One Destiny

As the Phone Rings (1/2)

As the Phone Rings
By Susan Anthony

Summary: ATF Team Seven's new assignment stirs up some trouble with their youngest member.  And his friend, Xander Harris.

Disclaimer: these characters do not belong to me.  They belong to the creators of the Old West Magnificent 7 (the ATF AU was first written of by fanfic writer, Mog) and BtVS

Rated: PG


This website gives a short summary on the general history of each character in the Magnificent Seven.  It explains their old west cannon and their fandom created ATF characters.  The history of the characters in my story don't exactly match what is written on this site but it gives a good idea of their modern histories.

Some of JD’s experiences in this story were inspired by “Dunne Deal” by Helen W.   

Author Notes:  This was inspired from a challenge from Calia in April 2009.  I didn't match it exactly because I don't watch some of the shows but this idea wouldn't go away.  The description of the challenge follows the story.

Thanks to Maig for her multiple beta readings.

As the Phone Rings
By Susan Anthony

"Okay, ladies, we have a live one," Chris Larabee, current Agent in Charge of ATF Team Seven, announced flatly as he stalked into the large room that housed his unruly team.  He was holding several folders stuffed with pictures and paperwork.  "Everyone into the conference room in five minutes."

The tall blond disappeared into his office while his agents – supposedly some of the finest in the western division of the ATF – glanced curiously after him. 

“About time,” Buck Wilmington stated cheerfully as he sent off the email he had been working on.  “It was getting right boring around here.” It was the general opinion around the office that the explosives expert just wasn’t happy if things weren’t periodically going BOOM. 

“I, for one, would have appreciated a few more peaceful days before being called upon to infiltrate another ring of idiotic, gunrunning miscreants,” the team’s undercover agent sighed as he absently locked his computer and took a sip from his tall cup of cooling white chocolate latte.

“I’ll just be glad to have something to do other than update everyone’s computer for the third time in two weeks,” JD Dunn, the youngest agent on the team, noted from behind the two computers and the laptop which covered his desk.  “Besides, I think Nathan is getting antsy with no one getting hurt.”

The dark-skinned agent across the room snorted.  “I just know the longer the team goes without someone getting injured, the worse it will be when it finally happens.”

“We can only pray that isn’t the case, Nathan,” the tallest man in the room noted as he stood and stretched.  “Remember, we have gone months without someone on the team getting hurt.”

“Uh huh and then what happened?” the medic asked unhappily.  “Ezra was tossed out a window by Baston’s psychotic girlfriend,” he noted, referring to the bust before last when the undercover agent had been injured by the head gunrunner’s fiancé.

“I must protest, Mr. Jackson,” Agent Standish retorted discontentedly.  “The incensed banshee pushed me violently and I slid over a newly polished table and fell out the open window behind it.  I was not “tossed out a window”, as you so crassly described.”

“Whatever, Ezra,” Nathan said.  “The end result was the same.  Dislocated shoulder, broken wrist, cracked ribs, broken leg.  Need I go on?”

“Awww, that’s just because it was Ezra’s official first bust with us,” JD responded.  “It was kinda like his initiation with Team Seven.”  The other men in the room looked at JD with something between astonishment and horror.  “What?  Hasn’t everyone been hurt on their first bust?”

“JD,” Buck sighed as he shook his head at the younger agent.  “Just because you were shot during your interview....”

“That wasn’t my fault,” the dark-haired young man interrupted heatedly.  “Besides, it was *after* the interview.”  

The conversation would have gone downhill after that but their boss suddenly reappeared from his office holding more folders and a steaming mug of black coffee from his own, carefully guarded coffee maker.  He stalked towards the conference room but stopped beside the door.  His hard gaze swept over his agents.

“What are you waiting for?” he snapped, “An engraved invitation?”

The five agents were suddenly picking up pens, paper and coffees and hustling towards the conference room.  Chris just rolled his eyes. 

“Where’s Vin?” he asked Buck as the large agent passed him.

“Break room,” was the reply.  “He heard they’d replenished the snack machine.”

“If you don’t get there quick, you miss out on the HOHO’s,” their last agent explained as he sauntered through the door holding four packs of his preferred snack.  “We got us a case?” Vin asked his waiting boss as he strolled over to his desk and opened a drawer.  He dropped his snacks in and then closed and locked the drawer.

“Yes, Mr. Tanner, and we’d be grateful if you’d get your skinny ass into the conference room and join us,” Larabee said, sarcasm dripping from his words.

Vin just grinned as he moved to join his team in the conference room.  “Sure, Cowboy.”

Larabee’s glare intensified and Vin, though he would never admit it, moved just a bit faster past his boss.  Chris followed his sharpshooter into the conference room and slammed the door behind him.  He set his coffee on the table and then dropped a thick folder in front of each member of his team.  Then he took his preferred seat at the head of the table.

“The Atlanta FBI forwarded this case to the ATF and Director Travis has passed it to us because it is possibly the biggest case we’ve ever had,” Chris began, his voice low and serious, as the agents around the table opened their folders and began going through the information.  “The biggest part of the operation appears to be gun running which is why it’s fallen to us, but there are also possible issues with drug running and slavery.”

JD didn’t get past the first picture as he stared at it in horror.  When he finally leafed through the other photos, he began shaking his head.

"No," JD said faintly as he turned back to stare at the picture sitting on top of the paperwork.

"The first picture is of Alexander LaVelle Harris.  The FBI has pinpointed him as the mastermind behind a group which has operations in the US as well as all over the world."

"No!"  JD said as he shook his head and looked up to meet his boss's startled gaze. "This is wrong, Chris.  This guy...hell none of these people are involved in arms dealing much less drug dealing and..." JD snorted as he considered.  “...slavery.  There’s just no way.”

"You know these people?" Buck warily asked as he looked at his distressed roommate.

"Buck, you've *met* Xander and Dawn," the youngest team member stated flatly.  "They helped me move into your apartment."  JD turned back to his boss.  Chris was glaring at him with a narrow green gaze.  "Believe me when I say I *know* Xander is not an arms dealer.  There's just no possible way."

"This came directly from the FBI in Atlanta, JD."  Larabee glanced across the table at their undercover agent's snort but Ezra said nothing.

"Yeah, and they are so reliable," JD said sarcastically and then verbally backpedaled at Larabee's increased glare.  "Look, I don't know why the FBI would try to pin this on Xander but pursuing this case would be completely wrong, not to mention incredibly dangerous.”

“JD, I understand that you think you know Harris but the evidence is hard enough for Travis to set aside this team for at least the next six months solely on this case,” Chris responded solemnly. 

The other agents were surprised at Chris’ words.  They were seldom devoted solely to one case.  JD just groaned as he ran his fingers through his dark hair. 

“Chris,” the young agent sighed.  “I *know* that these people are not involved in anything illegal.”  The blond at the head of the table looked completely skeptical.  “Look, just let me call him and see what's going on."

“Absolutely not!” Larabee snarled.  “You are not to make contact with Harris or any of these people!  As it is, we may have to reassign the case because of this conflict and Travis is not going to be happy.”

“No!” JD was even unhappier about that possibility.  “If you assign this case to another team and they walk into it like they’re going after gunrunners, they could all end up dead!  Or worse!”

“What’s worse than dead?” Buck asked his roommate curiously.  JD just gave him a harassed glance.

“But you say these folks ain’t guilty, JD?” Vin asked as he observed the younger agent.

“I said they weren’t doing anything illegal, Vin,” JD insisted as he looked from Chris to Vin and then back to his boss.  “I didn’t say what they do isn’t dangerous.  It is.  Wicked dangerous.  It’s not something we need to worry about or get involved in.”

“What exactly do they do?” Chris asked flatly.

JD opened his mouth and then closed it and looked pained.  “I can’t say,” he finally stammered out and his boss looked like he was about to explode.  “Chris, really.  It’s classified – top secret stuff - and frankly I’m surprised the government is interfering with them at all.  From what I understand, the last time that happened it wasn’t pretty.”

“The last time?” Nathan demanded.  

JD just shrugged. “It was several years ago before Sunnydale sank into that sinkhole.”

“What’s Sunnydale got to do with this?” Chris asked his agent tensely.  The man was obviously losing his patience and JD just wriggled in his seat and bit his lip.

“Xander and Buffy and Willow are all from Sunnydale and I can’t really say anything more than that.”

“Chris, please,” the computer expert looked his boss straight in the eye as he leaned forward.  “I’ve been on your team for three years.  I’ve done everything you’ve ever asked.  Have I ever given you any reason not to trust my judgment?”

The blond leader of team seven blinked at his youngest agent and then sat back thoughtfully.

“No, you haven’t.”

JD took a deep breath and nodded. 

“Just let me call him and see what is happening,” the young man asked.  “I’ll call him from here and you all can listen in.  I can’t explain what Xander and his friends do but I promise it’s not illegal and it’s definitely *not* something we should be interfering in.”

Chris stared at his youngest agent for a long time before he gave a sharp nod. 

“All right.  But don’t say anything about this case, JD,” the man said flatly.  “I know you think he’s innocent but that doesn’t mean I’m not breaking a dozen rules in allowing this.”

“Thanks, Chris,” JD said and with a deep breath, he reached out to the speakerphone in the center of the conference table.  He pulled it close enough to dial and unerringly typed in the phone number he was calling.

“How often are you in contact with this guy?” Nathan asked from across the table. 

"I talk to him or Dawn or Willow at least once every couple of weeks," was the absent answer as JD's fingers danced over the numbers.  “They are old friends of my Mama’s family.  I grew up knowing Xander.  I’ve even talked about them to you guys.  Dawn and Willow visited several months ago.”

The other agents blinked thoughtfully and a few seconds later, they could all hear ringing which was answered by a smooth female voice.

"Thank you for calling the IWSC,” the pleasant tone said.  “I’m not explaining what IWSC stands for because if you don't know, why the *hell* are you calling this number?"

Across the table, Chris had just taken a sip of his coffee which he then snorted through his nose.  He reached quickly reached into his pocket for a handkerchief as he glared across the table.

"Dawn's been playing with the phone system again," JD shrugged sheepishly as the smooth voice continued.

"If you do know what that stands for, please enter your pass code.  If you don't know what that stands for, please press 0 to hear a duck quack."

"What the hell?" Buck asked in confusion as JD grinned again and entered a five-digit number.  "A duck quack?"

“Yeah, that was Xander’s idea.  He thought it was funny.  You’d be surprised how many people call this number and hit 0 without listening to the message.”

"Thank you for calling the new International Watchers and Slayers Council, now mostly wanker free."

At those words, the team’s expert profiler and the agent who had clocked the most years – actually decades - of experience in government service sucked in a deep breath and looked surprised. 

And then worried.

“Josiah?” Chris asked but the man just shook his head and looked at JD with an appraising gaze.  The young agent just returned his look with a steady gaze.  The voice on the phone continued.

"If you've gotten this far, you obviously know what you're doing.  Please enter the extension of the person you'd like to reach.  If this is Buffy, Giles says you're in trouble if you don't call him immediately.  He got your credit card bill and would like to have a chat.  Really, who needs that many shoes?"

There was silence around the table as they all stared at the phone.  JD just snickered and entered a ten-digit number.  "I just love calling Xander.  It's always so entertaining."

"This is their public phone line?" Ezra Standish asked, speaking for the first time since they entered the room.  His tone conveyed his incredulity.

"Nope, this is the friends and family line," JD answered as he sat back and listened to more ringing.

"The friends and family line is an 800 number?"

JD wasn't surprised that Ezra had noticed it was an 800 number that he had dialed.  All the agents on this team were keenly observant or they wouldn't be on Chris Larabee's team.

"They all move around so much, this is the best way to contact them," JD explained with a shrug. 

The line finally picked up and a serious tenor voice answered causing the agents around the table to stiffen.

"This is Alexander Harris...."  There was a pause and then in a rather whining tone, the voice continued, "Willow, who wrote this?  Why do I have to redo my phone message, it was fine."

In the background, a feminine voice answered, "Buffy wrote it.  She wanted us to sound more professional."

"Professional my ass," the recording muttered and then started again.  "This is Alexander Harris.  Please leave a damn message at the tone and I'll get back to you when I feel like it."

"Xander!" yelped the female in the background and then tone beeped.  JD snickered and entered another three numbers and the phone started ringing again.

"Hell, JD, why do you have to go through so many hoops to get to the feller?" Vin asked as he shook his head.  “Seems a bit much just to talk to the guy.”

"I could have gone straight through to Xander but I love his message," JD said as he grinned.  "He changed it last month and Buffy has been harassing him about it."

A moment later and the phone picked up.  "Harris here," a serious tenor voice answered.

"Hey Xander!" JD said and there was a happy laugh on the other end of the line.

"JD!  How are you doing?" Xander replied, his tone obviously lightening.  "I haven't talked to you in a couple of weeks.  Since we were shipped out to Africa, I think."  There was a worried pause and then Xander continued.  "You haven't been shot or anything, have you?"

"No, Xander, I haven't been shot."

"That's always good to hear," was the relieved reply.  "We were a bit worried when we saw in the Denver paper about that bust your team did a couple of weeks back.  Willow said it was quite a haul your people pulled in."

"Yeah, it was," JD said as glanced warily at Chris who had narrowed his eyes at Xander's observation.  "What are you doing in Africa?"

"Oh, the usual.  Some petty little Warlord got it into his head to get one over on the other petty little Warlords in the area," Xander replied with a heavy sigh while the rest of JD's team stiffened at what they thought was coming.  Was Harris down there to sell weapons?

"So what happened?" JD asked in a worried tone.

"The petty little Warlord got his petty little Shaman to summon something that he had no business trying to summon and that was in no way little.  Said something promptly ate the Warlord, the shaman and several of the Warlord's Elite Circle of Terror.  Then it wandered off to take a nap while the local community put out a call for help before it woke up."

JD tried to keep his expression neutral at the looks on his friends' faces.  Gobsmacked would be a good description.  Josiah was the only one who didn't look gobsmacked; he looked horrified.

"So did you track it down?" the computer expert asked.

"Yeah, I brought down a team and we finally tracked it down last night," Xander told him, his voice getting soft.  "We almost lost a few girls, JD.  It was awful.  If that Warlord and his stupid shaman weren't already dead and eaten...well, we'd be having some rather violent conversations."

"Xander!" a female voice said in the background.  It sounded quite familiar as it was the same one that had recorded the IWSC message.  "Is that JD?  I need to talk to him!" 

There was a huff over the phone line.  Xander’s voice changed from soft and worried straight to exasperated. 

"Yes, its JD and no you can't talk to him.  He called *my* phone.  If he wanted to talk with you, he would have called *your* phone."

"But Xaaaander, I need to talk with him," the voice said, the whine coming through the phone line loud and clear. 

JD grinned and picked up one of the pictures from his folder of two pretty women, a brunette and a red-head.  He pointed to the brunette.  Buck eyed the picture and then started pawing through his own file for his copy.

"Tough, I'm talking to him.  And don't think the puppy eyes are going to make one bit of difference and neither will the pout."  There was silence for a moment before Xander whimpered.  "Dawwwwn."

"Please Xander," she sniffed, "It'll just take a minute. 

The older man sighed heavily.  "JD, Dawn wants to talk with you."

"But Xander," the young man looked panicked for a moment before the bright voice of Dawn spoke directly into the phone.

"Hi JD!" she chirped happily.

"Hi Dawn."

"How are you doing?" the perky voice asked and you could practically hear her bouncing over the phone line.  Her voice became serious as she continued.  "You haven't been shot have you?"

"No, I haven't been shot," JD said in an annoyed tone.

"Very Good.  You can be taught,” Dawn noted and various Team Seven members had to contain their snickers while JD contented himself with a glare.  “Anyway, I have something I want you to look over if you have time. Not a rush or anything.  Maybe tonight.  This afternoon?"

“I’m kinda working on something right now, Dawn,” JD began as the other agents looked on thoughtfully.  “You know, being at work and all?”

“Oh, well then.  Whenever you have time.  Maybe tomorrow?” the girl asked hopefully and JD sighed as he rubbed his forehead.

“What did you need?”

"I created a secure network on the Council’s server that I can access from anywhere because I really need to access my work wherever I go - you never know when you might run into something and have to update right away, right?  So yes, I need my stuff online.  But those wankers up at Norad keep trying to break my code and read my files because they just can't wait until I publish my thesis at Oxford."

Eyebrows rose around the table as the girl continued to rant.  Norad?  Oxford?

"Do they listen when I tell them they have to wait?  Noooo, they say they need it right now.  The security of the planet is on the line and my information might help them understand that Stargate they dug up better, blah, blah, blah.  And I said, 'well if you need it so bad, why didn't you go research it yourself before now?' and Captain Carter said that since I already had the information that I should share."  Dawn gave a haughty sniff.  "Yeah, like that's going to happen.  If it were so important, the world would have already blown up by now.  So she can just wait until I publish."

There was a deep, deep silence on the phone line.


"Dawn, what exactly did you need me to do?"

"I need you to try and break into my network, duh," the girl said as if it was the most obvious thing.  "You're the best, JD.  If *you* can't then no one can.  Especially not those nimrods at Norad.  I don't think you can break in but Willow thinks you can even if she can't."  Another huff and a sniff.  "It's just sour grapes on her part, I think.  Just cause *she* can't break into it she's all huffy and meany-faced."

"If you emailed me the link I'll try my best, Dawn, but it might not be until tomorrow."

"Great!" Dawn was obviously happy with that answer.  "Call me when you finish.  I want to know right away."  She hummed thoughtfully for a moment.  "We'll hopefully be in a plane tomorrow morning but that'll be tonight for you anyway, right?  Or is it the other way 'round?"  Dawn paused for a moment.  "I hate this time zone crap."

"Are you done, Dawn?" Xander's impatient voice came over the line.

"No, I'm still talking!" the girl snapped back and then yelped.  "Xander!"  What sounded like a struggle came clearly over the phone along with mutters and cursing.

"Give me the phone!"

"No, I want to ask JD something else."  There were several more moments of struggle and several more curse words as Dawn and Xander wrestled for the phone.

"Xander, let go!"  There was a loud thump.

"OW!  Dawwwwwwwwnnnnn.  Give it back!  It's my phone!"

JD rolled his eyes and the other agents stared at the speakerphone in disbelief.  The FBI thought *this* was a notorious gun runner?

And then Dawn's voice was back.

"Sorry about that, JD, Xander's being a big poopy head.  I just wanted to know how that very fleeting and obviously temporary thing you had with that Keely girl is going," the young voice on the line asked in a completely innocent tone.  "Are you still seeing her?"

JD blinked and blushed as Buck covered his sudden grin as the other men around the table smirked.

"You mean Casey?" he asked Dawn, who sighed heavily.

"Whatever her name is," was her clipped reply.  "Are you still seeing her?"

"Errrrrr," JD replied after a moment's expectant silence on Dawn's part.

"I was just asking because we may be around the Denver area soonish and I thought we could go get burgers or something.  Maybe a movie.  Have you seen that new Avatar movie yet?  It looks awesome but Goddess knows when I'll be able to get to a theater.  So since Buffy is after Xander to scout the area for a possible school there, that means a couple of weeks that he'll be looking around.  So I thought maybe we could go out."

"A school?  In Denver?" JD practically squawked, completely ignoring Dawn's last statement though he could tell from Buck's evil grin that he'd be hearing about it later.  "For the IWSC?"

"Oh yeah!  Denver is such a strong area magically it would be perfect for a training school.  Mostly for the mages and mystics but there'll be some of the SITs there too.  That's what Buffy says anyway.  She's all martyrey and saying she'd have to come and oversee the set up of the new school but we all know it's really because she has that massive boner for your boss."

Chris snorted his coffee again and Vin leaned over to gleefully thump him on the back.  JD flushed and sank into his chair.

"Buffy has a crush on Chris?" he asked weakly, not daring to look at his team leader.

"Oh yeah!" Dawn replied enthusiastically.  "Ever since that picture came out, the one that was on the front page of the Denver paper?  The one where's he's wearing that black duster and glaring into the camera?”

JD did indeed know which picture she was referencing.  And from the darkening expression Chris’s face, so did he.

“I mean really, he was one hot cookie.” Dawn continued.  “And the headline was guaranteed to catch her attention.  'Bad Element of the ATF'.  You might as well stamp "Slayer Bait" on his forehead and get it over with."

Buck stuck his fist in his mouth to keep from laughing out loud as the remaining agents at the table stared at anything that wasn't the rapidly reddening Chris Larabee.

"Uh...Dawn?   You're kidding right?  I mean, Buffy doesn't really have a crush on Chris, right?"  JD tried to stop the girl's gushing as his boss's expression got darker and darker.  Was that vein really throbbing on his forehead?

"Oh yes she does!  Tall, Dark, Handsome and Angsty is how she likes 'em, you know, and he's got three out of those four." Dawn continued, heedless of JD's stuttering response.  "As a matter of fact, if Xander did okay a school there, I bet every slayer in Larabee's fan club would want to transfer there.  If we let them all come, it would clean out three fourths of the schools across the globe."

“Fan Club?  JD's mouth dropped open and he squeaked.  "Across the globe?"

"Oh yeah!  He's rabidly popular, especially with the Spanish and Italian slayers.  They're always going on about how he's a mucho macho manly man."

There was a rather strangled cough on JD's end of the line.

"JD?" Dawn asked worriedly.

"Yeah, you just caught me by surprise there," he stammered as he dared to glance up at his team leader.  Larabee's mouth was hanging open as the other agents were nearly strangling themselves trying to keep quiet.  Buck's face was red as a tomato as he tried to keep his laughter silent. 

"Did I hear right when you said Chris has a fan club?" he asked weakly.

"Oh yeah!" Dawn replied happily.  "They have a web page and everything.  That cute glarey picture from the Denver paper is on the home page.  You know all the slayers and the SITs go for dangerous, angsty lawmen.  They sigh over every article that comes out of Denver about your team.  You know Angel used to be the angsty tragic hero, all tall, dark, and mysterious.  And then here comes Chris Larabee, all glarey and hot, tall, BLOND and mysterious.  There just wasn't any competition.  I mean how many blonds do you know who growl and look that good and are still human?  Not many, I have to tell you." 

“Um, I guess not,” JD stammered as Buck glanced at Chris and mouthed ‘still human’?

“Yeah, Giles was even getting a little worried about all the attention your team was getting from the slayers until Buffy suggested that if he interfered, she’d make sure *he* would be the next heart throb.  Then Giles threw Mr. Larabee under the bus and allowed the computer group to continue as long as they encrypted the web site so only employees of the Council could get to it.”  Dawn stopped to take a sip of something before she continued.  “Hey, I bet Giles wouldn’t mind if I sent you the link.  There’s a page for each of your team members too.”

At those words the other agents stopped silently laughing at their boss and glared at the phone.

“I mean there’s someone for everyone on Team Seven right?  You're all so yummy!” Dawn continued, oblivious to the fact that JD was now being promised death by his team mates' intense glares except for Buck who looked completely thrilled.

“Now that I think about it though, Giles might not approve me sending you the link with him being mad at you and all.  I think he mainly gave the go ahead on Larabee’s website up cause he’s pissed off and a pissed off Ripper isn’t anyone’s friend.”

JD blinked and leaned forward warily.  “Why is Giles mad at me?” he asked, worried that the man might have heard about Team Seven’s assignment.  And as Dawn said, a pissed off Ripper...well JD had heard the stories.

“Oh, did I say Giles was mad at you?” Dawn asked in a suddenly shrill tone.  “What I meant to say is I have to go now, here’s Xander.  Bye!”

There was the sound of a phone being tossed and an “OWWW!  Dawn, warn me next time.”

tbc in part two...