Happy Birthday, Detective

Summary: On the way home from Central City, Detective Finch thinks about the friends he's made. Now, if only he could figure out why they suddenly won't spend time with him…

Disclaimer: I don't own the Peacemakers tv show or anything related to it.

It isn't often that someone like Pinkerton Detective Larimer Finch makes friends.

When he stepped foot in Silver City, Colorado, however, that's exactly what had happened. He liked to think that he was a better man for it.

However, it certainly hadn't felt like he had friends as of recent. Well… all except one.

"You gonna tell me what you're thinkin' so hard on over there?"

The Irishman turned grey eyes to curious blue as Marshal Jared Stone slowed down to keep pace with him. "Er, not important for discussion."

"Confidential, huh?" they shared a grin at the old inside joke of theirs that had originated from their very first meeting. "Am I gonna need to go looking for a crime scene of yours?"

"No, no," Finch waved his concern away. "Just thinking."


"Well… I… You'll laugh."

"Finch," Stone sighed. "When have I ever laughed at you for speaking your mind?"

"Not that I recall…"

"Exactly. So start talkin'. We got all day before we reach town this time tomorrow."

Finch studied him. "You give your solid word to not laugh at me?"

"Laugh, yes. Shoot, no."

Finch chuckled at the mock threat. "Very well," he sighed, shifting in his saddle. "It's just… I was in Central City -"

"I remember, I was there."

"Do you want to hear this or not?"

"Alright, I'm sorry. Please continue."

"I was in Central City and it occurred to me that I have actual people that I trust."

"Friends?" Stone snuck a look at him.

"Well, yes. I mean, Katie, Amy, Isaac, Chipper, Luci, Tammy Chang, the Mayor… you," he added quietly. "And I thought to myself: 'I am lucky to have friends that I can count on to help me when I need it.'"

"Just need to say the word," Stone agreed. "Say one word and we'll come runnin'."

"Yes, and I know that," Finch nodded eagerly. "But, in Central City, I found that the people that I trust haven't been acting like friends."

Stone immediately turned to him. "What do you mean? Someone givin' you a hard time?"

"No, nothing like that," Finch hastened to assure. "I… I'm used to running into one of you several times a day on a daily basis. And, well, recently, I… haven't. And it concerns me that I've done something wrong."

"What, you mean like everyone's avoiding you? What for?" Stone tilted his head, trying to understand.

"I don't know," he growled. "Except you, of course. Stone, do you recall me ever doing something that would offend any one of our friends?"

Stone thought for a minute, frowning. "No… A' course, I haven't been around much lately, either…"

"No, you're right," Finch nodded. "This really all started during your absence, so I can't expect you to really think of anything…" He bit his lip. "But they are still my friends aren't they?"

"Finch, yes. They won't change even if you do somethin' you'll end up regret doing for the rest of your life. Five dollars say that they'll walk through fire for you, every last one of them."

"Including yourself?" Finch questioned, still uncertain.

"Well, if I didn't, would I be here now?"

Finch smiled slightly. "Of course. How silly of me for doubting you."

"That's right," Stone quirked a grin. "Feel guilty for doubting our friendship. Serves you right."

They continued on in silence for a few minutes, enjoying the late summer weather as it turned to fall. "Hard to believe that a week from now, a whole year would have passed since my arrival."

Stone looked at him. "You regret any of it?"

"I wouldn't change any of it for any amount of gold or silver in the world."

It was true. He was happy to have settled down for once in his life and actually be happy about it. He had solved many a case with the same people who he had later accepted as friends and Stone, in particular, was the best friend he'd ever had.

However, as his thoughts drifted back to the original problem, he couldn't help but be worried that he'd somehow done something to muck up the best time of his life.

It had all started soon after the Marshal's business started to get busy almost two weeks ago.

He had found a clue that pertained to one of his cases and was looking around town for Isaac to confirm his theory, when he came to realize that all of the usual places to find Isaac were empty. When Isaac was eventually found some hours later, he didn't look Finch in the eye like he always did and kept his attention elsewhere.

Amy would skitter out of a room that he would enter; Katie would immediately think of an excuse to leave a brainstorming session; Mayor Smith would pretend to be hurrying to a meeting when they met on the street; Luci was normally busy, but now she'd barely take the time to apprise him of the newest gossip; and Tammy - though not oft seen in town - would almost literally dive away from his sight into a doorway or alley.

There was no logical reason for it.

Had Stone not come back acting like he always had around him, he would have thought he'd been looking too much into things.

"Well, alright, then," Stone suddenly threw his hands up. "If you don't want to talk to me, that's fine. I'll just ride ahead and talk to myself then."

"No, no, I was just thinking again." Finch rubbed a hand over his eyes.

"Anything related to what you were thinking about a few minutes ago?"

"In a way…"

They stopped for the night before light finally faded. The weather was getting colder so they had made sure to pack warm clothes for the trips to and from Central City where Finch had met up with a colleague that he hadn't seen in a long time. Stone had gamely agreed to go with him and had spent much of his time seeing to business in the city that wasn't immediately important, but it had been something for him to do anyway.

As Finch huddled in his blankets, he stared into the fire still uncertain what he had done to his friends to garner such avoidance.

"Finch, there's a logical reason for everyone not being around you as much as usual and I am completely confident that you'll find it."

"Other than the fact that I apparently did something to make them hate me?"

"No one hates you," Stone huffed. "I said logical, not unreasonable."

"It is a logical reason!" Finch scowled at him across the fire.

"Finch, remember that other Detective that tried to have you transferred back to Chicago?"

He flinched as he remembered Hugo Barlow coming into town, demanding Finch back to the city while he took over in his absence. He would have succeeded had Stone not realized something was not right with a case and had picked up the evidence and stored them someplace that they couldn't be destroyed. Katie and Amy hadn't realized anything was amiss until Finch had come back to Silver City, claiming that Stone had called him back for a case from his past. Finch had had to go back over the case after Barlow had suddenly gone missing and it had been feared that the perpetrator of his case had caught him. Luci had given him the evidence that Stone had secreted away right as Finch had come to the conclusion that Barlow had wanted him to and it was then that everyone had realized that Stone had been right all along about Barlow.

When they had found Stone, who everyone had believed to be out of town on business, they had felt so horrible about not believing him that they were all convinced he would leave the town that he wasn't trusted in. Stone later told Finch that he himself was starting to wonder if he had been paranoid when his theory hadn't been proven. Stone hadn't trusted Barlow when he had proven to be the better detective only by manipulating a crime scene and Finch had been so overwhelmed by the show of support that he'd quite literally hugged the man.

"Yes, I remember."

"Everyone was ready to fight to get you to stay. So, don't you tell me that they hate you."

"There's a difference, my friend, between like, hate and trust." Finch shook his head. "They've come to trust me, not necessarily like me."

Stone sighed heavily. "I've known Isaac for years. You remember a few weeks after you got here?"

"Yes…" Finch thought back to that time.

Isaac Cross had come to him about someone having stolen a horse and Finch had immediately dropped everything to come take a look at the scene. The stable owner had let him snoop around to his heart's content and had immediately grabbed him into a bone crushing hug when they found the horse thief in the act of stealing another horse.

"Isaac doesn't hug a lot of people," Stone advised. "Even in times of celebration."

Finch nodded thoughtfully as he ran through the others in their tight knit group.

There was that one time that Amy Owen had come to him, saying how a lot of visiting girls her age were teasing her about not having a beau at her age. She had said that she wasn't interested in having a relationship just yet and Finch praised her for that. When the teasing started to become hassling, Amy's self-esteem was draining to a worrying point. Luckily, Finch had caught a case days earlier and Amy had given the crucial clue that broke the mystery. One of the girls had been the one behind the crime and Amy had taken great pleasure in rubbing in her face that Amy had been observant enough to be the one to catch her. Finch had later confessed that Amy had practically solved the entire case herself and everyone had been very proud of her. Katie had slung an arm around her and said that Amy couldn't have done what she did had she been seeing someone.

Amy had beamed at him and squeezed him tight after saying that she had potential to be a Pinkerton Detective just like him.

Then, Katie had appeared in his lab. Someone had been sneaking into her parlor and she couldn't figure out who. Finch deduced that news of the three bodies they had found earlier that week had gotten around and they both confronted the intruder only to find that the poor boy was only trying to find out who his message had been given to when he had found it had not reached the original destination.

Oh, it hadn't been much, but she had baked him his favorite pie as a thank you. Finch had really been surprised that anyone had known his favorite pie was blackberry.

Luci had come to him with the concern that someone was breaking into her office…

Tammy had wanted his help with locating someone who had disappeared…

Chipper had misplaced something…

Mayor Smith wanted him in Durango to solve an old schoolmate's problem…

Stone? He was there when there was even the slimmest chance of Finch needing him.

When all of those facts came together, Finch was immediately ashamed of himself. Of course everyone liked him! They wouldn't come to many others with their problems. Sometimes, they just hung around while waiting for something else to happen. They never seemed to mind his company when he wanted to be around them.

Stone had been watching him and smiled victoriously when the realization dawned. "See? Everyone likes you. I think you've been rolling the idea around for awhile, huh? Now, are you gonna believe me when I say there's a logical reason for avoiding you?"

"Well, since we've already ruled out hating me, I don't see any other reason for their avoidance," Finch told him. It really was driving him crazy.

"Maybe they're avoiding you because you're a good detective and they want to hide something from you?"

"What could they possibly want to hide from me?" Finch frowned. He was thinking so hard on it that he didn't notice Stone rolling his eyes.

"Well, if you think you figured it out, holler," Stone left him to it as he turned to his bedroll and turned in for the night.

"I will," Finch lay down himself and thought about it some more until he fell asleep.

They were an hour outside the town limits when Finch returned to their previous conversation.

"Stone? If I may ask, you have noticed their avoidance?"

"Finch," he growled. "You're the detective! You figure it out."

"Why are you acting like you really want shoot me?" Finch frowned at the exasperated look on his face.

"Because I'm really thinkin' on it!" Stone huffed as he saw the confused look on his friend's face. "You mean to tell me that you really don't know?"

"Don't know what?" he pounced. "So you do know what's going on!"

"Yeah, and I'm surprised you don't. Hell, I thought you'd a caught on a long time ago."

"Stop talking in riddles and give me some answers," Finch demanded.

"I'm giving you until we reach my office. Then, I'll give you whatever answer you want," Stone gave in.

"Why wait?"

"Because you obviously don't know what day it is."

"What does the date have anything to do with this?" Finch shook his head.

"Now, I know you didn't have many friends before us," he muttered, spurring his horse to go a little faster.

"What? Get back here, Marshal, and stop acting childish!"

Finch clambered off his saddle to follow Stone as the older man headed for his office. "Stone! Look, I honestly don't understand what's going on."

Sighing, Stone stopped before he reached the stairs to his office and turned to him. "Go over the clues."

"What clues?"

"Think about it," Stone shook his head. "If I have to spell it out to you, of all people… Look, there's a reason that people are avoiding you and it's because of today."

"What about today? Why is today so special that no one treats it like any other day?"

"Just get in my office," Stone gripped his arm and towed him up the stairs. "You'll see. Honestly, you are the one who everyone thought would figure it out because you are a smart detective and you pull clues out of damn thin air. I really thought you would catch on. Heh, some detective…"

Just as he was about to ask what that meant, Stone opened the door and pushed him into the darkened office.

As the door closed, lights suddenly went on and the windows came uncovered.

"Surprise! Happy Birthday, Detective Finch!"

He stared as Katie, Amy, Isaac, Chipper, Luci, Tammy and Mayor Smith burst into cheers and laughter at his expression.

"We got you good, didn't we?" Amy laughed, giving him a hug.

"We thought for sure you figured it out," Chipper ran a hand through his hair.

"Yeah, Finch," Katie hugged him as well. "You're such a good detective that we were almost certain the game was up."

Luci shook her head. "We didn't want to give anything away so we had to keep away from you."

"Didn't like it," Isaac shrugged, "but it was your birthday on the line."

Tammy smiled eagerly. "We didn't want you to figure it out so soon."

Mayor Smith clapped him on the back. "Keeping away from you seemed the best way to keep the secret."

"Well, you all may want to think of some other way to keep a secret the next time," Stone drawled, setting his hat down on his desk. "Someone would get the wrong impression, the way you kept avoiding Finch like you did."

"What kind of impression?" Katie frowned.

Finch, still slightly dazed, just started laughing.

"Well, I dunno," Stone lifted a shoulder. "What impression would you get if everyone kept avoiding you?"

'Birthday,' Finch let out a chuckle. 'Of course. Now, it makes sense.'

Stone nudged him on the arm. "Good thing I didn't go through with it and shoot you, huh? Lousy time to get shot, on your birthday."

"Yes, yes, it is," Finch patted him on the shoulder. "I thank you for the restraint of steel."

Stone just wrapped an arm around his neck. "I'm glad, too."

"Marshal Stone was the one who found out your birthday," Chipper told him. "Then we decided to give you a surprise party. When the Marshal went out of town, we got kind of nervous because you were bound to notice something when you weren't around him."

Luci grinned. "Jared's a good distraction, though. We pretty much set the party up right under your nose."

"And you didn't suspect a thing?" Amy confirmed.

"No," Finch huffed a laugh. "Not a single thing."

All this time, Finch was trying to think of some other reason for their avoidance. It had never occurred to him to look at the date, because he'd never really celebrated it before. Now, he was sure his birthdays would be celebrated for years to come. And he was really looking forward to it.

Stone smiled as he pressed his best friend against his side. "You okay, Finch?"

"You know, I think you may be onto something," he said sheepishly. "Some detective I am…"

"Happy Birthday, Detective," Stone chuckled, releasing him to the others. "Happy Birthday."

AN: Yea, I found out that Peter O'Meara's birthday is on October 27, so I thought I'd write a little something for the occasion.