by: Heidi

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction based on the television series The Magnificent Seven. No copyright infringement is intended to MGM, CBS, TNN, Trilogy, The Mirisch Corp., or any others that hold the rights. No profit will be made from this work.

Notes: Humor alert. Loosely based on actual events, names changed to protect the innocent <g>. One of my OFC's - Harper - makes an appearance, and I am trying to finish the monstrosity of a third story for the Harper series called Retaliation. I sincerely hope to have that done soon. This story does not fit into the timeline for any of the Harper stories; it is a stand-alone.

Thanks: Cin - SUPERDIVA, for doing the nasty job of a quick beta so I could get this out quick; Brate and Row for encouraging me to put the stories I shared with them into fanfic.

Since their latest debacle involving multiple contusions, bruises, pulled muscles, minor holes, burns, stitches, and sprains, Team Seven currently suffered on light duty. Former Federal Judge Travis, now officially Assistant Director Travis, but commonly referred to as Judge, finally won a bet with himself and reaffirmed his knowledge of his 'boys'. He had been confident that the administrative assistant pool would call him within two days of the start of light duty with a litany of complaints against the restricted team. The complaints rolled in right on schedule.

First, the offices resembled a 'war zone' because these men of action did not adjust well to office confinement. Second, the assistants requested 'hazardous duty pay' in order to make deliveries, pick up materials, or even enter the door. Third, two assistants refused to set foot in the room; something about one of the team members jumping out at them and scaring them, thinking that they were other members of a sister team.

Finally, one assistant threatened a lawsuit for emotional distress, prompting the Judge to make a personal visit to Team Seven's offices. He felt he possessed the solution to everyone's problems; it would give all of them a break of sorts.

Travis heard them before he reached the door. Taking a deep breath, he turned the doorknob and opened the door. He walked into the offices just in time to get struck in the face with a Nerf basketball aimed at the hoop hung on the back of the door. Silence fell.

"Sorry, sir," Josiah apologized, uncrossing his long legs and taking them off the top of his desk to sit on the floor.

Travis nodded, decided that Sanchez's black eye and stitches were healing rather well, and then looked at the basketball. "I see we have some free time on our hands." He chose not to mention that Josiah got the shiner, stitches, and mild concussion courtesy of a tire iron in the hands of a man who did not want to go to jail, no matter what Sanchez said to him. Travis remembered from the report that the man found himself flying through the air to land painfully on a pile of crates at the entry team's feet. When they pulled him to his feet, the man was actually surprised that Sanchez remained standing, and then begged to go his jail cell to get away from the Agent. He wisely figured he royally pissed the man off and said man was on the approach, tire iron in hand, blood dripping from around his eye. However, the real blood did nothing to conceal the figurative blood in the good eye looking squarely at him.

Chris, curious because of the sudden silence, a rarity in this place, came out of his office to say, "Once you stop holding us back because of our scratches, then we'll get back to real work."

"Scratches, Agent Larabee?" The Judge walked over to the desk of one undercover operative Ezra Standish. "Raise your leg."

Green eyes blinked innocently at him. "Sir?"

"You heard me, Standish. Show me that leg brace that Agent Larabee calls a scratch. The one that was injured when Agent Wilmington did his impression of a windmill and landed on you."

Ezra ignored the method of his injury and the sputtering said method currently engaged in at his desk. "My leg has greatly improved, sir. If I were afforded the opportunity to have it checked again, ahead of the planned date, then I would be able to become a functioning member of this team." He swung it off the stool beside his desk and started to stand to demonstrate his point.

"Save it, Ezra. You'll go when the doctor wants you to go. Now sit down. Vin, how's that arm?"

Vin, having worn the sling today because the bruised shoulder joint bothered him, wished he had not put it on. "Fine." He disliked being reminded of a suspect they thought down miraculously rising and hitting Vin hard in the shoulder joint with a flat piece of board.

"Nice sling." The Judge turned on his next victim. "Agent Larabee, how's the backside?"

Chris scowled, having taken a rebound round in the posterior. Apparently, when a bullet hit smooth cement, it bounced. The original shot missed him, but the small piece of hot lead smacked the cement and the trajectory brought it right up into his behind. "Just a scratch, sir."

"How many stitches? Five?"

Through clenched teeth, Larabee responded. "It's healing, sir." He was more embarrassed than hurt.

Travis shifted his gaze. "Agent Wilmington, I see your facial hair has been growing back."

Buck flushed, then acknowledged, "Yes, sir." Buck got caught in a minor explosion when a flash-bang grenade, one designed to create a bright flash of light and loud noise to blind and deafen the targets, landed on a box of highly flammable road flares. The instantaneous blast burned off his eyebrows, mustache, and created a sharp widow's peak on his forehead. On either side of the peak, the hair either burned off or needed cutting off. That was not a good day. He sported several days' growth on his face and on either side of the widow's peak, the rest of his head stayed buried under a regulation ATF baseball style cap.

Travis' next victim tried slouching to avoid him. The Judge thought that approach failed in school, so he felt obliged to continue the losing streak of that action. "Agent Dunne, your wrist getting better?"

JD met his eyes, swallowed, and nodded. "Yes, sir."

"Still following doctor's orders, no computer work?"

"Yes, sir. It's difficult, sir."

"If you had managed not to have your wrist slammed in the door by a suspect, you would not be experiencing these difficulties. Now, look at Agent Jackson. He, of the seven of you, managed not to be injured. How's nursemaid duty, Agent?"

"Tricky, sir."

"I think I can help you out. Agent Larabee, your office." The Judge walked by the appropriately subdued members of Team Seven into Larabee's office, waiting for the door to close and ignoring the thud of what he believed was the Nerf basketball landing against it. He also ignored the threats, comments, and mimicry aimed at Agent Jackson for being the only one not injured.


"I'd ask you to sit, but I'm sure the inflatable donut the Doctor's making you sit on is very uncomfortable."

Chris gave a rueful smile. "Thank you, sir."

"I have an assignment for you boys."

"I thought you had us on light duty. Is that lifted?"


The Larabee face fell slightly.

"But you will have a light duty assignment."

"Doing what? We're not counting traffic again, are we?" The last time a majority of Team Seven suffered through light duty, the Judge was on vacation. His replacement, an Assistant Director primarily assigned to fill in for others, decided that Team Seven could assist with surveillance by counting cars for one of the other teams. By the third day of this, Team Seven nearly killed each other out of boredom. In fact, they pushed their injured members so hard to get better, the healthy pulled muscles of their own. Having returned from vacation with a positive attitude, Judge Travis hung his head, removed them from the traffic detail, and sent them home for two weeks. The entire Federal building threw a party in celebration; Team Seven was not invited. Peace reigned for the fourteen days until the 'boys' returned for duty, and then life returned to normal, or as normal as it could be with that team back in residence.

"No, Chris. We all learned our lesson. Do you remember the lottery we held five months ago?"

"Lottery?" Chris thought for a minute before he raised alarmed green eyes to the Judge. "No, sir, don't do it."

"Too late, Agent."

"Hosting duties?"

"Yes, Agent. And I expect all of you to be on your best behavior. You are representing the Denver ATF."

Larabee groaned and ran his hand down his face. He remembered several months ago that the Denver ATF was asked to help host the regional convention for the Law Enforcement Information Exchange. One team was to handle some of the host duties - organizing the convention, working the doors, and hosting the Hospitality Room along with the sponsoring agency. Since all the teams carried the same workload, and none of them wanted the 'honor', each team leader filed a report on why their particular team should be exempt. One week later, the result was not pretty.

Each team leader was treated to the infamous temper and disgust of Assistant Director Travis. On that miserable day, the Federal Judge that cut through the bull hockey with a sledgehammer in his courtroom reamed every one of them. Wisely, they stood there at attention, stone-faced, silent, and took it. When he felt he chewed them out to his satisfaction, he proceeded to throw their team numbers into an antique western hat for a lottery. His assistant pulled the lucky number; the number drawn was Team Six. Expressions of relief were immediately evident on all the other leader's faces except Ellen Bishop's. Travis dismissed them, and Ellen's team took over the detail.

Until Team Seven found itself on light duty with not enough to do. "Since Ellen's team is taking up your slack, you're taking over her detail." Travis referred to Seven's entire caseload being distributed among the other teams, and Team Six inherited the toughest and most involved one. Ellen quietly put in a report to excuse her team from the hosting detail, and the complaints came in the same day, so Travis found himself with an elegant solution.

He said, "You can get the file from my assistant with all the information. You - meaning the entire team, Chris - WILL stay at the hotel, with no exceptions - and will only be allowed to leave for meal breaks. You will also take over hosting the Hospitality Room each night." In the Judge's humble opinion, the expression of disgust on Larabee's face was worth the Nerf basketball in the face.

"Sir, what about my ranch and animals? I'll have to take care of them."

"You've made arrangements before; make them again. Five days and I don't expect to hear any complaints. That's it, Chris. See my assistant."

Travis walked out before Chris could argue any further, and since the Judge was making good time getting to the door, Larabee guessed the man knew that walking fast aggravated the stitches in his backside, which prevented a heated pursuit by a now aggravated team leader. He refused to yell at Travis across the office, especially in a cause he recognized as lost. They would make the best of it. Or he'd make them pay dearly for it.

He felt rather than saw six faces staring at him. "We're going to a convention."

"My face isn't perfect." Buck grimaced, thinking of the opportunities to meet some new ladies but admitting to himself he was not looking his stellar best.

"Aw, hell."

"Sounds interesting," said JD, sitting up in his chair.

"What kind?" asked Josiah, speaking at the same time as JD.

"Perhaps you could kindly inform us as to the nature of the gathering we will be attending, and I am sincerely hoping it is in a tropic locale, one better suited to my temperament than the frozen tundra of Denver."

"When?" Nathan asked.

"Starting Sunday night, if I remember correctly. Sunday through Thursday, in Denver."

"Dear Lord! Not the Regional Law Enforcement Information Exchange!"

Chris found the energy to smirk. "Yes, Ezra. That convention. We're now part of the host committee."

"Please send my regrets; I fear my leg pains me."


"Not interested, Chris. Got too much else ta do."

"Too bad."

"We're all going, aren't we?" Josiah asked.


"Chris, can't we get out of this?" Buck gave his most pitiful face, which looked almost comical because of the burns.

"No, Crispy Critter, I can't get us out of this. Mandatory attendance, boys, and we're staying at the hotel."

"Surely you jest. I am quite comfortable at my own domicile during the nighttime hours."

Ignoring Ezra, Chris continued, "And we're hosting the Hospitality Room."

"What's a Hospitality Room?" JD asked, never having heard the term.

Josiah explained, "It's where the hosts of the convention, the people putting it on, open up a room and serve refreshments, a bar, and provide a place for people to get to know each other and network. It happens almost every night in most cases."

"Sounds like fun. We're the hosts?"

"Yes, Mr. Dunne."


Buck rubbed his hands together, his attitude having changed. "Oh, the opportunity to meet all those beautiful women, to talk with them..."

"Down, Buck," Vin reminded him. "Don't think ya will find too many likin' whatever died on yer upper lip. All two hairs of that critter."

Buck reached over to swing at the sharpshooter, who managed to shift and avoid the teasing blow. However, he forgot about the corner of his desk drawer and put his knee right into it. The words he used were not meant for company, polite or otherwise.

"That'll teach you for busting on my 'stache."

"That isn't a mustache, Buck, it's burnt hair and skin. You should just shave it off and forget about it!"

"JD, don't make me come over there."

"Kiss my..."

The bickering, swearing, and general cooped-up feeling made the walls seem to close in on Larabee. "Enough! I'll be back in five minutes with the information, so all of you make a to-do list of what has to be done before the end of the week." Chris stormed out.

"Way to go, Buck, you pissed him off."

"JD," Wilmington growled in warning.

"Why don't we get started on those lists before he comes back, so he doesn't have something else to yell about?" asked Nathan in a calm voice.

"This coming from the gentleman who managed to escape the clutches of injury and has no cause to fear our leader."


"Yes, Mr. Sanchez?"

"Shut up."

"Perhaps, Mr. Sanchez, you should find your headache medication because you appear to be in some pain."

Buck snorted.

Vin quipped, "'Cuz some Southern cuss keeps twistin' the tails of his co-workers."

"I take umbrage at that remark, Mr. Tanner."

"Ezra, write yer list before I remember things I shouldn't."

"That's blackmail!"

"Ya taught me well."

Green eyes narrowed for a moment, then Ezra chuckled. "That I did, Mr. Tanner, that I did. It's gratifying to see you learned your lessons so well."

"EZRA, SHUT UP!" This bellow came from all of the remaining men. Silence reined until Chris returned bearing the package. He went directly into his office, closed the door, and gingerly seated himself on the donut. It squeaked at him. He really had the urge to throw it out or wrap it around the neck of one of his irritating teammates. However, he first couldn't decide which of them deserved his ire more and second, it did help some. His posterior still sported a big bruise in addition to the five stitches. Even though sitting on the hated device was still uncomfortable, he could imagine sitting without would be impossible. One thing he knew, he would not be taking it with him to the convention where anyone could see it. It would stay in his room.

Resigning himself to the task, Chris made notes on what they needed to do, and how they needed to do it. As for the Mayor's Reception on Sunday night, Ezra, Buck, Vin, and himself would be excused. Since certain political and public figures would be present for that, the four of them did not need to be present. They worked undercover so often that they did not need the hassle of having someone recognizing them down the road from this convention.

That left Josiah, JD, and Nathan to handle host duties. They should be okay; JD could talk shop with the younger members, while the older two worked the room, making their presence highly visible. The rest of the afternoon they spent in conference, explaining and discussing the situation. They went to work, getting everything ready. For some reason, if the boys had a purpose, they could manage not to snipe at each other as much as when they had idle time.


The boys arrived at the hotel and checked in, each handed a keycard and told that they were all staying in the same room. Curious, they tried to correct the person, but the desk clerk was adamant that since they volunteered to baby-sit the Hospitality Room, they were entitled to one of the larger suites.

The group then registered for the convention, obtaining radios to keep track of each other within the massive structure. The radios also allowed the hotel to find them when needed, along with other sponsors of the convention in the case of any questions. They also received instructions to get themselves settled before they came down and helped handle all the minute details for the two receptions that night. The convention planned two receptions - the Invitation Only Mayor's Reception, and the General Reception in the banquet hall. Those in charge picked the Hospitality Room for the location of the Mayor's Reception months earlier.

Team Seven found their way to the elevator, discovering their room was on the top floor - the thirty-second, to be precise. It was a pleasant discovery to find one bank of elevators just to go to the upper floors, and only one bank of elevators on their top floor. They followed the signs around to a large door at end of a hallway after a series of turns. The nicely polished brass sign discreetly placed to the right of the door read "Washington Suite."

"Dear Lord, the Presidential Suite. I have come home, gentlemen." Ezra leaned his back against the wall, crutches under his arms, waiting for Chris to open the door.

"Yeah, well, don't break anything." Ignoring the fingers flipped at his back, Chris opened the door.

All seven men shuffled in, stopping just inside the foyer. The door stayed open, forgotten in their amazement.

The floor beneath their feet was white marble, inlaid with a gray pattern. On their left was a mahogany table, a bowl placed on it for keys and change. A large closet was just off the side of the table, the door partially open to show that no coats currently resided there. On their right side, the entrance to the kitchen beckoned with all the cabinets, refrigerator, countertops, and spaces gleaming. Just ahead of the foyer, the deep, plush dark colored carpet stretched from wall to wall, all the way to the far bank of windows.

This was obviously the living room, for several sofas and loveseats in beautiful black and deep red silk, the same colors of the hotel, grouped in sitting areas. Chairs upholstered in the same pattern as the sofas and loveseats completed the intimate circles. As they stepped further into the room, the most arresting feature of the hotel was the panoramic view of the city. Windows lined every wall, with the exception of the bar set up against the back wall of the kitchen, but the room opened up to show the entire city. Cut into a niche by one of the sitting areas was a large screen television, complete with an expensive stereo system, DVD player, and VCR.

On the right, the living room opened up through a wide archway the size of double doors leading to a dining room. Inside, an immense table in polished, ornate mahogany could serve as either a conference table or a table for sixteen diners. The straight-back chairs, made of matching mahogany, bore the same soft silk upholstery as the sofas, loveseats, and chairs in the living room. Again, the windows showed an incredible view of the city.

They wandered over to the right side first, figuring they would check that out before they went through the rest of the suite. All the way in the far right corner of the dining room two doors waited for the new occupants to explore. One was directly in front of them, the other on the opposite wall, currently open to reveal the other side of the kitchen.

Nathan opened the closed door and found a small hallway leading back to a series of bedrooms, a total of four in all, two to the left, two to the right. Each room was meticulously themed in a different color: gold, bronze, brass, and copper, the accents complimenting the motif throughout the suite. In between each bedroom was a door for a bathroom, a large standup shower, tiled in marble, with the toilet in there, while a separate section held the sinks and the large mirror. A hairdryer sat ready to be used, along with rich hand towels. On the left of the shower, stacks of fluffy hotel towels topped with miniature soaps rested in their holder.

Josiah took the gold bedroom, dropping his bag inside and nodding appreciatively. He liked seeing the finer side of life, even though he thought some of the money should go to people more deserving. His research into the hotel showed they gave the majority of their unused food to local shelters, and anything else to the shelters as well, so he could not fault them their generosity.

Nathan took the bronze bedroom on the opposite side of the hallway from Josiah. He, like his friend, thought the hotel should spend the money on something more worthwhile, like the under-funded free medical clinic down the street, but Josiah's research said they did help where they could.

JD took the copper bedroom, liking the bright metal and wanting to be next to Nathan, who did not snore as loudly as Buck or Josiah. The last thing he wanted was to lose sleep and not be able to play on his computer because of a racket. He'd learned to tune Buck out, but he rarely stayed near Josiah, so the rumbling snores often startled him awake.

Buck liked the brass bedroom, all the shine on the headboard and deep, masculine tones. He also thought that if he found a lady friend, she would be impressed with the overstuffed chairs and behemoth sized bed. Buck tested out the mattress, finding it outstanding. He really did not want to get up, but figured he needed to finish the tour of the suite.

By the time they went back through the dining room, through the living room, none of them had found their voices. They continued their tour, Ezra leading the way with an expression of absolute rapture on his face, through a small sitting room just off the living room on the left side if coming in the door. This sitting room held a chessboard inlaid on the top of a mahogany table, and a large round table suitable for playing cards, covered in a deep, almost crimson, red felt. The rest of the men ignored the contented sigh coming from their resident gambler. Again, the windows ran floor to ceiling in place of outside walls, giving them more of a view of the city.

Off the sitting room was another closet for coats and storage, and then a small room with sinks and a mirror, followed by a powder room. Again, the hotel gave the impression of quiet wealth in these rooms, also giving flair to something as ordinary as a toilet.

They backed out, turning back to the hallway off the sitting room. This lead to another corridor of rooms, one door on each side and one large door standing open at the end. The size of the master bedroom amazed them; it was easily the size of Josiah's entire apartment in one space. The king sized bed was on a raised platform, pillows and comforters making it extremely inviting. To the right, the windows continued, giving the occupant an unrestricted view of the city. To the left, a massive armoire stood open, revealing another good- sized television, the remote on one of the nightstands. A walk-in closet added to the charm of the room, along with a master bath. The first room of the master bath sported the white marble with the two sinks looking dwarfed against the black marble counter. The second room held a Jacuzzi tub and a standup shower that three people could enter and not touch each other.

"Mine," said Chris.

No one argued.

They returned to the other bedrooms, the one on the right going to Vin. Again, the windows looked out on the city, and this room seemed more spacious than the master suite. For all the pomp and ceremony of this suite, this room suited him fine. Basic and simple. Another two-room bathroom opened off Vin's room, giving him his own facilities and Jacuzzi tub.

Ezra claimed the remaining bedroom, finding it done in rich tones of maroon and dark green, the curtains concealing the view from this room. He also had his own Jacuzzi tub, and the idea of soaking his leg in it every night after the festivities nearly made him whimper in pleasure. Instead, he said, "Gentlemen, if you need me, I will be propping my leg."

"Like hell, Ezra. You'll be helping with the preparation for the Mayor's Reception."

"Mr. Larabee, I will be happy to assist in that endeavor, since I will not be attending. However, at the appointed time for the commencement of the Reception, this room will be closed and will remain closed. I will remain in residence, quiet as the proverbial church mouse."

"Watching that television and planning the poker games you'll be hosting while we work." Nathan shook his head. He realized they all had their own televisions, VCR's, and DVD players inside the armoires and thought they might not see much of Ezra if no one remembered to drag him out of this suite. He almost snorted; five minutes and Ezra looked right at home.

"Ya might have company, Ez," declared Vin. "I'd be willin' ta take some money off ya tonight during the Reception."

"We'll all be here for the reception," Chris stated. "That way we can open the other rooms and no one will think twice of one bedroom being shut. Got anything valuable, boys, keep it with us."

"Yup, no telling what will slither through the door." Buck nodded his head. "More windbag politicians than balloons have hot air, more shoveled manure than on Chris' ranch, and..."

"More colorful descriptions than you can come up with," JD interrupted. "I'll be with the windbags tonight; no need to rub it in. The four of you get to hide."

Josiah considered. "Actually, JD, I have a suggestion."

"What's that?"

"Why don't you work the General Reception? That way you'll be away from this calamity waiting to happen and have the chance to make your own connections."

"You serious? No tux?"

"A nice suit will do well."

"Um, well, I only brought the tux."

"Never fear, my dear boy, for I believe I have just the outfit for you." Ezra beckoned JD into his room.

"I'm not wearing something that if I move the wrong way, I'll end up ripping or ruining it."

"Mr. Dunne, I will endeavor to ensure that you will be in good form tonight. I do believe the hotel has alteration services; I believe we can make use of those."

"Thirty minutes, Ezra. No more than that," Chris called. He looked at the rest of the men. "Take this time to get yourselves unpacked and settled. Anything valuable, make sure it goes in Ezra's room."

They went their separate ways, meeting up again to help set up for the Mayor's Reception. In truth, they told the hotel staff where everything should go, answered questions, and watched the now fully stocked bar take detailed form near a conveniently located sink in the living room, backing up to the kitchen wall.

SUNDAY NIGHT - The Receptions

The General Reception went very well, JD looking dashing in a quickly, but expertly, altered Armani. He moved with grace and confidence, pleased with his appearance, and realizing that clothes can make a man feel a whole lot more powerful. No wonder Ezra never goes anywhere without looking his best if he can help it.

JD noticed plenty of people complimented his suit, or checked it out and saw Quality, with a capital Q, deciding then to speak to him. He realized that many of them probably would have ignored him if he wore his regular suit, the one in which he thought he looked good. It surprised him, this reverse snobbery, but he also made contacts, circulated, and made sure that the drunks had rides home or made it to their rooms.

The Mayor's Reception hit a few snags. Not only did the Senator's wife get entirely too intoxicated, she proceeded to tell the world about the indiscretions of the Mayor's wife, causing her to be escorted out quickly and given a large amount of coffee. The Mayor's wife denied all the charges, and the room seemed to believe her, especially considering the Senator explained that his wife was not feeling well that day.

The second snag happened when two of the guests discussing politics, starting a screaming match that Josiah quickly ended up moderating, after he finished wiping the angered man's drink from his face. He smiled through that, taking a firm hold of both men, and pulled them into a bedroom and shut the door. The present company would have loved to listen at the door, but they all needed to maintain their appearances. Both men returned to the party significantly subdued, and Josiah returned with a dry face and a pleasant smile. Well, some called that smile pleasant; others called it the face of a man that just dealt swift, stern justice to two recalcitrant children. The two left shortly thereafter.

The third was at the end of the night. Nathan found himself in a discussion with several influential business owners who were lamenting the lack of high-profile charities in the area. Politely, Nathan told them that the high-profile charities may be fine, but there were several deserving, almost unknown places that could use the funding. They asked him for names, and he supplied a couple of clinics and youth centers. The business owners took his number to contact him, and when they left, he heard them saying how the press would eat it up if they 'discovered' a hereunto-unknown charity and made it theirs. It took Josiah five minutes to calm Nathan and stop him from going after the men and introducing them to his knives...personally.

By the time the last person left and the hotel's caterers finished their cleanup, Dunne returned to the room to see them leave. JD was in a state of keyed-up exhaustion. He started talking the minute he entered the room, causing both Nathan and Josiah to retreat to their rooms, each with a bottle of their favorite drink, and slam their doors.

Shrugging, JD went to Ezra's room, knocking on the door and saying, "They're gone."

The door opened cautiously, Buck peeking out at him. "You're alone?"

"Nathan and Josiah went to their rooms. So what have you guys been doing?" He pushed past Buck to check out the room's occupants.

Chris lay slumped in the overstuffed chair, his feet in front of him, the corner of the donut barely visible, boots off beside him, looking completely comfortable and fast asleep.

Ezra's leg was propped on pillows, a small lap desk beside him, where he and Vin played the card game War. Vin looked almost peaceful as he tossed cards down, careful not to jostle Ezra's leg or his own shoulder.

Buck slouched against the doorframe. "Kid, it's been absolutely miserable in here. We've listened to the voices outside the door, listened to the jiggle of the handle every few seconds, and wished we were anywhere but here. Now, you say one word about what a wonderful time you had, I'll take your tongue out of your mouth and stuff it down your throat."

JD took a critical look at his roommate, noticing the redness of the skin and the obvious marks where the man rubbed it. "Geez, Buck. Isn't it time for you to put on burn cream? 'Cuz you're a real jerk if your face starts itching and you don't use it."

"Two hours ago," Chris mumbled, still keeping his eyes closed. "Things got ugly when he realized he didn't have it."

"I hate ugly." Buck muttered, pushing off the frame and starting for his room. "I'm going to bed."

"Your temperament, Mr. Wilmington, has been deplorable. I sincerely hope that the rest will rejuvenate you from the mule's rump you are currently emulating."

Buck saluted with one finger, not turning around, but disappearing from sight.

"Where's Nathan and Josiah?" asked Vin, clearing up the game that he won and putting the lap desk on the side where Ezra could reach it. He stood, straightening his back with a succession of cracks.

"I hate it when you do that," Chris mumbled.

"They're in their rooms. I came in and tried to tell them about the General Reception - thank them for letting me go to that - and they turned around and slammed the doors."

"They've had a rough night," Vin explained. "Lots of cats hissin' and tanglin' with each other tonight."

"Oh. Wow. Who? Can you tell me about it?"


"Yeah, Chris?"

"Shut up."

"Someone else has earned that magical phrase; I feel blessed," commented Ezra from the bed.

Larabee closed his eyes and ignored the hurt expression on JD's face. As a concession, he said, "We're all tired and cranky. Let's go to bed. Six will come too damn early." Chris stood, walking stiffly out of the room with his donut and into his, closing the door behind him on a series of groans.