Minimizing Loss
by étienneofthewestwind

Disclaimer: These worlds are not mine. I'm just tossing sand from one box to another.

No matter how much he looked it, the man in front of Jim was no Greg Montgomery. And he should know; as Pete Cavanaugh, he had known Greg since they both started in the San Franciso US Attorney's Office fresh out of law school.

Well, up until that incident with the SEC agent, anyway.

Tell one eensy white lie about insider trading in a vain attempt to get the woman to sleep with you, and suddenly you're public enemy number one. Not even Dharma with her flaky, easy-going outlook, forgave him. Never mind that Montgomery Industries came through it just fine. Okay, the merger fell through, and the company's stock took a beating, but it recovered. And not only did the criminal investigation clear the Montgomeries and the company, it had uncovered Howard's embezzlement scheme. Hell, Pete probably saved them as much money as he had cost them. But were they grateful? No. They were all "Why the hell did you shred those documents, Pete?", and "Thank God, they were pieced back together.".

So Pete Cavanaugh found himself out of a job. But he managed to convince one bozo of an investigator that he had sought to be a whistleblower. There were not as many federal protections then as now, but it was enough to threaten legal action against the company and get one fat severance deal out of Ed Montgomery. Pete had been set to kick back and enjoy the rest of his life when Marlene tracked him down, demanding her cut. Like he had made her shred those files with him. She always claimed to be smarter than him, to know more about the law than he did, after all.

Next thing he knew, he had been blackmailed into marrying the shrew. Marlene then "charmed" a Justice contact into arranging a legal name change and record expungement to prevent "Whistleblower Bias". Marlene Wells then dragged her husband off to Colorado and a new life.

Out of contact with her parents, Marlene could fake pleasantness—in public. Alone in their home, Marlene was twice the terror she had ever been as Greg's secretary. Still, with her working alongside him, "guiding" him, Jim soon found himself with a promising political career. Now, on the brink of a campaign for Colorado governor, he had had a more successful career than ever had riding Greg's coattails.

Until the phone rang, and he learned that his star weapons bust had gone tits-up.

Jim had immediately gone to the Separatarian Sect ranch to demand an explanation for the FBI's undercover operation and their silence on it. Only Jim found himself confronted with Greg's doppelganger. Not only did the man look like Greg, he also had a similar voice and stride. But the attitude and personality bore no resemblance to Greg.

Greg may have been raised as a spoiled little rich boy, but at his core, Greg was an insecure neurotic with a constant need for approval. Pete should know; he had put up with the man's whining more times than he could count. Not that Greg was totally spineless. In fact, Pete got away with more after Greg's marriage to Dharma and her influence of forgiving friends.

But the man who now confronted Jim was all spine. This Aaron Hotchner, Unit Chief—and boy, did he say that like "Unit Chief" was as much his identifier as his name—threatened Jim with criminal charges without even blinking. Then he ordered Jim off "his" crime scene.

Jim smirked as he pulled out his disposable cell to text the reporter who was given the exclusive rights to Jim's weapons bust.

If this Hotchner planned to paint this as the state's cock-up, he had miscalculated. Marlene had taught Jim the importance of managing appearances. And in public opinion, the FBI getting undercover agents trapped inside the cult compound would look very bad for the Feds.