Under Pressure

by Q'Mar

Notes: Things catch up to Bucklin, May 1998

Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven belongs to Mirisch Entertainment Inc., with all rights and privileges thereof. This work is a work of fanfiction, for the amusement of the author and fandom who have nothing else to do since they aren't making any more episodes of the show. No money or other renumeration has exchanged hands, this is just for fun, guys!

The June 2001 Challenge: offered by Jean Genie:
The title must be "Under Pressure" and must include only two of the Seven.

Rout Federal Building,
5th Floor, Outside the chambers of Judge Travis
May 1998

"I can't believe this!" Chris Larabee growled for the fifteenth time."I just can't believe this."

"I'm Sorry, Pard." Buck said quietly staring down at his sling. Larabee whipped around to glare at him.

"You Should be! Do you have any idea what you've done?" The blond snarled at him. "We've barely gotten this thing off the ground, Barely started! We don't even have a full team yet and you have to pull this! Buck I warned you. I warned you!" Chris Larabee was raging. The vein in his forehead was throbbing, never a good sign.

"I'm Sorry." Buck found himself cringing against memories of a darker time. He closed his eyes waiting for a blow. Instead a gentle hand placed itself on his un-wounded shoulder.

"That was back then and will never happen again, Buck. I'm sorry too. I shouldn't take my anger out on you. Shouldn't have then, shouldn't have now. This is rough, but we'll get through it." Chris said gently. It took a moment for Buck to open his eyes. "I'm Sorry." Chris said again.

"Me too," Buck replied. Both of them knew that they weren't talking about the current situation which was bad, but the past which had nearly destroyed them both. Chris sat down next to him, his black suit rumpled and covered with dust from where he had been crawling under the old conference table upstairs trying to hook up the new computer system.

Barely active three months, the new RMETF Seven was just getting on it's feet. The four very different men who made up the team balanced each other fairly well, but it was obvious that there were gaps needing to be filled. They were weak in Computer technology, needed a shooter, and most of all they needed an Undercover agent. Buck was believable as a bully boy or hired muscle, but not as the man 'in the cat-bird seat'. Larabee was believable as a militia leader but he wasn't 'smooth' enough to pull of most of the high-level impersonations that would break better cases. After the short three months the RMETF was still stalled, searching for the agents to fill those positions. Now it looked like they'd be losing an agent before they even got really started.

Flashing a worried look at his best friend, Buck Wilmington considered his options. This whole mess was his fault. It was true that he loved women, lots and lots of women, but he'd never made one feel uncomfortable... until now. Madeline Sorensen was an attractive woman. He'd made the usual overtures, which had been enthusiastically accepted. She'd actually pushed for more and when he didn't want to go that fast, she'd reported him for Sexual Harassment.

He'd tried to talk to her but that only seemed to make matters worse. Now Judge Travis, SSAC Williams, Alex Welch, the RMETF Coordinator, and a high priced Lady Civil Rights attorney were deciding his future with the ATF. Williams was a good guy, pretty fair, surprisingly. Travis was a hard case but fond of him, at least he thought so...Alex knew that Chris needed him to keep on an even keel right now, but that attorney? He didn't know what to do.

She was something else, Wilmington decided. Tall, with gorgeous red hair, and a face that belonged on the cover of a Fashion magazine, the woman was also disturbingly intelligent. She'd interviewed him in the 'case' preliminaries. He hadn't run into that sharp a mind in a while. The attorney was about Josiah's age, with more than 30 years of practicing Law under her belt, but Buck found her still youthful appearance both attractive and disturbing.

Along with the woman had come her team of specialist assistants and younger lawyers. They were a strange bunch. One very Irish Catholic woman little more than a girl to Buck's eye, currently praying her rosary in silence, waiting for further instructions from the 'Boss'. One very Native American Male, hair longer than most women had, who was one of the most complete law libraries around, carrying it all in his memory. One very Hindu woman who typed on a laptop blissfully content while members of the Federal building staff stared at her large nose-earring combination. One assistant on the phone long distance from Washington state, who interspersed his comments with warnings that he'd be late for his church choir practice. One white male who would look more in place at a 'Grunge' Concert. Buck shook his head. This was getting him nowhere. Somehow Maddie had gotten herself some very high priced help.

Chris was watching them too, out of the corner of his eye. So too were a number of Federal employees who seem to have found all number of excuses to linger in the usually civilian Judicial Floor. Buck was afraid that they might say something to upset the strange group. In his admittedly small experience, irritating Civil Rights lawyers was a huge mistake, especially if you were "Law Enforcement" and accused of being in the wrong.

Buck knew that he would never knowingly do anything to make a woman uncomfortable, but was what they were saying about him correct? Was he the kind of man Maddie said he was?... Had Chris been right to worry about his 'Dating' problems?... He turned to look at Larabee, the cast on his injured arm making the motion a little painful. Chris gave him a tight comforting smile. It was forced, but Buck could sense the sincerity behind the expression.

The two men had been trying so very hard to reconnect. For years they had been the closest of friends, almost brothers. When Larabee had married, Buck had been on top of the world. They were his family too as far as he was concerned. Then the car-bombing that had changed everything. After Sarah and Adam died, Buck had tried so hard to keep Chris from self destructing. Finally he'd been pushed away as Larabee continued his downward spiral. Buck had been sure that that was the end, that Chris would get himself killed...

Suddenly out of the blue, three months ago, Chris showed up at his precinct in Denver and offered him a job with this special division of ATF. It had been too incredible to be true. Apparently it was. Barely three months and here he was destroying it. They'd kick him out because of Maddie and wreck all the things Chris was trying to build. It was all his fault!

As if reading his mind, Chris gripped Buck's shoulder gently but firmly. This man was his brother, they'd made it through Hell, they'd make it through this. Maybe if ATF had to dump Buck, Wiley Redd could come up with a solution. He knew Buck well, had been in charge of an unruly bunch of Navy SEALs and was familiar with both of them and their problems. Maybe Wiley could help them?... Chris thought about calling the Senator and seeing what his take on the situation would be. He could tell that Buck was sinking into depression. This had been a lousy couple of weeks.

Nathan Jackson, the team's new medic and Josiah Sanchez, the team profiler were both finishing up their training at Shackelton. They'd packed up everything they had in Kansas City before they'd left for training. Once the training was done, they'd be driving up to settle in Denver. Would there be anything for them to come to? He and Buck had worked with both men on a couple of cases in the South and were slowly becoming a team. Would they lose the chance now? Chris wasn't about to give up on them now!

Both men were deep in their thoughts when the door to Judge Travis's chambers opened and the Judge, SSAC Williams, Alex Welch, and the Lady Attorney came out. The woman looked at them with a slightly satisfied expression. Her yellow linen suit stood out among the stodgy greys, browns and blacks around them. She seemed very satisfied making Chris very uneasy.

"Larabee." Travis said.

"Sir?" Chris jumped up, favoring the woman with a frown.

"We have a few more things to wrap up here. Why don't you take Wilmington up to your office? We'll be up in a little."

"Yes, sir." Chris said giving the Judge a look that plainly said that he'd be fighting any decision that parted Buck from the Team.

Buck let Chris lead him back to the office. He looked around the bull pen and sighed. It had been so exciting to see this thing getting started. This team, this idea that had brought Chris Larabee back from the brink. He'd been so thrilled to be a part of it. Now it was over.

He didn't want to wait, to have it drag out. Buck started looking for a box.

"Hey, It isn't over yet." Chris's voice shook him. Larabee grabbed him. "Buck, Don't give up on this."

"It'd be better, Chris. I don't want to sink the ship."

"Buck, you didn't give up on me. Don't give up on this. It isn't anywhere near over." Larabee hissed.

Wilmington just shrugged. It was over, even if Chris wouldn't admit it. He started shoving odds and ends into the box at random.

"Packing, Agent Wilmington?" The soft voice surprised both Agents. Standing in the doorway to RMETF Seven's offices was the Lady attorney.

"Thought I'd get it over with." Wilmington mumbled, for once the thought of looking at a pretty woman didn't interest him.

"Whatever for?" She asked causing both Agents to look at her in some confusion. "Agent Wilmington. You have not lost your job and if anyone tells you that you have I will be most put out. I did not come all the way from Seattle just to have my work undone."

"I thought...Weren't you...? Didn't you come to represent Maddie?" Buck was startled.

"No, I was not here to represent Ms. Sorensen. The only way I'd represent her is if she were under a psycho-therapist's care."

"Huh?" Buck blurted.

"Agent Wilmington. You are not the first Agent that Ms. Sorensen has pulled this little con on. The Director in Seattle fired her with extreme disgust after she tied his entire office up with her games. Imagine his surprise and mine when she turned up working for the Federal Government here in Denver as if nothing had happened. I was the attorney for the last victim of her mind-games. You really need to get a better screening process in place."

"You mean I'm not fired?" Buck's jaw dropped. "I can stay?"

"As long as Agent Larabee wants you to, I imagine."

"You weren't here to represent Maddie's civil rights?" Buck asked still unable to understand this sudden change of situation.

"Not her Civil rights, Yours Agent Wilmington." The lady smiled, shaking her head making her silver earrings jingle.

"We're almost finished with the paperwork, Dorrie. Is there anything that you'd like to add?" SSAC Williams stuck his head in through the door. She looked back at him with amusement.

"Have Jonathan look them over and I'll see what we need to add. I need to speak to these two Agents for a moment." She smiled again at both men. "There are a few things that I'd like to ask them."

"Okay, Jonathan is the Grunge fan?"

"No Jonathan is the Native-American. Blake is the Grunge-fan." Dorrie laughed softly. "Rosemary is the redhead, Parvati has the interesting taste in Jewelry, Jacob's the one on the phone. It takes a while, Eric, to keep them all straight if you aren't used to working with us. Area Director Gwynn has the names and numbers of all of the people in my firm on a piece of paper glued to his monitor. They had to replace the monitor a few months back and he went crazy calling until he rebuilt the list. I've started to have Jacob fax a new list over once a month or anytime there are any changes. Saves trouble in the long run."

Williams chortled and left.

"You do a lot of work with the Federal Government? Isn't that unusual for a Civil Rights attorney?" Chris asked. He was still stunned by the turn this had taken. Larabee had been expecting a long hard fight for his oldest friend to stay on the team.

"You protect the People's safety, Agent Larabee. We protect the People's liberties. Many on both sides would like it to be war between us, but for us to function we need to be Allies. That alliance is often strained but it's part of what makes our Nation work. Without either of us, we're all in the soup."

"Speaking of Soup. There isn't anyway for me to thank you for pulling me out of it." Buck began.

"It was the right thing to do, Agent Wilmington." Dorrie looked at him seriously. "I support Wiley's Initiative. There are too many so-called Cold cases, too many people who are not getting answers. It takes a strong and unusual team of Law Enforcement Officers to get the job done. The type of people who won't let go of a case unless they've explored every possibility, and even if they can't solve it keep it in mind so that maybe the next person in line can. The cases you'll be working in this RMETF will have a lot of Civil Rights overtones. The cases most often buried are the ones that can't be gotten cleanly, damaged evidence, incorrect procedures, personal vendettas. I don't know whether to envy you or to worry about you."

"Both, probably." Larabee said. "But there is one thing that Buck and I can do to begin to pay you back for stepping in and helping us. Can we take you and your team out to Lunch?"

"That's very kind, Agent Larabee, but it's a little impractical."

"It's the least that we can do, Ma'am." Buck said.

"I may not keep many of the Laws, but I do keep Kosher. Parvati eats only vegetarian, Jonathan and Blake are both carnivores and Rosemary is fond of ethnic food. It's very hard to find a place to satisfy us all."

"Well, that's a tall order, but around here we're good with Tall orders." Buck replied, giving her a smile.

"There's a Kosher Deli over a block and Inez orders from them all the time for Agent Goldman. She also makes a pretty mean vegetarian plate. If you don't mind going to a bar, we've got it covered." Chris said. He was intrigued by this strange group and wanted to know more, especially how they came to save Buck's ass.

"That's very acceptable to me. I'll round up the others and check with Jonathan. Those papers should be filed before we leave this afternoon."

"You just came to Denver for the day? Because of this case?" Buck was floored. A quick look at Chris showed that Larabee was as astonished as he was. The idea of dragging five people from Washington State to Colorado for a single afternoon was almost incomprehensible.

"Of Course, it doesn't matter where the need is, you go to it." Dorrie grinned. "Even if it's only for an afternoon."

+ + + + + + +

Inez was prepping for the lunch crowd. Stacy and Alvin, the serving staff, were washing down the tables and setting up the condiments.

"Buenos Tardes, Senor Larabee, Senor Wilmington, What will you have?" Inez Recillios said, expecting Stacy or Alvin to handle the other people who'd walked into J.Watson's.

"We'd like a booth. Inez, we're having a celebration," Buck said. He chuckled at Inez's confused expression. "These folks are with us. This lady really saved my bacon today. Inez meet Dorrie... I don't think that we were ever properly introduced."

Dorrie laughed, a silvery little laugh. "We weren't. Senorita Recillios it's nice to meet you. I'm Dorcas Sandburg-Greenwalt. These are my team. Parvati Rhandashu, Rosemary O'Leary, Blake Fawcett, and Jonathan Littleman."

"It's very nice to meet you, Senora Sandburg-Greenwalt." Inez liked the tall redhead already.

"Dorrie, Please. All of that Hyphenation makes me think of my Brother's law-firm." Dorrie laughed again. "I go for Character, he goes for Hyphens." The members of her team laughed. "I hope that our various dietary restrictions are not going to cause you difficulties, Senorita Recillios."

"If it's Dorrie, then it's Inez". Inez responded holding out her hand. Dorrie took it. "No difficulties. None at all." The pretty Latina walked over to the counter. She brought several of J.Watson's menus and a folded white paper with green printing on it. "Senior Goldman has the same problem. He likes to come and celebrate with the others when a case is successful, but he does not wish to break his sacred law. The Gimel Deli is a nice place and Leah is a wonderful cook. You just tell Alvin what you'd like and I'll have him run and get it. Now, is it okay for the others to have beef around you, Senora Rhandashu?"

"If they wish to. I can only keep to my own beliefs and not demand it of anyone else," the little Hindu woman demurred.

Soon the dietary difficulties were straightened out. J.Watson's was filling up but the corner booth that they were eating at was close enough to the action, but far enough to be semi-private. A group of Agents from the FBI was in the next booth over. One of them started up the Jukebox in the corner and Rosemary, Jonathan, and Blake got up to dance. Rosemary was dancing in a graceful elevated fashion, holding her body stiff with arms to the side, but her legs and feet were going a mile a minute. Jonathan was up and down yet somehow his dancing and Rosemary's seemed to mesh. Blake was swinging with one of the younger ladies from DEA. All in all, it was quite a comfortable lunch.

"Rosemary is the regional champion in Irish Step Dancing. Jonathan is one of the best in both Hoop and Fancy Dance. They are total opposites, but somehow it works." Dorrie said, watching Chris watch her team. Buck was talking to Parvati about some person they both knew. Larabee grinned sheepishly.

"On the surface it shouldn't. You seem to have a lot of differing points of view," Chris said, but they both knew it was a question.

"Most of the people in my firm are highly educated, frequently 'church-going', and very ethically minded individuals. However those differing Creeds, ethics, ethnic backgrounds... they do sometimes cause problems. There are more people in our office than I brought for this, so you haven't seen everything." She laughed. "Nowhere near everything. I won't say that we don't have our occasional arguments, but respect for each other is the glue that keeps the firm going. It took a good five years to get us moving in a smooth fashion, but now that we are...Well let's just say that there aren't too many things that stand in our way."

"I can imagine," Chris said dryly. "How did you get it to work?"

Before Dorrie could answer, a man leaned over from the FBI booth.

"Dorrie? Dorrie Sandburg?"

"Hello, Graham." Dorrie smiled at the interrupting Agent.

"What brings you to Denver?" Graham asked with a nod at Chris Larabee, a token apology for interrupting. "Don't tell me. Let me guess! That sister of yours is out protesting. Did Conner lock her up? She's probably out yelling the rest."

"I'm sure she is, Graham. Though she's not here, so I imagine Agent Conner will have to find his amusement elsewhere. Last time I almost had his badge..." She laughed and Chris was surprised when the Agent did too. "It's May, I'm guessing that she's either out with Greenpeace or studying Harmonic Convergence in Nevada. But knowing my sister it could be anything. And frequently is."

"Probably causing the local Law Enforcement a massive headache."

"Perhaps not as much right now. My nephew is rooming with a Detective back in Washington, so she's being a little circumspect."

"Hanging out with a Cop? A, and I quote, "Jack-booted moronic incompetent member of the American Gestapo"?"

"Not only that. From what I've been told, the man is former Military."

"Damn, I would have thought she'd go up like rocket fuel!"

"Currently she's processing. I've always thought my nephew had a little too much need for justice to let his mother's prejudices blind him forever. Personally I think he'd make a good policeman, but I have no doubt that that would give my sister heart failure. It would have to be a pretty strong call for him to forsake all the things she's taught him."

"Do you want him to be a Cop?" Chris asked. He was becoming more and more confused by the situation.

"I want him to be whatever he was created to be. He's a great young man, but he's let my sister's view of the world dictate to him for far too long. Don't get me wrong. There's a need for views like my sister's, but that doesn't mean it's the only acceptable view. Each person in the world has to find their own stand, their own ethos. What is right for one isn't necessarily right for the next person."

"You mean true?"

"Truth is unchanging, but what aspect of that truth we individually serve changes both us and the lives around us. There is in fact Truth, Goodness, and Beauty..." She looked at him seriously. "Each person decides for themselves what is right, but each person needs to have respect for the rest of the world and their choices."

"Isn't that kind of an odd way of thinking for a Civil Rights attorney?"

"It's the way I think. I've been finding truth, balancing compromises, and punishing those who forget 'equal under the law' for longer than you've been around, Agent Larabee. I started helping my father when I was seven years old. By the time I had my Bat Mitzvah, I was an old hand at disputes. But then again, I was one of ten very strong minded and differently minded children."

"That's a large family." Chris said reminded of Nathan Jackson's family. Their Medic came from a large and very intelligent family, yet the man seemed unable to give in to compromise.

Dorrie laughed. "It is. My parents were unable to have children so they adopted orphans from Europe. My twin sister, myself, and one brother were born in Amsterdam and were fortunate to be rescued by them. Our birth parents were killed for the crime of being Jewish. My sister was very seriously ill back then, and was more safely sheltered, so she does not remember any of that time. Unfortunately, she didn't see what the real Gestapo was capable of." Dorrie grimaced in pain. "That's why she throws those words out so easily. It does bother me, far more than she understands, but I can't convince her of the difference. Since we were hidden in different places with different families so much of what I experienced she did not. I saw enough of the Evil out there to set me on the course of justice early on. However, my sister found herself on the wrong side of an opinionated police officer in the early Sixties. That set her mind in stone. She's been protesting that officer ever since...With varying results. To be truthful, she's as intelligent as the rest of our family, but she finds the most wild things to become intense about. Her dislike of the Police has done her little good, but all in all, she's done an awful lot of good for others, but just not in a textbook way." The Lady Attorney had a very pensive look on her face.

"Not textbook." Chris said, a little overwhelmed. He tried to get the conversation back on safer ground. "That's the description of this team so far. Travis has been on my case about the 'oddballs' that I've been choosing. Buck and I work well, he keeps me on an even keel. I have a massive temper. Buck's fond of women as you know from the case, Nathan is a bit of a prig, and I'm guessing that Sanchez is probably weirder than your sister in the causes that he champions...It's going to be hard keeping all of them on track, but I don't even have a full team yet. I can't imagine how wild it's going to get depending on who the others are."

"Orrin said that you'd been having some problems choosing."

"You know Judge Travis well?" Chris asked startled by the use of the Judge's first name.

"Orrin and Evie are very old and dear friends. They flew out to Seattle when my husband Michael was murdered, I came to Denver when their son Stephen was. We've been close for years, but lately it seems like we only see each other for funerals or cases." Dorrie said wistfully.

Recognizing her pain as it echoed his own loss, Chris was uncertain how to redirect the conversation. Any need to do so was taken out of his hand when Agent Baker began hassling Jonathan Littleman. Before he or Buck could do more than get out of the booth, Dorrie was across the room and in Baker's face. She didn't raise her voice but whatever she said to him made him first red in the face and then pale. The other Agents in the room had been ready to back her play, Larabee noticed, whether that was because she was a woman or because they all disliked Baker he couldn't be sure.

Dorrie straightened the creases in her yellow suit and came back to the booth.

"Interesting man." She said her earrings jangling.

"Ma'am that's one word for him." Buck said. He'd been ready to take Baker apart. He didn't like the man at all and threatening Littleman, who was just a 'kid' in Buck's estimation, was the act of a bully or a coward. Wilmington couldn't stand either kind.

"Believe it or not, he's one of the ones they want me to have on my team. Undercover agent." Chris said with irritation.

"Not him, Pard, not him." Buck pleaded.

"Yes him, They say I need to make allowances for 'Artistic temperament' in an undercover Agent."

Dorrie scrutinized the Agent who was now being shown the door by Inez. "Allowances, yes. Not Excuses. That one shouldn't be an Agent."

"Powerful relations. I've already had the lecture about shaking hands with the powerful."

"You need to make your own choices, Agent Larabee."

"Chris. Please, Chris." Chris asked. "I will make my own choices, but it's getting increasingly hard to avoid the power brokers. I told you that Travis wasn't pleased with my collection of 'oddballs'. He wants some textbook agents on this. Something that he can show off a little with."

"Orrin does have some political aspirations, Chris. However, the difference between an 'oddball' and an incompetent is very much of concern to him."

"Appearances count apparently." Chris said. This had been weighing on his mind for the last couple of months.

Dorrie frowned. "Someone I'm acquainted with once told me that 'Appearances are everything'. Nothing else seemed to matter, but the truth is that Appearances are everything, and always deceptive. We only show the world what we think we want the world to see, not the reality. For this to work, you need the reality, not the appearance of reality. If you'd like I'll have a talk with Orrin..."

"That's okay. I still have final say as to who is on this team. I've got a lot of applicants and a lot of suggested Agents to check out." Chris paused. "I do have a couple of questions. How did you find out about Buck's situation? Did Travis call you in?"

"No, Travis didn't. Alex Welch mentioned it when he asked about the advocate assigned to the Pacific coast RMETF."

"You know Alex too?" Buck asked curiously. This woman seemed to know everybody.

"We've traveled in the same circles. Most people talk about doing things or vote to do things, there is only a small group who are actually Doing things. The advocate for the Pacific team wasn't working out but the team leader, Agent Fiarotta doesn't like me, so I'm not able to help them. I was able to find a replacement that Fiarotta was willing to accept, but it took Wiley Redd's involvement to get the man to accept any Civil Rights review at all. Had to look all the way down to Mississippi to find someone compatible. " She sighed. "Fiarotta's a hard man to deal with. A little too arrogant for the Northwest if you ask me. However, dealing with Militias should knock some of that chip off. You don't last long if you aren't flexible."

Chris listened to her carefully. He got the idea that there was a lot more that she didn't say. "So the attorney for Team Nine... He lives in Mississippi, or did he move?"

"She still lives in Mississippi. Unfortunately, Fiarotta opted for the once a year review by Civil Rights. It doesn't actually help a team like yours avoid violations that will destroy cases if you only have an annual review. Fiarotta won't utilize his resources at all well. Why?"

"I was wondering." Chris said slowly. "You don't have a RMETF that you're reviewing currently?"

"No, none of the other leaders were interested in an 'oddball' like me. Chris, what are you asking?"

"We need an external Civil Rights reviewer. Since we aren't a full team yet and haven't done much in the way of actual cases, it hasn't really been an issue. I want someone we can work with, but someone who will stand their ground. I think you're the right firm to deal with."

"The firm? That could get very interesting, even once a year." Dorrie mused with a slight grin on her face.

"I wouldn't want once a year. I think that we're talking review with each case. I don't want to lose cases because of an error. I can't avoid them all, but I want someone to help us avoid as many as we can. It seems like it would take a whole lot of people to do that. A firm."

"Well, I know we'd be interested. It might cause you some headaches. My people are very stubborn and opinionated."

"So are mine." Chris laughed, thinking of Nathan Jackson. "So are mine."

"Why don't we go back to the Federal building and run this past Orrin first, before we get ahead of ourselves?"

"I think he's available. I thought he said we'd be all day because of the case." Chris frowned in concentration. "I'd guess he'll try to leave early since you finished so quickly. He likes to spend afternoons that he has off with his grandson, Billy."

"Well, I think we're all finished." She turned to the Hindu lady. "Parvati, do you want to stay here or come back to the building with me? Our ride won't be coming for another two hours. I'm guessing that the younger set would like to dance a little more." Dorrie smiled watching Blake walk his fifth partner to her seat. Jonathan and Rosemary were still at it, but that didn't surprise her. The stamina required to be champions in their varied competitions led to long endurance whenever they got up to dance. Since she didn't have anything that required them, she'd let them play. Besides it would annoy Roger O'Leary no end when he heard about it... That could only be a good thing.

"I'll stay here. It's just across the street and I can watch over the 'stuff'" Parvati teased in reply, seeming very much at ease with her 'boss'. "We will meet you in front of the Federal building in an hour and a half. Precisely." Chris raised an eyebrow, Buck smirked but Dorrie seemed unconcerned by it.

+ + + + + + +

Travis was thrilled that Chris had chosen the Sandburg-Greenwalt firm. Dorrie was indeed a close friend and he reminded her that frequent review meant that she'd be in Denver often. Evie would be very pleased and that was one of Orrin Travis's greatest goals in life, keeping Evie pleased.

Dorrie came up with Chris and Buck to the RMETF's offices to sign and file the papers. Deborah Rinaldi, Chris's newly assigned assistant took the forms to type up and prepare for the signatures.

"Drat!" Dorrie exclaimed.

"What?" Chris asked in concern.

"My earring broke." She bent down to pick up the broken silver piece then she removed the rest from her ear. "This happens in my family. My mother loses earrings all the time." Dorrie took out the undamaged earring and looked at both of them in the palm of her hand. "Here." She said, handing them to Chris.

"Sorry?" Chris was confused but took the earrings she held out to him.

"Family tradition. When you break an earring, you have to give it and it's mate to the person you are talking to at the time. It's for luck."

Chris looked down at the silver earrings and realized that they were Easter lilies. He looked at Dorrie, not willing to ask the question.

"I love flowers. Easter lilies are my favorites. I may not be a Christian, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the flower." Dorrie paused."It's rather like what we were discussing at the bar. It's not what your outward appearance is but what's in your heart and mind. Appearance isn't everything, it's an illusion. You have to choose the people for your team, for your life, by what's really inside them not the package they come in or the one they want you to see."

Chris could see Buck watching them with a grin that meant he was going to get the ribbing of a lifetime about the earrings. He wasn't entirely sure what to make of her. The thing was, what she was saying was true. He really couldn't handle dealing with people who were only useful on the outside...that only appeared useful. There was no way that he was going to choose someone for this team by appearance alone.

Signing and filing the paperwork took almost the rest of her time. Dorrie gave him a card with the firm's telephone number, her cell and home numbers, an email address, and an emergency line. With the card came the stern instruction to call her at anytime they needed anything, not just a Civil Rights review. Chris tried to hide his grin as she lectured him like his own mother would have. Buck was trying to smother his laughter at the sight and was failing.

"Just remember, Chris. Not appearance but what's in the mind and heart. Go with your gut, with your instincts. You'll do well. I know it. Take care and don't forget to call if you need anything." Dorrie said and an instant later she was gone.

Chris set the silver earrings on his desk, right next to the framed picture of Sarah and Adam. He stroked a finger against the glass. "Miss you." Smiling at the thought of what Sarah would have thought of Dorrie Sandburg-Greenwalt, Chris's mind drifted off in memories. His new assistant, Deborah Rinaldi knocked on the open door interrupting his revery.

"Agent Larabee, Sir?" Deborah asked hesitantly. She wasn't sure she should come in. He was staring at that picture of his family. When she took this position, she'd been warned by just about everyone... Chris Larabee was known for his black moods when thinking about his murdered family. Watch yourself.

"Yes, Deborah?" Chris asked. His mood was even and he was feeling at ease. Deborah relaxed slightly.

"I've filed the paperwork. All of the numbers Mrs. Sandburg-Greenwalt gave me are now in the roll-a-dex. Is there anything else you'd like me to do?"

"No, that's fine, Deborah."

She almost left, but somehow she couldn't without mentioning it. "Sir?"


"That kid is back again. He really wants an interview...Is there anyway you could see him? Even if it's only to explain that he's not what you're looking for?"

"Alright, I'll see him. I have 9:45 open, don't I? No wait, I'm not sure I'm up to talking to a kid that early in the morning. Make it 1:30."

"Yes, Sir." Deborah brightened up. She hated to keep telling the young man that Larabee was unavailable. It would break his heart not to get chosen but at least Chris would see him.

"Davidson? Right?" Chris asked writing the appointment on his calendar. At Deborah's confused look he added. "His name is Davidson?"

"No, Sir. It's Dunne. JD Dunne."

"Okay. Tomorrow at 1:30."

"I'll tell him."

"Thanks." Chris followed her out of his office and started toward the conference room. He frowned down at his dusty suit. "Buck? Do you know where the Damn vacuum is?"


Continues in New Beginning