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Title: Date of Expiration
Fandom/Pairing: Leverage/Global Frequency fusion, with eventual Eliot Spencer/Alec Hardison.
Rating: R (eventually)
Summary: The Global Frequency existed to save humanity from itself, and there was always another crisis coming. It was job security of a sort, if you managed to survive the bioenhanced supersoldiers, alien neuroprogramming, physicists who should know better, and the bureaucracy.
A/N: Here's wikipedia's rundown on Warren Ellis's Global Frequency. While knowledge of the story is helpful, and I heartily recommend the graphic novels, it isn't absolutely necessary.
A/N 2: So...yeah, it's only been like three months since I've updated? Gah. Sorry! Real life just got real, yo. But I think the worst is over.

Previous chapters (You'll probably need them this time): AO3 // DW // LJ


Mon., April 14, 2014 14:30 EDT (GMT-4)

The scars on Eliot's skin were faint, precise things. If he concentrated, Alec could trace the straight lines to their deliberate angles, follow them anywhere at all on Eliot's body. They weren't a distraction, just a road map, though it was possible Eliot saw it differently, because he was rising up to look down at him, his hair falling forward over his shoulders, blocking nearly everything else from sight.

"You good with this?"

"Obviously," Alec smirked, grabbing Eliot's hair and pulling it back, out of the way. Though it was mostly a lost cause, it gave him the excuse and means to pull him down again.

It was hard to tell if Eliot wanted him to avoid the arm, or if he honestly didn't care. The synthetic skin was just a little smooth, a little cool, but Alec had studied it enough already, and it wasn't nearly as interesting as the feeling of Eliot rubbing against his hip as they kissed, falling back into the pattern they'd lost while getting undressed.

He shifted slightly, just enough that Eliot could slide his leg in between Alec's knees, grinding down deliberately, their rhythm stumbling as fingers wrapped around flesh, and collapsing completely under the urgency. When Eliot wasn't speaking or laughing, he was quiet enough that Alec wouldn't have been able to tell whose breaths were whose were it not for Eliot's chest expanding against his own, or the way Eliot's arm, braced against Alec's side- it felt like an appliance stuck in bed with them- shifted with every inhalation.

And then it shifted. Eliot's hand moved from the bed to Alec's hip, pressing him down into place as he began hasten his strokes. Alec couldn't do more than try to follow the stars that were shooting up through him like static.

---

"You want first shower?"

"Go ahead." Hardison didn't open his eyes. "I'm just gonna..."

"Hey, no dozing off."

Hardison scowled mournfully before burying his face in the pillow, then flipped him off. His hand, when it fell, landed on Eliot's hip.

Figuring he'd give him a minute, he tried not to grin, but out of the corner of his eye, over on the desk, Eliot saw red.

"No, seriously, man," Eliot leaned back away; it wasn't hard to predict Hardison's reactions. "Your computer's blinking like crazy."

As expected, he bolted upright, arms splaying out, searching for his boxers. He was in front of the screen a moment later, cursing loudly, clicking through notifications faster than Eliot could track them. Eliot moved to look over his shoulder, but it wasn't making any more sense close up.

"What is it?"

"Fuck, give me a minute. Go shower, I need-" Hardison froze, startled by the sharpness of his tone, and glanced up anxiously, catching Eliot's arm. "Shit, sorry, I- crisis mode, you know?"

"No worries," Eliot reached over and grabbed the earbud from the desk, pressing it into Hardison's hand and kissing the side of his head. "Do what you got to. I'll make it quick."

In the bathroom, he checked the seal on his skin and opened up the shitty bar of hotel soap as he waited for the shower to heat up, feeling vaguely relieved. He'd been expecting Hardison to open his eyes, take one look at him, and think twice.

He'd take his wins where he could find them.

---

"We've got a problem," Hardison's eyes were wide, panicked, when Eliot came back into the room.

"What? Why?"

"Senator Sorenson wants to dismantle the GF," he replied, grabbing a change of clothes out of his bag. "It's all over the news. We're going to war."

Eliot turned on the television, wincing at the first news channel he found. Prairie Island, again, and his digitally rendered face on the screen.

"...branding the group known as the Global Frequency as a terrorist organization. Senator Sorenson, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is spearheading the investigation, a measure that's been met with unilateral support. According to an unnamed source at the Pentagon, top operatives within the organization have already been identified, and several warrants have been issued. The newscaster frowned at the camera, shaking her head slightly in confusion. "Folks, we're already getting an update on the story. It seems that the suspected head of the Global Frequency, Miranda Zero, has been taken into custody."

Fuck.

Hardison was moving back to the computer already, dropping his clothes on the table next to it before pounding out a short barrage of something into the keyboard. Eliot didn't like the way he was baring his teeth at the screen.

"If they've got warrants, they're gonna be hitting the hub."

Clearly aware of this, Hardison nodded as he thumbed at his phone's screen. "Yeah. Which is why, now that I've arranged our transport, I'm setting the self-destruct."

"What? You can't just-"

"I just did."

"It's underground, beneath a massively populated-"

Hardison's hand shot up before his eyes did. "Figure of speech. Just destroying all the data and bricking the servers. Bunch of dead computers won't do anyone any good."

"So all the GF's intel-"

"Is also backed up at the Beta Hub." When Eliot didn't say anything, he raised his head to actually look at him. "Miranda always figured something like this would happen."

It was something, at least. "She happen to set up any other useful protocols?"

"Only about five dozen that I know about." Hardison took a breath, and finally seemed to be losing some of the wide-eyed panic he'd been wearing the moment before. Apparently Eliot wasn't the only one who worked best when he had a plan. "Shutdown's done it's thing. You phone's about to ring."

Right on cue, there was a vibration coming from the table. Eliot picked it up and read the text message. "BLACKOUT. Hub shutdown complete. Report to DC: 1420 U St NW ASAP for further instructions. Tails unwelcome." As he was reading, another message arrived. "BLACKOUT. US Agents: assume you've been compromised. Evade if you can, do not resist if you can't. We've got you."

"Everyone's getting that second one," Hardison explained. "You and the other reinforcements are the only ones to get the first."

"Reinforcements?" Eliot frowned. The GF kept their agents scattered and sparse. The movement of several agents to one location was a dangerous move. "You think we need them?"

Hardison nodded, then gestured at the television. "The Feds are declaring war without reason, you're damned right I'm rounding up some generals."

"Without reason?" Eliot shook his head. "I attacked Prairie Island-"

"Infiltrated, maybe." Hardison's nearly-pinching fingers were describing the hair's breadth difference. "You didn't cause enough of a crisis, drop enough bodies, to warrant this much of a response. If they were waiting on an excuse to come after us, I can think of about half a dozen cases in the past two years they could've hung us on. Instead they wait for this?" He shook his head, and Eliot found himself nodding in response. He saw his point. "I don't buy it. No. There's something else going on."

"Got any idea what that might be?"

Hardison's answering shrug wasn't particularly comforting.

---

Mon., April 14, 2014 21:30 EDT (GMT-4)

Agent 518- Sheppard, to his friends- had gotten the message, and had the plane ready to go by the time Alec and Eliot arrived at the airstrip. Once they were in the air, Alec had been expecting questions, but Sheppard wasn't asking.

There wouldn't have been time to go into it even if Sheppard had been planning on sticking to his logged flight plan, which was officially slated to have him touching down outside Richmond, and that, combined with the noise from the Beechcraft's engines, was really just as well.

Of all the things Alec could be worrying about right now, how badly he might've screwed up by screwing around with Eliot should've been a lot further down the list than it was. And if the scene back at the hotel was just one time deal, he wouldn't even have to go into it. And maybe that would be for the best.

It definitely beat the hell out of telling Eliot that, were it not for an alien meme implanting itself in his brain, he probably wouldn't have given him a second glance. Or explaining that just because his brain hadn't reset itself yet didn't mean it couldn't, one day.

Based off what he'd found on everyone else living in his old neighborhood, there was a thirty percent chance that it would've happened by now. The possibility of that percentage growing higher- of the meme's effects fading at different rates in different brains- still existed. And now, every time he found himself checking out a woman on the street, the thought would cross his mind that maybe it had.

Now, though, for the first time since it all started, the possibility actually worried him.

But he should probably at least warn Eliot, even if meant making it sound like the crush he'd been carrying for months has been nothing more than a glitch.

Because yeah, Alec thought irritably, that won't make him feel like crap. Not at all.

Through the headset, Sheppard was announcing their emergency landing and contacting the airstrip to request permission to land for an emergency systems check.

"I'm on course for Richmond," he was explaining, once radio communications were established. It wasn't even a lie, he'd be continuing onwards as soon as Alec and Eliot were dodging out towards the waiting truck. "My fuel gauge is all over the place- I'm pretty sure it's just the sensor, but I need to be sure."

He'd used the trick once before in reverse, touching down to grab Miranda and the Ambassador out of London before her disappearance and his escape had even been noticed.

It was even easier, it turned out, when he was dropping off instead of picking up. He'd loosened the wire he'd needed and kept the locals' attention on the plane at the end of the strip instead of the guys sprinting across the field toward the trees.

Eliot was the first one to spot the truck, and he insisted on driving. He set the radio on low- some country station that Alec would've complained about if it hadn't meant catching Eliot's attention and the possibility of having to converse. He kept his eyes closed instead. It was late enough that the need for sleep was real, anyway.

If Eliot read anything more into it, he only hummed along with the music.

---

Traffic, once they hit town, was a complete and utter bitch. By the time they made it to the Beta Hub- Hardison had broken his silence long enough to explain that it was set up in the basement of an office building that had housed a GIS startup that had been mothballed in '08- the quiet had become suffocating.

Hardison was sleeping, now; he'd only been pretending up until a little while ago, when his breathing had evened out and his fists he'd been resting on his lap had eased open.

Eliot had been waiting for it, some sort of awkward, stilted conversation as the miles passed, because Hardison seemed the type to go in for that sort of thing, the kind of guy who'd need to talk about it, but apparently, he'd been wrong. It should've been a relief.

He knew what he looked like in the mirror. It wasn't like it was the sort of thing that most people could ignore. Usually, people either fetishized his bioenhancements, or tried to ignore them completely. They never just rolled with it, and maybe it would've been better if Hardison hadn't. At least Eliot would have some idea about what to expect next: fascination fading into awkwardness the moment the novelty wore off, and interesting waning as the reality- that the enhancements didn't make him any more exotic or fascinating than anyone else.

And maybe Hardison got that already.

Maybe there just wasn't anything to talk about.

---

Mon., April 14, 2014 22:57 EDT (GMT-4)

The Beta Hub could've been any shitty basement office in any building, anywhere in the world, were it not for the three rows of servers jutting into the middle of the room or the gigantic screen running along the far wall. The screen was turned off, for now; it actually looked like it was sucking the light out of the room. Or maybe it was just the company.

Three agents were already gathered around the table; Parker was sitting furthest away from the others; she stopped glaring at them long enough to nod at Eliot, but otherwise said nothing.

On the other end of the table, wearing an expensive suit, was the evident source of Parker's annoyance. He was skinny, about five foot nine, and had this uplifted stubborn tilt to his head; he and Parker obviously had some history, and he was probably the only one amused by it. His smirk set Eliot's teeth on edge.

Eliot sat down next to Parker, but wasn't so deliberate as to lean into their field of vision. This wasn't about protecting Parker- she didn't really need it, and giving the other guy the impression that she did wouldn't do anyone any favors- but things were crazy, right now, and here at the table, Parker was the closest ally he had.

The guy seemed hell bent on not noticing him, but the blonde woman sitting across from him definitely had; she buried a smirk and glancing between Parker and the Suit as she nodded back at Eliot. She was dressed like she was merely stopping in on her way to a date, but her demeanor was calm, almost amused, and her attention had shifted, already, to Hardison.

"Well, Aleph, are we strictly on code numbers for this job, or are you going to introduce us?"

The room brightened another degree; yet another computer screen coming to life; the florescent lights up above were practically lost in the blue, and none of the weak light quite made it back into the corners. Getting up to investigate them would've shifted everyone's attention off of Hardison, though, who was finally turning around, looking like he might actually start explaining this shit.

"Oh. Sorry, right. Forgot y'all don't necessarily, you know-" he shook himself.

"Tara Cole," he pointed at the blonde. "Did a little time in the CIA, but you're currently consulting with the DOJ on half a dozen federal cases, is that right? Done a little time in the CIA, strong background in cryptography, social engineering, and a little bit of hand-to-hand. Also the best grifter I know who isn't currently behind bars."

"Which basically means I'm the best grifter you know," Tara grinned, leaning back in her chair.

Hardison raised his hands, standing corrected. "This is true," he continued his meandering around the table, stopping next to Parker. "Now, moving on to our thieves. This here is Parker. Even I don't know if she's ever been caught, but she can get in anywhere. This gentleman over here is Apollo, and though I know he's been caught-"

"By me," Parker announced, practically bouncing in her seat.

"Whatever," Apollo rolled his eyes, but was prevented from saying more by Hardison.

"And yes, as far as the elephant in the room goes, they're quite the competitive little twosome, but I'm just gonna table that entire argument for another day," he looked back and forth between the two of them, his grin becoming determined as a decision was reached. "I'm also going take perverse pleasure from forcing y'all to work together."

As their glares shifted and became a unified front against him, he stepped back, a little too quickly to be casual. "All right. Eliot Spencer. General ass-kicking, retrieval, logistics and-"

"Getting caught on camera?" Apollo shrugged in mock apology.

Of course they already knew; he'd expected as much. Eliot didn't glare. Didn't react at all.

"Don't generally make a habit of it, no."

Hardison did, though, and while he didn't exactly glare at Apollo, it wouldn't have taken much to push his expression over that final degree. "Extenuating circumstances. Old news."

"That's really quite comforting," a man's voice said, followed a moment later by the man himself, stepping carefully past the end of the towers. He was short, bordering on stocky and he needed a shave. "Seeing as how every single news agency's just waiting for new footage."

Hardison's eyes were wide, but they were focused on Eliot; he hadn't even realized he'd jumped to his feet. The man, meanwhile, merely regarded Eliot with amused disdain.

"Everybody, this is Jim Sterling," Hardison announced warily. "INTERPOL."

---

Chapter 21

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