Buck popped his head around the door to the monitor room,
looking furtively around. It was the end of Team Seven's shift and Buck had
asked the others to meet before heading home.
Five of the seven main Larabee security team looked back at him. Chris answered.
"No, I sent him to check on the gift shop like you suggested. What's all
"Well, I realized tomorrow is his anniversary."
"What anniversary? " Vin wondered. He worked closely with JD every day and
hadn't recalled the younger man mentioning anything.
"He's been here three years."
"And this news is earth-shattering because...?" Ezra inquired.
Buck saddened a little. "Well, I hadn't realized it coincided with another
anniversary. His mother died two years before he came out here, not to the
day, but close to. I thought it might be nice to maybe make it a happier
occasion, and throw a surprise party."
Chris shook his head, smiling, trust Buck to find an excuse for a party,
though he had to admit, it would be nice to kick back and have some fun.
"Okay, why not?" the blond decided. "Buck, talk to Inez and ask if we can
use Mystique tomorrow. Now, the problem is, how do we do all this without
JD finding out?"
"Does it have to be a surprise?" Vin wondered, "Maybe JD won't want a party."
"Aww, sure he will," Buck answered, "it'll be great to see his face when
he realizes all the trouble his friends have gone to for him. I don't think
he's had many parties in his life."
Vin wasn't convinced, but he agreed. He hadn't had many parties in *his*
"What do we need to do?" Josiah inquired.
"Just keep him occupied. Send him on errands, anything, but keep him away
from Mystique tomorrow while we set it all up."
They all nodded, startling slightly as JD bounded into the control room.
He grinned at them all, then looked at Chris.
"Hi guys. Chris, I have no idea what Annie thought she saw, but there sure
wasn't anyone suspicious hanging around the gift shop when I got there. When
did she call? Gloria said she had a half-day today?"
Chris hoped his cool façade was intact as he attempted to answer JD's
"Maybe I misheard, perhaps it wasn't Annie."
Dunne frowned, it wasn't Annie, and Gloria knew nothing of it. He went to
say something when Buck interjected.
"Hey, kid, can we take a rain check on pizza tonight? I got to see Inez about
some group coming here in a few days. I'm not sure how long it'll take."
"I can wait, Buck, I'm not too hungry..."
"No, no...you go ahead. Y'never know...I might just make a breakthrough with
the beautiful Miss Recillos this evening." The brunet winked.
JD, laughed, closely followed by the others. "In your dreams, Buck," Nathan
"Oh, but what dreams..." Buck placed his hand to his heart as he sighed.
Vin stood, tapping the youngest on his shoulder. "I could go for some pizza,
ya wanna come over to my place? We could play a little PS2... just got the
new Transformers game."
JD's face lit up. "Cool, I'd love to, thanks."
As the group split up and headed home, Buck and Nathan headed for the nightclub,
Buck to speak to Inez and Nathan to catch Rain's next set. The hospitality
host chuckled, teasing the doctor that he 'got it bad' and wondering if the
young doc would ever make his move on the beautiful singer. Nathan reminded
Buck that at least the air didn't freeze around him when he and Rain talked,
unlike when Buck and Inez attempted a conversation. Buck waved it off, claiming
it was all part of 'the game'.
JD looked at his watch. "Shit, Vin it's 2.45. Where did
the evening go?"
Tanner yawned. "Well, you're not traveling back at this time of morning,
I'll pull out the foldaway an' you can crash here."
JD rubbed his eyes. "Thanks Vin, I must admit, I'm pretty tired now. I've
got spare clothes in the car," he blushed, "have done since my unplanned
dip in the pool that time."
Vin grinned. "Well, just shower and get some breakfast when you're ready,
don't wait on me. I'll probably go for a run first thing."
"Do you mind if I run with you? I usually do each morning, too."
Vin slapped his shoulder as he stood. "Sure thing, see ya at 7."
JD groaned at a retreating, chuckling Texan. 'Great...four hours time'.
His shift just starting, Buck snuck up behind the pretty
Hispanic nightclub owner and brushed his lips across the back of her neck.
For a second, Inez gasped inwardly, a delicious feeling coursing through
her, then she turned and whacked Buck hard on the arm, causing the man to
both chuckle and grimace at the same time as he rubbed at the pain.
"'Mornin' darlin' all set for tonight?"
"Si. Now, go away."
"Your wish is my command, my sweet." With a wink and a grin, he left to go
greet his first arrivals of the day.
She scowled as she watched him leave, then softened her gaze as he left the
building. Damn if the rogue wasn't wearing her down, she would have to be
more careful. A smile on her face, she continued checking her stock.
JD chuckled at Buck's antics as he watched the monitor.
Vin frowned. Damn...the monitors. He hopped up into Chris' office and tapped
the door as he walked in.
"How are we gonna keep JD from watching Inez set up for tonight?"
Chris thought for a moment, then grinned.
Seconds later the young tech was in Larabee's office. "Yes, Chris?"
"Inez has a big function to cater for tonight. She needs some lights that
were sent to the stock-room just after Chinese New Year. Would you go to
the stock-room and locate the box for her?"
"Really?" JD was surprised at the request. "Okay, what am I looking for?"
Chris swallowed. "Erm...something Chinese...lanterns... yeah, lanterns. Check
every box, they're there somewhere."
"Sure...if that's what you want." JD left.
The blond sighed. "I really didn't like doing that."
Vin nodded, "Don't feel good, does it?"
"Give him an hour and...send him to check the pool."
"Will do." Vin returned to the bullpen.
JD entered the stock-room and groaned. There were boxes
everywhere. He picked an area and started pulling down cartons.
Ezra spoke into his mic. "Would you focus a camera on
the gentleman in the hound's-tooth jacket; I believe he is palming cards."
Vin acknowledged him, "Will do." He looked up to see Head of Housekeeping,
Beatrice Headley, striding across the room toward Larabee's office. She knocked
at the door. Chris looked up and smiled.
"Beatrice, what can I do for you?"
"Toilet paper. Someone either has a serious problem, a fetish, or we have
a thief here. Every time a cart goes out, the toilet paper disappears."
Chris blinked. "Okay...leave it with me; I'll get the guys to check the cameras."
Beatrice smiled. "Thank you. Where's JD?"
"On a special job for me," Chris replied. "Why?"
"Oh...Candice kind of likes him and wondered if he might have to go check
her cart...you know...just...check... "
The blond grinned. "I'll send him up to see her."
As she left, Chris checked the time. 'Shit'. "VIN!"
Tanner entered the office. "Yup?"
"It's been two hours, has JD been called back?"
"Aww shit, no. I'm on it."
"Ask him to go to..." he checked the shift roster, "...floor twenty, Candice
wants a word with him."
JD sat down hard on a box, wiping his brow. He had only
checked a third of the cartons there, and seriously doubted any of these
items had been used in the past few years. He sighed, still wondering why
Chris would want him to do such a menial job. His comm crackled as Vin's
voice came through.
"JD, can you go see Candice on floor twenty? Seems we have a toilet paper
JD chuckled at the request, but was grateful to escape the musty store room.
As he exited, he thought it might be a good idea to pop in to see Inez and
tell her he was having trouble locating the lights she wanted. Buck intercepted
him just in time.
"Whoa, squirt, where ya goin'?"
JD frowned. "To see Inez, why?"
"Oh...she's real busy. Tell you what, you tell me what you want her to know,
and I'll pass on the message when I take Mrs. Green over to meet Brent."
"She wants to meet the pianist?"
Buck grinned. "Apparently so."
Shrugging, JD nodded, "Okay...would you tell her..."
Startled at Ezra's call, they looked up, just as a 200 pound human
locomotive hit them, sending both men to the floor. JD grunted as he felt
a blow to his chest, but managed to turn enough to grab the fleeing cheat's
ankle, bringing him down.
Buck rallied and, getting up, grabbed the man and hauled him up off the floor.
Ezra joined them and extended his hand to JD, assisting him to his feet.
"Well done, gentlemen. Are you alright?"
They both nodded as two security guards joined them, the two men and Ezra
leaving to escort the man to Larabee's office.
JD shook his head. "Gotta go to floor twenty."
Buck watched him leave. "Whew...close call."
"Oh what a tangled web we weave..."
The brunet turned to the head valet. "Now, Josiah, it's for a good cause.
He'll love this."
Sanchez raised his eyebrow. "I sincerely hope so."
Before JD could head up to see Candice, his earpiece
"JD, would you go to the parking lot, one of the valets has lost a set of
"Will do, Vin."
An hour later and a call to a local garage provided a new master key for
the customer's car. JD headed back to the elevator to finally catch up with
Candice just before her shift ended.
Smiling to himself, JD tucked a piece of paper into his
jacket pocket. Typical, he'd been here almost three years and never had more
than two dates, plenty of offers, but rarely the time to take them up. Now
he had a rather nice young lady interested in him and...he kind of found
himself thinking a lot about Casey Wells recently, especially since their
last ride out together. Once again, his comm sounded.
"JD, would you go see the pool attendant to pick up the water samples please?"
JD answered. "Sure, Vin." He sighed; he might actually get back to the monitor
room sometime today. Having reached the pool, retrieving the samples and
dropping them off at a small room just off the pool area for testing later,
he checked his watch, surprised at how late it was. He decided to head back
to the control room, still wondering what he was going to tell Chris about
four dozen missing rolls of toilet paper.
The team, minus JD, and also Ezra, who was still handing
over to his colleague for the evening, had gathered and was sitting around
the monitor room, realizing it was the only place JD wasn't.
"Thanks guys," Buck smiled, "This turned out to be far more complicated than
I thought. All I wanted was to do something nice for the kid...it almost
turned out like a military operation."
Vin nodded. "We shoulda just told him, what if he doesn't like surprises?"
Buck frowned, "Everyone likes surprises." He caught Larabee's glare, "Well,
nearly everyone." Mark Applewood, one of the evening security team, entered
the bullpen to hand the head of security the evening rota.
"Where is JD now?" Josiah asked.
"With Candice, investigating the mysterious disappearance of toilet rolls,"
"Poor kid gets all the glamorous jobs," Vin chuckled, the others joining
in at the bizarre idea of someone stealing toilet rolls in dozens. Mark smiled.
"Ah, been hearing about today's activities. What was it Paul said? 'You can
fool some of the people all of the time...all of the people, some of the
time, but you can fool JD Dunne 'every' time'."
Still laughing, Team Seven suddenly sobered at the words. "What?" Buck stood
and moved toward Mark, "What are you trying to say? JD's not stupid, just
damned good at following orders, no matter how shit they are."
Chris got to his feet, Mark put up his hands in a defensive gesture.
"Whoa...hey there, Buck, I was just repeating what was said. Hell, we all
like the kid, but he can be a little...naïve at times, can't he?"
Vin stood and placed a hand on Buck's chest as the hospitality host took
an angry step forward. Chris addressed Mark.
"The fact that JD is a senior member of my security team and you and Paul...are
not...speaks volumes for my opinion on that. Tell *Paul* to wait for me in
the morning, I want to speak to him."
Mark nodded nervously and left, passing Ezra on the way.
"Is JD alright?" the southerner asked as he joined them.
All eyes turned to him. Buck spoke. "What do you mean?"
Ezra pointed. "He just passed me in the hallway...looking decidedly green
around the gills, I might add."
"Ill, Mister Wilmington...or maybe upset, I couldn't say, but..."
"Shit!" Vin looked at Chris.
"Damnit!" Buck pushed past Standish and out of the door.
The pit boss' brow furrowed. "What just happened here?"
JD was just coming up on the door to the control room,
his tie loose and his jacket slung over his shoulder, hanging from his index
finger. He smiled as he heard his friends laughing. The next words spoken
froze him to the spot. Anyone nearby would have sworn they heard the sound
of a heart shattering into a thousand pieces.
*Ah, been hearing about today's activities. What was it Paul said? 'You can
fool some of the people all of the time...all of the people, some of the
time, but you can fool JD Dunne 'every' time'.*
JD felt as if the walls were closing in on him as he first flushed, then
lost all color. He couldn't believe it, but now it all made sense, all the
running around and strange requests. His friends were laughing at him behind
his back...people he had grown as close to as family had been playing him
for a fool...and the whole of the staff of the Montecito was in on it. Desperate
to get away, he spun on his heels, dropping his jacket and almost knocking
Ezra off his feet. The southerner turned to watch him go.
Slamming through the door to the stairwell, JD pounded up the stairs two
at a time.
Inez sighed at the empty table festooned in balloons
and streamers. Three hours on and no one had been able to locate the young
tech. Buck was beside himself, desperate, not only to find the young man
he looked on as a brother, but to clear any misunderstandings over what JD
had heard. Four men sat on barstools just to one side of their reserved table,
not knowing what to do next or where else to go. Buck closed his cell at
yet another failed attempt to call the young man and wiped a hand over his
"Aww, kid...where the hell are you?"
Vin sighed as he closed his cell. "Josiah and Nathan are on their way back,
his apartment's in darkness, but his car's still parked here, anyway. I know
this is a big hotel, but we've searched from basement to roof..." He gasped.
Buck and Chris sat forward. "What?"
"Did anyone search the roof?"
As one, Chris, Vin, Buck and Ezra left.
His legs were like jelly as he burst out onto the roof.
JD had no idea how many floors he'd run up, but he was soaked with sweat
and gasping for air. Holding on to the ledge that ran around the roof, for
support, JD sucked in a great lungful of air, almost dizzy with the effort,
until his breathing became less erratic and he stopped coughing. After a
few minutes, he walked over to a large air vent and slid down its wall to
sit on the floor and lean against it.
For a moment, he just sat there, quietly, angry with himself as silent tears
fell. He had succeeded in getting through the fifth anniversary of his mother's
death without crying...and now this.
He swallowed, who the hell ever said 'sticks and stones may break my bones
but names will never hurt me'? Whoever it was, was an idiot. His cell rang.
Looking at the ID as he pulled it out, he sighed and shut it off.
Wearily, he replaced his phone and pulled out his wallet, flipping it open
to focus on the two photos inside the plastic window. He sighed as he looked
at the first one, of him and his six friends, one night, at Mystique. Inez
had taken the photo so they could all be in it and it captured a particularly
happy moment, not long after they had become a team and were celebrating
the defeat of a particularly persistent and well coordinated group of cheats.
It had been a wonderful day, a real 'coming together' of seven individuals
working as one.
Moving to the second photo, he traced it lovingly with one finger, tears
welling again as he stared at the pretty brunette smiling back at him. For
almost nineteen years it had been just him and his mom, then...just him.
God, he missed her.
JD sniffed. This morning he had been so happy, coming in to work after spending
a fun evening with Vin, meeting up with the men he considered almost as family,
one, most certainly. Now he felt much as he had when he first walked through
the doors of the Montecito...alone.
The combination of the warm vent, a previous late night, a long day, his
mammoth sprint up the stairs and his utter misery, caused the young man to
close his eyes...and fall asleep.
Six men hesitated as they reached the door to the roof,
Josiah and Nathan joining them the instant they had returned. If JD wasn't
here, they were screwed, as they were out of ideas as to where he might have
gone. As one, they converged on the door, Buck pushing it open. Stepping
out onto the roof, a few spotlights illuminating the area against the backdrop
of the night sky, they looked around, their hearts slowly sinking as it seemed
deserted, then Vin nudged Buck's arm, pointing. An audible sigh of relief
went up. Chris leaned into the group.
"Buck, all of us here might be a bit overwhelming for him. Why don't we leave
you to it and we'll meet you downstairs?"
The hospitality host nodded and watched them all leave. Once alone, he approached
the youth and sat down on the floor in front of him. Gathering his thoughts,
he tapped the young tech on the knee and spoke softly.
Something pulled him from his sleep, something familiar
and comforting. Shivering, as he opened his eyes, JD tried to remember where
he was, then he saw Buck and he dropped his gaze to the floor as it all came
Buck cringed as he watched his best friend close in on himself as JD tucked
his knees to his chest and dropped his gaze.
"Go away, Buck. I'm sure the guys and the rest of the staff'll get a real
kick out of you finding me asleep up here."
Instinctively and in one fluid movement, Buck jumped to his feet, pulling
the younger man up with him and embracing him, ignoring the youth struggling
to break away.
"Now you just listen...and if you still want ta smack the crap out of me
when I'm done... I'll let you. I can guess what part of our conversation
you overheard, but you heard wrong." He held firm as JD tried to shake loose.
"If others misinterpret our actions, I'm sorry, but we would never do anything
to intentionally hurt you or make you look stupid. If you want to blame someone,
blame me. I wanted to do something special and I talked the guys into helping
me keep you out of the way until our shift was over. Everything you did today
was for real...well, except looking for the lanterns, but everything else,
was, you just got the lion's share today."
Buck smiled as he felt the fight leave the younger man: now he knew he was
listening. Gently, the brunet pushed him to arms length and smiled, despite
his pain at seeing the hurt in JD's eyes.
"I swear to you...it was all meant to lead to something we had planned in
Mystique for tonight."
The youth tilted his head. "Like what?"
He squeezed JD's shoulders. "I realized you had been here three years today.
I thought we could have us a little celebration, that's all. Inez agreed
to help us, we just wanted to mark the occasion and...and help you get past
your mom's anniversary, too."
The two stared at each other for a long few moments. Finally, eyes misted
over, JD half-smiled. "So...*are* there actually any Chinese lanterns?"
Buck chuckled. "No...I guess I owe you one for that. Just name it... anything,
go on, I deserve it."
JD's grin widened. "I'll think on it."
Buck shuddered slightly, recalling the last time JD called in a favor from
the brunet. He turned the younger man toward the door.
"Come on, got five men downstairs waiting on you."
The doubt was back and Dunne hesitated. Wilmington tugged him forward, placing
a hand on his neck to guide him toward the door while speaking softly. "Come
Just before midnight, seven men were sitting on Chris'
porch enjoying a beer and each others' company. The air had been cleared,
but JD felt unable to face going to the nightclub, so Chris came up with
this idea instead. JD promised to apologize to Inez the next day, but Buck
assured him, not only would he be happy to do the apologizing, he felt confident
the feisty Mexican would find ways to keep him apologizing for some time
They all laughed, and kicked back. Suddenly JD sat upright, looking suspiciously
Wilmington chuckled. "Err, yeah...that was me. You'll find 'em in the trunk
of my car."
Again they laughed, JD looked relieved. "Thank God, I didn't have a clue
where to start."
Vin grinned and spoke, while ducking the groans and the barrage of peanuts.
"Always best to start investigations like that from the bottom, kid."