Passing the Torch

by Kati

Alternate ATF Universe

NOTE: This is just an idea that popped into my head and wouldn't go away until it finally made its way to my computer. Feedback is extremely welcomed. I'm wondering if there's a possibility for a series here? ENJOY!!

Vin Tanner opened up the door to the ATF office on top of the Denver Federal Building. He cringed when the old door swung open with a soft creak. A quick glance inside told him that nobody was in the bullpen. He hadn't expected that there would be. It was early and the occupants wouldn't be arriving for at least another hour. A dim light caught his eye, and his hand was already at his hip before he realized the location of the glow. The beam from the small office was escaping through the cracks of the closed oak door.

"And people say I work too hard!" he thought to himself.

He looked around the large room and thought about the countless memories he had of this place. Not much had changed since the first day he had walked inside. Six cumbersome desks still took up most of the space, one lined up across from the other. Vin doubted that anyone had bothered moving them since they were placed inside. They were just that damn heavy. Underneath, the same putrid colored carpet remained. The carpet was supposed to be replaced all long time ago, but the department had never gotten around to it. The tiny off-white curtains were still the only protection the office workers got from the blazing Colorado sun. A new coat of paint had been added to the walls some years back, but was now chipping off just as bad as its predecessor. Department still hadn't gotten it through their heads that spending the extra twenty bucks on a bucket of quality paint was worth the effort. The same Colorado and New England sports team posters covered the walls along with the mandated and outdated CPR instructions.The hockey stick he had broken during his second game still sat in the hallway leading to the bathroom and break room.

But a closer observation revealed that many things had changed. New posters lined the walls and action figures from the latest films lay haphazardly on the carpet. Most importantly, were the new shelves full of high tech gadgets that Vin had never seen before. Taking up each desk was a huge grey machine with a screen. The computephone was the latest technology to enter crime solving. It still seemed like something out of a science fiction novel to the sharpshooter.

He heard voices in the hall and they were getting louder. The shadows outside the door began flickering back on the office wall. Quickly, Vin dived behind a shelf. His old muscles screamed in protest at the sudden movement. He watched as the door opened and six bodies filed in. He scrutinized their rosy cheeked and wind burned faces as they took off coats and other outdoor attire. His location was perfect. He had an ideal view of the entire office, but nobody could see him unless they literally walked up to the shelf and looked behind it.

:"Can you believe Larabee had the balls to call us into the office this early?" the dark haired man closest to Vin complained.

"I think balls are the one thing our leader is missing, Luke," the black man across from the first chuckled.

"Do you have to be so crude?" The question was posed by the only female in the room, a pretty redhead.

"What's wrong Natalie? Oh I forgot, we can't mention words like balls when there are crazy feminists in the office," he chuckled. Everyone knew the comment was meant as a joke, but the room fell deathly silent, waiting for Natalie's reaction. Vin used this moment to examine these people even more. They were all young, not one of them over thirty. Vin knew that the Iranian man, Mabrin had just celebrated his twenty-eighth birthday two days ago. Nick, the brown haired man across from him was the youngest at twenty-three..

"It's alright Luke,' Natalie said sweetly, and sat down at her desk. She turned on her computephone and began typing as if nothing had happened. This was not the answer Vin expected. Clearly none of the others did either. They all stood staring at the woman in disbelief. Natalie pretended not to notice any of their gazes.

Slowly, the all sat down in their chairs and turned on their screens. Luke was the last one to sit down. The second his behind touched the chair, the entire thing collapsed sending the man sprawling onto the ground. He landed in an awkward position, with his feet over his head. Vin almost choked as he tried to hide his laughter. Luke pulled himself to his feet in outrage.

"It's not that funny Ty," he growled.

"Yeah it is," the black man chucked, laughing all the harder.

"What happened Bro?" the man across from Natalie asked, his eyes dancing in amusement.

"I don't know Clayton, why don't you tell me?" Luke answered, glaring at the other man. Natalie made a deliberate movement that nobody could have missed.

"Well, would you look what I found?" she asked, holding up a screwdriver. "Looks like the custodial staff was in here last night.Maybe she was a crazy feminist too." The cocky smile reached from her lips to her green eyes. Vin half expected to see a flash of gold from her teeth. There was only one other person who could smile like that.

'You're dead meat Standish,' Luke growled.

'I kicked your ass once Wilmington and I'll do it again," Natalie shot back. Just as Luke took a step forward, a voice called from behind the office door.

"Conference room, Now!"

The result of the threats would remain a mystery. The six agents picked files up off their desks and filed into the large room on the right. Vin waited until their leader had disappeared into the conference room, before emerging. His muscles didn't like sudden movement, but they hated getting up even more. Vin ignored them and walked into the break room. Another room that hadn't changed much other than the new high tech coffee pot he had no idea how to use. There was a large stack of books on the table and Vin sat down to look through them.

After passing by all the dusty manuals and rulebooks, he found what he was looking for. The ever crafty Casey had made the green photo album for the office, but he doubted that any of the agents inside the conference room had done more than glance at it. He opened up the first page and chuckled when he saw seven smiling little baby pictures. He turned the page to reveal a twenty year younger version of himself. Around him sat, the same seven faces, only this time they were toddlers. Not one of them was looking at the camera. Each one was staring in a different direction and doing their own thing.

"Typical," Vin chuckled.

The next pages were devoted to each individual agent.. The first smile that greeted him was that of Tyler Jackson. Ty was the spitting image of his father. Nathan and Rain had finally exchanged their I Dos under the bright May sun. Now in his sixties, Nathan showed no sign of taking an easy retirement. He was an active member in Doctors Without Borders and would be returning home to Denver from his fifth trip to South Africa. He and Rain would be stopping Boston to see their oldest son, Ryan, before they got back. Although Ty would never admit it, Vin knew that the young agent was slightly ashamed. Ryan was just opening up his own clinic outside of Boston. A track and field star, Ty had planned on using his scholarship to Harvard to pursue his brother's path. Poor Ty did not share his brother's aptitude for anatomy and medicine. After switching majors a couple of times, he found his niche. Ty was officially the team criminologist, but his unofficial place as the team psychologist was even more valuable. Vin hoped that Ty would someday realize how proud his father was of him, and see the same glow in Nathan's eyes that Vin did.

There had never been any doubt that Mabrin would end up in law enforcement. The young Iranian had made up his mind the day his adoptive father had brought him to the office. It didn't matter to Vin that Josiah had found the infant abandoned in a bathroom. The two of them were closer than many biological families he had seen. The mess that Josiah had been put through in the order to adopt the kid still made Vin's heart burn. The social workers had wanted to quietly ship him back to an orphanage in Iran. Of course Josiah would hear none of that. It had taken almost two years for the former criminologist to prove that he was a decent father and that he wouldn't let Mabrin grow up to be a terrorist. Mabrin had excelled in school, despite the discrimination he had felt from both students and teachers. He graduated with a degree from MIT and was responsible for all the equipment in the bullpen. He was constantly trying to help his father update the homeless shelter and soup kitchen they both ran. The reason it never happened wasn't from Josiah's lack of effort. The continuing attempts of Josiah to try and figure out how to use Mabrin's high tech computer and data analysis system always comical.

Vin flipped to the next two pages and chucked. It was impossible to describe one without the other. Both of them were incredibly good looking and good hearted, but that's where the similarities between the Wilmington twins ended. The first time Buck had held his sons, he decided that their names should be Casa Nova and Don Juan. Thankfully, Inez had put a stop to that. The Hispanic spitfire had finally given in to Buck's charms. It appeared that this had happened sooner than everyone had originally thought. Clayton and Luke were born almost three months before their wedding. Buck, now helping his wife run her national chain of awarding winning restaurants, would never admit to anything.

From the time Clayton was two, he realized that he held all the ladies in the palm in his hand. All he had to do was brush his blond hair off his face and plead with his big brown eyes, and their hearts would melt.. The trick had worked with everyone from his preschool teacher to his commanding officer in the Reserves.. Although he didn't need a woman's soft heart to get what he wanted. Clayton had worked hard throughout his entire life. He had fought for his grades in school and the starting quarterback position on his high school football team. His hard work had paid off. The name Wilmington would forever be remembered as the quarterback who helped snap the Navy's twelve year winning streak and brought the Commander in Chief Trophy home to West Point. Clayton would have made an excellent full time officer, but law enforcement had called his name. He had taken his sniper training, and become one of the best sharpshooters in the country. Grudgingly, Vin had to admit that Clayton was better than him now. His eyesight and reaction time were simply not what they used to be. But if push came to shove, he knew that he could give the young Wilmington a run for his money.

Life had not been so easy for Luke. The twenty-five-year-old was probably responsible for more than half of his parents' gray hairs. Although still good looking, he lacked the typical blond jock look of his brother. Luke was dark and lean, resembling his mother. Born three minutes after his older brother, it always looked like Luke was following in his brother's footsteps. Luke was naturally smarter than his brother, but had never embraced it. While Clayton was the good kid destined for greatness, Luke was the bad kid who had had stepped onto the wrong side of the tracks. No matter how hard Buck and Inez had tried to help their son, Luke had dropped out of high school his senior year. It had been a hard day for the Wilmingtons and their friends the day Luke had packed a small bag and took off on his motorcycle. For almost two years, nobody heard any word from him. Until one day, Buck got word that his son was in prison for marijuana possession. Eventually, Luke had gotten his life turned around and worked for his GED. Through the handwork and patience of his extended family, Luke was given a job on the ATF team. Although he rarely talked about them, his time on the streets were an invaluable tool for his undercover work. Luke still had a difficult time talking to people, except for one person.

That one person was on the next page. It seemed impossible that after the scene in the bullpen, Luke would put his trust in Natalie Standish, but it was all just a charade. A charade wasn't fooling anyone, least of all her father. Ezra Standish had always claimed that he would be perfectly content to remain a bachelor his entire life, but fate had different plans. That plan came in the form of Molly Kieslowski, the short little Polish girl from Wisconsin. She was everything Ezra was not. While he was accustomed to luxury, she was raised in the simple life on a farm. Their meeting happened by chance, and the story was told often. JD had dragged Ezra into a McDonalds yet again. Molly had run into Ezra, spilling her shake all over his expensive suit. While Ezra was demanding reimbursement, Molly told him that the only place where fabric like that belonged was on a couch. Eight months later, they were getting married and moving into their new house built for three. Their relationship was one full of compromises. Ezra had gotten his big fancy house, while Molly had gotten it in the country. Ezra's front lawn was always green and well manicured, but Molly's backyard was full of chickens and dogs.

The only thing that they hadn't been forced to compromise on was Natalie. At first Ezra had protested the idea of children. Although he would never admit it, Ezra was terrified of the fact that we would turn out to be a parent like his mother. This fear was destroyed the moment Ezra had held the eight pound three ounce bundle in his arms. From that point on, he was the every bit the stereotypical overprotective father. The only parenting skill that he had his mother shared was their reluctance to have their only child enter the world of law enforcement.

Originally, Natalie had looked like she was going to follow her father's wishes. Until a few years ago, she dreamed of becoming a national television reporter. She had the good looks and communication skills to be successful, but a required college forensic science class had changed her mind. The twenty-four-year-old would be graduating in a few weeks with her science degree and her take her positron on the team as their forensic expert. Ezra had sworn that he would never quit the team if his daughter joined, simply to keep an eye on her. Molly had other ideas. The two of them were now enjoying their retirement traveling, and donating money to orphanages across the world.

The next page was set aside for the youngest member of the team. Although, the age difference on the team was not nearly as big as Nick's father had faced. Still known as the kid, JD still had a good fifteen years on the force. He had been offered a position to head an ATF team, but turned it down. He had other plans, mainly getting himself to the Governor's Mansion. The reason the kid chose to get involved in politics continued to ellude Vin. Two years ago, JD had run as an underdog and won. The people had rallied behind JD's sincerity and promises for the state. By obtaining money for education and more aid for single mothers, JD had secured the state's respect and popularity. Governor Dunne devoted much of time to politics, but still spent much with his wife, an art professor at the university, and his kids. Nick was the oldest. Kali had just started college in the fall, and Josh was in his junior year of high school.

Casey had insisted her oldest son enter the medical field because Nathan wouldn't always be around to take her of her husband. In addition to graduating from the Academy, Nick was a certified paramedic. Unlike his father, the twenty-three-year-old was usually calm and collected. He was often responsible for providing emotional stability among the explosive personalities in the office, a difficult job for the young man. Nick had to deal with a lot of ridicule when he was offered a spot on the team. Many questioned his inexperience, believing that he gotten the spot simply because of his famous father. The doubters were now eating their words. A black shiny Rookie of the Year plague now hung on the wall in the conference room. Vin turned the page to reveal the final member of the team.

"Vin? What are you doing here?" Vin lifted up his head to see an athletic brunette standing in the doorway with an empty coffee cup.

"Just getting a cup of coffee."

"We were waiting for you to report in. I've got six agents breathing down my neck for getting them up early. You said this meeting was important."

"It is, but I wasn't going to try and use that stupid computer thing again."

"They're not that hard to understand," she stated as she filled up her coffee cup.

"I hate technology. You can wait an extra five minutes for me to get to the office. Getting up early never killed anyone."

"You sound like Dad," she commented. "What are you looking at?" She pulled up a chair and sat down next to Vin. She looked at the picture of herself in a Coast Guard uniform.

"Wow that seems so long ago," she sighed heavily.

"Do you miss it?" he asked.

"What would ever give you that idea? Why would somebody want to be in the Coast Guard when they could work in an office with Clayton and Luke? The two of them just discovered that those dumb action figures of theirs stick to the wall," she said, shaking her head and getting up.

"I'll see you in the conference room when you're ready," she said before walking out of the door. Vin watched her go, with a smile on his face. Chris always claimed that his daughter was the spitting image of his first wife. Even Mary admitted the resemblance in appearance between her second child and the picture that still stood on the mantle. At times, it had seemed that his best friend's relationship with the fiery reporter would never really amount to anything, both to stubborn to admit their fear about abandoning their first love's memory. It had finally been Billy who moved things along. When he discovered them alone outside on night, he had asked Chris when he was going to be become his new daddy. Sarah was born two years later.

Vin saw the similarities, but Sarah's personality was the combination of both of her parents. The stubbornness and hard assed attitude masked her sweet and caring heart. . Even when she was little, she had shown herself to be a natural born leader. Despite her age, the older children listened to her. Chris's teammates had always joked that Sarah would follow her father's line of work, but they did this quietly. Chris swore that his daughter would join law enforcement over his dead body. He had dreams of his daughter following her older brother, who had just been promoted to the DA in Denver, into law.

The last thing on Sarah's mind was becoming a lawyer. There had been many a bitter argument between father and daughter, about where her career path would lead. As much as he wanted to, not even Chris could deny her the opportunity to attend the Coast Guard Academy. Sarah had graduated at the top of her class, and quickly became one of the most hated faces on the East Coast ports. During her first year of work, she had put fourteen criminals away for illegal drugs. Chris wasn't happy, but her job didn't seem as dangerous as his old one.

He couldn't have been more wrong. One night while cruising the Annapolis port in her patrol boat, two bullets came out of nowhere. One hit her in the knee and the other square in the chest.. For three agonizing weeks the Larabees and their friends watched as Sarah slid from very bad to worse in intensive care. The doctors had given up hope on her. They all watched in terror as Chris slid deeper and deeper into himself, not even talking to Mary. Vin remembered how he would sit beside the girl's bedside pleading her to come back. He told her that Chris wouldn't make it if he lost his Sarah a second time. Vin didn't know why he had worried. After all, Sarah was a Larabee and the bloodline was just too stubborn to give in..

Still it was a long hard road to recovery. Her knee had been blown apart by the bullet and the doctor had said that it would never completely heal. The injury was enough for her to be dismissed from active duty with an honorable discharge. It was a hard blow for Sarah, who had planned to devote her entire life to the Coast Guard. Her heart wasn't really in her physical therapy appointments, and they all watched as she fell deeper and deeper into despair. With hesitation, Chris admitted to his daughter that the physical requirements for the feds were less demanding. With her father's approval, Sarah flung herself whole heartedly into her training and physical therapy sessions.

Sarah was working on a local task force when tragedy stuck the seven and their families yet again. Only eight months after he announced his retirement. Orrin Travis had died peacefully in his sleep. Nobody was quite sure why, but Vin knew that the old man simply didn't have anything else to give. Better to go early than die a burden on someone else. He got out of his seat and walked into the conference room.

"About time you showed up Director Tanner," Matt whined, the moment the old man walked through the door.

"Watch it Agent Dunne. Remember that I used to change your diapers," Vin growled , then walked to the front of the room. He could feel the seven pairs of eyes on him.

Three days after Travis's funeral, he had been asked to take his old mentor's place. He wasn't going to take the position, but these seven had convinced him otherwise. He never could deny those puppy dog eyes that each of them has used since they were two. Except this time they wanted something more drastic than another cookie. Vin had accepted the job, under two conditions. Nick would be hired, and Sarah would succeed him as leader of Team Seven. It didn't matter to him that she was the youngest team leader or first woman in the western division to hold the position. He knew he could trust her, and she would make her father proud.

In fact, Vin had no doubt that all of them would. They were young hotshots with cocky attitudes. Their attitudes would get knocked down a few notches, but he if they were anything like their fathers, their desire for justice would never change. Ezra had asked him one time if he ever regretted not having kids of his own. His answer was simple and quick. Seven of them, plus their brothers and sisters was more than enough. Even after they had grown up, he was still responsible for them.

Things had changed in the office, but the time had made that inevitable. Time had added weight, slowed down reaction time, and created the aches and pains of old age, but it could never harness the pride and sense of duty in the Seven. Their legacy remained in the seven that now sat before him. Vin smiled to himself when the team actually received their first case. Seven anxious fathers would be breathing down their necks offering advice and caution. He couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. He turned his team.

"I just received info from my superiors. There's a cult like organization just outside of Colorado Springs. Reports have said that they are obtaining large supplies of weapons. They need a team to go in and...."