Insults and Injuries

by Beth Green

Author's Notes: I just felt like being mean to my favorite Seven.

Warning: Vin fans might be a tad upset with me for this one.

I also better say that I don't mean any offense to any fans of the 'Seven as rock stars' AU. Although I'm not familiar with that universe, it's got to be better than anything I might suggest herein.

Vin Tanner looked right at home, curled up in his favorite lounge chair in Chris' living room. At first glance, a casual observer could be fooled into thinking that it was a typical Sunday afternoon for Team Seven. The members were scattered around the large living area whose centerpiece was a big screen television set, the better to enjoy this Sunday's football game. There was a mind-boggling array of snacks occupying every available surface area, from soy nuts to beer nuts. A handful of the aforementioned beer nuts suddenly became airborne as the Broncos quarterback threw his third interception of the day. As if in revenge for the nutty assault, the television screen immediately went blank.

Normally, Chris would have scolded the person who had been fool enough to toss food around his living room. Normally, there would have been a chorus of well-chosen curse words at the abrupt cessation of both sound and picture. However, today was far from normal. JD was the only one who seemed to care that the television was inoperative. He spent a few minutes fiddling with the connections before he declared, "I think that the cable just went out."

Ezra was the first to comment. "Thank God. I don't know how much more of that pitiful excuse for a game I could have borne to watch."

Nathan responded. "Now Ezra, I know you don't mean that, because I know that you've been following doctor's orders and not straining your eyes by trying to look at the TV screen."

Ezra waved off Nathan's concern. "Forgive me. I seem to have misspoken. I was becoming nauseous merely listening to that wretched game."

Nathan leaned back, satisfied. "That's better."

Ezra sat up abruptly at that comment, immediately regretting the foolishness of his action when his headache and nausea increased in response. His voice painfully incredulous, he asked, "It's better that I'm nauseous?"

Nathan was unimpressed by Ezra's seeming upset. "That's not what I meant, and you know it. You had enough problems with nausea yesterday due to your concussion. If you don't want a return of the severe headache you had and the nausea, you better not be trying to read or watch television."

Ezra leaned forward, holding his head in his hands. "I'm afraid that I don't recollect much of anything that happened yesterday. However, if my headache was worse yesterday than it is today, then I am very glad that I have no memory of it."

Buck questioned, "You mean you don't remember getting blown up with the rest of us when the bomb went off in that warehouse?"

Ezra answered, "I do recall that this is the thirteenth time that one of you has so helpfully reminded me of yesterday's mishap. However, I personally have no memory of the events."

Buck grimaced. "Wish I could say the same." The mustached man morosely contemplated the cast on his right leg. He'd escaped the initial explosion unscathed, but had been caught by the edge of a falling portion of the ceiling as he was pulling JD to safety.

JD commented, "You didn't have to go running into trouble. I was doing just fine. I could've made it out on my own, you know."

Privately, Buck was highly doubtful of JD's statement. The kid had sustained a broken left leg as well as an impressive collection of cuts and bruises. Buck had frantically searched through the debris after the initial explosion. It seemed to take forever, but he finally found JD inching his way along the floor, slowly making his way through the wreckage of the warehouse as he tried to escape the advancing fire.

Not wanting to start an argument, Buck merely agreed with his friend. "I expect so. I didn't have anything better to do at the time, so I just figured I'd give you a hand."

JD sighed. "I appreciate it, I really do." The unspoken "but" involved JD's fear that he always seemed to be the one in need of rescuing. At least this time he'd had company. In addition to Ezra's concussion, both Nathan and Josiah had suffered first- and second-degree burns on various portions of their anatomy.

Josiah interrupted JD and Buck with a request. "Would someone kindly get me another beer?"

Buck was about to say, "Why don't you get one yourself?" when Josiah's bandaged hand came into view. Oh yeah, that's right. Poor Josiah had burns on both of his hands, severely limiting what he could and could not do. Although he probably could have fetched the beer himself, there was no way that he could have managed to open it.

Fortunately Nathan took mercy on his friend and rose to comply with the request. As he did so, he asked, "Anyone else want something while I'm up?" He was greeted with a flurry of requests, doing his best to commit them to memory as he headed toward the kitchen.

There was an unusual silence after Nathan limped out of the room. Ezra considered it blessed. He should have known that it would not last. Not if one considered his present company. Surprisingly enough, it was neither Buck nor JD who initially disturbed the peace. No, it was Vin Tanner.

Vin had the remnants of a commercial jingle running through his brain. It was a catchy little tune, and he really wanted to hear it again. As he thought on it, he finally remembered the object in his pocket. It was a silver and brown, genuine Hohner harmonica. Instrument in hand, he took a deep breath and began to blow.

Nathan was coming back from the kitchen at the time and nearly dropped the drinks that he held as he flinched at the annoying screech.

As the sound continued, Buck waved a hand at Nathan, indicating the side of the sofa just beyond his reach. "Somebody, quick, give me my crutches!"

Ezra, who was closest to the requested items merely asked, "And why should I do that?"

Buck hissed, "So I can hit Vin with 'em!"

Ezra shook his head. "I'm afraid that Chris might object to such an action. In fact, I would go so far as to say that his ire might not only encompass you, but whoever might be foolish enough to comply with your request. Regretfully, I must decline."

Buck turned to JD. "Kid, you got your crutches back yet?"

Nathan had earlier confiscated JD's crutches after the young man had stabbed the EMT's foot with a crutch tip one too many times.

JD replied, "Nope, sorry Buck, Nathan's still got mine."

Buck leaned back with a frustrated sigh. "Aw, hell."

JD added, "Besides, I kind of like what Vin's playing."

Buck couldn't believe his ears, and he said as much. "JD, I think that explosion yesterday messed with your head. That noise Vin's making don't sound so much like music as it does some injured animal gasping out its dying breath."

Vin merely raised an eyebrow at Buck's comment. It was obvious that he'd heard the words when the volume of his playing increased considerably.

Nathan passed out the previously requested drinks, stifling the urge to simply pour Vin's over his head. He hoped that offering Vin a Coke would be sufficient incentive to get the young man to stop what he was doing. Alas, it was not to be.

Josiah couldn't help but comment as the noise went on. "Vin, I think it might be a good idea for you to quit before Chris says something."

Vin had a pretty good idea what Chris might say, so he ignored Josiah in favor of trying to remember the tune he'd heard earlier. It wasn't easy, and he kept going over the notes, trying to remember if they were higher or lower or somewhere in between. His playing reflected his confusion.

Ezra commented, "I never thought that I would say this, but I wish that the game was back on. At least then I could turn up the volume and therefore provide myself with some form of defense against that incessant caterwauling."

Vin wasn't quite certain was Ezra had just said. However, he was in a mood to try to look for the good in things and chose to take the words as a compliment. He played on, ignoring the various complaints from his teammates. Hell, they'd been in such a pissy mood today, he didn't figure anything that he did could make things worse. Besides which, Vin vaguely recalled something about music helping to calm a savage beast. His friends certainly fit that description.

Buck's grumbling was getting on JD's nerves. Between Buck and Ezra, JD figured that Vin needed someone to come to his defense, especially since Chris hadn't said a word either way. JD began to sway to the alleged music. He commented, "That's kind of catchy."

Ezra opined, "If you mean 'catchy' as in contagious as in 'carrying or spreading an infectious disease,' then I agree. If you are trying to be complimentary, implying that there is some modicum of enjoyment to be found in that incessant noise, then I vehemently disagree."

JD and Vin both ignored Ezra. JD went so far as to praise Vin's playing. "Heck, Vin, you're just about good enough to play in a band." He continued, his enthusiasm growing as he looked around the room. "We got enough talent in this room alone to form our own band. The way Buck's always banging out a rhythm, he could be our drummer."

Buck smiled at the compliment. Some of his so-called friends had actually in the past smacked at Buck when his nervous energy displayed itself in the incessant drumming of his fingers. He leaned over to slap the table with a quick rat-a-tat rhythm. "Hey, kid, you really think so?" Buck continued to tap irregularly at the table. In truth, he was only trying to keep time to Vin's irregular playing.

Ezra groaned at the mismatched notes and percussion.

JD continued, "Ezra, I know that you play the piano. You could be our keyboardist."

Ezra declined the offer. "As a classically trained pianist, I cannot envision myself in any way, shape, or form offering accompaniment to a harmonica." He added, "Especially this particular harmonica."

JD ignored the comment, choosing to sing his own praises. "It doesn't matter that I can't play a musical instrument. I'll be the front man for the band. I sing good enough to be the lead singer. Nathan and Josiah can be my backup singers.

Nathan simply rolled his eyes, while Josiah commented, "I don't think so." While Josiah didn't consider himself to have much of a talent as a singer, he was a virtuoso in comparison to JD. Josiah kindly refrained from adding to his comment.

JD continued on with his imaginary band scenario. "Chris, of course, would be our guitarist."

When Chris did not speak up, Buck answered for his friend. "JD, when Chris mentioned that he played a little guitar, he meant just that. He knows maybe three chords, tops."

JD's enthusiasm was unflagging. "Heck, most rock bands nowadays only know three chords. That should be just about right."

Buck shook his head. "You're crazy if you think that Chris would be willing to go on a stage and perform for a bunch of people. Besides which, he don't like Vin's harmonica playing any better than the rest of us."

JD wasn't ready to give up. "I don't hear Chris objecting to any of this."

Nathan explained. "JD, you're conveniently overlooking the fact that Chris has a severe case of tinnitus at the moment, thanks to the blast yesterday damaging his ear drums. The only reason he hasn't said anything is because he can't hear anything." Nathan walked up to Chris, putting himself directly in the man's line of sight. Shouting and speaking so that Chris could try to read his lips, Nathan asked the team leader, "CHRIS, HOW'S YOUR HEARING?"

It took a minute, but Chris finally figured out what Nathan had said. He responded, "You know, I finally found something good about this whole hearing loss thing. I know it's only temporary, but as long as it lasts until Vin's done playing his harmonica, I'll be a happy man."

Vin's playing abruptly ceased as he took a moment to frown at his friend. He commented, "What do y'all know about good music, anyway?"

Ezra replied, "I know that you have an ego the size of the state of Texas if you believe that the noise which you have been producing is good enough to qualify at the level of a professional."

Rather than try to do verbal battle with Ezra, Vin simply resumed playing, upping the volume.

Even JD had to wince at the sour notes interspersed with the remnants of a tune issuing from the hand-held instrument. When Vin finally ran out of breath and left his friends in peace, JD had one last comment. "We may not sound like the world's best band, but with the right clothes, if we were up there on the stage we'd look enough like a professional band that no one would notice." He quickly corrected himself. "Oops, sorry Vin."

Vin stood up abruptly at JD's comment, his good mood vanishing in an instant. He strode over to the sofa, looming over JD. "What did you mean by that?"

JD slumped into the sofa cushions, trying to make himself disappear. He raised his hands defensively, as if afraid that Vin might try to strike him. Heck, if their roles were reversed, JD wasn't sure but he might want to be hitting somebody who commented on a physical defect, no matter how inadvertently.

Buck came to JD's defense. "Now, Vin, you can't fault JD for temporarily forgetting your little disability. Heck, the way you got that Bronco's cap pulled down over your face, I almost forgot about what happened to you."

Vin removed the cap, turning in a slow circle so that they all could get a good look. No one had seen Vin without the cap since yesterday's incident. "Okay, y'all have a good look, 'cuz that's the last time you'll be seeing me without the hat."

Various exclamations of disbelief were offered up, from "Ouch" to "Damn, I wouldn't 've hardly recognized you."

JD had thought that Vin looked bad yesterday after seeing the man with half the hair on the side of his head flash-fried. At least when viewed from his good side, Vin had still looked like Vin. The man had been within a hairs-breadth of being seriously burned when he rescued Nathan from the flames of the warehouse fire. The hair on his head had not been nearly as lucky as the rest of him.

Since his friends had last seen him, Vin had gone to a barbershop to tend to his damaged hair. Unfortunately, in order to present a symmetrical appearance, the barber had had to pretty much shave Vin's hair down to his scalp. The man looked like a recruiting poster for the Army with just a thin fuzz of hair remaining on his head.

JD raised a hand to his own overlong hair, contemplating never getting it cut, and breathing a silent "Thank you" for its presence.

Vin frowned at his teammates as each of them in turn reassured themselves that they were not similarly afflicted. He jammed the Bronco's cap down on his head.

The tension in the room was relieved when Ezra pulled out a deck of cards. "Would anyone care to join me in a game of poker?"

Welcoming the change of subject, the members of Team Seven prepared to settle in for a comfortable evening of poker-playing. Of course, they couldn't leave Vin in peace.

Buck offered, "Hope Vin ain't like Samson, gettin' all weak and puny without his hair."

Nathan stated, "Now, one thing about hair is that is grows back." Unfortunately he added, "As long as the follicles themselves aren't damaged." And, "Or a man isn't cursed by heredity with male pattern baldness."

Josiah quoted, "In the words of James Brown, the Godfather of soul, 'Hair is the first thing. And teeth the second. Hair and teeth. A man got those two things, he got it all.'"

Vin decided that that comment was worthy of a one-finger salute, and sent one Josiah's way.

Josiah politely ignored him.

Ezra suggested, "You could always wear a wig."

Chris looked around, his face reflecting his puzzlement at all of the incomprehensible chatter. His voice raised in volume as he attempted to hear his own words above the ringing in his ears. "HUH? WHAT DID YOU SAY?"

Ezra decided to lie. "I SAID, 'YOUR BID.'"

Having had time to reflect, JD stated, "I guess we wouldn't make such a good rock band after all."

Buck replied, "Now that's the first thing you've said that I agree with."

A few minutes later, Buck whispered to Ezra, "Talk to me later about how we can get that damn harmonica away from Vin."

Ezra nodded and smiled, a plan already forming in which JD would be framed for the theft of the obnoxious item.

Vin tried his best to rise above the small-mindedness of his so-called friends, amusing himself with the thought of what would happen if he were to apply hair remover to the inside surfaces of their ATF caps.


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