Disclaimer: Unfortunately, the Magnificent Seven do not belong to me. Not making any money from this either. But, for the love of the boys, I persevere. . .. And I also bow down to the creator of the ATF AU. Thank you.
Reviews: I'm always afraid to ask, but I guess if this story gets published, I must step forward and claim responsibility for the. . .discomfort that many would definitely feel. Feel free to feedback, but pray be gentle. It's my dang muses. . .getting inspired with the unlikeliest of things. . .
Nathan came out of the ward and slumped down on the nearest chair. He was immediately surrounded by the rest of his team mates, except Buck, who was in the ward. All wore worried and anxious expressions on their faces.
"Well, Mr. Jackson?" Ezra spoke, breaking the silence.
"It cannot be saved," Nathan said, shaking his head. The rest of the agents just stared at him.
"Oh, Lord," Josiah exclaimed softly.
JD suppressed a half-sob. Vin put his hand on the younger agent's shoulder. "He'll be fine, JD," Vin told him, a small, assuring smile on his face. Then, the Texan turned to Chris, who was leaning against the wall, eyes closed to spare anyone his deadliest glare. Buck was Chris's oldest friend and when Buck gets hurt, Chris hurts too.
Ain't yer fault, Cowboy. Vin touched Chris's arm.
Chris flinched, but did not move away. He opened his eyes and looked at Vin. What am I gonna say to him, Vin? The question was unanswered, as Vin lowered his head and sighed.
Ezra, Josiah, Nathan and JD came to stand beside Chris and Vin. There was a never a silence this strong in Team 7 before as each agent thought of Buck and the tragedy befallen upon him.
Earlier that morning. . .
They were not expecting Japanese ninjas when they opened the container of contraband cigarettes. The black-clad ninjas had hidden in the container, one last protection for the knock-off Marlboros. There were six ninjas; though they seemed double their numbers when they burst out amidst stacked boxes in the container.
Despite being shut up in the container for almost a week, the ninjas fought with whirlwind ferocity. Team 7 found themselves disarmed and overwhelmed in less than a minute.
Of course, it goes without saying that Team 7 fought back. It had not been surprising to see Vin executing similar martial art moves as the ninjas, but Ezra proved to be an eye-opener. He single-handedly brought down two ninjas with hardly a crease to show for it on his clothes. Chris took down one himself; a pipe he found in the warehouse they were in serving him as an aikido stick. Nathan and Josiah double-teamed one particularly wily ninja, but in the end, the bigger agents gave him a simultaneous punch, breaking his nose and jaw.
One knife-wielding ninja had gone after JD and Buck. The younger agent showed lightning reflexes as he ducked and parried; the knife slashing the air inches from his own skin. But then, he found himself against a wall and the ninja showed no signs of slowing down. That was when Buck's protective instincts kicked in. He charged against the ninja and downed him in a football tackle. Buck managed to slam the ninja to the floor, causing the ninja to slash out even more furiously. Buck finally knocked him unconscious with the infamous left-hand that made him Denver PD's boxing champion two years in a row. Then, with his team mates rushing towards him, Buck slumped on the floor next to the ninja.
When they turned him over, the rest of them were shocked to see the cuts on Buck's face and body. Buck was unconscious, which was no longer surprising, given to the amount of blood he had lost in just minutes ago.
Chris broke almost every other traffic law during the five minutes' drive to the hospital. Nathan tried to clean up the cuts on Buck, but some of them had gone in too deep. When he removed Buck's shirt, Nathan found a twelve-inch slash that ran down from his shoulder to chest. JD's face paled at the sight of the wound.
When the doctors and nurses saw the black-clad Agent Larabee and his agents, they painfully resisted the urge to cover their heads, duck and run, and quickly took over treating Buck. The usual 'wait-in-the-lounge' speech was wasted on Team 7; the doctors and nurses worked on Buck with his team mates hovering close. They refused any kind of treatment for the nicks and cuts they had sustained during the scuffle with the ninjas. Then, one of the nurses came with the bad news.
"No!" Chris bellowed when he heard the nurse. "I will not allow it!"
The nurse, mentally praying what she hoped was not her last prayers, took on Chris Larabee's glare. "He won't heal properly! Then, the damage would be even worse!"
"No one is shaving Buck!" Chris roared. The ward seemed to shake with his fury.
The nurse took a deep breath and straightened herself up. She looked Chris straight in the eyes. "Agent Larabee, I was not asking your permission! I was telling you," she said, in a firm voice. Josiah was impressed by the courage displayed by the tiny nurse. The rest of them, including the medical staff present, thought it was a fantastic, but decidedly, foolish act of bravery. They would eulogize how she took on Special Agent Chris Larabee of the ATF single-handedly. But the nurse was not done yet. "And now, I want you," she did not physically shove him, but the rest saw Chris flinching. "And all of you," she added, glancing behind Chris's shoulder. "Out of this ward immediately! You are allowed to see Agent Wilmington when we're done!" She turned on her heels and walked away. Not two steps away, she turned and saw Team 7 still standing inside the ward. "Didn't y'all understand me? Go!" she cried, pointing to the door. Chris gave her the remnants of his glare and walked out of the room, pushing the door furiously as he made his way through them.
Outside the ward, his team mates found Chris punching the walls of the ward. "I was supposed to protect him," Chris said angrily. "What am I going to say to Buck when he wakes up and sees he. . .he's been shaved?"
None of them could answer the question. They avoided looking at each other and waited for the doctors to come out. They did not know what they were going to say to Buck over the sad demise of his moustache.
An hour later. . .
They entered the ward softly; Chris, in front as usual, flanked by the rest of them. Buck was on the bed, with his back toward them. They crept silently towards the bed, hoping not to wake him up. When they came to stand near him, they gasped.
There was a five-inch cut above Buck's lip, on the right side of his face. The cut was deep, thus stitches had been necessary. Looking at it now, the rest of them understood why the doctors had to shave off Buck's moustache. They would not have been able to treat the wound above his lip if it was. . .obstructed.
"He looks different," JD was the first to speak.
"Younger," Vin remarked.
"Charming, even." Ezra's remark drew surprised look from the rest of them. "Not a word of this should be made known to Mr. Wilmington. I was merely making a passing remark."
"It was his pride and joy," Chris whispered, forlorn.
"It was that or risk ruining his face," Nathan replied.
"Not that it would not have been an improvement," JD said, mirth in his voice. Seven heads turned simultaneously towards the younger agent. How could he. . .
"Should have just let them ninjas cut ya into ribbons!" Buck said, opening his eyes. "Thanks a lot, kid!"
"Hell, Buck, I knew you were okay the minute I walked and saw the mirror in your hands!" JD said. A quick look from the rest of them confirmed JD's finding. A compact mirror, obviously belonging to one of the nurses, was in Buck's hand, hastily concealed inside the sheet.
Buck sat up painfully on his bed. Despite the aches, Buck has been pretty much patched up by the doctors. A white bandage was wrapped around his chest and shoulder. Other than the incurable inflated ego, Buck was almost a hundred percent now. "You're good, kid," he said. "That's because you're learning from the best."
"The best who's going be shot in a minute!" Chris snapped, but the irritated look was not evident in his eyes. He seemed relieved to see Buck feeling all right.
Buck turned to Chris, his trademark grin plastered on his face. "Chris, you're the best pal ever," Buck said, seriously. "Who wouldn't let any other person shave his friend!"
"I think I will shoot him now," Chris said, reaching for his holster.
"Now, now, Chris," Josiah hastened to intervene. "Buck was just teasing you. Buck, you do realize you've been. . ." Josiah gestured at his face, indicating Buck's loss of facial hair.
Buck slumped back to his head, sighing. "I know," he said. "They have shaved my moustache. But this cut here went too deep. They had to do it. No matter how hard Chris fought." Buck could not help the amusement in his voice when he made the last statement. The rest of them bit their lips and made coughing noises to mask the sound of their laughter.
Chris just glared, but Buck saw the unmistakable gleam of laughter in his oldest friend's eyes.
"Are you. . .sad?" JD asked, keeping a tight lid on his laughter.
"I do feel some grief," Buck replied, sounding melancholy. "Took me a while to grow it. The ladies loved it." Buck sighed. "It's gonna be a hard adjustment to make."
The rest of them nodded sagely.
"But, I'm sure, in due time, with Chris and Ezra's help, I will be able to cope," Buck said. This time, he couldn't control the laughter. The rest of them, with the exception of Chris who was undoing the gun from his shoulder holster and Ezra already reaching for his ankle gun, burst out laughing as well. "C'mon now, Chris, Ez, this is a hospital!"
Chris and Ezra could not care less. The doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room did not even look up when Buck came running down the corridor, yelling, pursued by Chris and Vin. The rest of Team 7 was behind them, laughing as they caught up with them.
Chris and Ezra did not catch up with Buck. But they got their revenge when a few female agents wanted to know who was the '. . .new, fresh-faced agent. . .' in Team 7. Ezra told them it was Buck's lover from Canada. Buck had trouble trying to find a date for three weeks after that.
Buck grew back his moustache once his wound was fully healed. He admitted that, though he liked the new look, he shuddered to think that Ezra had found him charming without it.
To the rest of them, Chris and Ezra included, Buck was still the irritating and annoying friend they had always known, with or without the moustache.
"It's just a moustache," as JD remarked to an agent from another team. "Buck is Buck, no matter what."
A lil' note from the author :
It's just one of those stories that kept rattling in my head, forcing me to write it down. It seems kind of sick, but I've always thought a man looks best without a moustache. I tried imagining Buck Wilmington without one. . .and realized that instead of our lovable Buck, we'd have Darien Lambert. Guess what I'm trying to say is, the moustache makes the man. Having said that, I will, however, try to envision the ATF AU version of Buck sans his moustache. Moustache. . .what the hell was I thinking? Why couldn't it be Ezra's fashionably cut chestnut hair? Or Vin's silky tresses?