DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to CBS/Trilogy/etc. No infringement intended,
no profit being made.
AUTHORS' NOTES: Lisa: The idea for this story came from a dream (after reading all
those ATF stories)... <bg>
Mog: This is Lisa's story, I just padded the heck out of it and added a
bunch of adjectives. You know me, long-winded to the end. Oh, and
Maggie -don't get scared, it's not a Mary Sue, (you know which side of *that*
line Istand on. ;-) )
Oh, and I don't know how to spell Jeanine Garafalo's name. And for you
young pups out there - Garanimals were these kids clothes with animals on the
tags and if you matched...say, a lion with a lion, you could be guaranteed
the outfit would match.
The dull fluorescent lighting of the large office area flickered on
like a 21st century ghost and poured its soft glow across what was the second
home to the four weary men.
Josiah drifted past the InkJet, powering it up first to allow the bulky
machine time to reach a 'print ready' stage. Across the quiet room, JD
flopped down in his chair and prepared his pc for the task at hand.
Nathan, having taken up a self-appointed position as guardian to the physical
well being of his teammates did what was so desperately needed after having
spent three hours in a surveillance van with half of the group that made up
'The Magnificent Seven'...he made coffee. Strong coffee.
Chris was already in his office and on the phone. Leaning back into
cool softness of the leather chair he glanced at his watch. 9:12. Buck, Vin
and Ezra should be in shortly.
With half an ear Larabee waited for the automatic response that would
allow him to page Salli, their resident MIS guru. Salli was one of many in
the Information Services Department for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms Denver office; but over the three and a half years that
Chris's team had been together the young woman had somehow fallen into the role
of 'Defender of the Seven's Sanity Against the Evil Spirits of Computers'.
In response to a prompt by the monotone voice, Chris punched a 777
code. He felt a twinge of guilt for having to use the 'urgent' notice so late at
night on a Friday evening but Salli was the only one Larabee trusted to
extract and decipher the information on the computer disks Ezra had
been able to retrieve.
Placing the handset back in its cradle the Senior Agent grabbed up a
black coffee cup with white lettering Buck had given him that stated...
'Upset? I'm not upset, I've just been in a very bad mood for 30 years'
and followed the scent of Nathan's caregiving instincts.
As Larabee returned from the break room, the remaining three members
his team made their entrance. Their varied conditions did not escape
Vin, who had started out the evening attired in black dress pants,
black mock turtleneck and black blazer as Vin Travers, bodyguard to Ezra
Simpson, was now most definitely back to being 'a Tanner'. He had pulled out
the elastic band that had held his long hair in a slick ponytail, stripped
off the dark suit jacket and untucked the thin, stretchy short-sleeved
Buck had managed to change in the car on the way back to the office
and, sporting jeans, a 'Coral Reefers - Lifetime Membership' sweatshirt and
bare feet looked more like a Parrothead than one of Denver's finest.
And then there was Ezra. Immaculately dressed in a dark gray suit
labeled by one of those Italian designers with some unpronounceable name. And
with a glint in his eye that made it obvious that nighttime was the
southerner's true element.
Chris took a sip of his coffee before Vin pulled the mug from his hands
to steal a drink for himself. "I beeped Salli," Larabee stated, "she
should be here soon."
The three newcomers offered a collective nod as Ezra slipped his hand
inside his coat pocket and pulled out the computer disks he retrieved earlier
that evening. He handed them to Chris, "It was one of my better maneuvers,
I must say."
Larabee knew Ezra was still riding his post-'zone' high and was,
obviously, quite impressed with whichever particular use of his God-given talents
that he had employed that evening.
Standish flashed his superior a sly smile before Chris continued.
"Well, I'll be looking forward to reading about it in your report."
Ezra's self-appreciating grin slid away and, with unintelligible
muttering he turned and headed towards his cubicle, removing his suit jacket as
he crossed. Reaching his desk, he hung the coat on a nearby hanger,
brushing off a bit of stray lint from the sleeve. His teammates suppressed
smiles as they heard him continue with the mumbled diatribe.
The soft drawl finally tapered off as Standish's thoughts turned inward
and onto coffee. Retrieving his mug from the corner of his desk where he'd
left it that morning Ezra decided he would break down and sample some of the
office brew. Making his way to the break room, he began to wonder which
government form he could use to finagle a cappuccino machine.
Salli pulled her bright blue Mustang smoothly into the parking spot,
noticing the vehicles of ATF Team Seven. She had unofficially been
assigned to this group to provide any computer technical support they required.
And in almost four years had been called on to help with everything from
simple file recovery to the 'accidental' shooting of Agent Larabee's pc by the
man himself. The urgent beep had not surprised her and, on that particular
night, it had actually been a Godsend.
The other female members of the computer tech and support staff
frequently talked about the exceptional physical attributes of the seven men that
Salli assisted. Once even going so far as to create a computer generated
'ATF - Most Wanted' flyer from their ID photos that found its way into the
ladies locker room of the building's workout facility.
Yes, Salli knew the men on her team were pretty handsome but she had
always kept her working relationship with them professional and because of
that reason she was respected and trusted in her job.
The young woman grabbed her small clutch purse and newspaper from the
passenger seat, stepped out of the Mustang and closed the car door
while glancing down at the short black evening dress and high heels she was
wearing. She wished she had had time to change her clothing before
reporting to work but knew whatever the request was - it was urgent,
and the federal government didn't wait on fashion.
She swiped her security card through the slot by the parking garage
elevator to let it know it was all right to allow her on, even though it was
after hours. Riding up to the lobby Salli couldn't help but note her
appearance in the wobbly reflection of the thick metal doors.
'Oh, this is good. "Hi, I'm Salli. Would you like a cocktail this
evening or are you just here for the floorshow". Maybe they won't notice. Yeah,
right. Well, maybe they'll at least have the decency not to laugh till after I
Hardly anyone in the Bureau had ever seen her not looking like Nanook
of the North. Working in the lower temperatures of the computer room drove
the young woman toward casual, a.k.a. warm, clothing. And now she was
about to pop in looking like she should be turning letters on 'Wheel of
Fortune'. 'God, please don't let them laugh.'
Arriving at the lobby Salli hurriedly crossed to the main set of
elevators and swiped her card again. One pair of doors in the row of six opened
with a slight swish that echoed through the dimly lit corridors.
Once she was on the other side of the doors they repeated their action
in reverse. Using a stubby metal key the young woman clicked the floor
buttons into a reactive mode and pressed the number for the floor she wanted.
Leaning back against the elevator wall Salli closed her eyes briefly
and ran her fingers through her long light brown hair, thinking back on the
disastrous blind date that her pager had rescued her from.
"Wow, you really do look like Jeanine Garafalo."
"Yeah, I get that a lot."
"I mean, Shanay said that you did, but you could be her sister."
"Yeah, that's what a lot of people say."
" 'Course, it would be hard to be as funny as her. You probably aren't.
But boy, you really do look like her. Your face might be a little rounder
but you could be her sister."
- Yeah and you could be a human being with an iota of tact or social
grace but I don't think either is going to be happening anytime soon.-
The elevator eased to a stop bringing Salli back to the present. She
opened her eyes, stepped quickly from the lift and headed towards the ATF 7
offices; glancing down at the Clarion News to catch the headlines while
she walked through the deserted hallway. Rounding the corner and going
into the offices all conversation in the room stopped when she entered and she
looked up to see what was going on.
The seven men were standing or sitting in the open office area,
drinking coffee and discussing the ups and downs of their most recent
JD and Buck were kicked back in their chairs, tossing a small spongy
basketball back and forth and chuckling about something. But with
Salli's first step into the office the low chatter stopped abruptly.
Dunne, who had, after three and a half years, perfected the ability
lean back on the rear two wheels of his office chair, lost his balance and
fell backwards as the chair slipped out from under him. Buck was oblivious
to his partner's impending loss of equilibrium. His focus was on something
entirely different as his gaze traveled down the young lady's body, his
opinion came out in a soft whisper, "O My..."
The rather loud crash of a young man and a chair hitting the floor
broke Wilmington's stare, he glanced over to see JD on the floor attempting
to scramble back up while acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
Buck resisted the urge to start laughing and looked back toward Salli.
The other five men were equally taken aback by the young woman's appearance
and were currently speechless.
Startled by JD's boisterous meeting with the floor Salli looked up from
the article she was reading and glanced around at the group before her.
She couldn't help but notice the youngest member of the team hurrying
to right himself and his chair; and, taking in their shocked expressions,
she smiled tentatively before finally speaking. "Hi! You all beeped me?
Chris was the first to recover, "Aaaaa... We needed some files pulled
off a couple of disks. Excel Spreadsheets. Probably encrypted...But if we
interrupted something, we can call someone else in to work."
With a crooked grin the young woman glanced down at the dress she was
wearing and then smiled back at the Team leader clothed in black.
"Don't worry, just a blind date. And to tell you the truth, I would rather be
here than with that bozo."
Buck started chuckling, "Real jerk, huh?"
Salli dropped her purse and newspaper on Vin's desk and echoed
Wilmington's amusement. "Oh Yeah! A real Louuuusssser." To emphasize her point she
made a backward "L" with her right hand and held it up to her forehead.
The group before her started laughing as she continued, "I'm serious
... after this...Disaster, that one would call a blind date, I believe I
will join a convent."
She bent down to scoop up the spongy orange ball that Buck and JD had
been playing with, but the little maneuver caused her dress to hike up
slightly, revealing a little more of her legs which did not go unnoticed by the
As if suddenly oblivious that she was speaking with individuals whom
she normally tried to maintain a professional appearance around, Salli
continued talking while taking a free throw into Nathan's wastebasket from an
imaginary three-point line. "You would think it would be easy for a gal
to find a nice guy now-a-days ... but NOOOOO... It's not like I'm asking
for Brad Pitt."
She retrieved the Nerf ball from the round file and handed it to Josiah
who was sitting on Jackson's desk. She stared at the agent as she
continued, "Maybe someone worldly, who's traveled, experienced other cultures,
She rolled her eyes, "God, that sounds corny - but do you know what
She didn't wait for an answer, crossing to JD's machine Salli couldn't
help but notice a half a doughnut on the young man's desk. "Are you going to
finish that? I had a PowerBar and some of Carol's grapes for lunch and
a half a glass of wine tonight. I'm starved."
JD held up the powdered pastry, his eyes still wide at the transformed
person he saw before him.
Salli grinned as she took the doughnut from the young man and directed
her monologue toward Dunne. "And that's another thing that would be nice to
find, a guy who's sweet. I mean, is there a paragraph in machismo law
that says there's something wrong with innocence? I tell ya, I could fall
head-over-heels for a puppy-dog expression."
Taking a bite of doughnut, the young woman walked over to Chris and
stuck out her hand, swallowing before speaking, "Diskettes?"
The Senior Agent handed them to her and found himself the next victim
of this startlingly attractive female's tirade. "Not there there's
anything wrong with machismo. I mean, I don't think there's a woman in this
world that doesn't secretly like the idea of being protected by her guy.
Someone you could walk through a dark alley with and know that all he'd have to
do is give a bad guy a serious stare and that would be the end of it."
Salli sighed lightly at Chris, "I know, I know, Clint Eastwood is the
only one who could pull that off, but hey, a girl can dream, can't she."
Larabee found himself staring at her mouth. "Uh...you...have a bit of
powdered sugar..." He made a move to wipe it off but felt suddenly out
of his element and instead indicated on his own mouth where she should
The computer techie crossed back to the handbag she had left on Vin's
desk and retrieved a compact from it. She dusted off the white powder and
pulled the cap off a lipstick, pausing to stare at Vin before she applied it.
"Oh, and don't even get me started on where the hell chivalry went. I mean,
I don't *expect* a guy to open doors for me or help me put my coat on,
but it sure is nice when he does it. I wish hats for guys were still in
fashion, just so they could tip them. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing."
She swiped a quick coat of Plum Raisin across her lips before recapping
the lipstick, dropping it and the compact into her bag and fixing her gaze
on Tanner once more. "Don't guys write poetry anymore? When did *that*
become so uncool?"
Vin had no idea. He was having a hard time not bursting into flames
the blush that threatened to consume him as Salli asked him about verse and
what was hip.
She strode back to JD's desk, grabbing an empty chair along the way
wheeling it to the computer that Dunne had pushed himself away from.
She popped one of the disks in, her nails delivering a rapid staccato of
clicks on the plastic keys as she went to work.
Half her mind was on the job but she just couldn't shake the deluge
qualities she would like to be able to find in a guy that bombarded her
as she worked.
"Ya know what was the worst about that Poindexter tonight?" She looked
to Buck who had been the first to comment on her blind date when she had
come in earlier. "I don't think I saw a real smile come out of him once. Let
alone a laugh. Spontaneity, someone who is light-hearted, who knows how
to laugh - why should that be so hard to find?"
Wilmington felt like he really should be able to answer that but all
that came out as he found a pair of brown eyes with little flecks of green
fixed on him was, "I...uh, it...shouldn't be?"
Salli pushed her hair away from her face and focused again on the
monitor, whipping through a handful of commands before switching disks and
beginning the lightening quick tapping again.
In the relative silence, each of the guys felt the urge to comment upon
the techie's observations but for some reason they found that they were
having difficulty forming what could be considered cohesive sentence
The young woman finished off the doughnut she had pilfered from Dunne
as another thought struck her. She was on an estrogen fed rampage fueled
by hunger and the sour memories of too many failed dates.
Finishing off with a couple of key strokes she rose and crossed to the
printer as it began to whirl to life and offer up a sheet of paper.
"Maybe you guys can answer this for me..." she snatched up the single page and
glanced at it briefly before leaning on Nathan's desk and continuing.
"How come when a guy is sick he turns into a pile of Jello that insists on
being treated with kid gloves. But if a woman is sick, he's oblivious to it?"
Nathan was closest to her and she looked to him as if he had a
definitive answer but didn't give him a chance to speak, "It would be great to be
able to find someone who was really caring. Someone who would bring you
chicken soup when you have a cold or was really concerned about you taking your
vitamins...you know what I mean? I'm just rambling, aren't I?"
Jackson felt more than ungentlemanly as he caught himself thinking that
the young woman before him really should wear her hair down more often. He
shook the thought away before he did something stupid like voice that
Salli bounced to her feet and made her way again to the keyboard. She
didn't bother to sit down, just leaned over the chair and fed the computer a
few more commands. She turned back to Larabee and handed him the first
sheet she had printed out, "There ya go, the rest is printing now."
"Yup," the young woman shrugged, "people aren't nearly as tricky as
they think they are...at least when it comes to computers, anyway."
She crossed to Vin's desk and scooped up her purse and newspaper. Her
eye landed on Ezra and the southerner froze like a deer in headlights,
waiting to be verbally bombarded by this obviously intelligent and recently
noticeably attractive woman. He didn't have to wait long.
"That's a really nice tie, Ezra." She stepped closer to inspect the
dark blue Givenchy creation. "Oh Lord, you should have seen the hideous
'80's-power tie-fiasco that fool tonight had on."
Salli turned back to the others, "A man who can dress. That should be
requirement for guys in order to graduate high school. Jeez, if nothing
else, the least they can do is shop at The Gap. It's Garanimals for
adults for Pete's sake! Match the tags, bang, you color coordinate."
She turned back to Standish, "I mean, look at this...sharp suit, nice
tie, cool shoes. Here's one straight, white male that can do it - I would
love to be able to go out with one who's figured it out."
Salli shook her head as she dug her security card out of her handbag,
"Maybe I'm expecting too much...want too many good qualities. Cuz Lord knows,
men like that only exist on tv or in literary fiction."
She sighed resignedly and turned as she bade them all a good night.
was halfway across the room when she stopped and pulled off her shoes. The
agents thought they heard her starting in on the absurdity of high
heels. "High hell is more like, obviously thought up by a man..." They missed
the rest as she disappeared around the corner.
The seven men watched as Salli walked away.
Finally Ezra looked at the other men, he cocked his head slightly,
blinking rapidly several times. "What just happened here?"
The six other men looked back at him with equally dazed expressions,