Don't own, don't make money.

Special thanks to Aimless for inspiration and Ithidlyn for the beta-reading!

ATF Universe

Connections and Favors.

Part 1.

Chris Larabee hated it when his agents were on loan. But it was ten times worse when 'the loan' included an undercover assignment in another state.. It was just bad luck, that Riley, the Senior ATF Agent in Albuquerque, had been impressed by Vin Tanner enough to request him when he needed an undercover sniper, and had had enough favors to call in to get him. And it was just good luck... No, it would have been good luck if they'd found a body to bury; the fact that they were in hospital waiting room now was a pure God damn miracle. Chris took a deep breath, forcing his heart to calm down. Vin's life was out of danger; of course it would take time to get all the drugs out of his system and it'd be awhile before he'd awake, but there shouldn't be any permanent damage. In a few moments, a nurse would come to tell them Vin's room number - and the crazy marathon that began with that dreadful phone call in Denver, would be over.

"Chris, we lost contact with them."


"It might be temporary..."

"We're heading out."

They'd arrived at Albuquerque only to find out that the body of Vin's local partner, Robson, was discovered in a frightening state. No sign of Vin and not a clue who was responsible. For the first time in their history, Team 7 was at a loss of what to do in unfamiliar territory. Of course, Buck had worked in Albuquerque for some time during his police years, but it had been too long. Chris finished repeating all the information he'd managed to get on the case, and circled his men with a grave look, hoping to hear some ideas.
After a few moments of tense silence, Ezra spoke up, "Mr. Larabee, can we use questionable methods?"

"No time for games, Standish. I'm about ready to sell my soul if the devil has any information."

Ezra mumbled something like 'already done, sir' and picked up his cell. He dialed a number, waited for a second and said in perfectly calm voice, "Mr. Calgary? Ezra Standish." That elicited a sharp intake of breath from someone in the room, but Ezra raised his palm, forestalling the questions. "I'm afraid I have a personal favor to ask." Pause. "I need sniper…" He gave Vin's alias and physical description and added firmly, "Alive." That was followed by a long pause, when everyone in the room forgot to breathe until Ezra grabbed a pencil and wrote something down. "Thank you, Mr. Calgary." He pressed disconnect on the phone and offered Chris the sheet of paper. There was an address written there and Chris automatically read it aloud.

"I know where it is," Buck said, "must be a warehouse or something."

"Let's go, questions later."

They arrived at that abandoned warehouse faster than was physically possible and found Vin. Less than 'safe and sound', but alive.

Soft footsteps stopped Chris from reliving the mad ride in the ambulance.

"Gentlemen, Mr. Tanner is settled, you can visit him. Please, no more than one at a time and only one of you can stay here for the night."


The guys finally left for the hotel, having made him eat something and with a promise to return first thing in the morning. Chris eyed his best friend wearily, "Hey, pard. Knew I shouldn't have let you out of my sight."

He was answered by the steady beeping of the heart monitor.

Chris sighed. They still didn't know who was responsible and if they still were a threat to Vin. And there was the problem of the local agents, who already wanted to know what Vin remembered and how the visiting team had managed to find the missing man on their own while they could not. They'd backed off today, having met a wall called Josiah, but tomorrow was another story. Chris suddenly froze, realizing at last just how they had managed and whom Ez had called. Jake Calgary; one of the unofficial owners of the town. 'Respectable businessman', involved in any number of criminal activities. Not a single bit proven, of course. And, as frosting on the cake – one of the main suspects on the damn case.
"Shit," he cursed out loud. Already done, sir. Double shit. Just at what cost had they been able to save Vin? Of course, Chris was willing to pay any price – long as it was him paying, and not his men. Including Standish. Damn, tomorrow would be a long day.

Larabee took his friend's lax hand and squeezed it gently.

"You know, pard, you have to wake up soon. I'm gonna need your help here…"


The next mid-morning found five members of the Team 7 (Nathan stayed in the hospital) in their temporary office at the Albuquerque Federal building. Nobody uttered a word while Buck and JD were checking the room for bugs – standard procedure whenever the Team found themselves out of their headquarters.

"Clear," JD said, getting out from under the table.

"Okay, guys." Chris ran a hand through his hair, pushing back his weariness. "I told Agent Riley we were searching warehouses blind and got lucky."

"He bought that?" Buck asked incredulously.

"Actually, yes," Chris answered with a hint of humor in his voice. "Less painful for his professional pride than trying to figure out how we made it, I guess."

JD chuckled, and Ezra let out the breath he'd been holding. He knew very well what he'd risked making that call; not that he had any doubts, then or now. He would hardly have done this with his own life at stake; but Vin's was definitely worth his career. He'd just need to make sure that it would be only his career. Chris's words though, gave him a hope he might actually get away with that; hope that swayed when the next words were spoken:

"By the way, Ez, how did you arrange it?"

Ezra slowly raised his eyes and met his boss's stare; he saw sincerity there, but no accusation.
"Jake Calgary owed me a personal favor, Chris. It was a long time ago and wasn't work related in any way." Standish knew he should probably say more, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. He just prayed it would be enough.

Chris held his gaze for a minute, and then nodded abruptly, accepting explanations given. Ezra sighed in relief, not noticing the strange expression on Buck's face.

"Okay, guys, we still have work to do. Buck, will you relive Nate after we finish here? I'll need him to chat with CSI's about that warehouse."

"Sure thing, Chris."

"You know, Junior," Buck said to Vin's unconscious form, "it's not that I'm not glad you're back with us. You know, we'll go to hell and back for you… It's just dealing with the devil usually has consequences and I want to be prepared for them… Don't think I don't trust Ezra, I do, I just sure as hell don't trust Jake Calgary!"

And Buck had reasons for that; he'd had his own run-ins with Calgary during his time in Albuquerque. Not on personal level, of course, even then, Calgary had been too big a fish for a mere Detective, but Wilmington did have some first-hand knowledge about the man's ways and methods. And that knowledge was enough that he couldn't just drop it like Chris. Help from a man like Calgary was doomed to backfire, and what on earth did Ezra have to do with him? The fact that Ezra claimed it was personal didn't calm Buck a single bit. Actually, he might have felt better if it was work-related. Bringing down one criminal often benefited others – sadly, but it was life. It wouldn't be surprising if one or another of Ezra's undercover personas managed to get in the good graces of one or another bad guy, but Ezra had used his own name… A frightening thought struck Buck suddenly. Calgary knew Standish in person… What if it had something to do with Vin's cover getting blown? Buck shook his head violently. 'Man, you must be overreacting.' He needed to discuss it with someone; someone who wasn't 'personal' with Calgary… and who wasn't Chris. He'd talk to Josiah or Nathan tonight, whoever he was able to catch.

"But best of all, Junior," he once again addressed Vin, "would be your waking up and telling us what the hell happened to you."


Ezra was returning to the hotel from the hospital followed by the sunrise. The previous night, it had taken the efforts of the whole team to persuade Chris he should go and sleep in a real bed. The winning argument was that they needed him 100% to hold off Riley when Vin woke up. So Ezra'd had a night shift at Vin's side and had just been relieved by Josiah. Since Josiah had arrived a little bit earlier, Ezra still had the time to come to the hotel for a quick shower instead of coming straight to the office as was agreed, and he was intending to use this opportunity fully.
The previous day didn't bring any significant news on the case; and it seemed the Albuquerque ATF really believed that finding Vin was the result of pure luck. Ezra had even heard some gossip about a 'supernatural connection' between the members of the Denver team. Well, half of Denver law enforcement already thought that; and, honestly, it wasn't too far from the truth.
Having showered and changed his clothes, Ezra headed to Chris's rooms, assuming the rest of his teammates were already gathered there. He heard muffled voices coming and raised his hand to knock; a gentleman always should remember his manners. But a suddenly clear phrase in Buck's voice made him stop mid-motion.

"Chris, he called in his own name!"

"I gave clearance for questionable methods, Buck, remember?"

Ezra held his breath; it seemed he'd relaxed too early, but maybe, just maybe…

"Damn it, Chris, it's not that! Calgary is a powerful and unpredictable son of a bitch; we need to know what's going on!"

"Chris, it could endanger the Team in the future," Nathan's voice, more quiet, but still discernible.

"Damn it, Buck, what do you want me to do? Ask JD to research behind his back?"

That was enough; Chris gave in. It was really foolish to hope he wouldn't anyway. Besides, they were right. It didn't explain why it hurt like hell, though…

Deliberately not listening to Buck's answer, Ezra pushed the door open and came in.

Seeing Ezra enter the room made Chris's heart skip a beat. How much had the southerner heard? Damn it, his last words only were more than enough.

"Ezra," he began, but Standish didn't seem to hear him.

"Don't worry, gentlemen, I totally agree with your arguments. After all, I knew what I was doing. A Federal Agent, especially one with my reputation, can not afford any personal connections with a person like Jake Calgary."

Chris took a breath to stop this bullshit, but Ezra didn't let him. Despite his usual calm voice and ten-dollar words, he sounded like he was yelling and cursing.

"Rest assured, gentlemen, that I will not endanger this team further in any way. And though I do not doubt the research abilities of Mr. Dunne, it would be polite of me to save his time for more important issues."

"Huh?" JD had just entered through other door and was desperately trying to gather what was happening.

"The eldest child of Mr. Calgary, Eric, was my roommate in high school till the day he died from a blood illness. Since the his funeral, I have been in possession of Mr. Calgary's direct phone number. Though I didn't think I would have to use it someday. My apologies, gentlemen, and please give my best wishes to Mr. Tanner." With that, Ezra bowed to his stunned friends and left, not bothering to slam the door.

Chris spent few precious moments shaking off the shock from Ezra's words. When he finally took off after his agent, he was stopped by the ringing of his cell.

"Larabee!" he barked, and closed the phone a second after. "It's Josiah, Vin is awake."

They rushed downstairs, but saw no sign of Standish, though all of their rented cars were in place. Chris looked around himself, trying to reach a decision. He needed to be with Vin now, for numerous reasons, screamed both by his heart and brain, but… He met the look of his youngest agent.

"JD," Larabee said earnestly. "Try to trace him, okay? Don't want him getting into trouble." 'Before I know for sure what happened with Vin and will be able to kick out all the bullshit from that southern head'.

"I'll do my best, Chris. Do my best."