“I think I found the perfect case for our first job without Nate and Sophie.”
Alec Hardison looked up from his computer screen.
Parker hopped down from where she was perched on the kitchen island stealing bits of vegetables as Eliot chopped. She snagged a last piece of mushroom before going to read over Hardison’s shoulder.
Adding the pile of vegetables and herbs to the pot of simmering stock … A taste … A few more seasonings … Satisfied, Eliot pulled off his colorful rooster covered apron before he turned his attention to the large screen hanging over the fireplace.
“Eileen Beckett … Only child and heir to self-made millionaire, Troy Beckett. Man got into salvage and recyclables before it was cool so he was in a position where people had to come to him for equipment, etc. when recycling went big.”
Pictures flipped on the screen.
“Mom and dad die in a car accident while vacationing in the Swiss Alps … Eileen takes over … Hires hotshot Theodore, call me ‘Ted’, Matthews, to run the trash business while she invades the fashion world.”
“If she’s in the fashion world wouldn’t we have heard about her ... I mean Sophie knew everyone who was anyone.” Parker asked.
“Oh she don’t design nothin’.” Hardison smirked. “She’s the money behind the designs … Seems to have a knack for backing up and comers and sucking them dry.”
“What about lovers, spouses …” Eliot asked.
“She woos the faces of the year whether they be male or female … Keeps them for a minute then dumps ‘em. Besides Ted, the only people that’ve been with her any length of time are her driver/bodyguard, Jerry Anders, and personal assistant, Tracy Diaz. Here’s where it gets interesting …” He shut down the screens and turned to his partners. “When Obadiah Stane was running Stark Industries, she got a place on the board of directors. Since Tony Stark took back control he’s been replacing Stane’s cronies when he can, but it’s a slow go.”
A growl from Eliot cut off Hardison’s words and had Parker and Alec both looking at him.
“Son-of-a … I thought …”
Eliot stomped to the kitchen to the simmering pot. The other two settled on the island bar stools to wait him out.
“I know her … I know of her. She bribed, slept and blackmailed her way onto some key corporate boards. Dammit.”
“You mean like the conspiracy things when we did the thing with Monica Hunter?”
Eliot and Hardison exchanged a look.
The retrieval specialist disappeared down the stairs to his garden level apartment. He came back with an odd looking phone. Speaking in rapid fire Japanese, the call only lasted a few minutes.
“Domo arigato, Souji-san.” Eliot ended the call.
Parker’s confused expression made Hardison try to explain.
“Remember when you sprained your knee and had to stay home while we did that job in Japan …”
Parker grinned. She foiled the kidnapping of their manager, Amy, on crutches, while the rest of the team was overseas.
“While there Eliot found evidence the Yakuza was using our mark as part of a smuggling operation. Money, antiquities, people … If you had the money …” He shrugged.
“That was one of my contacts. He said containers from Beckett Recyclables have been on the increase in the past six months ...”
“… Which is about how long since we were in Japan.” Hardison added.
“You never did tell me what happened in Japan. Eliot was …” Parker trailed off when Alec placed a finger on her lips.
They turned back to Eliot.
“There’s a WSC infestation in R and D. You might pass it on to Stark.” Eliot frowned as he listened to the reply. “We’ll handle it. The mark will know you from on high. I might need tickets.” Apparently the other party agreed since Eliot ended the call.
“Won’t it be suspicious if new people show up after one of her income streams dry up?” Parker asked.
Eliot shook his head.
“She’ll assume they got caught up in a normal security sweep and start looking for another way to get her information. The first thing we need to do is figure out if she knows what’s happening in Japan.”
He walked back in the kitchen. Retying the red bandana to hold back his hair, he sliced a loaf of bread Artisan bread before dishing up bowls of stew.
“How secure is our stuff, Hardison?”
The hacker looked insulted then noticed Eliot wasn’t joking.
“Better than most.”
“After supper you make it Tony Stark proof. This case is not as simple as you thought. You two might need those modeling skills you used so well.” Eliot smirked at Parker.
Parker and Hardison blinked owlishly as Eliot turned to grab their drinks.
While Hardison worked on their computers, Eliot and Parker sat down with the information they had on Beckett. A quiet ping from Eliot’s pocket had him pushing buttons on the compact device. The big screen lit up and Eliot walked over to study pictures. Curses in several languages erupted as he dislodged the bandana again running his hands through his hair.
“What?” Parker asked. “It’s a picture of Beckett and some cute Asian guy.”
“That cute Asian guy is Yakuza.” Eliot growled. “This just got real messy.”
“Yakuza? How can you tell?”
Parker put her face next to Eliot’s trying to see what he saw.
“I don’t see any tattoos … He has all his fingers.”
Eliot pointed at the left pinky finger.
“Slight difference in skin tone.”
“He has a fake finger!” Parker squealed in his ear.
“Dammit, Parker!” Eliot jerked away.
“Oh … Sorry. So that means Beckett’s in on everything.”
“Yeah. I need to call Quinn.” Eliot muttered.
“What? Why? We have you.” Parker asked.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like ‘just one name like Parker’ Quinn, but he didn’t get her like Eliot. She watched the two men when they’d worked together. They communicated the way she did with Eliot. Half sentences and an ingrained understanding of situations and what needed to be done. The feelings that kindled was, what Sophie had explained, was jealousy.
Parker frowned at the back of Eliot’s head. Why was she jealous of Quinn? Eliot belonged with her and Hardison. Sure, Archie had told his real family about her, but it was these men who were her real family, and she didn’t much like the idea of someone trying to steal Eliot. The thing was … Eliot had kept Quinn longer than any woman … There was Shelley, but he wasn’t around much … She’d came up with a plan to keep Eliot, but Hardison had gotten all stuttery and embarrassed when she asked if they could have sex to keep him.
“You know I would try to give you anything you ask for Parker, but I can’t give you that.” Hardison said when he stopped stuttering.
“Why?” She genuinely didn’t understand.
“I love Eliot … Like a brother ... A growly bad tempered brother, but a brother nevertheless. I do not have sex with my brother, or any man for that matter.”
“What difference does that make if you love someone?” Parker asked.
“Uh … In a perfect world it might not, but in Alec Hardison’s world it matters.” He huffed.
She hadn’t talked to Hardison for two days until she remembered her conversation with Eliot on the mountain. How Nate, Sophie and Hardison weren’t like her and Eliot. So she’d forgiven the hacker for not giving her this one thing. Eliot never showed any signs of wanting to move from Hardison’s townhouse in the upper east side of New York City so she’d relaxed until now.
“Parker just say what’s on your mind instead of trying to stare a hole in the back of my head.” Eliot growled after he ended his call with Quinn.
Parker jerked. She never has figured out how he always knew where she was or what she was thinking.
“Why do we need Quinn?” Parker pouted.
“Because I can’t be in two places at once. Because of who Beckett is and her contacts, we have to move on two fronts. One here, and one in Japan.”
“Can’t that Souji-san you talked to handle Japan?”
“If it was regular bad guys … Sure, but not Yakuza. They’ll go through him and his people like a meat grinder.”
“So you’re gonna what … Be like the lone samurai against the horde?”
Parker looked at her feet and twisted her shirt tail thinking about Eliot taking on the Yakuza.
“More like a ronin. You know me, Parker. I do my best work in the dark.” Eliot teased.
Head down, Parker moved until she could rest her head on his shoulder.
“You’re not going to leave us?”
Eliot hated when Parker got like this. They all had their issues, but Parker’s abandonment issues had really taken a beating the past few years. He tucked her head under his chin.
“No, sweetheart, I’ll be here ‘til you and Hardison retire from Leverage International, but if I can’t be on the job here you know there’s no one I’d trust with you except Shelley or Quinn. Shelley’s got a long term gig right now, but Quinn’s between jobs.”
Eliot felt the thief smile against his chest. It made the hair on the back of his neck raise.
“You like him.” Parker stated.
Eliot pushed her back toward her computer with a swat on the butt.
“Don’t get any ideas, Parker.” He growled.
She stuck her tongue out at him and settled down to study Eileen Beckett and Fashion Week.
Hardison stopped on the stairs when he’d heard Eliot and Parker talking. He knew his girl had a special relationship with Eliot, but he’d gotten scared when he refused her suggestion of a threesome with their hitter. The man was family, but his Nana had been a fierce church going woman, and while she didn’t condemn same sex relationships ... She didn’t condone them either. She said those were God’s decisions, not man’s but her words on young ears had formed his foundations.
He grinned when he heard Eliot’s growl. It looked like his girl was thinking of playing matchmaker between the two retrieval specialists ... Now that would be entertainment.
With corporate espionage and Hong Kong knock-offs, security was so tight, Hardison couldn’t find even a tiny crack for the team to slip through. Eliot had spent a lot of time on his funky phone that Alec was positively not trying to get his hands on, searching for a foot in the door.
Two days later, Alec answered the door buzzer and froze at the beautiful red head standing on his stoop.
“Is Eliot home?” She asked softly.
The hacker was still staring when Parker shoved him to the side.
“Who are you?”
“I’m looking for Eliot.”
“Come on … He’s in the kitchen. You’re just in time for breakfast. Are you here for a date? I don’t remember Eliot doing breakfast dates …”
“Chernyy volk (Black wolf)…”
The woman enveloped Eliot into a hug.
The kiss Eliot gave the woman was warm, with just a hint of passion. They broke the kiss and talked quietly in Russian before acknowledging their audience.
“Uh … El … You want to introduce your … Friend?” Hardison cleared his throat trying to bring his voice down a couple octaves.
“I’m nobody important. I’m just here to drop off a favor.” She smiled coyly.
“Sure you can’t stay for breakfast?”
“Nyet. Yastreb (Hawk) and I are handling an internal matter this morning.” Her smile was wicked.
Eliot opened the door, giving her a last kiss before she gracefully climbed on the back of a motorcycle. The driver gave Eliot a wave before tearing off down the street. Shaking a flash drive out of the envelope, Eliot tossed it to Hardison while tossing the envelope to Parker. He pulled the frittata out of the oven, plated the food then frowned when Hardison and Parker were too preoccupied with the contents of the envelope to come eat. The thump of his plate on the table got their attention.
“How did you get us in as press, and what’s it costing?” Dark blue eyes narrowed at Eliot.
“Taking care of Beckett is doing some powerful people a huge favor.”
“But whoever this is now knows about us.” Hardison added.
“They already knew about us. You’re good, Hardison, but they’ve been at this a while.”
“It’s Conrad from the CIA.”
“It’s not the CIA.” Eliot rubbed his hands over his face. “Nobody’s coming for us. You just keep doing what you’re doing when you clean-up after our jobs. It’ll be fine.” They didn’t need about the deal he’d struck with the Director of SHIELD to protect his Leverage family.
Just as Hardison opened his mouth to continue the argument, the buzzer sounded. Parker raced into the foyer and came back dragging an exasperated Quinn behind her.
“Eliot fix Quinn a plate so we can have breakfast and we can tell him the plan then you can go do whatever you guys do when you hang out.” She pushed Quinn into a chair.
Quinn cocked an eyebrow at Eliot who rolled his eyes and filled a plate for the younger man. After breakfast they got Quinn settled in a guest room and explained the job. Parker and Hardison were doing dishes so Eliot grabbed a couple cups of coffee and settled on the couch next to Quinn.
“So, taking on the Yakuza in Japan single-handed? That’s a bit much even for a man of your skill set.” The younger man tapped his cup against Eliot’s.
“Won’t be alone.”
“Ah, part of the Eliot Spencer carte blanche deal?”
Quinn felt the growl before he heard it.
“Peace Brother, just yankin’ your chain.”Quinn’s smile was unrepentant.
“Pull someone else’s pigtails, Quinn. Parker’s got some wild hare about fixin’ us up.”
“You mean the dating type of fixing up?” He chuckled.
“Yeah. I think she tried to talk Hardison into a threesome … Freaked the boy out bad.” Eliot chuckled at the memory of the hacker dancing around Eliot and Parker for a week afterwards. “I think she’s afraid I’ll meet someone and take off like Nate and Sophie. She figures if she gets us together you won’t take me away.”
Quinn chuckled, but as they settled into his briefing, his thoughts kept returning to what Eliot said. He had knocked boots with Eliot several times since he’d worked with them in Portland, but it had been strictly scratching an itch. Eliot kept his emotions under tight control, but Quinn figured him for a forever type of man once he committed himself.
Like Quinn, Eliot wouldn’t let himself fall that deeply in love for fear his past would come back to haunt them, but maybe someone who already knew about some of his past … It might pay to stick around a bit after this job was finished.
Duffle by the door, the clock in Eliot’s head told him he needed to be leaving at…now.
“Enough!” He growled.
Silence filled the hallway as Parker and Hardison’s eyes blinked like Kewpie dolls and Quinn snickered.
“You laugh now, but they’re all yours ‘til I get back. One scratch, bruise or hair out of place is on you.” He gave his fellow Hitter a hard glare.
Quinn winked and gave him a saucy two fingered salute.
“I’ll be your Huckleberry.” He purred.
“You.” He pointed at the younger couple. “You listen to Quinn like he’s me, and don’t do anything stupid. Parker …”
Face perfectly serious, Parker nodded her understanding. She turned to Hardison and Quinn.
“Okay, people. Back to work, we’re on the count tomorrow and I want everything perfect.” She physically turned Hardison and shoved him into Quinn while giving Eliot a saucy wink.
Parker felt like her chest was too small for her heart at the true smile Eliot gave her.
Hearing the front door close, Quinn moved to the wall of bay windows at the front of the old townhouse while Hardison went straight to his computers. Relegating his geek chatter to the background, he watched Eliot climb into a black SUV with no markings, no plates and blacked out windows. *Shit!* The wonder twins would be mad if they knew the things Eliot was doing to keep them free and safe. He stepped back hoping Parker hadn’t caught him watching, but the little thief hardly missed a trick. Feeling her behind him he let his eyes roam over the windows.
“Bet Eliot hates all this glass.”
“Pfft. It’s a love ... Hate thing. Hardison compromised. It’s not bullet proof, but strong enough to stop the whining. Why Eliot’s room is downstairs.” Her beautiful face turned serious. “Don’t hurt him. He hurts himself enough with the things he does for us.”
Like a switch was flipped, her expression turned sunny as she skipped over to the couch and climbed over the hacker to tumble onto the couch.
*Twenty pounds of crazy … But terrifying smart.*
Quinn joined his charges and silently wished Eliot *Good Hunting.*
Climbing out of the SUV, Eliot took a minute to survey his surroundings. It’d been seven years since Belgrade and Moreau. Seven years since … With a growl, Eliot shoved the memory back in its box and moved to the plane’s open cargo bay. He cocked an eyebrow at the suit waiting for him.
“Fancy rig for a hop and drop.”
“The situation has become very fluid. We’ll need the resources on board to keep us up to date in real time. Good to see you, Spencer. Welcome to the BUS.” The suit extended his hand.
“The shit must have hit the fan if Fury sent me the infamous Strike Team Delta.” He shook Agent Phil Coulson’s hand. “Pauchok (Spider) … Hawk.” He nodded to the two agents standing behind Coulson.
Coulson herded everyone onto the plane.
“Once Agent Barton has us at cruising altitude, we’ll do a briefing. You show us yours and we’ll show you ours along with a side order of Stark.”
The bay door closed, Barton and Romanoff headed for the cockpit while Eliot and Coulson settled into the lounge area. Never big on small talk, Eliot dozed while Coulson worked on a StarkPAD. The quiet was broken as Barton and Romanoff returned to the lounge bickering. A look from their handler and the two quieted, but Barton continued to smirk while Romanoff glared.
A woman after his own heart ... Coulson stepped to the media center so Natasha sat between Eliot and Barton.
“The mole was deep and had been in place since Stane’s day. There’s also been a major house cleaning at Stark Industries. SHIELD has taken custody of those people and the ones from inside SHIELD's own R and D and command structure.” Coulson opened another file. “What’s come out of all this, and thanks for the heads up by the way, is we have three heads to this snake. Your team in New York is taking care of Beckett. We have people in the wings that will clean up when the job’s done. Stark and Colonel Rhodes have intercepted the shipments that are presently enroute to Tokyo. SHIELD will handle the container yard, we’re taking the offices.”
Another set of pictures flashed on the screen.
“That’s the kaichō (godfather) of the Sumiyoshi-kai Yakuza, and his compound.” Eliot’s brow furrowed.
The three SHIELD agents were startled that Eliot had that information, but Coulson never missed a beat.
“Yes. He’s a bit of a technophile …”
“Let me guess ... He has a hard on for StarkTech.”
“Correct. Tony is so far ahead of the curve that this guy stores everything he can beg, borrow, or steal at the kaichō’s (godfather's) compound, and has a workshop set up under the house.”
Natasha handed Eliot what looked like one of his hair ties.
“Get this close to any computer and Stark’s AI will be able to infiltrate the system.”
“So, did you set up a way for me to get in or do I need to improvise?” Eliot slipped the band on his wrist.
“Infiltration IS one of your strong suits, Spencer.” Coulson crossed his arms.
“Fine.” Eliot huffed. “ETA?”
Barton looked at the clock.
“Wake me in four.”
He headed for the bunk where he’d stowed his duffle.
The backstage door to Lincoln Center closed behind Parker, Hardison and Quinn. Parker grinned at the chaos, and the security guards with their briefcases of jewels. Hardison stood transfixed at the men and women in various states of undress until Parker smacked him in the back of the head and Quinn laughed at their antics.
“You act like you’ve never seen a naked person.”
‘Uh … I … There’s been …” Hardison stammered caught between wanting to do the guy thing, but aware that Parker could hurt him if he said the wrong thing.
“Seriously.” Parker rolled her eyes, grabbed a camera from Quinn and dove into the sea of bodies.
Quinn continued to chuckle as he followed the flabbergasted hacker.
It was late when they got back to the townhouse. Parker was mad Quinn wouldn’t let her keep what she lifted. She argued that they needed to sort through the information and pictures they found before bed as punishment, but the exhausted men shoved her up the stairs.
The next morning, Quinn was surprised to find a pot of coffee, fresh juice, and a plate of assorted breads and pastries.
He poured a cup of coffee and put several pastries on a plate.
“Eliot showed me some stuff.” Parker pouted.
“Yeah, how to work the coffee pot and the address for Orwasher’s.” Hardison detoured for a kiss before going to the kitchen. “How long you been up, Girl.”
Parker shrugged. She looked at her boxes of cereal then grabbed several slices of whole grain bread and spread it with Eliot’s Neufchatel fruit spread and settled back in her spot on the couch.
“Here’s what I’ve found so far in my pictures.”
The thief had put together a slideshow of Eileen Beckett and what looked to be an expensive over the shoulder purse, but was actually a carrying case for a USB drive.
“That looks to be a four terabyte drive.” Hardison flipped the pictures. “Here … She plugs it into her tablet. I thought we were paranoid.” He grumbled.
“So … What? She never plugs into a network you can hack, and probably keeps it in a safe or takes it to bed with her?” Quinn asked.
Two sets of eyes zeroed in on him.
“Told you he was more than a pretty face.” Parker elbowed Alec.
“Parker!” The hacker hissed.
“What? If she takes it to bed, Quinn can have sex with her to get it.”
Quinn spit his coffee ... Thankfully back in the cup.
“What!? The woman likes pretty boy toys.” The blonde sounded put out with the two men. “I’m utilizing all our tools.”
“You’re planning to pimp out Eliot’s …”
“You’re right.” She interrupted. “Eliot wouldn’t like if Quinn had sex with someone else. We’ll just break in wherever she’s staying, knock everyone out so nobody has to have sex with anybody, or beat anyone up.”
The two men stared open mouthed at Parker.
“So, where’s she staying?” She turned to Hardison. “Well … Type … Where’s she staying?”
“Oh … Uh … Right … Typing …” Hardison reached for his laptop.
Quinn slouched back in his chair totally flummoxed. *You so owe me, Spencer.*
Thankful that Tokyo’s maintenance tunnels were separate from the sewage system, Eliot made his way to the kaichō’s home in the Shibuya-ku part of the city. His SHIELD tactical suit helped him blend into the shadows as he approached the access point for the Yakuza compound.
Two tranquilizer darts from a blow gun put down the guards in the tunnel. He stripped them of radios and anything else that looked useful leaving them gagged and zip tied to conduit pipes before opening the door just enough to check for guards between him and the house.
Ambient lighting from the city cast the yard in shadows, but Eliot could see floodlights scattered through the yard ... Probably set on motion sensors. He heard the slide of a door, and the yard lit up as a man with a machine pistol hung over his shoulder stepped outside and lit a cigarette.
Slipping through the shadows to the same door, Eliot slipped into the old house with no one the wiser. Being deep in the night, the man smoking in the backyard was the only one on duty in the camera room. Taking time to memorize the camera locations, Eliot pulled one of the bands off his wrist and laid it out of site. He activated the comm in his left ear.
“I have control of the security system, it is standalone.” JARVIS informed the retrieval specialist.
“I can. There are very few members of the household awake. Turn left out this room. Turn right past the kitchen, third door on the right is an office.”
Slipping through the house, Eliot was careful to keep his face off camera where he couldn’t avoid them. As he closed the office door he heard the guard in the kitchen. Sitting at the desk, he went through the drawers then began to check for hidden safes. While running sensitive fingers over the insides of the drawers, there was a click. The bookcase slid to the side enough for him to slip into a passage. A blue glow caught his attention.
The Yakuza boss was hiding all his favorite toys inside the walls of the house. Smart. Not something that would be found in a casual search by the authorities.
Eliot removed the second band from his wrist and laid it beside one of the servers.
“A stellar find, but I can find nothing containing Stark Industries files.” The AI sounded disappointed.
“Could he have made hard copies then deleted the computer files.” Eliot whispered.
“Most likely scenario.”
“Did you find where he hid the workshop? That’s probably where we’ll find the hard copies.”
“The passages do not connect. Two access points on each level. The access point for the workshop level is the kaichō’s bedroom.”
“Wonderful. I don’t suppose there’s cameras.”
“You suppose correctly.”
“Okay. Old school then.” Eliot mumbled as he exited the server passage.
"The top floor contained two bedrooms one on either side of the stairs with a total of twenty pallets. Thirteen are occupied. You must get past those rooms to have access to the master suite.”
“Got any good news?”
“You have three hours before the household staff resumes their duties.”
Eliot made it past security’s bedrooms. He was ten feet from the master suite when he heard noises indicating someone was awake and moving. With no choice he slipped through the door to his right. He froze at the sound of bedclothes rustling.
“Haha (Mother)?” A tiny voice lisped.
"Anata wa machigatte imasu. (You' are mistaken).” Eliot whispered. “Keibi-in (Security). Suimin, Ototo. (Sleep, Little Brother)”
Soon the only sound was the even breathing from the small body. Eliot cracked the door to see a man moving back to his pallet. He counted to ten then continued. The retrieval specialist was thankful the Yakuza had replaced rice paper with drywall. Since the closet and what he assumed was the bathroom was the only thing that could be seen from the hall, Eliot pulled a small mirror out of his pouch, and scanned the master bedroom for any sign of the kaichō.
The door to access the workshop was cut into the back of the walk-in closet. When Eliot opened to the door he heard voices coming toward him.
“Imouto (little sister), our buyers will expect a demonstration before they will agree to fund this project.”
“We are on schedule, Oni-san (Brother). We will be ready to test the repulsor weapon in two days.”
The brother and sister exited the bedroom never noticing the intruder.
“Well hell... Talk about Candyland …” Eliot said softly as he stood inside the Yakuza lab.
Next to him was an office. *May as well go with the obvious.* Sitting next to the desk were three racks of cardboard tubes neatly labeled with all the projects stolen from Stark Industries. *Well bless their little anal retentive hearts.* Eliot snarked to himself as he loaded them in a sea bag along with the prototype lying on the work bench.
“Are there any others?” He asked.
“My scans show that to be the only project completed. They perhaps had difficulties obtaining materials after Mr. Stane’s resignation.”
Eliot chuckled quietly at the dry tone.
“There wouldn’t happen to be an exit to the outside down here.”
“There is, but could be harmful to your health.”
“I think it's safe to say either way will be harmful to my health, so we’ll go for the shortest.”
“Should I alert anyone?”
“It would be nice if a ride was waiting.”
“Indeed. I will notify Sir and Agent Coulson.”
All things considered, it wasn’t going too badly. There was no gunfire. The Yakuza did not want to alert the neighbors or the authorities. Eliot was making steady progress through the men that had poured down the stairs. Blood flowed from several cuts. The battle suit had saved his ribs from multiple blows. Pulling on the door to the access tunnel, Eliot paused long enough to identify what had landed nearby. Seeing the small grenade, he slid down the ladder cursing the idiot that thought a grenade in suburban Tokyo was a good idea.
Catching his balance at the bottom, he was sprinting for a T intersection in the tunnel when time ran out. The concussive force slammed into Eliot sending debris through the canvas bag and into his back. The retrieval specialist fought for control of his body trying to tuck enough to protect his head. He almost had control when his body crumpled against the wall of the tunnel.
Quinn sat flirting and plying Eileen Beckett with drinks in The Carlyle’s bar. He was beginning to think she could outpace Tony Stark when it came to alcohol consumption.
“There’s an excellent bar in my suite. Why don’t I let you be my bartender for a while?” She murmured in his ear while she rubbed herself against his back. With a sigh Quinn mustered a smile as she stumbled and threw her arms around his neck.
Once the door closed behind them she began trailing clothes on the way to her bedroom. Quinn checked through the suite looking for any of her entourage, but the rooms were empty. A quick stop at the bar for another double, he sauntered into the bedroom. He was in time to see her put the hard drive in the wall safe.
Beckett pulled the drink out of his hand, and pulled his head down into a sloppy kiss. Quinn barely stopped himself from wiping his mouth on his sleeve as she tossed back her drink like an old west cowboy except she kept going backward until she hit the bed. When she didn’t move, Quinn checked to make sure she was unconscious. Drugs and alcohol just don’t mix. Relieved he turned to find Parker already at the safe.
“I’ll keep watch.”
Parker placed the tracking device that had been in the envelope Eliot’s red head gave them in the bag with the drive. She riffled through the safe’s contents.
She didn’t like the way the money smelled so she put it back. Nothing in the velvet boxes caught her eye then she saw the pouch. Inside were red diamonds and blue garnets. The pouch disappeared into one of Parker’s hidden pockets. Eyes bright, she shut the safe just as Quinn hissed her name.
“Y’all need to be vacating the premises.” Hardison warned. “Beckett’s entourage just entered the lobby.”
Parker snatched off her gloves and let her hair cascade from under her beret. She tipped it to the side then linked her arm through Quinn’s ... They looked like any other couple as the enforcer pulled her out of the room and toward the elevator.
When Anders, Diaz and the Yakuza watchdog stepped out of the elevator, Parker gave them a vapid smile while Quinn muttered equally vapid endearments. When the elevator door closed, Quinn wasted no time telling Hardison to have the van out front.
As they pulled away, several black vans pulled up, and two groups of men in tactical gear filed through the door. Quinn looked back long enough to see the back of a black leather coat disappear through the door.
The sound of anxious rapid fire Japanese jerked Eliot back to consciousness. Pulling himself to his feet, he shifted the sea bag and pulled himself up into the overhead conduits. Inching along, his back on fire, he finally found the exit. Soothing words from a familiar voice allowed the battered man to relax as strong arms caught him before he hit the ground again.
He cracked an eye to find himself on his stomach lying on high thread count sheets. Loud voices and two shades of red hair caused him to open his eyes.
“It’s all good. We’re in Stark’s suite at The Ritz. You’ve got nasty cuts and slashes along with a lot a bruises. A SHIELD medic sewed you up.”
“JARVIS called him. He got there about the time you pulled yourself out of the access tunnels. He and Happy got you back here.”
“The sea bag?”
“Stark and Coulson are having a verbal tug of war.”
Eliot gave a rusty chuckle.
“Was working for Stark … Before you … What the fuck did they give me?” He growled.
“The good stuff. Your back looks like a cross stitch sampler.” Natasha answered.
“Wanna go home.”
“Your kids are fine. Fury hauled an unconscious Beckett, assistant and driver to SHIELD HQ. Her tattooed watchdog disappeared.”
“Another finger bites the dust.” Eliot grumbled.
Ignoring the pull of stitches, he started to push himself upright.
“What do you think you’re doing?” The assassin pushed him back down.
“Going back to the BUS?”
“We’re on stand down until morning. Clint needs sleep before he flies us back.”
“You get the bad guys?” Eliot was already starting to drift.
“One down a lot more to go.”
“Tomorrow, Chernyy Volk (Black Wolf).” Natasha ran her fingers through his hair. “Tomorrow.”
As the BUS winged its way to New York, Eliot, Coulson, Clint and Natasha debriefed Fury and Hill. Afterwards, Eliot called the house to let them know he was headed home.
“They ran a clean game.” Fury glared. “There were no explosions … No bodies sprouting arrows or knives …”
“He was about to shoot, Nat!” Clint protested.
“He was about to shoot, Coulson!” Natasha said at the same time.
“Regardless, we’ve caused one clan of the Yakuza to lose face, gotten rid of a major pain in my ass on the Council, while causing the others to walk the chalk line for a day or two. I suppose I can overlook a few messes.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Coulson’s rolled his eyes.
“Dinner’s on you, Cheese. Oh and check out this Quinn guy. Might be worth a look.”
“Fuck off, Nick!” Eliot growled.
“Didn’t see no brand on the boy’s ass, Spencer.”
“You don’t worry about Quinn’s ass, Fury.”
“If your kids figure out our deal it might be your ass you need to worry about.” Fury cut the call laughing.
“Bastard.” Eliot slammed the door on his bunk as the other three agents continued to laugh.
Quinn watched out the large bay windows enjoying his first cup of coffee. A black SUV with no plates and blacked out windows stopped in front of the townhouse. A middle aged suit climbed out the passenger door. A curvy red head climbed out of the back then turned to offer a hand to someone still inside.
A glaring Eliot Spencer climbed out, moving as though everything hurt. Scrapes and bruising down the side of his face spoke of larger hurts. The suit grabbed a duffle out of the back. They both offered their arms to support the injured Hitter, and received a snarl for their efforts. Parker and Hardison had yet to come down stairs so Quinn moved to the door.
The two men reached for one another, Quinn to help and Eliot to pull the younger man in for a kiss. When the kiss ended, Quinn drew a deep breath, licked his lips, and grinned.
“I’m your Huckleberry.”
“Damn straight you are so stay away from the one-eyed pirate and his suit.” Eliot glared at Coulson.
“Eliot, are you on drugs?”
Quinn was relieved when Eliot leaned heavily on him.
“Stubborn fool wouldn’t take them.” The red head glared. “Natasha Romanoff.”
“Quinn … Charmed.” He looked at the suit.
“Chair or bed?”
“Chair until Parker settles.” Eliot took a deep breath. “3 … 2 … 1 …”
“Whose SUV is …”
Seeing Eliot’s face, Parker turned to glare at the two SHIELD agents.
“You were supposed to bring him back in the same condition you took him.”
“Mr. Spencer understood the risks …” Coulson started until Natasha twitched. “His association with SHIELD …” He was interrupted by a bump.
“Who’s associated with SHIELD?” Hardison stopped short. “Eliot?”
“I saved the Director’s life once.”
“And what else?”
“Nothing important.” Eliot stood slowly. “Our guests were just leaving. It was a long trip so Quinn is taking me to bed.”
“Does that mean we get to keep him?” Parker squealed.
“Only Quinn can answer that question.” He stopped in front of Natasha. “Bring them around when he’s not a suit.”
She kissed him on the cheek and handed Quinn the duffle.
“Pain meds ... Side pocket. Watch his back … Literally.”
A nod and he followed his … Eliot down the stairs.
It took another twenty minutes for Coulson to extract himself from Parker and Hardison. Natasha had slipped out to check Eliot and found the two retrieval specialists tangled together in Eliot’s bed.
Coulson shook his head as they drove away from the townhouse.
“We ought to bring that girl in to do our interrogations.”
“I don’t know. She’s sort of a female Clint without filters between her brain and mouth.”
“On second thought.” Coulson looked at his phone. “Fury just found out Eliot got paid by SHIELD and Stark.”
“He has a growing family to support.” Natasha smirked.
Eliot blinked awake slowly. He hated the way pain meds made him sluggish, but the combination of stitches, bruises, and all the muscle aches demanded relief so he could rest. He remembered Quinn helping him down the steps and taking the pills, but not much else.
He knew from the hand resting on his chest that he was cradled against Quinn’s chest. It was his other bedmates that surprised him. Parker had tucked herself against his chest with her head under his chin ... Hardison tucked behind her. At this rate he was going to need a bigger bed.
He closed his eyes to savor the warmth surrounding him. He’d told Parker the truth when he told her he was Ronin ... A warrior without a place to belong … Without a home. Somehow when he wasn’t looking he’d gained both.
~ Fini ~