Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. I know I will never own them. However, the characters are too good to shelf for eternity. I will try to put them back the way I found them. lol
A/N: Thanks to everyone who has continued to follow Jesse and the Seven through the many adventures both in the OW and ATF universes. I've tried to use some of your suggestions when writing these stories. I can't always use them all, but I have tried. Sorry for taking so long especially with this alternate universe. As you know I continue to have laptop troubles and you wouldn't believe how many times I have rewritten this story. The end result was the same every time – brick wall. I'm my own worse critic or worse enemy. If I truly don't like something I begin again or skip and start elsewhere and then go back and try to fill in the blanks.
This is a continuation of my original story Along Came Trouble.
Warning: I'm only saying this once. Some chapters may contain disciplinary action toward teenagers. If you do not like, by all means do not read. I'm not forcing nobody's hand or eyes for that matter. Proceed at your own risk.
Remember folks this is a work of fiction. Not beta'd. All mistakes are my own.
(Time frame: Summer is about over and the new school term begins in a couple of weeks.)
A group of men and boys played a game of football in the city park. Not many people were in or around due to the fact it had rained the night before leaving behind in its wake more mud than dirt. Not the type to back away from a challenge the two teams sized each other up and commenced play without delay.
They attracted a few bystanders watching the crazy antics of all who played the game. The younger men gained their first goal without so much as an impromptu slide across the field. That changed when the heavy tackling by the opposing team began without warning. Jesse met the turf face first when J.D. grabbed his knees forcing the younger one to lose his balance. The leader of the Marauders wiped the offending muck from his face and got his team into a huddle.
"Nice face plant Ace." Luis slapped his friend on the back.
"Shut up, Mouth!" He may have shown a little irritation, but a good natured smile graced his features. "They want to ramp it up a bit, then by all means, let's do it."
"We'll see what these old men are made of. This is gonna be fun! Let's kick some ass!"
A few woo hoos escaped their huddle. "Seems to be some heavy ass whipping headed our way." Buck snorted.
Chris glanced toward the younger men and caught his son's mischievous glint in his eyes. "I'd say you're right."
"But we're not going to let them accomplish such achievement." The Georgia native voiced his prediction. "You, sir, have a plan."
"Of course he does. Chris wouldn't enter a battle without one." J.D. announced.
Team Seven played as hard as they worked. It was even better when they mixed it up with Jesse and his group of friends. Their family had grown since the addition of Jesse and naturally that extended to the group of boys on the other end of the field. Although, sometimes those boys pushed the envelope further than the men would like, but all in all they wouldn't have it any other way.
Even Ezra, who had always been the outsider of the bunch wouldn't miss any of these outings for the world. He told his friends once that since the addition of Jesse and his gang, life seemed to matter more to each of them in some personal aspect or form.
For instance, Chris no longer drank heavily when the anniversary of Sarah and Adam's deaths came around. Jesse's needs and concerns broke that vicious cycle. Sly and his mother, Maria Poliamo, changed Vin's existence. In such a short time, they managed to become the focal point of his day to day life.
Even Josiah's wisdom had been affected by their presence. Whenever he felt it necessary to preach the word, it now included more phrases from today's day and age. Nathan's judgmental attitude changed drastically after seeing how each of the boys lived and survived on a daily basis. He had forgotten what it was like to go without some of the necessities he had grown accustomed to having in his life.
Ever since J.D. had gone undercover and fraternized with the gang he saw things in a different light. He may not always agree with their actions, but he viewed them as the younger brothers he never had.
Now Buck continued to be the ladies man, although his friends could see that even he had been influenced by a couple of Jesse's wisecracking buddies. Every now and then he would throw some Spanish into his vocabulary to impress the ladies. However, Inez was still unimpressed and immune to Buck's charms.
The game continued. More fun ensued when the boys dog piled on Chris, which caused the man to fumble. A race to regain possession of the ball began. Hilarity followed as the slippery mud coated ball slipped from each of the grasping hands until one managed to hold onto the elusive object. Vin recovered the ball for his team by curling up on the ground holding the ball snuggled close to his chest.
"Hey! Give the man some room to breathe!" Buck shouted to the rest.
The group disentangled themselves from the pile helping each other to their feet. Jesse's focus caught sight of a car slowly approaching the field while it remained on the gravel roadway. He flicked his fingers in Joe's face and tilted his head slightly in that particular direction.
Besides Joe, the other members of the gang took immediate notice. The vehicle kept its engine running as it came to a stop. The speakers blared an all too familiar beat that caught the attention of the older men. They, too, had seen and heard the approach of the lone vehicle. All play came to a halt.
Their training brought them to an over the top alert kind of status. Although none of them wore their weapons, they were ready to act if the situation turned volatile. The ones familiar with the street talk observed the signs that passed between the two rival gangs. Disappointment flickered across a few of their faces as to whom relayed those signs.
Nathan quietly asked, "Think we might have trouble?"
"As far as I can tell, no." Their sharpshooter answered.
The other southerner then spoke. "But,"
"The signs they're using are ones I'm not familiar with." Vin risked a sidelong glance at his boss. "Just say the word, Chris, I'm ready."
"We all are." The ladies man interjected.
Chris hardly moved a muscle as he watched the exchange. The transformation of the carefree boys from moments ago changed, in a blink of an eye, to the hard core street players. He fought the parental feeling to protect his son. Any odd movement could change the outcome of this scenario. "We stand down for now."
"And if the bullets start flying."
"Let's pray it doesn't come to that."
In another moment the car revved its engine, slowly turned around, and finally peeled rubber scattering gravel in its retreating wake.
A collective sigh was expelled from both groups standing on the field.
"Do you think this might be a prelude to something?"
"Hope not, but I'm sure it has Chris worried." Both Vin and Ezra watched as Chris determinedly walked on over to the other group. "He can't back out of his undercover assignment. He and Buck are expected to leave in two days."
Out of the blue Ezra said what had been bothering him for some time now. "I'm having trouble believing that the Director volunteered to watch over Jesse. A man his age should stick to watching over his grandson and even then he has trouble keeping up with Billy's antics."
"Yeah, I know. Chris didn't have much of a choice. His first pick was Nettie, until he learned how long his undercover status would be. Travis is the best choice, whether you believe it or not. He'll keep him in line."
"Hell, he barely keeps Chris or any of us in line."
"Yet he manages to do just that."
"Point taken." Even though he agreed with Vin, Ezra couldn't quite shake the feeling that had crept across his skin. That sense of foreboding. His mother would have referred to it as an omen.
The boys figured game time had ended after this recent incident. Jesse could already see Chris headed their way. "Play it cool, amigo. Otherwise our goose is cooked."
He abruptly shushed Joe. "I know. Have I let you down yet?"
"No, but if you continue to act like this, Larabee will suspect."
"Like he doesn't already."
"Guys! Shut up." Sly urgently whispered.
Jesse had turned away from Chris' approach to recompose himself. Too soon for his liking he heard his dad's voice. "What the hell was that about?"
With his impassive facial expression in place he forced himself to face Chris. Damn. That notorious glare was in place steadily bearing down on him. His dad's arsenal of expressions always unnerved him. This was definitely not going to be easy. Jesse inwardly prayed that none of the seven had been able to interpret the hand signals otherwise he would be in a hell of a lot more trouble than he and his boys were already in. "Nothing ." Way to go genius. I swear he turned up the heat on that glare of his. Shit! Keep it together. Man, I hate it when he looks like that.
Chris crooked a finger motioning to his son to follow him. Jesse ignored the instinct to glance back at his friends and willingly followed his dad away from the group. "You do remember I'm going undercover for awhile. I sure as hell don't need to be distracted from my work. This recent display comes under the terms of a distraction." He placed an arm over Jesse's shoulder bringing him in closer.
The next words were meant for his son's ears only. "Is this something I need to worry about?"
Jesse shook his head back and forth. "No sir. Nothing more than a show of testosterone."
Keeping his son close, Chris finished his say. "If I find out later it was more than that I guarantee you'll find sitting comfortably a thing of the past. Do I make myself clear?"
"Loud and clear, dad." Jesse gulped. I am so screwed. Great. Two unspoken rules broken: lying and keeping a secret. There is no way the Director will keep the apocalypse from happening over my ass when all is said and done.
"How's he doing?" Todd asked. He had been concerned when Larabee extracted Jesse from the group.
The Mouth answered, "Doing as well as he usually does. Larabee is no doubt suspicious and guaranteeing dire consequences if he so much as steps out of line. I don't know how Jesse does it. I'll bet he's inwardly quaking yet he nonchalantly stands there as if they're talking about the weather. Amazing.
"If Larabee did that to me…I'd be spilling my guts and pledging never to do it again."
"That's because you're a wuss." Joe plainly said after hearing Luis' admission.
"Why don't you two shut up! I'm sick of your blabbering."
"Yeah, are you going to make me?" Joe challenged.
The Fox sent a withering glare his way. Joe's reaction was expected.
"Ooh I'm so scared."
Sly lunged playfully and soon the two were tussling and roughhousing on the ground. They were laughing by the time Ezra and Vin pulled them apart.
"What the hell? Do you always have to ruin our fun?" Sly told Vin.
Vin answered by throwing a towel at him. "Clean yourself up. Your mother is probably going to kill us both."
Sly finally really looked at everyone around them. "Wow! Didn't think we were that dirty. Glad I brought an extra pair of clothes. Hell, I don't think mom is going to even touch these." He pulled his T-shirt away from his chest as if to closely inspect the damage.
"I'd say she'll probably burn them."
The boy's eyes got as big as saucers. "She better not. Hell, I'll wash it. This is my favorite."
"Don't fret. Ezra doesn't know your mom like we know her." Vin reassured the boy.
Sly pulled Vin aside and said, "Actually she probably will burn them or at least try to anyways."
"Like hell she will!" They laughed at Vin's outburst. It felt good to laugh. Too soon they all knew something was going to change. Each group held a secret that neither could tell the other.
"Do you think that's a wise move?" A timid voice from the back asked.
"No. If I mention me and danger in the same sentence he'll go ballistic."
Luis quickly agreed. "And then some. We've seen it."
"He's right. Same goes for Tanner and my mom. There is no way I'm telling them any of this. It's time we did something and if this is the only way, I agree with Jesse."
"We're being given an opportunity. Let's not pass it up. Anybody else won't take it as seriously as we do, 'cause they don't know our hood like we do.
"Joe, you call your Uncle Raphael, tell him we've made a decision." The thought he didn't share with the others: I hope it's the right decision.
Enthusiastically Joe whooped it up. "Alright! The seven amigos are gonna kick some ass!"
The next day…
"Are you really going to be gone six months?"
"Yeah. Director Travis and the guys will look after you. Believe me, I'd rather be here with you."
"I have a question. Hypothetically, of course."
"What if something happens to you or me?"
"Like I said, the Director and the guys will be there for you. As for me, I got Buck to watch my back and eventually the others if all goes well. This is an important case for the ATF. I can't say much more about it." It killed Chris to say that to his son. "Just remember, I love you, no matter what happens. Okay?" He placed a reassuring hand on his son's shoulder.
"Yeah. I love you, too."
"Don't give Travis too hard of a time. I'm counting on you son."
"I know dad." His gut churned wondering what Chris would think if he knew what the Director had planned and would he ever forgive him for going through with it.
Too soon for either of their liking Chris and Buck left to begin their undercover assignment. Jesse and the rest of the team said their goodbyes to the two agents and then their lives continued without them.
"He'll be back before you know it."
"That's not what I'm worried about."
"Whether he'll forgive us, you mean."
"Having doubts?" Orin asked the young man staying with him. Jesse nodded. "That's natural. If you didn't I'd be concerned."
"Dad said the same thing not too long ago."
"People make mistakes when they're overconfident. A little worry goes a long way. I think this will work out for the better."
"Are you trying to convince me or yourself?"
"Both." That answer garnished a smile from the teen.
"Who's on the emergency call list for school? Is it you or Vin?"
"They are to call me first. If I'm not available it falls to Mr. Tanner." Orin then said, "I believe you boys are ready. We will have one more meeting and then you'll enter the field."
An unlikely individual showed up a few months before the end of their summer vacation. Ace and the Black Marauders were discussing the recent change in the hood. They were bouncing many ideas off of one another. Renegade and the Fox kept watch as Ace dissed many of those ideas. He was startled slightly when he heard Renegade shout.
"Yo! Uncle Raphael, what are you doing here, so deep in the hood?"
"Your mother told me where I might find you and the others. Got something you boys might be interested in."
Warily Ace asked, "Like what?"
"It's not something I can discuss out in the open. I'm risking a lot by being here."
"Did I ever tell you I hate riddles? What do you think, Ace? Should we see what he has to offer?"
"I'm game. Can't hurt to see what it's about."
Raphael jotted down some directions and told them to meet him in an hour. All would be explained then.
An hour later the Marauders met Joe's uncle at the given address. The first thing Jesse saw was an open laptop sitting at the forefront of a conference table.
"Have a seat guys. Our guest…"
Guest? What the hell?
Raphael ignored Jesse's fierce glare continuing with his explanation. "He will be joining us shortly." His fingers nimbly tapped the keyboard. It only took a few seconds before the Director of the ATF stared back at them.
"Nice to see you boys again. I see this is a surprise."
"I think surprise doesn't even cut it. Are you going to explain why we are here and why Joe's uncle is being so secretive? I'll even bet my dad has no idea this meeting of the minds is taking place. Am I right?"
"There are only a select few who know of our meeting. Team Seven isn't one of them. What I am about to propose is on a need to know basis. Whichever way you boys decide this meeting will remain a secret."
A perplexed Jesse asked, "Decide on what?"
"Impatient as always."
"No, Director. I'd say he's more like his father: a to the point man." Raphael quipped.
Travis tried to look stern, but failed. "Point taken. Are you boys ready to listen?"
In unison they said, "Yes sir."
"What I had been about to say is we have decided to implement a pilot program."
Luis couldn't resist the urge. "We learning to fly?"
A few stifled snorts and chuckles followed Luis' question. The Director removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose waiting while the boys settled down.
"Sorry Director." Jesse apologized for Luis' humor.
However he couldn't stop the words that flowed from Joe's mouth either. "So what you're saying is like we're the lab rats in this test program?" Jesse punched Joe not so softly in the arm. "Ow! What the hell Larabee?"
Jesse pointed back to the screen. Joe resignedly sighed and tried his best to listen to the Director.
"Not lab rats. A few of us at the Bureau think we might be able to put your skills to good use.
"If you haven't figured it out or learned by word of mouth that the Cervantes cartel has moved into your neighborhood."
"Uh, nuh duh!" Todd deadpanned. He was immediately silenced by a glare from his leader.
Raphael quickly found the floor interesting. He had tried telling Travis earlier what he could expect from the Marauders and he couldn't quite suppress the grin knowing he was right. He gave the Director credit for continuing on without so much as a pause as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Perhaps, Team Seven had conditioned him and nothing else really compared.
"As I was saying, we are offering you a job."
"Does this mean we get paid?" Sly hinted.
"Yes." That answer stunned them into silence.
"What are we expected to do?"
"We want you to go undercover as junior ATF agents." Travis watched each and every boy for any reaction. They remained impassive. Either the idea fell flat or the boys were better poker players than he thought. He continued. "The information we have received from a very reliable source indicates that Cervantes is looking to hire a local gang to run interference. They're hoping said gang will be able to expand their territory and bring in new recruits. They will also rely on your expertise and knowledge of the area. Basically they will use you to get to their means. I expect you to do what you usually do, but within reason." Travis commented.
Jesse thoughtfully voiced his concerns. "Within reason…"
Travis gave him a pointed look. "Meaning, you will abide by the law while you are undercover."
Joe quipped, "Like we usually do."
Raphael replied. "Yeah, like you usually do. However you will endure an extensive training session before any of you enter the undercover scene."
Not entirely convinced Jesse asked, "Why us? You have enough teams at your fingertips. By the way, which team is Raphael on?"
"He's undercover and I'm not at liberty to divulge that information. He's here at my request. Whenever you're ready we'll proceed."
Jesse looked to each of his friends. They nodded. "Fine. We're ready."
"The purpose of this program is to give the cartel what they want."
Todd inquired. "What do they want?"
"They want one gang in our city. It may look like they're testing each gang, but they already have their sights set on one gang in particular."
Shit. Their fame caught the wrong set of eyes. Great. Dad will be ecstatic to hear that bit of news. "It's us. They need us to keep the ATF off of their backs and to disrupt the line of communications and…" Hell, he wasn't sure if he wanted them to do this. A lot of 'what ifs' suddenly bombarded his mind. "When do you need an answer Director?"
"You have twenty-four hours. I know it's short notice, but we are running out of time. I would prefer to have you trained before you are ultimately approached by the cartel."