Disclaimer: Work of fiction based on the characters from the television series "The Magnificent Seven." No copyright infringement intended to Hallmark, CBS, TNN, MGM, Mirisch, Trilogy, and any others I have not listed with the rights. No profit will be made from this work.
Warnings: Pure fluff, Bad Language.
Author's Note: I probably should not have written this, and don't want to offend anyone with it, but having been through this more than once myself, the humor of it could not be denied. Besides, someone told me this sounded like an After-School Special, so why not have a little humor with a little lesson? Special thanks to Cin for the beta and picture, and Brate for giving this a couple looksees.
It sat there like a silent sentry, watching over them. Lording over their every word. Making them think before they spoke.
It was the fifth jar placed in this particular office; the previous four meeting rather unique and, in some cases, unfortunate demises.
Number one tested gravity from the roof to the pavement below. It did not survive. The memorial lasted as long as it took for the dustpan and brush to clean up the remains from the street.
Number two was the victim of an experiment on whether a high-speed impact with a cement wall would inflict damage. The theory proved correct, and again, the memorial lasted the duration of the dustpan and brush.
Number three "died" from a single shotgun blast during drunken revelry. It received more celebration than its predecessors for the "spectacularly devastating shatter." In fact, each of the seven men still had a piece of number three.
Number four had a hard act to follow. Until a creative Texan soul decided to use it for a charity collection, taking it and all the loose change and bills stuffed within to an orphanage. It currently held a place of honor beside fifty of its brethren, the other offices not allowing number four's owners to be alone in their goodwill and charity.
This was number five. And it was called Babylon. They named it, figuring it was, like JD said, "The last best hope for peace." Since they were under strict orders to keep it safe or face the wrath of a certain Assistant Director, Babylon received a cage. It resembled a miniature jail cell, with a padlock on the front, and seven small keys on seven key chains. Pictures of Babylon's owners were tacked as wallpaper inside, each face sketched Old West wanted-poster style. None of the pictures flattered. Above the cell was a chart listing the offenses and their fines that fed Babylon.
Their Assistant Director saw the elaborate setup, only raising an eyebrow. He knew from experience not to ask; the jar was not a topic that fostered goodwill on either side.
It was only a third of the way through the month and Babylon already held twenty dollars in change and bills. The money would be donated to Denver ATF's official charity at the end of every month, the orphanage a certain Texan talked the Denver office into when the futility of losing the program became painfully apparent.
Babylon had a purpose, a goal, and a reason to exist.
They hated Babylon.
Babylon didn't care.
They glared at Babylon, even while they fed the jar.
Babylon didn't care.
Sometimes they even paid for
the privilege to feed Babylon, cussing Babylon out
while shoving money in the top of the jar.
Babylon sat waiting for the next feeding in the jail cell.
On this particular day, the conversation again turned to the reason for Babylon's presence. For the hundredth time since the arrival of the clear Mason jar--complete with quilted top with slit and "Team Seven" painted on one side, "Babylon" on the other--they talked about their jar.
"Cockamamie idea," Buck said, giving it a good stare.
"Is cockamamie a cuss word?" JD asked.
"Consult Mr. Webster," Ezra replied. He tossed the unabridged college dictionary at the youngest.
"Stupid's not a cuss word," Buck replied, "and it's a STUPID idea."
"Yup," Vin muttered. "Ain't no cause fer a man ta watch what he says."
"Our forefathers would be ashamed to see this suffocation of the First Amendment." Ezra stood. "Freedom of speech? Hardly. More like a muzzling of the uncouth."
"Who are you calling uncouth?" Buck threw a paper wad at the Southerner. "You've fed it ten bucks in the last month and a half."
"Only because of your juvenile pranks, Mister Wilmington. I am quite unaccustomed to having shaving cream explode in my face due to a dangerously childish attempt at humor."
"Ought to make him pay for them three dollar words."
Ezra made a face at Buck. "Just because you lack the ability to translate words above a comic book level does not mean others in this room do not appreciate my attempts to enrich their vocabulary."
"Well said, Brother." Josiah kept reading, not looking up from his book.
"Thank you." Standish disappeared in the cantina to fill his coffee mug.
"Son of a bitch!" Chris yelled from his office. "And shut the hell up, all of you." The leader stormed out of his office, walked over to the jail, opened it, and then yanked out his wallet. He fed it a twenty-dollar bill, glared at Babylon, and said, "Fuck you, Babylon, for this stupid fucking idea, and the rest of you can get fucked if you say one word." Chris glared at all of them after feeding Babylon and locking it back in its jail.
"You have sixteen dollars left," Ezra remarked dryly, his full cup of coffee in his hand. "Which is sixteen fucks at a dollar a piece; or thirty-six damns, bitches, or hells; or sixty-four shits."
Taking a deep breath, Chris looked about to yell, and then tightly said, "Thank you." He walked back to his office, slamming the door.
"A dollar a fuck," Buck mumbled, pulling out a bill.
"Do you even realize how bad that sounds?" Nathan asked.
"Sixty-four shits ain't healthy in a day, is it, Nate?" Vin queried, a smile on his face.
"I'd rather not face thirty-six bitches," Josiah said, giving a mock shudder.
"Me, either," JD remarked.
"Amen, Brother, Amen."
Buck collected money from the rest of them, placing it beside the jail cell. A loud yell caught their attention, turning it toward their leader's door.
Unashamed, they listened to the conversation. Between frequent profanities, which Ezra dutifully counted on a piece of paper, they heard Chris "discussing" a screw-up by the prosecution of their latest case; a screw-up so costly it might lose the case for them. Chris was verbally ripping the man another orifice in his buttocks region, rationalized because three members of Team Seven nearly died arresting the suspects.
Low grumbles started, along with a few choice words. Vin unlocked the jail cell, pulled Babylon out, and placed the Mason jar in the center of the group. Silently, each man fed Babylon, before expressing his opinion.
When their leader came out, he was holding another twenty-dollar bill. He crammed it into Babylon's mouth. "Everyone paid?"
Six heads bobbed.
"Good." Chris put Babylon back in the cell. "You probably heard what's going on. Right now, it's all in the hands of the judge to determine whether or not to declare a mistrial, or null the entire thing. I'm pissed, I've fed Babylon, and I'm going to say a few words. DAMN MOTHER FUCKING SONS O' BITCHES CAN'T DO A FUCKING THING RIGHT! We bust our ASSES to bring down these ASSWIPES and now this pansy-ASSED prosecutor's FUCKED the whole thing up so DAMN bad that we might lose all the hard work we did. Might have been like pissing in the wind, for all the good we did." He raised his voice on the curse words, aiming them out the open door of their offices, letting the volume carry.
This was Babylon's purpose in life. To collect funds for every curse word uttered during the workday. Apparently, an employee in the large federal building was deeply offended by the fluent and frequent cursing of the ATF field Agents. The employee tried to remedy it with the offenders, but failed. In fact, it made the situation intolerable from that moment on, since the offenders went out of their way to curse in front of the employee. So the employee filed a complaint. The person had every right to file a complaint, and Team Seven defended the person's right to complain. It was their philosophy that the employee had done everything right, but the offenders were not cooperating. What they objected to was the bureaucracy's answer to the complaint. Instead of counseling the guilty parties, the newly arrived Deputy Director created a program to eliminate cursing in every office. He installed Mason jars, along with a chart of the cost of each curse word, and the admonishment that persons caught not feeding the jars when cursing would be disciplined harshly. The program was not popular with the masses.
So far, Team Seven had defended the employee who filed a complaint several times, and finally spread the word if anyone messed with that employee, they would answer to Team Seven. They hated the program just as much, but they, to a man, would defend the employee's right to have a curse-free, non-hostile environment. Unfortunately, they could not stop their own cursing, but they paid for the privilege to curse… and hated every second of it.
"Agent Larabee!" Assistant Director Travis stormed into the office. "In your office, now." He strode past, going into Larabee's home turf and waiting. He closed the door behind Chris. "I was at the elevators down the hall and heard you. The entire building probably heard you."
Chris, having a full head of steam and still furious, replied, "Let them hear. I paid for the privilege to cuss."
"That wasn't the intent of the program – paying to give you free rein at swearing."
"Then that should have been specified in the rules." He opened the door. "Ezra, how much do I have left?"
"After your tirade on the phone with the prosecutor, and then your little demonstration – ten dollars."
"Good." He slammed the door. "It's bullshit."
Travis sighed. "I know, but I have to enforce it."
"I don't need this shit when the prosecutor's fucked up our last case so much we're heading quickly into a lost cause."
Chris leveled a look. "Bad enough for me to pay Babylon forty dollars. And while we're sitting in here, I'm sure they're feeding Babylon, too."
"I didn't know, Chris. Do you want me to make a call?"
Larabee considered for a second, and then nodded. "You understand legalese better."
"Will I also receive a complaint about your behavior?"
Travis sighed again. He dialed the telephone, had a quick conference, and started to yell. By the time he finished, Chris knew the person on the other end felt about an inch tall, if that. When Travis hung up, he opened Larabee's door, walked to the other office door, and closed it before placing money on top of Babylon's cell. What proceeded next was completely out of character, but showed the depth of feeling he had for this team.
When he finished, Travis took a deep breath. "You never heard that." Giving each of the seven a look, he waited until they nodded. "I am going down to find a way to save your case. I wanted that out of the way so I won't lose my temper there, which I'm sure would happen. As for the cursing, gentlemen, please refrain from following your leader's and my examples. Payment in advance will stop immediately, and I will be having a conversation with the new Director about trying to remove this ridiculous program from your lives."
"Thanks, sir," JD said. "It's not that we're out of control about cussing, but sometimes, you just have to use words that show how you really feel."
"I know, son, I know."
Once Travis managed to get their case back on track, he called them and gave them the good news.
The next day, they received a memo stating that the jar program would remain in effect, and payment in advance was no longer allowed. All that did was return life to semi-normal. Babylon was still fed at regular intervals after closed door, low volume tirades. There was a change, though – the men attempted, though not entirely successful, to think before they spoke.
Six months later, Babylon was part of the team. The jail cell was made portable, and went out with them on raids, stakeouts, and wherever the work required them to go. Not only did a simple little Mason jar turn into a symbol, but it became a reminder to be a little more cautious in how they treated others.
Not a bad life for a little glass Mason jar, and it knew it.
Babylon sat in its cell and waited. Sooner or later someone would come along and feed it.
THE END *@!&#$%@#&*!$#@*!