The first time Steve McGarrett met Eliot Spencer was on a joint operations task force. Spencer was one of the Army Rangers that had done the recon for what was now a SEAL mission, and Steve was a green Lieutenant straight out of Annapolis assigned to Naval Intelligence. Steve gave the mission briefing, and Spencer raised his hand in the middle -- still unshaven and grimy from the field -- and told him two of his approaches were no good.
"They got razor wire and bells under all that brush," said Spencer in a lazy drawl that was belied by the strong frown creasing his brows. "You could probably weasel through but it would take too much time."
Steve flushed and kept from saying that the someone should have bothered to write that in their damn report. He looked at the notes in his hand and stammered through his third, and now only, route. When he glanced away from the projected screen at the end Spencer was watching him with an unnerving dead-eyed stare that only became creepier when the briefing was over and Spencer grinned and winked at him before swaggering off.
Later, Steve listened on the radio as all hell broke loose. The SEALs had run into gunfire, now had a man down, and the compound's defenses were closing in fast.
"Your route better be good, Navy," he heard Spencer say over the radio. His Ranger team was acting as backup on the perimeter, and it turned out that getting through the razor wire and other traps didn't take much time if the enemy already knew you were coming.
Spencer and his team got every SEAL out. They tumbled bloody but victorious out of the chopper, demanding drinks and praise and fucking medals for doing their job and the Navy's. Spencer clapped Steve on the shoulder as he passed. "Pretty good choice after all," he said.
The second time Steve saw Spencer's face was on a copy of his file, only this time the file was from Interpol. Spencer was still scowling and below his name were a half-a-dozen violent crimes for which he topped the suspect list.
"What's this?" Steve asked his CO. "I met this guy. He used to be on our side."
Commander Tillen took the folder and scanned through Spencer's military record that now included Army Special Forces. He handed the folder back with a sigh.
"It's a lot more common than you'd think," said Tillen. "We lose our best assets to the highest bidder. And they're not easy to catch. We'll keep tabs on him and see if we can't bring him back in."
Steve took the folder, wanting to ask what kind of man could do that? Turn his back on his country after giving so much for it. For giving up on all they stood for as soldiers. He wondered if Spencer had already been thinking of betraying his country when he went in to get that SEAL team out.
Back at his desk, he read the full file. Sightings in Milan, Tokyo, and New Delhi. Suspected activity in Russia where he went completely off grid for two years before showing up in Munich. He had a dozen aliases, another dozen more bank accounts, all empty now, and a coincidental trail of broken bodies in his wake.
More telling were the whispers that Interpol was hearing from snitches and spies. For a price, Eliot Spencer was a man who got shit done.
Steve had been a SEAL for over a year, out on his fourth mission, when he learned that the US Government was sometimes willing to pay that price. The same photo from Spencer's file came up during the briefing as the young Intelligence officer described their contact who had the ins and outs, and more importantly the blueprints they needed.
"An assassin?" Steve blurted out before he could censor himself.
Everyone turned and looked at him, and the young officer blinked in confusion. "Uh, no, sir," he said. "Mr. Spencer is a CIA asset -- calls himself a retrieval specialist."
Steve snorted but didn't comment further until he was face-to-face with Spencer at the drop. He'd grown his hair out and wore a bandana to keep it back, looking as comfortable in civvies as he had all those years ago in uniform. Steve couldn't pick out a weapon on him, but the man had the best training the U.S. Army could offer. It wasn't as good as the Navy's, but Steve still kept his distance.
Spencer was professional. He handed over the blueprints for the cash with no fuss and a minimum of words. Steve concentrated on not punching him in the face.
But as they were about to go their separate ways, recognition flickered in Spencer's eyes.
"'98. The razor wire route," said Steve, and Spencer actually grinned.
"You were the kid who plotted it," he said.
"You were the son of a bitch who went through it," said Steve.
Spencer shrugged like it was nothing. "Someone had to bail out them SEALs. I see you're one now too, huh?" He chattered like an old friend, loose and easy.
"And you're a mercenary." Steve's tone was not kind. Spencer didn't miss it, and Steve took perverse satisfaction in the way the grin fell off his face and he straightened up, tense.
"Figured I should get paid better for doing the other people's dirty work." Spencer took a step back, duffle of money in hand. "You look me up after another twenty missions," he said. Then he left.
Spencer wasn't his main target, but there he was standing ten feet away. Steve was between Spencer and the door and with this chance, he wasn't going to let him go. Over the years, Spencer's Interpol file had only grown, CIA protection for whatever he did in the Middle East notwithstanding.
"This would be a whole lot less mess if you got out of my way." Spencer wasn't carrying a gun.
"I'm taking you in." Steve raised his pistol a half inch. "We can do this the easy way or the hard way."
Spencer grinned, never taking his eyes off Steve. "Hard way is just fine."
Steve never saw the book coming. It was leather-bound and tied shut of all things, and Steve had no idea where it came from. But the half second of distraction cost him. Spencer was in his space and disarming Steve until they were trading blows and every dirty trick in the book.
Steve was good, knew everything he could get anyone to teach him, but Spencer could have taught him a thing or two. His style was completely unrecognizable, a dozen moves from a dozen martial arts bleeding into each other so fast Steve could barely keep up. When he went down with a dislocated shoulder and fire in his knee, Steve wasn't terribly surprised. Spencer snatched up his gun as soon as he hit the floor.
But Steve was surprised when instead of shooting him, Spencer ejected the magazine and cleared the chamber. He knelt down next to Steve and helped him straighten out his leg -- which was extremely painful -- and gave him one of the pills from his vest.
"You sit tight. Your buddies will find you soon," said Spencer patting his chest.
Steve stared at him, not quite glaring but not knowing what to say either. "I've been on twenty-five missions," is what came out as Spencer gathered up the book and stood to go.
He stopped at the door, a cut on his forehead bleeding down his cheek. "Yeah? How you like 'em?"
"I'm keeping bad guys from killing people," said Steve because he believed it. He was here to do his job. Stop Myashi from doing things that were above Steve's pay grade to know, and he didn't need to know to settle the feeling in his gut. His gut would follow orders. But something must have showed in his face because a wistful smile crossed over Spencer's face.
"Yeah. I used to do that too. Better luck living with it."
Despite the agony he was in, when Spencer disappeared, Steve didn't hate him.
When Steve walked out jail a cleared man he was not surprised to see Danny waiting for him.
He was rather startled to recognize the man in the car parked beside the Camaro. "Hey, McGarrett. Good to see you're still alive."
Spencer's hair was still loose and he looked as happy and relaxed as Steve had ever seen him. Even as he pointed out to Danny just who exactly he had hired -- and boggled a little at what the price must have been -- he still couldn't quite believe the real smile he saw on Spencer's face.
Later after the whole story came spilling out in the wake of Kono's name being cleared, Steve sat alone in his office with hard copies of the surveillance photos that had already mysteriously disappeared from all their computer systems.
Spencer wore a suit and tie as he trailed behind the governor and Nate Ford, a body guard doing his job. Like he must have done a hundred times on a hundred jobs. Only this time is wasn't the same old job.
That Spencer was working with a crew was surprising. That they hadn't taken any payment, shocking. Steve wanted to ask Spencer why, ask what happened, touch the twisted shape of his life that went from service through greed and back to a warped kind of altruism. Steve had an idea, but he wanted to hear it from Spencer. And maybe take the man out for a beer afterward and swap war stories -- the real ones, the ones Steve couldn't share with anyone, sometimes not even his buddies.
"Steve, hey, let's go already!" Danny leaned in through the open door. "Are you still looking at that? You can report them to whoever you want tomorrow. But tonight we are pretending this never happened, that you got out of jail by 100 percent legal means, and we didn't accidentally order a hit on Wo Fat."
"All right, I'm coming," Steve waved Danny on. He tossed the photos in his desk drawer, turned out the light, and closed the door behind him.
Danny chattered, Steve drove, and as he let the evening breeze ruffle his hair through the window, he thought about finding people you could call home. He hoped Spencer's team was as good to him as Steve's was.