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The Leverage Initiative

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Fury stopped just inside the door of the Bridgeport Brewpub, looking around at the bright, welcoming interior of the place. It was a cheerful, functional sort of haven; not exactly the kind of thing one might expect when invading the headquarters of a rather notorious group of criminals.

But then, Leverage Inc. was hardly staffed by the usual sort of criminal. And Fury's vast experience with remarkable individuals had taught him that they were rarely representative of their kinds.

He'd attracted a few glances from customers and staff alike when he'd walked in, but most had already turned back to their own concerns by the time he finished his assessment and headed for the kitchen door. Ford's crew had chosen well in picking their new home; any city that printed bumper stickers advising its residents to keep the place 'weird' tended to have a variable enough population that a guy in all black with a leather duster and highly visible eye patch wasn't anything to point and stare at. The proprietors themselves must've blended right in from the start.

They probably would have noticed him, of course, if any of the five had been there; but Fury had faith that oversight would be corrected soon enough, one way or another. He'd seen the camera lenses in the corners, and the hacker of the bunch was perfectly capable of rigging a facial recognition program. Sitwell said they weren't at home, but they were definitely in the city; so he'd make his way inside, then wait for their return. More or less standard procedure for this type of approach. Stake out the psychological high ground and let them come to him.

He smiled to himself as he made his way through a few secure doors, flashed a badge at one individual who looked past his assured body language to object to his presence and sent him out the back door to the hovering net of SHIELD security, then let himself into the dark conference room. There was a nice bank of screens in there, the best that could probably be had with regular civilian tech. Might be interesting to see what their Alec Hardison could make of Stark's toys.

Provided, of course, that Ford took the deal on offer. Fury had no illusions he'd be able to steal the others without Ford's approval. And quite frankly, he had no use for them piecemeal; he had plenty of hackers, swift talkers, hard hitters, and stealth experts on SHIELD's payroll already. What he didn't have was a preconfigured team with their level of unified, flexible talent that could stand in the gap between the average agent and their apocalyptic response team.

Sometimes you needed more than just the usual infiltrators, analysts, or soldiers. But it wasn't always the answer to hit things with a bigger hammer, either. And Agent Coulson was proving to be a damned hard man to replace. Not that there was anything lacking in Sitwell, exactly, or any of the other men and women in that particular hierarchy... but things hadn't been the same since they'd lost him. Gaps had opened up that didn't close as quickly as they should, gaps the likes of the Leverage team might be able to secretly fill.

Frankly, he wouldn't even be there if they hadn't already passed just such an audition. He'd first considered the possibility of recruiting Leverage Inc. as a covert team after they accidentally took down a HYDRA cell while running an op on a corrupt governor. Accidentally, as if they were just any other bunch of gun-toting goons. If SHIELD hadn't taken notice of them in the aftermath, the HYDRA hierarchy most certainly would have.

He'd taken a gamble on the Avengers, and won out; the odds were even more in his favor, this time. And by the murmur of voices outside the conference room door, the time to roll the dice had arrived. He pulled out a chair on the far side of the table, then sat, steepling his fingers above its surface.

Spencer was first through the door; he'd probably been overestimating their surveillance precautions, because the hitter didn't seem at all wary. But his response time was impressive; he'd barely taken a step before his eyes were drawn in Fury's direction. He didn't pull a gun, but his body language was too much like Barton's for Fury to doubt he had other plenty of other weapons on him.

"Who the hell are you?" he barked. "Nate, we've got an intruder!"

Ford was through the door next, anger at the home invasion snapping in his eyes. But they went still and cold as he took in Fury's profile, and he reached out to flip the light switch a second later.

"Director Fury," he said, the words clipped with displeasure. "To what do we owe the honor?"

"Mr. Ford," he replied dryly. "What is it you tell people you do? Provide leverage? Well. Perhaps I'm in need of some."

"Forgive me if I find that a little hard to believe," Ford replied, throwing Spencer a sidelong glance.

"Forgive me if I ask you to invite the rest of your team in before we discuss it further," Fury fired back. Not that he thought Spencer would actually touch him, or that the other three would make it very far if they ran; but the ensuing hassle would create a lot of extra paperwork. "I am absolutely not lying. But I also have absolutely no inclination to share the rest of this conversation with the world."

With that, he unlaced his fingers and squeezed a hidden button on his cuff. A pungent curse sounded in the hallway a moment later; any and all electronic devices monitoring the interior of the building had just gone dark. It was one of the few things SHIELD didn't use Stark tech for, for obvious reasons.

Ford narrowed his eyes at that, obviously still angry; then sighed and turned to the door. "Come on in, guys. We can at least afford to hear him out."

And then they'd see what they'd see? Yeah, Fury just bet they would. He waited until they all settled, some with more suspicious expressions than others-- Agent Romanov owed more than one mission complication to Ms. Deveraux's interference, for one, and Spencer might not have recognized his face but he'd stiffened considerably at the name-- then gave them all a shark's smile.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, looking them in the eye, one by one.

"Let me tell you about the place I stand-- and about the enemy that needs moving."