were you planning to do with the flare gun, Hoss?"

Chris glared at Buck. "Thought maybe the sound and bright light would scare the little buggers to death. Next time I'll shoot you in the ass with it and save JD the trouble."

The room erupted in laughter. Vin waited till the laughter died down. "Any way, the rest of us waited in the house. For a long time we didn't hear anything. After, I guess, about forty-five minutes, we could hear gunshots, and old Plato a barking to say nothing of Larabee here swearing his fool head off."

Nathan continued on with the story. "The noise kept up for awhile and then there was quiet. Chris had told us not to come out no matter what happened, and considering how well armed he was we decided to take him at his word. Since he was very explicit as to what we would do if we came out unless he called us."

Josiah took up the thread at this point. "All of a sudden we heard Nathan's cell phone ringing."

Susan grinned. "I take it Chris had decided he needed some help?"

Josiah continued. "He did, and he seemed to think the help he needed was from Nathan. Anyway, he called and asked Nathan to come out and bring his bag with him."

Vin interrupted. "But, just because he only asked for Nathan didn't mean that the rest of us weren't going to show up see what was going on. Anyway, we all went out to the garden, and there was old Chris laying on the ground with his foot caught in a hole. Plato was taking good care of him, settin' there beside him washing his face."

Chris growled. "Damn dog is a menace. It's his fault I stepped in the hole, avoiding stepping on him."

Nathan patted Chris on the shoulder. "Now calm down, Chris, or Susan will have to give you something to help you calm down." He then turned to Susan. "Anyway, Chris thought we should help him get up, but when I examined him, I was pretty sure he had a broken leg. Actually swore at me when I insisted on calling for the EMT's to take him to the hospital."

Buck grinned at Chris and wheeled his chair back from the bed. "When he got here, can you imagine that he didn't want to room with JD and me?"

JD sniffed. "He hurt us, implied that Buck and I would make too much noise and drive him crazy. Said he didn't want to watch cartoons all day long. Let me ask you, wouldn't you want to watch them if you could? There's nothing else to do around here."

Chris glared at JD. "Save me, watching the two of you watch cartoons and sports all day and argue back and forth is not my idea of restful. Besides, I don't need to hear anymore of Buck's conquest stories."

Ezra laughed. "With that Chris I heartily agree."

Susan smiled. "So you broke your leg stepping in a rabbit hole trying to avoid stepping on Plato?"

Chris shrugged. "That's it in a nut shell."

Susan stood and gave Chris a kiss on the cheek. "I think that's noble getting hurt trying to avoid hurting the dog."

Nathan grinned. "Think it's time we head out guys. Chris needs his rest, and I think JD and Buck are probably due back in their room by now."

Susan moved to straighten the room. "Before you all go I do have one question for all of you. Have you ever heard of deer spray?"

They all looked at her confused. JD spoke up. "No, what is it?"

Susan looked at the group and wondered what their reaction was going to be to her next statement. "Well, my dad's a big gardener and he uses the stuff to keep rabbits out of his garden. He says you use it about every six weeks and that it really works. They use it in all the big public gardens around town to keep the rabbits from eating the plants."

Chris glared at his team. "All the research you guys did and none of you found out about this stuff."

Vin looked out the window. "No, but we'll look into it and get back to you."

With that they all left the room, leaving Chris staring at the ceiling.

Chapter 7

Chris looked out from his house to the deck and the back yard beyond. He smiled to himself. After what felt like forever in the hospital, he was finally home surrounded by his friends. No, that didn't do it, these men were his family. Buck and JD were starting the big grill on the deck and arguing over something. He couldn't tell what from where he was standing. Ezra was tossing a Frisbee for Plato, who was chasing and retrieving the flying disc. Vin was over by the table, supposedly setting the table, but Chris could tell that Vin was sampling the goodies. Josiah and Nathan were over by the garden looking things over.

Chris shook his head, looking toward the garden. Who knew that a simple garden could cause such havoc in all their lives. It should have been simple to grow a few vegetables. All of them had been affected by this experience. Chris smiled. It had taught them all a lesson too. Always do a through job of researching what you're going to do. They always did that before working on a case. Why hadn't they done it in this case? There was only one answer to that question and it was that they had gotten cocky.

Chris heard a car driving up the driveway and smiled. It had to be Susan and the other nurses who had taken care of him and his team during this spate of injuries. He picked up his crutches and made his way out onto the deck as the ladies spilled out of the car and into the yard to join the members of his team. Susan made her way onto the deck to stand next to Chris. "So how does it feel to finally be home?"

Chris smiled. "I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but I hope I never see the inside of your hospital again as long as I live."

Susan laughed. "Chris, considering what you do for a living and the number of injuries you and your team have accumulated over the last few years, I think that's a pipe dream."

Chris smiled and nodded. "You may be right on that point. Seems to me you've been right about a number of things lately."

Susan grinned. "I take it you guys tried the deer spray?"

Vin came up behind them. "We did. Sprayed the garden about 10 days ago and since then haven't seen any signs of the rabbits eating any of the plants. According to the directions, we need to apply it about every six weeks."

Susan grinned. "I'm glad I could be of help. Just sorry all of you went through all of that misery before finding a solution to your problems. I want to see the garden before I leave, and I have to meet Plato I can't believe the part he had to play in all of this."

Chris moved carefully toward the steps down from the deck. "We have time before the food's ready why don't we go see the garden now?"

Susan followed Chris down the steps and across the yard to the large garden. "It really is a nice looking garden, Chris. Have you been able to harvest anything from it now that you've defeated the rabbits?"

Nathan answered from where he was staking up a tomato plant. "The salad at lunch today came from the garden, and we should have corn coming in soon. You'll have to come back then."

Susan laughed. "I just might do that. Looks like your green beans are going to be ready any day now, too."

Josiah grinned. "How do you feel about zucchini? Seems we planted a bit more than we're going to be able to use. Don't be surprised to find some in the car when you leave."

Susan grinned. "I'll have to be sure to keep the windows up and the doors locked. I've heard about people like you foisting off zucchini on people who leave their cars open."

Chris laughed. "She's got your number, Josiah. Let's head back to the house and see how JD and Buck are coming with the steaks?"

As they made their way across the lawn, Plato ran over and twined his way around their ankles. Chris almost hit the dog twice with his crutch. "Ezra, come get this beast before he up ends me."

Ezra came over and took Plato by the collar. "Now, Plato, that is no way for a gentleman to behave. You don't want to knock Chris down. You know that makes him cranky, and then he won't want to give you any of your treats."

Chris glared at the dog. "He's just lucky I haven't shot him yet. He gets under my crutches one more time, I still might. Got that Pluto."

Plato barked at Chris and pulled away from Ezra, running toward the deck ahead of the others.

Ezra sighed. "Chris, his name is Plato not Pluto. I keep telling you that. Now you've upset the delicate nature of my dog."

Chris laughed along with the others who heard this statement. "The delicate nature of your dog. That creature is a menace to us all, or are you forgetting that he contributed to your injury to say nothing of Vin's and mine."

Everyone sat down at the table to eat. As they were eating, Plato made his way around the table until he was sitting next Chris. Chris shooed the dog away, but within minutes the dog was glued to his side again.

Susan laughed. "Chris, seems to me that Plato has decided that you're his new best friend."

Chris grimaced. "He does seem to like to hang around me. Even creeps into my room at night to sleep on the foot of my bed. I've given up chasing him away; otherwise, I'd get no sleep at all."

Ezra stood. "My dear Mr. Larabee, due to the affection that Plato has shown to you, I think that it's only fair that Plato become your dog and remain here at the ranch. This is a much more suitable location for him than my townhouse in town; here he will have room to run."

Chris glared at the others as they applauded Ezra. "If, and that's a big if, I keep this dog he has to undergo a name change, Plato just doesn't fit him at all. Come here Pluto."

Plato came over to Chris with a bark and licked his hand.

Chris grinned at Ezra. "I'll keep him on the condition that from now on his name will be Pluto. Fits him better. He doesn't act like a deep thinker. He's more like Buck and loves everyone he encounters. And like Pluto, he's a bit of a klutz, but that's all right. I like him that way. After all, without him we might never have come up with a solution to operation bye-bye bunny."

Buck looked over at Ezra and held out his hand. "Pay up Ez, I win this one."

JD looked from Ezra to Buck confused. "What did you two bet on now?"

Buck grinned. "I bet Ez that Chris would agree to keep Plato but only on the condition that he undergo a name change."

Ezra shook his head as he dug in his pocket for his wallet. "But how did you know he would insist on it even right down to that hideous name?"

Buck grinned. "That was easy, pard, he's been calling him that for the last two weeks."

Everyone broke out in laughter at that.