Summary: Team Seven's plans to mix business with pleasure go awry.
Patrons not gambling were glued to the giant screen in the foyer of the Montecito Casino and Resort. The inauguration of America's newest President had been underway for some time and the Montecito ensured anyone wishing to view it could do so at their leisure. In the security monitor room, Team Seven was in Chris's office, partly to watch the event on his TV, and partly to talk about the evening's big event, The Inauguration Ball. Discussions ground to a halt when The President Elect took his Oath of Office, followed by canons firing a 21 gun salute, and huge cheers erupting from the masses at Capitol Hill and beyond.
"Wow…makes you wish you were there, doesn't it?" JD sighed, eyes gleaming as he studied the proceedings.
"The way they're all bundled up against the cold, I reckon we're better off right here," Buck stated, pointing at the TV. "Didn't you just see that group of brass monkeys walking around looking for a welder?"
JD cackled. If anyone could find a new way to say 'weather to freeze the balls off a brass monkey'…it was Buck.
"Indeed," Ezra agreed, shaking his head at Buck's turn of phrase. "I can think of nothing more wearisome than standing amongst millions in freezing temperatures."
"Aww, I bet the atmosphere's awesome," JD continued, undeterred by the others' lack of pomp and ceremony.
"It's a moment that stays with you," Josiah smiled, knowingly.
"Anyway, back to this evening," Chris interrupted as he waited to regain their attention. "We're on duty, and is why we'll be there as guests…to blend in. We have several major dignitaries attending so we'll be armed."
Vin frowned. "Travis expectin' trouble?"
Chris shook his head. "Not as such, but there'll be a lot of jewelry on show tonight, so Orin's just taking precautions."
"And there'll be no outside security?" Vin asked. "How about the LVPD?"
"One bodyguard will be accompanying Councilman Elway who's stepping up as Deputy Mayor. The Chief of Staff from the Governor's office, Mark Haines will also be attending, but without security," Chris explained. "This event is strictly invitation only, and has not been advertised locally, so the LVPD foresee no real problems." Chris glanced around the room.
"We won't be miked up. All seven of us will be in one room, and we have our 'eyes in the sky' to keep tabs on proceedings, so tonight is a good ole down to earth surveillance op."
While listening, JD's stomach flipped as Chris announced the list of attending dignitaries. He had only just acquired his gun license and, despite hours of practicing at the shooting range with Vin, an ex-Ranger, and Buck, ex-FBI, he had never worn his guns in public. As if reading the young tech's mind, Chris spoke.
"JD…I know you're new to this, if you'd rather not wear a firearm, that's fine."
The young security officer looked around at his friends. No one was judging him, their expressions kind and understanding. "If it's okay with you, Chris, I reckon I'm ready."
Vin and Buck nodded their approval. Chris smiled. "I have no problem. I've heard you're becoming quite the marksman."
JD blushed. "Nah…still a long way from that, and besides, those targets stand obligingly still for me."
They all laughed.
"Yeah, and they don't shoot back," Buck grinned to more laughter.
A knock at the door revealed Orin Travis. "Boys," he greeted. "I have your dates lined up for the evening. All the ladies you suggested were happy to oblige and have agreed to meet here before attending." He looked at Chris.
"I hope you don't mind, as you and JD didn't specify a particular lady, Evie has invited two on your behalves."
JD glanced at Chris in alarm, much to the amusement of the other five. Chris took the final guest list from Orin before the Montecito's owner bid farewell with a promise to meet up with them later. Running his eyes over the names, Chris groaned.
"Care to share?" Vin grinned.
"He's only gone and set me up with Mary Travis. God, that woman's insufferable when she gets talking about her paper."
"Beautiful, though," Buck winked.
"Intelligent," Ezra added.
"A little judgmental," Nathan mused.
"That's putting it mildly," Josiah agreed.
"It's just for one night," JD reminded. Chris cocked an eyebrow.
"True…uh, by the way, you may want to sit down before I tell you the lady Evie's chosen for you."
JD paled as the others chuckled. "Aw shit!"
JD shook off the doubts; he had men with him far more qualified than he was, and would simply follow their lead.
Orin guided the seven men on to the green room, where their ladies were waiting. Audible gasps of approval went up from both sides as each man took his partner.
Nathan grinned as he approached Rain who was wearing a full-length, royal blue gown festooned in diamantes. The plunging neckline and back were very welcome features, Nathan decided.
Josiah kissed the back of Gloria Potter's hand. The fuller-figured woman was wearing black and silver and Josiah admired her choice of ball gown immensely. It was rare to see the fine-looking widow dressed to the nines.
Cheryl Tingle, Ezra's second in command, blushed at the compliments from the handsome southerner. Dressed in a gold satin full-length, figure-hugging gown, Ezra realized what a truly beautiful woman she was.
Chris smiled at Mary Travis, she looked elegant in her long, white, sequined gown, her golden hair styled and pinned with a few delicate tresses framing her beautiful face. 'Maybe this won't be such a bad night after all', he mused.
Vin gave Nettie Wells a quick squeeze. He thanked her for coming and told her she looked lovely in her sequined, dark blue, velvet gown, laughing at her wry comment to the compliment.
It was all Buck could do to stop himself from growling his approval as the love of his life stood before him, a vision of beauty in a full length, figure-hugging, red satin gown with plunging neckline, and a back so low the draping material sat just above her curvaceous posterior. A slit up one side of the dress from floor to thigh completed the ensemble. Inez smiled inwardly; pleased to see the exact reaction she
Despite trying not to, all eyes slowly turned to JD as he approached Casey. The girl's black satin, sleeveless, basque-style bodice with rah-rah skirt, stopped just above the knee. The bodice accentuated her tiny waist while the dress-length did the same for her long, slim legs.
JD's heart pounded as he approached her. They hadn't really spoken much since Maddie, and they'd decided to take a break for a while. His strong but confused feelings for her prevented any kind of relationship developing with his friend Candice, much to the girl's chagrin, though the pair became firm friends over the time JD and Casey had been cooling their heels.
His mind swimming, JD's astonishment was complete when Casey gave him a bright, sweet smile, her long, brown hair framing her face as it hung loose. The pair embraced. JD whispered in her ear.
"You look fantastic."
"So do you," she whispered back, holding him as if her life depended on it. "I've missed you."
JD inhaled. God, she smelt good. "Ditto." He pushed her gently back to take another look at her. He grinned.
Evie Travis looked on, ecstatic that her little plan had worked. Picking up the excess material of her full length, shimmering, silver sequined dress, she took Orin's arm and smiled at them all.
Eight handsome men in black tuxes, white dress shirts and black bow ties escorted their ladies into the Grand Ballroom, a room easily divided for conferences, but as one, was the largest venue in the Montecito resort. Seven of the men were on duty, but it promised to be an interesting evening.
And assuming that, was the first mistake.
The first two hours went without a hitch, the band playing continuously until the buffet tables were opened. Food consumed, couples were once again drifting back onto the dance floor, the seven men and their partners following suit.
"You seem distracted," Mary said to Chris as they danced closely. Chris smiled.
"Sorry." But he wasn't, he was busy focusing on the caterers that were milling around the room.
"So…" she pushed, returning his attention to her, "when do I get my interview with the most highly thought of Security Chief in Las Vegas?"
"Aren't you ever off-duty?" Chris huffed, glancing at her before returning his attention to the room.
"A journalist is always prepared…" she began.
"Well, not tonight," Chris warned, his expression kinder than his words. "Or it's gonna be a real short evening…for you."
Mary's eyes flashed with amusement as she smiled up at Chris, leaning into him a little more. "Whatever you say," she promised. "But soon, hmm?"
"I'll let you know."
Buck was thoroughly enjoying his slow dance with Inez, despite the music being more conducive to a fast waltz. The pair had never spent time alone together outside work and Buck was savoring every moment. He wondered what Inez was thinking as her firm, slender body pressed in tight against his, her face resting against his cheek.
He sang, softly. "Lady in red…is dancing with me…cheek to cheek…"
"Señor, you sing like a bullfrog, kindly stop," she teased, her soft breath tickling his ear.
Buck chuckled. His hand moved slowly and easily down the satin dress toward her butt, until his attention was drawn to unusual movement around the room.
"Hungry?" he asked, moving them toward the buffet tables.
Inez pushed back to look at him. "Si," she smiled, not questioning his motives.
Nathan was in Heaven. He'd waited a long time to hold Rain as close and as tightly as this. Rain was equally happy. She really liked the gentle doctor, often wondering if he would ever pluck up the courage to ask her on a date. She maneuvered the hand holding his to interlace their fingers, and smiled at the soft sigh Nathan emitted.
Josiah and Gloria swept around the room like professionals. They made a handsome pair and Josiah was pleased to see and hear the widow laughing. He soon became aware of his friends directing their partners to a gathering point, so he followed suit.
JD didn't have a clue how to dance in this formal manner so he and Casey just adopted a position similar to others in the room and swayed gently to the music. Casey sighed and lifted her head off his shoulder to look at him.
"This is nice," she smiled.
"Mmm…" JD answered, while glancing between her and the room, never forgetting he was on duty.
"Maybe…" she continued, "…we could go for a ride someday soon?"
JD smiled at her. "Yeah, I'd like that."
"Only…we need to talk."
JD nodded. "I know but, for tonight, let's just relax, okay?"
"Don't you think I'm relaxed?" she pouted, her body stiffening.
JD frowned, pausing before he answered. "Well… now I don't."
Fearing the shit was about to hit the fan, JD was about to deflect any start to an argument when something unusual drew his attention. Picking up the pace, JD guided Casey toward Tanner.
Nettie was doing most of the talking while gently guiding Vin around the room, her efforts cleverly disguised to make it appear it was the other way around. She slowed on seeing JD and Casey approaching, well aware the Texan's attentions were elsewhere anyway.
"I see it," came Vin's response to JD calling his name. The four moved apart. "Ladies, care for some refreshment?" Vin asked.
Casey, now a little more relaxed, giggled. "You sounded so posh then, Vin." She glanced at JD and reached out to touch his face. JD smiled…crisis averted…well, the one brewing with Casey, anyhow.
"Something troubling you, boys?" Nettie asked.
Vin looked at her, noting five more of the seven security men and partners were moving together. "I think somethin's about to kick off," Vin answered honestly.
No sooner had he spoken when the caterers who had just brought in fresh trays of food, produced handguns from under the silver domes covering the platters, about the same time small alert devices in each of the seven men's jacket pockets vibrated.
One man raised a gun in the air and shouted. "No one move…everyone stand perfectly still and do as you're told and you won't get hurt!"
Chris was just about to curse a missing Ezra who was meant to be watching what was going in and out of the room, when he saw the disheveled, bleeding southerner being manhandled toward them. Cheryl was with him and clearly upset. Left to stand close to the others, Ezra looked at his friends and smiled, despite his obvious discomfort.
"I fear my request as to what delights were secreted under the domes on the food trays was taken personally," he whispered, noting Nettie take Cheryl to one side to comfort her.
"Do they know you're security?" Chris hissed.
"No, I merely inquired as any interested citizen would. I believe our cover remains intact." He nodded his thanks as Nathan passed him a handkerchief to stem the flow of blood from his nose.
An armed man stepped into the center of the room, gesturing left and right with his hands as he spoke. "Okay…listen up! I want all the ladies to the right of the room, and all the men to the left."
Each security man felt his partner stiffen, and openly reassured them as the ladies complied. Casey stared at JD, confused as to why the men weren't declaring who they were. One caterer grabbed her arm to hurry her along. JD pushed his hand into the armed man's chest.
"Hey! Take your hands off her!" He grunted at the hard shove back in reply.
"JD," Casey cried, fearing for his safety. "Tell him who you are, tell him you're…"
Recovering quickly, JD snatched at the girl and drew her into a long kiss to stop her next words from tumbling out and revealing there was security present. After a few seconds, he felt someone tug them apart.
"Alright Romeo…normally I'd suggest you two get a room, but seeing as time is against us…move it!"
While Casey was ordered toward the women, JD was shoved roughly back toward his six friends, who now stood together at the front of the rest of the men in the room. JD watched Casey cross the room and felt Buck pull him back and hold onto him.
"Quick thinking, Kid," Buck breathed in his ear, just loud enough for the others to hear and nod their agreement.
"Not so sure Casey'll understand," JD said softly.
"She will," Chris assured, his attention drawing back to the man in the center of the room as he spoke again.
"Ladies…find a chair…don't want you spoiling those pretty dresses. You men…sit on the floor. Soon, my colleagues will pass among you with some cloth bags to collect your wallets, purses and jewelry. Now…don't be holding out on us, we don't take kindly to being cheated." He looked to a man stood at closed double doors who nodded once. The room was successfully sealed, even the band were maneuvered from their position onstage to join the men seated on the floor.
Chris looked around the room, his eyes locking with the Deputy Mayor's associate in a moment of understanding between two professionals. He was calling the shots, now…him and hopefully those in the monitor room watching events unfold, so Chris focused instead on the rising unrest among the partygoers at the demands issued by the men relieving them of their valuables.
"People…people…" the leader called, "we want this to be as quick and painless as possible. However, failure to comply may force me to use this rather nice weapon, complete with silencer." He smiled, coldly, indicating to the gun in his hand. "We can fire on a third of the people here and no one would know until after we're gone."
His words silenced the crowd bar the sounds of fear and weeping as frantic fingers began sliding off rings and unclasping bracelets and necklaces.
JD could feel his anger rising as he watched events unfold, while relieved to see his teammates no less irate. He felt Buck's hand on his shoulder, and turned his head slightly as he spoke in hushed tones.
"Are we gonna do something, Buck?"
"All in good time, Kid. We gotta get this right." Buck noticed JD fingering his watch. "What's wrong?"
JD's eyes met his. "My mom gave me this watch on our last Christmas together…not that I knew that then…that it was our last, I mean. I only wear it on special occasions." JD loved the watch, but found it a little formal for everyday use.
"Just hang in there, okay?" Buck soothed. "No one's gonna lose anything here today."
"I know…it's just…" JD felt a squeeze to his shoulder, took a breath, and nodded.
Vin leaned toward Chris. "Eight guns."
"We can take 'em."
"Yup …just have to work out when. They'll probably be at their most vulnerable when they leave."
Vin nodded. "They'll likely all be grouped together…"
"Exactly…and full attention on the whole room will slowly be replaced by concentrating on making a clean getaway."
"You okay, brother?" Josiah asked of Ezra.
"Never better, my friend," the southerner assured.
"He'll live," Nathan winked.
"Comforting to hear," Ezra smirked.
Casey was grateful she hadn't any expensive jewelry; though handing over the locket her aunt gave her for her eighteenth birthday caused tears to fall. Nettie squeezed Casey's hand as her own precious wedding ring went into a bag.
"Courage, child…I have no doubts this will work out well."
"Why aren't they doing something?" Casey hissed.
"The guys won't let us down," Rain assured.
"I hope they will be careful," Inez worried.
"Well, I wanted a story," Mary sighed. "But not this kind of story."
Evie dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief. "How dare these…jerks, spoil our ball." The ladies looked across at their men, each one attempting to ease the minds of the clearly furious team. They had every faith these men would act, but each woman silently prayed no harm would come to either of them.
Sitting alongside the acting Deputy Mayor, Orin felt despondent that their special evening was being destroyed. The caterers had been recommended to them by the Palms Casino, Don Alfredo assuring them they were the best in Vegas. Chris, Vin, Buck, and JD had searched their van and equipment personally…so what the hell had gone wrong?
He glanced across at his wife, flashing her a reassuring smile, despite feeling less than confident himself.
Seven men ached to see the people gathered around them so distraught and afraid. Chris turned this particular job down, initially assigning it to another group of his security team as the city's major VIPs would be traveling to Washington for the inauguration, and so lessening the need for a major security operation. But it became clear as the ball approached, those who would be attending, including Evie Travis, intended to wear valuables way beyond normal expectations. So after some consideration and a discussion with his team, Larabee took over the responsibility, and not one of the seven regretted that decision at this moment.
Watching one gunman taking an interest in their side of the hall, six men stiffened as the armed goon squatted down in front of JD, waving his gun in the young tech's face.
"So, runt…what was it your girlfriend wanted us to know…huh? Who are you?"
JD remained silent, unwilling to give any information at this point, false or otherwise.
The thug tapped the youth's face with the barrel of his gun. "You hear me, kid?"
JD's eyes met Chris's, the blond winking. That one spark of encouragement from Chris spurred JD determinedly on.
"Go to hell!"
JD wasn't really surprised he received a backhand for his outburst, however the force of it stunned him a little. Honor seemingly intact, the goon rose and moved on.
Vin and JD exchanged looks, the youth half-smiling to reassure the furious Texan he was fine, despite the ringing in his ear and the ache in his cheek. Watching the armed men the whole time, Chris slid nearer to close the gap between himself and his men. He spoke softly whenever he saw an opening. An idea blossomed and he decided to share it. Chris figured it was always good to have several plans in place.
"If the guy tries that with you again JD…this is what I want you to do."
Hitting two of Larabee's men had been the thieves' second mistake that evening.
"Our colleagues in security appear to be somewhat slow in their duty," Ezra pointed out as he witnessed Ball attendees, friends and colleagues being callously robbed.
"I'm not sure they're aware of what's going down," Buck answered absently, still reflecting on what JD and Chris had been discussing. "Though, I don't know why." He noticed one man approaching them. "Heads up!"
The armed goon from earlier returned, now also carrying a bag to place any jewelry and cash in. Once in front of JD, he smiled on seeing the boy's watch and gestured for him to place it in the bag.
"Well done, boy," he sneered as JD reluctantly dropped it in. "You can just get Daddy to buy you a new one."
Recalling Chris's earlier instructions, JD stared the man in the eye and leaned forward. "My father owns this Casino. He could buy you a watch, too, or maybe there's something else you'd like," he whispered.
Orin glanced at Chris in alarm. With one look, the blond gestured for him to relax and let this play out.
Vin swallowed his anger and began mentally preparing himself.
"Little rich boy, huh?"
JD nodded. "If you leave now, I'll give you the keys to my Porsche."
Laughing, the man hauled the youth to his feet. "Hey, we got a bone fide millionaire…right here!"
Bill Zantos had been planning this heist for some time, more than aware of the people who might attend such an event. Hearing his associate, he walked over to the pair from his position in the middle of the room. JD straightened; he could do this…as long as they didn't search him and find his guns…he'd be fine.
Zantos circled JD and pointed toward Orin. "Travis is there, I know that for a fact, and he owns this casino." He glanced around the sea of male faces, wishing he'd done a bit more research into the personal side of the Montecito.
Relieved the man only knew what Orin looked like; JD glanced at Chris, his expression one of false regret as Chris's contingency plan was coming together.
"Sorry Dad, I tried."
One of the goons ordered Chris to his feet. Zantos approached. "You're Travis's son?"
"And you're in charge, here?"
Chris glared at him. "You heard the boy."
Zantos glanced between Orin, who was still seated, JD, and Chris. The information changed nothing, but it was good to know - just in case. Vin lowered his head and smirked to himself. Two of their team were standing, and right next to two of the eight armed men. The odds against them were shortening.
Stan Halls was in charge of the security monitor room for the evening, with one of Chris's group leaders, Dan Brody, having overall control and currently enjoying sitting in Larabee's chair in the Security Chief's office. He looked up as Stan peeked around his door.
"I need you to look at something."
The pair walked down to the monitors and Stan showed him something that was bothering him.
"I'm watching footage of the ballroom." He pointed to the screen. "This lady hugged this man, here."
Dan nodded, and then watched the images on the monitor whir as Stan moved them backwards and they were once again watching the woman hugging the man.
"What just happened there?" Dan asked.
"I moved it backwards ten minutes."
Brody baulked. "It's on a loop!"
Brody started running. "Shit! Call Perez…and get a floor team down there to check it out."
In the hushed ballroom, Chris looked away from Zantos and stared at his 'son'.
"I can't believe you offered these jerks your Porsche!"
"Jeeze, Dad, lighten up, it's just a car…it can be replaced."
"Oh sure, just like that!" Chris snapped his fingers in the air to make the point. "Until you mentioned it, they didn't even know it existed." Chris made a face. "One day, son, you'll think before you speak."
JD huffed out a laugh. "Son? So, you do remember you have one, then?" Despite knowing it was all an act, JD still paled when Chris stepped up to his face.
"Now is not the time for this argument, John," he hissed.
JD pushed his face into Chris's. "Oh, yeah…I forgot, get your PA to pencil me in your diary for a week from Tuesday…perhaps you'll have five minutes then..."
The flat of Chris's hand struck JD's face. JD gasped and as he stared in surprise at Chris, his hand automatically touched where it stung - at the same spot the goon hit him earlier. As that was part of the plan Chris failed to mention, JD's stunned reaction was genuine.
"Watch your mouth, boy!"
"What is it with you?" JD howled, flying toward Chris.
Chris grabbed JD's hands as the boy lunged at him, the criminals looking on in astonishment at this unexpected turn of events. Vin and Buck stood, the former grabbing JD while Buck stood between the two combatants.
"Knock it off!" Tanner yelled at the squirming boy in his arms. He pulled JD's body toward him, which successfully concealed the Texan's hand slipping inside his jacket to remove his gun from its shoulder holster.
Chris, standing behind Buck, was now able to do the same. He gave his men a quick glance and took a breath.
The next twenty or so seconds seemed to pass as if in slow motion.
Chris took a step back and in perfect synchronization, with two heavy blows, he and Buck punched out the two goons nearest and easily disarmed them as they lay on the floor, dazed. Chris leaned over and pushed his gun into Zantos's face just as the man was realizing what was happening. The blond smiled, but it was not a welcoming one.
"I'd love for you to give me a reason to shoot you," he snarled.
Buck put his foot on the other downed guy's back as he placed his gun against the wriggling man's head. "Stay down! Or it won't be your back I step on next time, dipshit!"
Josiah and Ezra stood the instant Chris gave the word and, weapons drawn as they moved, were soon holding a bead on the three thugs collecting valuables from the ladies' side of the room. Ezra grinned as he waved his gun between two of them.
"If you are contemplating challenging me on the premise I have only one weapon…" he activated a device under his jacket sleeve and a Derringer moved into his free hand.
The three thieves dropped their spoils and their weapons instantly.
Spinning away from JD, Vin hurdled a row of chairs and vaulted a number of tables to keep the man at the doors at bay. With the Texan's gun arm extended, he made his way to the thug, and gestured for him to put his hands in the air. Vin grabbed the man by the scruff of his neck, spun him, and slammed him face first against the locked ballroom doors. He kicked the man's feet apart.
"Spread 'em Jerkass!"
JD dropped to his haunches to remove a gun from an ankle holster, while simultaneously reaching behind his back and under his jacket to take out another gun from its belt holster. Straightening, he raised his arms and trained the weapons on the startled goons holding guns on the band. JD glanced between them both.
"Place your guns on the floor!" he ordered, more than a little relieved to see them do so. "Now put your hands behind your heads, link your fingers, and drop to the floor on your knees."
He watched them comply, but as he moved to kick their guns away, felt sure they were speculating about his competency. He gestured to both his own guns. "In case you were wondering, I'm ambidextrous."
"NO ONE MOVE! Stay down!" Chris warned. "Collect their guns," he ordered. "Nathan, help out."
The doctor nodded and on realizing there was no way JD could pick up his prisoners' guns while holding two weapons of his own, he first went to collect from the pair the boy was watching.
Covered by Josiah, Ezra moved to disarm the men he was guarding. "Thank you, your co operation is appreciated."
Josiah stared hard at the startled man in front of him and stepped closer. "Nice gun…can I have it?" He flashed a toothy grin as the thug quickly gave the weapon up.
Chris glared at Zantos, squatted down, and smacked the man hard across the back of his head. "You fucked with the wrong casino, Jackass!" He leaned in. "No one gets to screw with this casino on my watch and, for the record, I don't take kindly to anyone hitting my friends…" he pointed his gun at the man's crotch and smirked at the fearful reaction, "...but, seeing as there are ladies present, you get to keep your balls this time."
Noting Nathan placing the guns he'd retrieved on one of the tables, Chris yelled out to the eight captives now being moved to the center of the huge room. "Kiss the floor, ass wipes! And stay down!"
Eight men quickly complied as the guns trained on them followed their every move. JD moved to stand closer to Chris, and Buck, giving Nathan a view of Zantos. He noticed the thug's hand creeping toward his ankle and suddenly Nathan realized what he was seeing. Grabbing something from the table, the doctor's actions were swift and smooth.
The three security men jerked as something whizzed past them. They saw Zantos scream out in agony and clutch his arm. The small gun in his hand clattered to the floor and the six security men quickly realized the thug had a knife sticking out of his arm. JD spun around to look at Nathan, his mouth open in awe.
Buck grinned. "Holy shit, Nathan…you kept that little talent well hidden!"
Still a little shaken, Nathan raised an eyebrow. "Been a long time since I did that ."
"I think we need to talk," Chris winked at his medic.
Laughing softly, Vin holstered his gun, left the group, and unlocked the door with his master key. Lieutenant Perez and a SWAT team were standing just outside. "Come on in," he grinned, "It's just gotten interestin'!"
As Team Seven stepped back to allow the law to take over, Chris smiled proudly at the men he had become close to. They never let him down. His pride grew, along with some embarrassment, when the now relieved partygoers were applauding as they got to their feet. All seven moved together and took their plaudits with equal embarrassment, grateful when Perez allowed them to leave for a debriefing involving himself and the OIC of the SWAT team, but not before each man gave his lady a quick squeeze ahead of disappearing.
Entering the security bullpen a little later, Larabee demanded to be updated on events in the monitor room that evening. He entered his office to speak with Brody. JD sat with Stan and went over what had happened to the cameras. Reaching for his laptop, JD connected it to the system and ran a program, pleased at the eventual results. Picking up a small hand-held device, he stood.
"I'm going to the parking lot; will you tell Chris where I've gone when he's through with Dan?"
Sure," Stan nodded. "Should I tell Vin and Buck, too?"
"I think they're still with Luis Perez and the SWAT guy," JD called back.
Stan watched JD leave and picked up the phone, he figured he'd try them, anyway.
In the parking garage, the device in JD's hand vibrated and JD knew the two white vans ahead of him were where he needed to go. One belonged to the caterers; the other was unmarked, yet parked ominously close to the other. JD shrugged, it had been a big event, and maybe they'd needed two vehicles, though he recalled only checking over one. He decided to try the caterer's van first, and scowled at the locked doors. Standing on tiptoe, he peered inside the back windows.
Several semi-naked men were sitting on the van's floor, tied and gagged. Hands shaking, JD was just about to try the lock again when someone grabbed his hair and slammed his already bruised cheek into the van doors.
"He went where?" Vin barked into his cell.
Buck could tell by Vin's body language something bad was going on. The Texan grabbed Buck by the arm, casting a glance at Perez.
"JD located a signal that's interfering with the cameras and coming from the parking garage…"
Buck didn't need to hear any more as the pair, followed by Perez and several officers, headed off.
"Of all the damned…stupid…" Buck cursed as they ran for the elevators.
His hands absorbing some of the blow as he automatically used them to brace himself against the vehicle, JD rounded on the man attacking him.
"Three times I've been hit there tonight!" He growled. "Three times!"
With the assailant momentarily confused, JD took advantage of the pause and did a series of punch moves that he and Vin had been practicing. He finished on a half-turn and a kick to the man's gut, which doubled him over and sent him breathless on his knees to the floor. Bouncing on the balls of his feet and his adrenaline pumping, JD was more than prepared to make another move, but before he could, the elevator dinged and Vin, Buck, Perez, and several LVPD officers raced toward him. Vin grinned and slowed his pace.
"Reckon the kid's got it all in hand."
Buck acknowledged the words, but kept going until he reached his 'kid brother'.
"Never better." JD huffed as he stood down and rubbed his sore cheek. "Three times I've been hit here, tonight," he complained. "Three times!"
Buck and Vin couldn't help laughing at that remark and at the disgruntled look on their youngest's face, to then be surprised when JD urgently pointed the officers toward the bound and gagged caterers in the van.
"Come on," Buck said, draping an arm around JD's shoulders. "Let's go get you an ice pack."
Vin nodded that he had it covered, and the pair left.
Several hours later, six of the seven were seated in the break room drinking coffee. The exuberant mood from earlier had now subsided. JD left earlier to complete the re-boot of the security cameras for the ballroom. They all looked up and smiled as JD returned, an ice bag still pressed to his cheek.
"Everything okay?" Chris asked.
JD nodded. He opened the fridge, removed a milk carton and poured himself a glass. "Yep, all sorted. As I suspected, the loop was running from a laptop. It was in the unmarked van out in the parking garage. The cops found another of the fake caterers out there monitoring it. I shut it down, ran a defrag, and security scan, and now the system's up and running smoothly."
He frowned as he sipped his drink. "Gonna have to work on a way to stop that breach from happening again." JD looked up to see six puzzled expressions. He grinned.
"Hacking…can' t have that now, can we?"
They laughed at their resident hacker, and nodded their agreement.
"Apparently, when the gun alarm went off, security assumed it was due to our weapons registering again, so it was ignored." JD shrugged, knowing Chris would want to look into that further. "You'll recall our own personal alarms responded, but the reaction time needs to be adjusted to give us more warning. I'll look into that now."
Chris waved a hand. "Tomorrow will be fine, Kid." He looked around the room, his gaze resting on JD and the ice bag covering half of the boy's face. "Guys, can you give us a minute?"
Noting Chris staring at his covered cheek, and pre empting his team leader's next move, JD raised his hand to stop his friends from leaving. "No need Chris, the ice bag's just there to…"
Larabee was now in front of him. He moved the bag from JD's face and winced at the bruising. "Actually, I wanted to apologize for striking you. I didn't plan to…I have no idea why…"
JD smiled at the man he admired greatly. "I know and it's okay…we were just in the moment." JD chuckled, wincing slightly at the pull. "I guess tonight proves I have that effect on people, sometimes."
Frowning, Chris squeezed JD's shoulder. "Don't say that…don't ever say that, not even as a joke."
Hazel eyes searched green and JD nodded, slowly. "Sure…okay…sorry."
"And stop apologizing when I'm trying to!" Chris huffed. They both laughed and the other five men got up to stand with them. Larabee looked at his friends.
"You did good today, guys. I'm always proud of you, but today…"
Realizing Chris was struggling, Buck broke in. "Careful, Stud, we could get used to this."
They laughed, looking to the door as Orin entered.
"Gentlemen, you were - are - truly magnificent! The whole town is buzzing about your heroics this evening. I can't thank you enough for what you did, however, as a small token of my gratitude, and as the hour is so late, I've made the presidential suite available to you for the night. Your ladies are waiting there to bid you goodnight before they are chauffeured home." He gestured toward the door. "Shall we?"
When the seven men entered the prestigious six-bed suite, with two reception rooms, a small kitchenette and three bathrooms, one with Jacuzzi, their ladies approached, clearly relieved and pleased to see them.
Mary kissed Chris on the cheek. After much praise, she grinned at him. "Oh, I have front page tomorrow, by the way."
Chris eyed her, suspiciously. Mary giggled.
"I warned you…a journalist is never off-duty."
Nettie hugged Vin tightly, pleased to feel the Texan relax into it for once. "I'm proud of you, son," she whispered. "Of all of you."
Vin grinned back at her. "Thank you, ma'am. We all kinda like you, too."
Rain kissed Nathan on the lips. "Seeing as you may never get around to asking, would you like to see a movie one evening?"
Nathan beamed. "I'm free on Thursday."
Rain returned the smile. "Me, too." She blushed. "Know any other tricks, that don't involve knives?"
Laughing, Nathan pulled her closer. "Oh hell, yeah."
Cheryl clung to Ezra tightly, suddenly pulling away as she remembered he was also her supervisor. "I…I'm sorry."
Standish affectionately touched her face. "My dear, are we not good friends as well as colleagues?"
"I'd like to think so, yes."
"Good, now kindly continue with the affection, I found it very comforting after such an arduous evening."
The pair chuckled and embraced.
Gloria hugged Josiah as she sobbed on his shoulder. The big man held her tightly, speaking soothing words as he rubbed her back. Eventually, they parted.
"Forgive me," she sniffed. "I was so frightened for you all. You're such brave boys."
Josiah grinned. "Nothing but the best on this team, and I am in no way incorporating myself in that statement."
"Well, you'd better be," Gloria scolded, "the way you walked up to that man and asked for his gun gave me chills."
Buck smiled as Inez approached him. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"Si, thanks to you wonderful men, we are all good." She embraced Buck, kissing him full on the lips. But the kiss was not one of passion, but of profound tenderness, affecting Buck deeply. Parting they gazed into each other's eyes.
"Before this day ended, I needed you to know you are important to me," she breathed.
Smiling, Buck gently pushed back the loose, dark hair from her face. "You're important to me, too, lady."
Noticing her aunt preoccupied, as were most of the others, Casey took JD by the hand and the pair slipped into one of the bedrooms.
"Are you okay?" JD asked as he looked her over.
"I'm fine," Casey smiled.
Standing there, they stared at each other before Casey linked her arms around JD's neck, leaned in and kissed him, the kiss deepening, as it seemed to go on forever. When they separated, they were both breathless. Casey giggled as she realized JD's hands were on her butt. He moved them up to hug her tightly and she laid her head against his chest.
"We're gonna be alright, aren't we?"
JD sighed, realizing the girl was not talking about the evening's events. "How about we start again and take this one day at a time?"
She gazed up at him and JD remembered why he had fallen for her all those months back. "I'd like that." She grinned at him, then leaned in and kissed him again, this time with considerably more on her mind than just keeping JD interested. Suddenly, the bedroom door opened, revealing Nettie.
The pair parted swiftly, both looking suitably admonished. Casey slipped past her aunt, and JD gulped when Nettie approached him.
"Love is a difficult path, son. It twists and turns without warning to offer you more than one direction. Choose wisely."
JD nodded, wondering when she was going to lay into him. Instead, Nettie touched his bruised face. "I love my niece…but I love you and the boys, too. Be happy, John Dunne…no matter which path it may take to make you so."
JD watched her go, not entirely sure what had just transpired. Suddenly drained, he sat on the edge of the bed and, digging the ice bag out of his pocket, he placed it back against his cheek. Buck peeked in through the door.
"You dog, you!"
JD laughed. "Knock it off, Buck. The only thing I wanna do in bed tonight is sleep."
"Glad to hear that, Squirt." The brunet grinned as he stepped inside the room and sat next to JD. "'Cause you and me are sharing!"
The pair laughed, and after a short lull, moved to bid the rest of the team goodnight.
The next morning, a complimentary champagne breakfast was served in the security team's suite. Soon they would all be leaving for home to change their clothes and rest up before their evening shift began. There was a knock at the door, and Orin came in with several newspapers in his hand.
He grinned. "It's official, you seven are, 'magnificent'."
Taking the offered journal, Chris read aloud.
"Last night, guests at the Montecito's Inauguration Ball were treated to a heroic display by the seven magnificent men of the resort's security Team Seven." Chris groaned and passed the paper to Buck. The other newspapers changed hands to more murmurings from the men, bar one.
"Wow…how cool is this? We're on the front page!" JD beamed. Reading excitedly, he missed the others getting up and making their way out of the door.
"It says…" JD looked up and frowned at the empty room. "Hey…where'd everybody go?" Snatching up his jacket, he hastily followed. "Hey, guys…wait up!"
Out in the corridor he could see the men heading for the elevator. They looked back and grinned at him before calling for the car.
"Guys…wait! Aww, come on, this is a big deal. It's not every day we get called 'magnificent'… "