Sealed by Sue M

Alternate Universe "Las Vegas"

Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em…damnit!

Thanks to Sarah for LV/AU

Huge thanks to Sherry for her kind efforts, which helped make this story stronger, too. Antoinette for the beta, Lady Viper for the Montecito image in the collage, and to Blackraptor for giving my stories a home.

Summary: Time becomes precious when it's measured.

Nathan Jackson had searched the Montecito Casino and Resort for…well, exactly how long for he had no idea, but the object of his hunt was the last staff member on his check list for a medical examination.

It was an annual prerequisite, but in previous years, visits arranged by staff members to local hospitals or personal General Practitioners were viewed more as commando operations than a job requirement. Doctor Jackson suggested he perform the examinations at the Montecito during arranged shift breaks, for convenience and speed. Travis had instantly agreed, in the hope that this year it would be concluded in less than the three weeks on prior occasions. Within a week, it was apparent all members bar those on sick leave or vacation would have worked a shift, and therefore received a call for an assessment.

And the plan almost worked.

By week's end, all but one active employee had been examined, and it was this individual Nathan was now seeking out. Having checked his usual haunts and anywhere in between, Nathan had turned to the technology the person loved so much, and soon, Vin Tanner was pointing the doc in the right direction. Arriving just a few floors below the roof, Nathan climbed the six steps to a maintenance level he never knew existed. He buzzed the room at the top of the stairs and waved at the camera tracking him. At the thunk of a lock releasing, he pushed open a heavy door, and smiled.

"You're a hard man to track down, John Dunne."

Deep in concentration at a computer diagnostic station in the main computer room, and the hub of all the technology that kept the Montecito functional, JD twisted his head on hearing the deep, familiar voice. He looked at his friend. "Shoot Nathan, Vin give you lessons on tracking? You startled the hell out of me when you buzzed, hardly anyone but me comes up here." He smiled, wryly and patted his chest close to his heart. "Yep, still beating, I guess I passed my physical."

Approaching, Nathan grinned. "Nice try, kid, but no sale. Come on, you're my last patient to check over."

"Can't right now," JD replied, shaking his head but not looking away from the monitor before him.

"How long?"

JD shrugged. "Not sure, I have to run several diagnostic scans, then a full program run through and they each take a while. The computers crashed this morning and Chris is pissed, so…"

Folding his arms across his chest, the doctor narrowed his eyes. "Take a wild guess."

At that, JD fully faced him. He frowned. "You mad at me Nathan?"

Jackson pondered on that for a moment or two. `Damnit…why'd he have to give me *that* look?' "No, not mad, but I'm curious to know why you keep avoiding the appointments I send you."

"Who says I'm dodging them?" JD's attention was back to the work in hand.


There it was.

JD turned back toward Nathan and one glance at his face told the doctor instantly that he was right. He walked closer to the younger man. "Kid…if you'd rather see someone else, I can arrange…"

"No!" JD put up his hand by way of an apology for raising his voice. "No…it's not that, it's…" A claxon and alarm bells sounding caused him to halt mid-sentence. He stared around the room.

Nathan relaxed his arms. "What is it, a fire alarm?"

"Shit…shit!" JD turned to the computer and monitor, then back to Nathan. "Yes, we gotta go."

While he appreciated the need to evacuate, the doctor stared as JD closed and snatched up his laptop, then hurried toward the door. "JD, I'm sure…"

"Nathan, go!" He stared at the man now holding his arms and blocking the way out.

"JD, stay calm!"

Pulling away, the youth shook his head. "It's not that, come on…" Grabbing his friend by the arm, the pair moved to the exit. JD tapped a code into the numbered keypad, but the door remained sealed. He growled as he fished out a card from his wallet, swiped it across the pad, and tried again. Nothing. He stepped back, paling a little as he checked his watch. "It must be too late."

Nathan felt a flutter in his stomach on seeing an expression of utter helplessness on his friend's face. "Too late for what?" He watched JD try a phone on the wall, his cell, and then sigh. Leaning back against a wall, the young tech sank down until his butt hit the floor.

Bringing his knees up and pulling them tight to his chest, JD stared back at Nathan. "All we can do now is wait."

"For what?"

JD raised one hand to gesture around. "In the event of a fire, this room shuts down and is hermetically sealed, to protect the equipment. In about half an hour, all the oxygen in here will be gone…sucked out. This place will be airtight."

Nathan pulled out his own cell phone and grimaced at the lack of signal. "9-1-1?" He moved toward JD and joined him on the floor.

"Dials it automatically, but the fire alarms going off will take priority. People come before equipment, but in the meantime, it buys it some time."

"Well…sure, okay, but someone…Vin…knows you're up here, right?"

JD nodded and stripped off his jacket and tie. "Uh huh, he'll probably assume I got out and headed for an exit." He ran a hand over his face. "Until Chris takes a roll call and find us both missing."

Nathan looked around the room. "The shut off barely gave us enough time to clear the area."

Sighing, JD gave a small nod. "Mmmm…I know. I thought it was set at a minute, but it seemed more like thirty seconds. I didn't calibrate the initial parameters. I'm gonna have to look at that when we get out." He chewed on his lower lip. "*If* we get out."

A nervous laugh escaped Nathan's lips. "Why would you think we won't get out? That's crazy talk."

"If the whole place has to be cleared, it's gonna take a while before anyone gets around to check who's out and who's not; and If that takes more than half an hour…"

Nathan swallowed. "There are no emergency oxygen masks in here?"

"Nope." JD laughed, ironically. "Something they should've thought of, maybe. A countdown to the seal activating would help, too." He secretly hoped to look into that after their escape. "I guess we shouldn't talk too much either, huh?"

"Might be a good idea," Nathan agreed, trying not to show how worried he was. The pair sat in silence while they contemplated their fate and opened up a shirt button or two. It was getting a little warm in there.


The evacuation of the hotel and Casino had gone like clockwork. As roll-calls were being taken, the fire department entered the building. Minutes later, they confirmed one of the cleaning staff had admitted to punching a hole in a glass fire alert with a broom handle. No danger…panic over.


Chief of Security Chris Larabee, scanned the assembled staff with steely green eyes. Two names on his list were unchecked…he was not happy. "Anyone recall seeing Nathan and JD prior to the alarms sounding?"

Heads were shaking `no'. Four of his closest teammates and friends closed in. Security officer Vin Tanner spoke. "JD was workin' on the mainframe. Nathan was lookin' for him, I sent him up to the maintenance level about ten minutes before the alarms went off."

Chris nodded. At least it wasn't a real fire, they were in no danger. "If they're lounging around in the break room when we get back in I'm gonna kick their butts all the way to the swimming pool, then toss them both in."

"So…no animosity there, then," the resort's hospitality host Buck Wilmington, chuckled. He jolted as his cell vibrated, and took it from his inside jacket pocket to read the message. Frowning, he showed the screen to Tanner. "JD's spouting his techno babble again. Any idea what this means?"

Vin read the note and paled. "Aww shit!"


Decidedly uncomfortable, sitting propped up against a wall, and getting warmer by the minute, Nathan squinted up at the form once again hunched over a keyboard. For ten minutes, JD had been trying to override the security code to shut down the sealing process. Knowing it would take some time to achieve success wasn't helping matters, and neither was the rising heat, thin air and the odd feeling of his brain being slowly wrapped in cotton. As a last resort, on a system determined to remain in safety mode, and offer minimal functions, he piggy-backed a message to Buck's iPhone…and prayed he would get it. Utterly defeated, he returned to sit next to Nathan.

"I…can't think straight anymore."

Nathan nodded his understanding and patted JD's knee. A minute or so later, he spoke. "Since I've got your attention, tell me why you're so determined to delay your physical. You know you have to take one."

Sighing, JD swiped damp bangs from his eyes. "I know, it's just, it's…aah, it's nothing."

"Clearly it's something. Talk to me." He watched JD shudder, so decided sharing first might prompt a confession. "Do you know why I became a doctor?"

Dunne slowly turned his head to look at him. "No."

Licking dry lips, Nathan continued. "When I was little, my ma was beaten and raped."

"Nathan…" JD rasped, concerned for his friend.

The man smiled. "It's okay…I'm fine with it now, but it took time." He paused before continuing. "Anyway, she was pretty sick for a while, was found to be pregnant, but she and daddy decided to have a termination, just in case it was his…the rapist's, I mean. Ma healed physically, but mentally, she deteriorated. We saw doctor after doctor, but she just got worse. I began wishing I was a doctor, so I could make it all better for her." Nathan was touched when he saw the solitary tear JD shed while he listened.

"She got an appointment to see a new doc and we hoped this would be the one that could help her. Daddy took her to the appointment, but on the way, as they crossed a bridge, she asked him to stop for a minute. He did and she got out of the car and moved to the bridge rail…seconds later she jumped into the river below." Nathan fought the tremble in his chin. "She drowned."

Unable to disguise the hitch in his voice, JD sniffed. "Jeeze Nathan, I'm so sorry," he whispered.

Recovering his composure, Jackson smiled warmly and continued. "We didn't have enough money to send me to college, and I still wanted to be a doctor, so at eighteen, I enlisted in the army, and got my degree with a scholarship. They were tough, but good times." He sighed, more from the need for good air than regret.

"I never got to help my ma, but I saved a lot of soldiers' lives. And now I'm doing what I love to do, heal people. The money I make at the Montecito, means I can continue my free clinic in my spare time. Life is good." It was a relief to talk about it all again, but he was glad he was done, his chest was starting to hurt. He looked at JD. It appeared the youth was sleeping. "Kid, you okay?"

Opening his eyes, JD nodded. "Yeah, fine."

"So…you ready to share why medical examinations freak you out so much, now?"

"It's silly."

"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?"

"Chest's hurting…"

"Mine too, so make it quick."

JD laughed, breathlessly, then was quiet for so long Nathan thought he had decided not to share, until JD suddenly speaking caused him to jolt a little.

"Mom died of cancer…you already know that. Her oncologist told me I should get tested occasionally as hers was hereditary, though the chances of it passing to me are minimal. Check-ups make me nervous, this one especially so." He turned his head to look at Nathan, struggling a little to take a deep breath. "I'd hate to lose what I have here Nathan, I love my life…my job…you guys."

Jackson smiled. "You hide it well."

Grinning, JD rounded off. "I told you it was silly."

"No, it's not, and you're not about to lose anything. When we're out of here…we'll get it over with, yeah?"

JD nodded, unable to muster the strength to do much else. He felt Nathan's arm come around his shoulders and sighed. Hot and sweaty, the pair went silent and waited to be liberated.


Four men and two paramedics watched anxiously as Chris inserted a passkey into a panel on the computer room's door, then tapped a code into the keypad. The rotating red light above the door bathed them in an eerie glow as they waited.

Vin frowned. "Won't JD have a key like that in there?"

Chris shook his head, one hand on the handle while waiting for the hiss of the seal when the lock released. "All I have to go on is a brief overview when I took up my position as chief of security, but if memory serves me right, functions in the room become redundant if the seal is activated. I guess the designer never figured on anyone getting trapped in there." A clunk and hiss heralded the door opening, and Chris pushed hard.

The steamy, stale air from inside hit them, but they pushed on. Overtaking Larabee, the paramedics hurried toward the still pair. Neither man appeared conscious. Both were soaked in sweat, with Nathan still upright, but JD prone, his head on the doctor's knee, and a protective arm draped over him. The remainder of Team Seven watched with bated breath as the two were separated and full oxygen masks placed over their noses and mouths, moments before their pulses were checked. Relief evident when nods assured the five friends that JD and Nathan were alive, the paramedics then stripped both men of all but their boxers and placed cooling packs under their armpits. Within five minutes, the two were hooked up to fluids, strapped onto gurneys and ready to go to the hospital.

Finally able to get close, Josiah squeezed Nathan's arm, while Buck rested a hand on JD's damp hair. Chris addressed the paramedics. "How bad?"

"Oxygen and BP levels are low, but they're already picking up. They should come to, shortly, but they'll likely need twenty-four hours observation before they can be released."

Chris looked at Buck and Josiah. "Follow them in; we'll be with you once we're clear, here." He sighed heavily as the entourage exited the room that almost became two of his team's…and friends'…tomb. This day would have interesting reports filed. He looked at Vin and Ezra. "Arrange for extra cover, then find out who installed this set up and organize a meeting for tomorrow. I need to kick some ass."

Both men nodded and left him standing alone in the room. Walking over to JD's laptop, Chris reverently picked it up, took one more look around, then left, closing the door behind him. The discarded clothes could wait.


Being fit men, JD and Nathan's stats improved considerably by the time the pair were admitted. After a rigorous examination, they were allocated a regular hospital room, the only signs of the severity of their ordeal being the heart and blood pressure monitors, nasal canulas, and the IVs hooked up to the pair. Also the fact neither had woken yet.

Buck stared at a young man he had grown close to. He wasn't afraid, the doctors had assured him and Josiah that all results were good, but it played on the brunet's mind that a simple, everyday task almost killed JD and Nathan. He also thought it ironic that the team's techno guru could have lost his life to the very medium he adored. Glancing across at the man in the other bed, Buck still hadn't quite worked out where Nathan fitted into all this. Wrapping his fingers around JD's wrist, he sighed and rubbed his thumb along the back of the now cool, dry hand. "When you're ready, Squirt."

Josiah was reading the bible he had pulled out from inside Nathan's nightstand. Looking at his friend, he closed it. "Everything is possible for him who believes. Mark 9:23"

"That better not be the last rites, old man," Nathan said softly.

Josiah chuckled a deep, rumbling sound that filled the room. "No chance, brother," he smiled, leaning in. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I ran a marathon. I'm exhausted." He eyed the paraphernalia surrounding him. "That bad, huh?"

"Enough for twenty four hours room and board at Chez Las Vegas Memorial."

Nathan raised his head a little and smiled at a waving Buck. "How's JD doing?" he asked.

"Sleeping in," Buck answered. "He's doing okay. You?"

Thanking Josiah for raising the head of his bed and passing him a glass of water, Nathan raised his eyebrows. "I read about killer computers. Never thought I'd actually meet one, though."

"Blame the programmers, not the computer."

JD's raspy voice was greeted by three large grins. Buck chuckled. "Only you could come around in a hospital and defend technology." He helped the younger man to sit up.

After sipping on some water, JD handed the glass back to Buck. "It's true. We have a great system, but with major flaws in the encoding. Re-programming is the first thing on my agenda when I get back to work."

"Yeah, well that's a few days off at least." All eyes turned toward the door to see Chris enter the room, followed by Vin and Ezra. "How are you both?"


The collective answer caused eyes to roll. Vin approached JD and passed him half a bar of candy. The younger man raised an eyebrow as he looked back at the Texan.

"I got hungry…" Vin smiled. "It's been a long day."

JD grinned, addressing no one in particular. "At least he left me some."

"Actually, there were two bars," Ezra snitched, laughing at the look from Vin.

"So, he ate mine?" Nathan queried.

JD snapped what he had in half, and handed the candy to Josiah, who passed it over to Nathan. "Here you go, doc…gotta keep your strength up," the young tech grinned.

Nathan chuckled and popped a square into his mouth, making happy noises toward Vin and exaggerated movements to put it somewhere safe.

"Hey, Nathan, I was wondering. Why were you in the room with JD?" Buck asked.

Nathan and JD exchanged looks before Nathan's attention turned to Buck. "He forgot to sign his forms after his physical. I had some time on my hands so I went looking for him."

JD smiled at the doctor, then yawned, suddenly feeling exhausted.

"Come on," Chris urged. "Let's allow these boys to rest." Approaching the beds, he shook Nathan's hand then squeezed JD's shoulder. "Good to have you with us, guys. We'll be back in the morning."

Standing, Josiah affectionately patted both men on the arm, and followed the others out. Vin stole one more square of JD's chocolate bar, grinning at the howl of complaint, before heading after them.

Buck stood and stretched. "Take care, Nathan. Don't let his buzz-sawing keep you awake tonight." He flinched at the thump to his arm from JD, chuckling as he leaned in. "'Night Squirt." His face became serious and the pair held their gazes for a long few moments.

JD nodded his understanding, then grinned. "Just make sure I got pizza to come home to tomorrow."

"Count on it." As he walked out, Buck laughed on hearing Nathan's scold and JD's reply. Yep, they were gonna be fine.

"After what your body's been through you should be eating healthier for a couple of days."

"Chill out, doc, I'll have mushrooms on it."

Once the door closed, the pair sighed. "I still have to have that physical, don't I?" JD asked.

"Oh yeah," Nathan replied, scooting down in the bed. "Rest up. G'night, John Boy." He grinned at the snort from JD before a more serious mood overtook him. He would never be sure how close he and JD had come to dying today, but the incident, and his confession to his young friend prompted him to make a promise to himself, to visit his mother's grave, and call on his estranged father someday soon. On that note, Nathan drifted off to sleep, images of days gone by and him sitting in his mother's arms listening to a story, filling his dreams.