Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA, The following is a work of fan fiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp, or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters and settings. The Sentinel copyright is held by Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. 

This is for Eileen, the best sister a girl can have,  Antoinette for your beta reading, MAC for all your support.

HAPPY NEW YEAR .

 

Forced FED

Based on the premise of the series White Collar.

Implied relationship C/V

 

Present Day

FBI Agent in Charge Peter Burke pushed open the door to Team 7 of the Denver ATF office. He took in the scene in front of him; looking at them it was hard to realize that this band of mavericks had the highest case clearance record in the whole of the ATF. But he was here to speak to their boss SAC Christopher Larabee, since he had arranged this meeting Peter had been reading up on the man, and he had to admit that he was impressed; it seemed that half of the ATF was scared to death of the man, the other half avoided him.  But they all said that he was an outstanding leader, and his reputation was hard won. Now he had flown from New York to Denver to find out if what he was thinking would actually work.

It had taken SAC Peter Burke, four years to catch one of the two top con men in America, a man by the name of Neal Caffrey, the younger man had lead him on a chase that had taken him the length and  breadth of America. But in the end he had caught him because when the only way out would have been to resort to violence, Caffery had refused, and ended up doing four years in a Super Max prison. Only for him to escape when he only had three months of his time left because his girlfriend had gone missing. It hadn’t taken much to recapture him, Caffrey hadn’t even tried to run when he had found him at his girlfriend’s empty apartment, but the kid had come up with a proposition, as a SAC he could have Caffrey released into his custody as a Consultant, and serve the four years he had been given for his escape, as a productive member of society, helping to catch people like him. Since it was Caffrey that he come up with the idea, Peter was naturally skeptical, but one of his agents had just  come back from Denver and said that SAC Larabee had a consultant, name of Ezra Standish working the same deal, the name had been enough to get Peter’s attention. Standish like Caffrey was a con man, their names said in the same breath as each other, in the class rooms of Quantico, as example of the very top flight con men. Each man had been finally caught, Standish only one year ago, Caffrey four years ago, but if Larabee could make this work, then maybe he could as well.

 

So that was why FBI Agent Peter Burke was now entering the office of Christopher Larabee, to how the man in black as Larabee was called, had made it work.

Chris Larabee got up and shook hands with him and waved him to a seat, it gave Peter a chance to study the man, Larabee was dressed as he had been told he would in his habitual all black clothing, lean with blond hair the good looking leader of Team 7 studied him levelly.

“Interagency co-operation, your Director Hughes, it appears has been talking with Director Travis, it seems you have some questions to ask.”  Chris paused “So why you here, none of our current cases are are cutting through FBI turf.”

Peter leaned forward slightly, “You have been working with Consultant Standish for the last eight months, and I need to know how that’s going.”

“Standish is ATF now; you FBI boys dropped the ball with him.” Larabee’s voice had gone cold, and his green eyes seemed to tear into him.

Peter swallowed, “I am not disputing that,” he gave a sigh, “I know that the local FBI office passed Standish around to any department that needed his expertise, and it nearly got him killed. That is a mistake I am keen not to make, but first let me explain. I have the opportunity to take on Neal Caffrey as a FBI consultant, but first I need to know the pros and cons of it,” for a moment the words just hung in the air. 

For a long minute Peter wasn’t sure if Larabee was going to answer him and then he began to speak.

0-0-0-0-0

Ezra Standish sat at his desk in the office and looked towards where the FBI suit had gone in SAC Larabee’s private office, Ezra tried to suppress a shudder, at the prospect of being loaned out to another agency, unbidden memories began to come back to him.

It had all started a year ago when he had been caught by Team 7, white collar crime wasn’t usually in their remit but the man that he was conning had turned out to be a gun trafficker, called Phil Mitchell, and Ezra recognized that he had had the bad luck of being caught up in the ongoing battle between Team 7 and the trafficker.

The warehouse was not what Ezra had really wanted as a meet, but Mitchell made it clear that he would only deal on his terms, and so Ezra had found himself in the back of beyond, in some flea ridden broken down warehouse facing Mitchell and four of his men. The moment that Mitchell had seen the enforced cylinder he was carrying the man’s small piggy eyes had lit up.  

Ezra smiled at Phil Mitchell, as he unrolled the canvas, making a big play of presenting the picture to him,  the thug had a love of fine art, or rather what people told him was fine art and he was willing to pay, the three shepherds had been in the art gallery since it’s very public auction two days ago, selling for 1.5 million dollars. The security had been tight but he had always liked a challenge and Mitchell was prepared to pay him a quarter of the selling price to get it for his collection so it was worth the risk, even if he did have the FBI white collar division breathing down his neck.

“As you can see Mr. Mitchell, the Three Shepherds is one of the true modern classic pictures of our times.”

Mitchell licked his lips, “Vin brings the case forward.”

One of the men younger than the others, with long hair and a battered leather jacket over a black jumper and jeans had laid the metal case on a rickety table in front of Ezra and popped the locks on it, opening it to show him the money.

It was then that Mitchell’s cell phone rang, Ezra noticed a flicker of something cross the man called Vin’s face, it was gone in a second, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Mitchell’s face was fusing bright red, with anger, “Agent Tanner, boys meet Agent Tanner ATF.”

Vin turned to face Mitchell, “Don’t know what you’re talking about Phil, name’s Vin Taylor, I.”

By now Ezra was  counting the guns pointed towards the agent, and that was five gun’s too many, keeping his hands clear, Ezra moved forward, taking the painting back, “I think I’ll leave you gentlemen to discuss your differences, we can discuss money later.” Carefully he slipped the canvas into the metal container.

Mitchell turned on him, “where the fuck you going Standish, I said I was buying it, hold your horses.”

 “Mr. Mitchell, I can see you have business with this gentlemen, I would like therefore to conclude our business first.”

“That can wait Standish, this I am going to enjoy.”

Ezra looked from the painting to the younger man, and he swore under his breath, Ezra flicked his hand out and the derringer snapped into his hand, and he fired, his bullet plowing into Mitchell’s hand, sending the gun spinning from his hand, as the trafficker bellowed in pain.

Keeping his eyes fixed on men in front of him, Ezra snapped at the agent, “I think it’s time you vacated these premises Agent Tanner.” Reaching out with his other hand Ezra waved the Agent back. A quick glance confirmed that Tanner had a Glock in his hand and was giving him cover as the two of them backed towards the door.

It was then that Mitchell completely lost whatever control he was hanging onto, and one hell of a gun fight stared Ezra just managed to throw himself behind some packing crates as a burst of machine gun fire from one of the bodyguards nearly took his head off. The man screamed as he was cut down by Tanner’s covering fire.

In the next minute the front of the  warehouse was shattered as a SVU came crashing through, and men poured out of it, the exchange of fire got intense, a quick look showed him that they wore ATF vests, now was the time to get the hell out of Dodge. Carefully keep low, hugging the roll of canvas to his chest Ezra began to inch his way to the door. When he found himself looking down the barrel of gun held by a grim faced good looking blond man dressed in all black. Slowly he let the derringer fall from his hand, then bent slightly and let the capsule with the painting sink to the ground, as he  straightened up he  slowly  raised his hands  to shoulder high. A flick of the gun and he turned and walked back to the centre of the warehouse, and as ordered knelt down crossing his ankles and keeping his hands behind his head, until he was cuffed with flexi cuffs. That was the first time he met Team 7, the second time was at this trial when to his surprise Agent Tanner had testified on his behalf, it never hurt to have a federal officer take the stand for you, and he had got five years instead of ten. 

0-0-0-0-0

Eight months later he was  offered a deal that he couldn’t refuse, FBI Agent Nick Muller had got him out of prison on condition that he work as a FBI Consultant, one slip up and he was back inside to finish his five year sentence in the Super Max prison. So he had done what he did best he had worked the situation, and using his knowledge of forgery and conning he  helped Muller to a 92 percent clearance rate on white collar crime , it had then started to go to hell in a hand basket, they had hit a lean patch, not getting the breaks on the cases, Muller had begun to get angry with him, the threats of prison if he failed on a case increased, as did the causal violence.

Ezra sat at one of the desks in the FBI wing of the Federal Building in Denver and his fingers flew across the key board as began to access general information on the Mortgage firm they were investigating. The information was bland, but it gave him a feel for the firm, he had to keep trying to find the break they needed in the case, otherwise Muller would make good his threat and have him locked up over the weekend, and that sent a jolt of fear down his spine. The inmates due to Muller know knew he worked as a FBI consultant, and last time he had been sent back “down time” Muller had jokingly called it, he had been cornered in the shower run by four of them, he had been lucky to get off with a beating it could have been a lot worse, and he knew it.  Now Muller held that over his head, so it was more important than ever to find that thread that would unravel the case.

“Ez”  he looked up as Buck Wilmington walked into the office, he remembered the mustached bigger man from Team 7 from the bust that got him caught, Wilmington was now helping Muller’s team, and where as Muller’s team had most cold shouldered him at every turn, the visiting ATF agent had been friendly.

Buck walked into the open plan office and shook his head, the atmosphere was so different to Team 7’s office in the ATF wing, he had taken to Ezra from the  beginning, the   ex con man made life interesting and if there was something that Buck hated it was boredom. Muller angered Buck, the way he treated Ez was as if the man was dirt under his shoe, even walking him handcuffed through the building, when there was no real need for it, he seemed to go out of his way to humiliate the man. Buck was sure that Ezra hadn’t eaten, so ignoring the looks he was getting from some of Muller’s team he dropped a brown paper bag onto the desk.

Ezra opened the bag and smiled,  as he took the sealed cup of designer coffee out from it, and the Italian sub, “Thank you Mr. Wilmington,” Ezra put a hand in his pocket and pulled out a couple of pitiful dollar bills.

“No need Ez, on the house.” Buck waved the money away, and seeing the determined look, as the ex con man went to push the money in his hand, quickly added. “You can pay next time okay.”

Ez nodded “I will hold you to that Mr. Wilmington.”

Just then Muller came out of his office,

 “Standish get your ass in here.”

Buck looked round him, there was no mistaking the  hostile looks Ezra got from the rest of the team as he made his way to Muller’s office, and the anger simmered even more in Buck, a leader set the tone of the whole office, in his old friend and team leader Chris Larabee, Buck had one of the best, sure Chris wasn’t until Vin Tanner turned up one of the most social people in the world, hell Chris could bite your head off for breathing, but he would never have allowed the casual contempt of Standish to go on like this. But then if Muller didn’t treat Ezra like a work colleague, then why should they. Just as he turned away Buck saw Ezra go through the door of the office, and Muller cuff the man hard round the back of the head, when he started forward, Joe Harding, put up a hand stopping him in his tracks.

“That was just an attention getter, Wilmington, nothing to get twisted up about.”

“Isn’t Muller worried about being reported?”

Harding just chuckled “Grow up Wilmington, who’s going to take Standish’s word on anything,” the man clapped Buck’s arm and walked away, not noticing that Buck was still stood looking towards the closed door.

 0-0-0-0-0

Ezra stumbled but managed to catch himself and turned to face Muller, pulling himself upright and facing the man head on, Muller’s face fused with anger, “sit your ass down Standish, the information on the bonds was wrong,  that’s the third blind alley you’ve sent us down in the last week, want to explain that boy?”

“Mr. Hope is a clever man, he switched the bonds before the raid, he was tipped off.”

“Then we just need to know who paid you Standish.”

“It wasn’t me, Muller, you know that.”

The agent just sneered at him, and back handed him across the face, hard enough to send him crashing into the chair and onto the floor.

Buck was out of his seat and half way to the office when he was blocked off by Harding and Edwards another of the agents.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going Wilmington?”

  “You hear that Marty,” he looked towards his older of the two men. Marty Edwards was a twenty year veteran of the FBI.

“Didn’t hear anything Buck and you didn’t either.”

“If Muller's using his hands on Standish it had to stop.”

“Stop the sob story, Buck, you might treat criminals with kid gloves in the ATF, but in this department where old school.  Who the hell is going to take Standish’s part, he’s a con, he’s lucky he’s not still in prison.”

“But.”

Buck never got to finish what he said, Marty cut across him, “Standish is a tool nothing more than that remember. So cowboy up and get on with your job, and don’t waste your worries over Standish.”

When the ex-con man came out of the office later his head was down, and then he straightened up, and Buck understood and he admired Standish for it, the con man wasn’t going to let Muller grind him under his heel. It was then Buck saw the pain that flashed across Standish’s face but the next second , it was hidden by the mask that the con man wore, but it had been there.  Standish met the eyes of all the agents, as if daring them to comment on what had happened to him to him in the office. Looking round Buck thought he saw compassion on some faces, but it wasn’t enough, he saw contempt on even more faces his mind made up Buck headed back to his team office, ignoring Edwards when he called after him.

0-0-0-0-0

ATF Team 7 office

Buck pushed the door open and smiled at the laminator banner pinned on it under the office plate.

Heaven doesn't want us

And

Hell is scared we’re going to take over

That about summed up Team 7, Chris had been tearing his hair out for the last couple of months trying to find an undercover agent, so far all the ones that had applied had failed the Larabee test, but Buck was now sure that he had found the right man, if only Chris could see it.

Chris wasn’t happy and would have walked out on Buck half way through his pitch if the big man hadn’t done what the rest of the ATF bar Vin Tanner was scared to do, catch hold of the black clad arm and pull him to halt.

In frustration he said “You turned the others down because they couldn’t think of the box, will this guy isn’t just out of the box Chris, hell he’s out of the fucking building, you have to give him a chance, he could be one of the best.”

“He’s a con man Buck, a cheater; you think we can trust him.” Chris scoffed.

Buck held his oldest friend’s gaze “I honestly think we can, he hasn’t run since he’s been with Muller, and the man has given him more reasons to run than I know of. But he’s sticking by the deal he made, and,” Buck added with admiration “you should see the way he works if anyone can out think the dealers he can.”

 “Standish could have walked out on me, he didn’t I think we owe the man.” The soft Texan drawl announced the arrival of Vin Tanner.

Chris looked towards the younger agent and for the first time since he had bearded the lion in his den, Buck was beginning to think this might just work. Vin Tanner was to Chris Larabee the air that the older man breathed, Buck might have been Chris’s oldest friend but Tanner had walked into Chris’s heart the moment that the blond had seen the long haired former bounty hunter. It had taken six long months before Vin had joined Team 7 as their weapons expert and sniper, but he was here now all due to  Director Travis who had said bluntly that Vin was too good to pass up, and he had been fast tracked him into the ATF and  Team 7.

Chris and Vin coming together had been a hell of a shock, his old friend had never shown any interest in a walk on the wild side, and he could still remember when he had first cornered Chris about his relationship with Vin, the blond had said that he wasn’t gay. Buck remembered pointing out that what he was proposing to do with Tanner wasn’t exactly straight and Chris had said the funniest thing, he wasn’t gay, he wasn’t into men, but he was into Vin and that summed it up.

“You think that Standish could work out?”

Vin just nodded “you should have seen the way he played them at the warehouse Chris, he’s really good.” 

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

Ezra was in pain, but he tried to hide it, knowing that some of Muller’s team would get a kick out of it, he flinched as someone leaned over his shoulder, and he looked up to see John Norton, place a glass of water in front of him and a couple of small pills.

“Thank you Agent. Norton.”

The tall lean agent picked up the brown bag that had been stood on in Ezra’s absence, and tossed it into the waste paper bin complete with the ruined sandwich, and laid another white bag in its place, his hand brushed Ezra’s shoulder.  If it hadn’t been for Norton, Wilmington and Heaton he knew  would have run, they helped him keep going.

It was then Norton looked up and gave a soft whistle, as he saw SAC Chris Larabee walk into the open plan office, behind him was Vin Tanner, the team sniper and Buck Wilmington, the usually jovial Wilmington was grim faced, and the temperature in the room seemed to plummet.

When Edwards went to block him, but whatever Larabee said, the other man seemed to pale and step back rather quickly. Five minutes later Larabee came out of Muller’s office  he stops at Ezra’s desk, looking the ex con man up and down.

“Standish, you’re with me.” no explanations just a curt command.

Ezra leaned back into his chair, and looked up at Larabee, a cocky look on his face, “as nice as it is to be wanted Agent Larabee, I am not exactly a free agent, excuse the pun, he lifted his leg and propped it up on the corner of the desk, so that the AFT leader could see the tracking device on his ankle. Before Chris Larabee could speak Ezra added “I know it’s deplorable it’s ruins lines of what is a classic suit.”

Buck was sure that he saw the ghost of a smile twitch round Chris’s lips as he said “I’ve called the Marshalls, you’re off the clock for the moment Standish.”

“A true gentleman.” Ezra got to his feet, tugged his suite collar into place, snagged one of the biscuits from the white paper bag, and when he saw Larabee raise an eyebrow he smile “waste not want not Agent Larabee.” Ezra knew he was playing with fire, but he let his gaze run up and down the lean agent, who had featured in some of his more interesting fantasies, it was then he caught movement from the side of his eye as Vin Tanner moved forward. Ah it would seem that someone had taken exception to that as he saw a none to friendly glint on the Texan’s eyes.  He allowed his gaze to drop slightly as the handsome Texan moved in front of him, Ezra raised his wrists so that he could be handcuffed, but instead Tanner shook his head, and t caught his arm, and  propelled him out of the office and towards a new life.   

0-0-0-0-0

Present

Agent Peter Burke had listened carefully to Chris Larabee, “so it worked for you, what advice you would give in dealing with him.”

“Make sure that he knows that you’re watching his back, not just from the bad guys but from your own team if needs be. If Caffrey is like Ez he will need a safe haven, make sure that you give him one, he needs to know that you trust him and if someone starts beating on him, it don’t matter who, you’ll be  there to protect him from himself if needs be.”

It was then that Peter noticed one of the pictures that were on the cupboard behind the ATF agent, it was a team picture showing, a fully functioning team at play and in the centre of them was Ezra Standish. Peter found it hard to believe that he would ever be on that sort of terms with Caffrey.

When he got up to leave he shook hands again with Larabee, as he was escorted out, Ezra was now perched on the edge of one of the desks, the other members of the team clustered round the con man, giving him moral and physical support. “You don’t have the tracker on him any more Agent Larabee; I would have thought that you would want to monitor him.”

Chris stopped, and for the first time Peter saw what he thought of as a genuine smile grace the other agent’s face as his gaze swept over the con man, it was a look that he couldn’t decipher.

“Ezra tell Agent Burke what I told you, if you ran.”

Ezra smiled “Mr. Larabee was quite to the point in his own fashion he told me to and I quote figure I was dead if I ran out on him again, and got any of his agents hurt.”

“Again” Peter looked at Chris, there was something going on between the ex con man and the leader of Team 7 that he couldn’t work out, but the air seemed to suddenly be alive with energy.

But it was Ezra that answered “Symantec’s Agent Burke, since it was the tracker that caused the problem, I was pleased to get rid of it, it clashed with everything.”

“So are you going to do it?” Chris asked.

Peter for the first time since Caffrey had put the idea on the table nodded his mind at ease “I think I might.”

Four Months later

A joint FBI and ATF mission had been planned, and the White collar FBI unit was flying in from New York.

Agent Burke entered the office of Team 7, his own pet con man in tow; the young lean handsome Neal Caffrey showed no nerves at entering the den of what was considered the most formable ATF team in the country. His tracker had been deactivated  once Caffrey was onboard the Delta aircraft, Agent Jones had been about to handcuff the con man when Peter had waved him away, there was no need to humiliate the younger man in front of the whole plane, and where the hell was he going to escape to in mid flight. The tracker was still deactivated because it needed to be calibrated for Denver, but for some reason that Peter hadn’t fathomed he hadn’t ordered Neal to be handcuffed, so it was unrestrained that Caffrey had entered the federal building.

Before Peter could speak Neal stepped ahead of him and Jones, Ezra Standish matched his posture mirroring it back to the younger con man, and then Standish smiled “Hello Neal, mother said to send you her best.”

Peter stopped dead in his tracks, “oh shit, there’s two of them.” Somehow Burke just knew it was going to be a long three weeks, he muttered “they don’t pay me enough for this.”

 

The end

 

continues in Forced FED 2