Fool Traditions 2: Trading Spaces, Vengeance Style

by Kay

SuBethJimBob unmercifully lobbed a plot bunny at the list. Of course, the email was clearly labeled, but I've got curiosity issues so I read it anyway. I started having inklings of an idea, then I saw that ckl had posted a fic for that bunny. I read and giggled and full on teared up from laughing at the end because it was so perfect. Genius! I really thought that was going to enough, that I would escape unscathed...but then I took allergy medication, and this fic happened.

One other quick note - I previously posted this fic to another list, and neglected to mention that while I was writing this, not only did Karen and Sandy put up with my whining, but they also helped come up with some of the evil wackiness that follows.

"JD! If you don't stop flipping the channels that fast, you're going to give me a damn seizure." Buck lunged across the length of Chris's couch, snatching at the remote.

JD nearly tumbled over the arm of the couch, keeping the remote out of Buck's reach. "The game isn't even on yet! And that's just a myth. I can't give you a seizure with the TV."

Nathan, sitting on the couch between them, shoved them both hard. "Knock it off."

"Tell him that you can so have a fit from flipping the channels, Nathan." Buck kept his eye on the remote.

"You're not going to have a seizure," Nathan said. "There was a show in Japan that prompted seizures in children, but it's not going to happen here. On the other hand..." He turned and tore the remote out of JD's hands. "You are pissing me off."

Buck and JD both objected, but Nathan ignored them while he used the remote to slowly make his way back down to the channel where the game would be on.

Chris watched all this with amusement from his place on the loveseat beside Ezra. He'd wanted to sit on the couch to be closer to the television, but Buck had declared the lovebirds had to sit on the loveseat and Chris and Ezra had given in just to make the teasing stop.

Besides, it was no hardship to sit by his lover. They'd been together since Ezra's prank on April Fools Day. The rest of the team had been accepting of their relationship, pleased that they were happy. They also seemed excited about having something new to tease the two of them over, but Chris accepted that. If they hadn't been teasing, then he would have known there was a problem.

"When are Josiah and Vin going to get here?" Ezra asked, tilting his head so he could nuzzle at Chris's neck.

"Soon, I hope. Vin's supposed to bring the beer."

Nathan paused in his channel flipping, staying on one channel for a few moments.

"Man, Nathan, tell me you're not into this show!" Buck objected.

"Hey, some of the things they do are interesting. Rain's always talking about fixing up a house together, and these people do it on a budget. We'll be on a budget, too, so..."

Chris glanced at the television and didn't recognize the show. "What is it?"

"Trading Spaces," Ezra murmured, nibbling on the line of Chris's jaw. "Horrible show. I will be forever glad that no one I know lives close enough for me to be coerced into participating."

"Hey!" Nathan objected. "Sometimes they do good stuff."

"The thought of having someone else design my living space...especially the way some of these designers thank you."

Chris had perked up upon hearing the name 'Trading Spaces': he'd done some favors for one of the producers and kept in sporadic contact with her. He'd never really found out what the show was about. Ezra seemed to dislike it, though, so he started to lose interest. Besides, Ezra's mouth was far more fascinating.

"I'm with Ezra," Buck said. "A man's home is his castle. It's up to him to make his own."

"Which is why you've done your castle in late 'garbage heap' style?" Nathan asked.

"Hey!" JD objected. "It doesn't look like a garbage heap."

"We prefer to call it 'casual living'," Buck said airily.

A stray thought wandered through Chris's mind. He worked with men who fierce individualists, insisting on asserting their own personalities at work and at play. He knew that while Nathan might like looking for inspiration on the show, he wouldn't let someone else dictate what his home looked like.

Ezra's teeth found a particularly sensitive spot and he twisted his head, giving his lover better access.

JD elbowed Nathan. "Check out the time."

"Dang it." Nathan flipped channels quickly, just in time to catch the beginning of the game.

Ezra turned all his attention to the television, abandoning Chris's throat completely.

"Hey," Chris said.

"Game's on," Ezra said, not looking away from the screen.

Chris sighed and shifted so he could see the television as well. Ezra was focused on the game now; his chance for play was over. It was a little irritating to be dumped so easily for a sport. Sure, he liked basketball, but he also liked having Ezra's lips on his skin.

A plan started to come together in his mind. He still owed Ezra for the prank he pulled in April, owed all of his team for their participation in it. Eyes on the screen but thoughts far away, Chris began to smile.

Chris flipped on the lights and guided the designers and carpenters into the wing that housed the offices of Team Seven. It was after nine in the evening and the building was empty except for them. "Thanks for coming right over from the airport. I know you just got in, but I wanted to make sure you knew what you were getting into."

"I'm still not sure I understand," Gen said, looking around. "Are you serious?"

"Completely," Chris said. "My team is at a conference in DC and they're going to be gone for the rest of the week. That gives you three whole days to do this."

"But you don't want us to spruce this place up and make it better?" Frank asked.

"No, the opposite." Chris moved so he could see the five men and three women. "I know this is all really sudden."

"Yeah, it is," Doug said. "Our producer offers us extra money, gives us plane tickets and hustles us out here, and none of this is going to be taped or aired. I don't get it."

"She owes me a favor and your work is going to be how she repays me." Chris grinned and outlined the plan for them one more time. "Each of you is going to have an office to work with over the next three days. I want each of you to pretend the office you're working on belongs to every person who has ever complained about your work, every person who ever said you had no talent, every person who burst into tears and didn't appreciate the work you'd done." He was pretending to be Ezra, pretending he had his lover's persuasive abilities. There was something very wrong about using Ezra to get revenge on Ezra, but Chris was willing to do whatever worked. He'd talked to their producer and she'd given him some good suggestions on how to motivate them. "Take these office and use them to get a little of your own back."

Hilda began to smile. "I think you're serious."

"Completely. These are three days for you to get your revenge." And his, of course.

"And this won't come back to haunt us?" Ty asked. "I don't want men licensed to carry guns to come looking for me."

"I'll be the only one in trouble," Chris promised. He doubted his teammates would use their guns on him. Well, he hoped, at least. It depended on what these people came up with.

He watched as understanding dawned in the gazes of the people in front of them, and was then replaced with craftiness and eagerness to get to work. Perfect. He led each of them to an office: Vern to JD's, Doug to Buck's, Frank to Vin's, Ed to Nathan's, Gen to Josiah's, and Hilda to Ezra's. "You have complete freedom. They still have to be able to work in these rooms, but that's the only condition."

The designers entered the rooms, lips moving, fingers tracing designs in the air as they began to plan. He could tell that they'd completely devoted themselves to the project. He left them to it - he had paperwork to do, which was his reason for not going to the conference.

Before he left, he stopped by his own office and locked the door - just in case anyone got carried away. Nodding at the carpenters, he tossed the woman a key and made his way out.

On the third day, Chris returned to the office. He wanted to see the results before his teammates did. He'd waited until the designers and carpenters had finished their work, wanting to get the full effect of the finished product, just as his victims...coworkers...would. He entered the wing cautiously. "Hello?"

"Break room!" came the shouted reply.

Walking into the break room, he found them all sitting around the table, drinking coffee and chatting. "All finished?"

"Yep!" Ty said cheerfully. "Finished and ready to flee as soon as you look it over."

"Flee?" Amy asked.

"Men with guns, remember? Reassurances are all good, but I plan on being outta state in the next two hours."

"Then lead on," Chris said. "Show me."

The designers and carpenters rose and moved as a group to the offices.

"Me first," Frank said. He stood in front of the closed door that led to Vin's office. "I like to use lots of colors, lots of southwest or country imagery. I got the feeling that the man in this office would have liked something like that, so I had to change my style a little bit." He opened the door. "I give you...Country on Crack. Skewed Southwest."

Chris stared. "Killer Kitsch."

"That too," Frank agreed.

It was awful. A mural covered all four walls, in which gigantic pigs and chickens cavorted in flowered fields. Framed by long eyelashes, their enormous blue eyes followed one as one moved around the room. Vin's desk had been covered with hay, glued down to the wood, so it resembled bales that had been stacked together. The lamps had been given new shades: cows wearing dresses, complete with frothy bows around the hems. "This is disgusting."

"I know." Frank beamed.

Chris hadn't imagined it could get this bad. "Next?" He had to get out. The staring eyes of the pigs were beginning to rattle him.

Edward raised his hand. "How about me?" He put his hand on the doorknob to Nathan's office. "I could tell this man is all about order, having everything in its place. He's got a mind that looks for logic and compatibility. Have you noticed a lot of doctors are like that?" he asked his colleagues. After some of them nodded, he opened the door. "So I took away the order and the compatibility."

Did he ever. Nathan's desk had been moved to a funny angle, completely out of whack with the structure of the room. The desk had been painted brilliant yellow, while the walls were rotting pumpkin orange. The carpet had been removed and replaced with green speckled tile. Nathan's meticulously ordered bookshelves were gone; instead, boards - bright blue boards - had been nailed to the walls seemingly at random and the books were stacked lengthwise on them. It would be impossible to find anything in this room. Chris couldn't come up with a comment; his thoughts were utterly scattered by the chaotic sight in front of him.

Ed laughed at his silence. "See?"

Chris nodded mutely and turned his back on the office. "Man. Next?"

"How about me?" Gen asked. "OK. For this room, I wanted to get a little wild. I want you to think outlaw biker, I want you to think spank me master..." She flung the door open.

Chris wheezed. He wanted to laugh, but the shock was just a little too much for that. She'd turned Josiah's office into a mini leather club. The walls were black and the desk had been lacquered black until it shone. The paintings that had been on the walls had been replaces with mirrors. Even the lamps had been changed: they all had on black leather collars studded with silver spikes.

He turned to stare at Gen. "You..." He couldn't come up with words.

"That was about the reaction I was going for," she said.

He was going to have to give himself plenty of running time when the others got back from DC. "I'm almost scared to ask," he muttered. "Who's next?"

"Hey, you asked for it," Doug said. "Look at this." He opened the door to Buck's office.

"Shit." Chris cracked up. He couldn't help it. Buck, the ladies' man, now had a stereotypical ladies' office. Pale rose walls with a flowered border, black and white photographs of children in homey frames, and white lace doilies on every conceivable surface... "He's going to hate it. This is perfect."

Doug beamed. "Anti-macho," he said. "I guessed by the magazines and the mess in here that this was the way to go."

Vern laughed. "Mine next," he said. "I don't really think this needs an explanation."

Chris opened the door to JD's office and froze. "Jesus." Dark red paint covered the walls and there was a leopard print rug on the floor. Nude couples leered out at him from pictures in hideously ornate golden frames. He stepped further into the room and froze when porno saxophone music straight out of the seventies began to play from hidden speakers. JD was going to die, probably from blushing too much. It was a seduction scene gone horribly wrong.

Turning from the room, he looked at Hilda. "You're up." This was the office that really mattered. The others had played a part in the prank on him, but Ezra was the one who'd planned it and convinced them to help. This had to be good...bad...fitting.

"I really got creative on this one," she said. "People in offices never have any fun, because they're supposed to be working. I wanted this to be fun." She opened the door to Ezra's office. "Fun in a horribly painful way."

Chris couldn't even bring himself to walk into the room. Tattered stuffed animals had been stapled to the walls, covering them like plush wallpaper. Some were missing limbs, others were missing eyes. A name rose up from his memory. "Beaned Babies?"

"Beanie Babies," Hilda corrected. "I got them from a flea market, which is why they look a little worn."

Chris nodded, taking in the horror. His gaze dropped down to Ezra's desk. "Holy shit!"

"Lisa Frank. Cute and yet utterly sickening, isn't it?"

Sickening was right. Ezra's desk had been completely covered with stickers. Unicorns and pandas and birds and dolphins, rainbows and stars, all in soft pastel colors. He had to resist the urge to run from the sheer awfulness of it.

They were going to kill him. Ezra was going to kill him. It would be worth it, though. They'd managed to con him in April, had worked together to get him to believe something so ridiculous that he still felt his ears go hot whenever he thought about it.

This would teach them a valuable lesson: don't mess with the boss.

He turned around to face the men and women waiting for his reaction. "Please promise me that you will never use your evil to commit crimes."

Laughter greeted his remark.

"This is all much worse than anything I could have imagined. It's perfect. Thank you." He would call their producer and tell her that her debt had been completely repaid. In fact, he might owe her now.

"Thank you," Doug said. "It was...cathartic."

After a few minutes more of thanks the crew of Trading Spaces was gone, leaving Chris alone in the office. He carefully shut the door to the offices, not wanting to give his friends any advanced warning. He then walked over to his office and unlocked the door. Seeing the room completely unchanged, he sighed with relief.

Time to head home. Ezra would be getting in late tonight and since he would be looking to do Chris grievous bodily harm tomorrow, he wanted to spend as much time with him as possible today.

Laughing in anticipation, Chris left the office.

Chris made sure he was the first one in the next morning. He left Ezra in bed, just as he usually did. He broke routine by stopping by a coffee shop and picking up fresh coffee and hot donuts. Just as he'd expected, the scent drew his friends into the break room first thing when they entered the wing, rather than going to their offices. A few careful questions had them competing to tell stories about the conference. Ezra, the last to arrive, joined the conversation easily, imitating a few of the speakers to everyone's laughing enjoyment.

Finally, Chris rose to his feet. "Do you have to fill out evaluation forms?"

"They should be in our email," JD confirmed.

"Then it's about time to get to work, isn't it?" He ignored accusations of being a slave driver and crossed his arms over his chest. The others gave in, getting up from the table. Chris led the way out of the break room. Instead of going to his office, he headed for the door that was the entrance and exit for Team Seven's wing of offices. Key to that door held tightly in his hand, he counted down silently, waiting for a reaction. He didn't have to wait long.

For a while, pandemonium reigned and carried easily to his ears.

"What the hell?"



"My office. My books!"

"Your office? My office! Or my sex club..."

"Chickens? Pigs?"

"Stickers! Stickers and Beanie Babies!"

After a few minutes, silence fell.

Chris tensed, getting ready to move.

"Chris!" Ezra was the first to name him as culprit, but the other's soon joined in.

"Where the fuck is he?"

"I'm gonna kill him."

"No. I'm going to kill him, and then I'm taking his office."

Chris waited until he could see them, waited until they were in the hall and staring at him. "Payback's a bitch, isn't it?" he called. He caught Ezra's gaze and winked. As soon as he finished taunting them, he stepped backwards through the door and slammed it shut. He drove his key home in the dead bolt and twisted hard, locking it. In the same motion, he jerked his hand to the side and broke the key off in the lock.

The sound of bodies hitting the door carried through the wood, as did the furious curses that erupted as the other men discovered the door was locked.

He didn't wait to see how they reacted to finding out he'd broken the key in the lock. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge.

The old saying was right - revenge really was a dish best served cold.

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