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[personal profile] jendavis
Title: Date of Expiration
Fandom/Pairing: Leverage/Global Frequency fusion, with eventual Eliot Spencer/Alec Hardison.
Rating: R (eventually)
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.
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.

Previous chapters: AO3 // DW // LJ


Mon., April 14, 2014 23:25 EDT (GMT-4)

Though Eliot had been the one ready to attack Sterling at the slightest push, it was Tara who seemed to be having the most trouble with Sterling's presence. She wouldn't bother to look so relaxed right now if she honestly didn't mind it. Even the thieves, who'd probably had more to worry about from his presence, seemed nonplussed. Then again, Alec hadn't been planning on pairing either of them with Sterling, at least not right away.

"Okay. First order of business is finding out how screwed we are," Alec said. "Sterling, I need you to find out how badly burned we are. I'm going to need the names of all agents that have been identified by name or handle. Especially the crew, here, since I need to know who I'm going to be able to put in play for face to face.

Tara frowned. "Pardon me for asking, and no offense, but I'm pretty sure my contacts are better positioned to actually know anything. Why are you giving this to Sterling?"

"One, he's on the Frequency for his investigating skills, and this is an investigation. Like it or not, you're too close. Your contacts could be what ends up burning you if we don't clear them first. We need to assume that we're low on access right now, and, well-"

"There's a lot to be said for immunity," Sterling finished, grinning. "Even if my own name shows up on the list of suspects, there's not a damned thing your Government's Department of Insecurities can do about it without turning it into an international crisis."

"Why would it become one?" Parker glanced at Eliot, and then himself, even though the question was being directed at Sterling. Before he could answer, though, Tara replied.

"Because the US has a remarkably short memory when it comes to things like this. We- the GF- still have a better track record than the UN for worldwide crisis response. The US is the only one with an ego, or, well, military, large enough to think they'd be better off without us." She leaned over the table, her earlier concerns regarding Sterling apparently alleviated, possibly due to his nodding along as she spoke. "INTERPOL gets wind that the US is overstepping their bounds with this investigation, say, by arresting one of their agents, it might complicate things on the international scene."

Both she and Sterling looked at Parker to see if the reply had answered her question, but Parker merely stared back at them with a blank expression, but her hands were already on the table. She looked like she was ready to flee. Down the table, Apollo rolled his eyes, drumming his fingers on the table top.

Alec suddenly felt very tired. He wasn't looking forward to this next part of the discussion.

"All right. Apollo, Parker. Unless Tara and Sterling are able to somehow convince congress to drop the investigation, I'm going to need you guys ready to bust Miranda out. To that end, I need to know where they're hiding her, and five rough plans to get her out as soon as you can manage." His suggestions were met with stony glares. They weren't looking at each other, but it was probably as close to a unified front as he could hope to expect so soon. "So. Yeah. Just let me know what you need."

The answering silence was becoming awkward, and Alec took a few steps to the side, as if there was any hope in ducking it, stopping next to Eliot's chair.

"Okay, so. Everybody? I trust all of you, you know I do, so I apologize in advance, but I'm gonna need you to run your ideas past Eliot, here." He put his hand on Eliot's shoulder, just long enough to register the warm flannel. He moved it again before he could register anything more.

Eliot had tilted his head back, not far enough to meet his eyes, waiting for an explanation with raised eyebrows. Whether he was just waiting for more information, or actually surprised, was impossible to tell from this angle.

Apollo, down at the end of the table, was the one to ask the obvious question.

"Why?"

"Because the Frequency, as it stands now, is just the six of us, and we can't afford for any of you to get burned, tailed, caught, arrested, shot, or kidnapped by aliens. Call it risk management, threat assessment, whatever you like, but-"

"Technically, it's asset protection," Sterling interjected.

"What he said," Alec amended, then looked back and forth between the thieves. "Look. I know ya'll are more than capable of getting out of a tight corner without being seen, but usually, when you're out in the field, it's a quick in and out. We could be at this for weeks, and that's a lot of attention in your general direction that I don't like."

Eliot swiveled in his chair; he was frowning. When he eventually spoke, though, his reservations weren't the ones that Alec would've predicted. "Can't you just-" he mimed typing, " all this? Safer, ain't it?"

Alec nodded. "Ideally, yeah. But we're not just looking for a booking report. Our goal here is to find out why all this is really happening, and I don't think it's just going to be filed away on a computer somewhere. But between you two," he looked up at Tara and Sterling, "We should have enough personal access to get a start. Whenever you're ready."

"Well, I do have plans to meet Representative MacAllen for lunch tomorrow." Tara shrugged, sending Sterling's eyebrows right up towards his hairline. "He's on the House committee for Homeland Security," Tara explained. "I'm highlighting some details in the Executive Summary that's coming out in three weeks, but it should be easy enough to shift the conversation around."

Sterling snorted. "Just like that?"

"Just like that."

They'd gotten through the bulk of it, now all that was left were the bits and bobs. Alec wiped his hands on his jeans and glanced around the room, trying to remember where he'd stashed the backup phones.

"What time?" Sterling was asking Tara, as Alec scanned the shelves across from the servers.

"Twelve thirty."

The phones weren't here. "Okay. Sterling, your first priority is checking up on MacAllen before she goes out to meet him. Let us know if she's burned. Eliot, you're tailing her. We meet back here in thirty six hours to compare notes and come up with a plan."

There was a drawer around here somewhere- no. He'd put the phones in the dock cabinet last month. It would take a good five minutes to get them all sorted out, updated and distributed, and then they could get out of here.

Which reminded him. And gave him the first really good idea he'd had since they'd gotten here.

"Parker. Apollo." He called out over his shoulder, initializing the first phone on the shelf to make sure it worked. "We need cash. About five grand to start. Be back in twenty."

As he brought the phones online and checked their download connections, he realized that the room behind him had gone suddenly silent. He looked up from what he was doing to three surprised stares. Parker and Apollo were already gone.

"What? Call it a team-building exercise."

The phones were all set with each other's numbers, trackers, recorders, relays, and uplinks into the usual programs before he glanced up again. Eliot, Sterling and Tara had found something to talk about in the meantime- the news, it sounded like. The situation in Libya. Wait, no. Counterterrorism ground strategies for the situation in Libya. It was the sort of thing that, any other week, would've been front and center on Alec's radar.

As far as the Hub's computers were concerned, it still probably was. Alec could see the alerts flashing on the screens out of the corner of his eye, but he'd look at them more closely once the others had left.

He'd have to just look, though. He couldn't send anyone out to fix anything, right now. Tonight, he still had to focus on catching up on Miranda's situation. The red alerts flashing in the background would have to stay in the background.

For the time being, until they got this handled, the world was on its own.

There was a cot in the supply closet; contemplating it only made him miss the couch in Chicago, his bedroom off the back of it all, the ability to actually do something, or at least have Parker drop in unannounced to keep him company while he tried. When she and Apollo got back, the six of them would go their separate ways, though. Scattering was the SOP for long ops like this, splitting up to reduce the odds of being noticed.

Eliot would be going his own way, just like the rest of them, and it was safer that way.

They'd been living in each other's pockets for days, anyhow.

And Alec needed his head in the game.

Eliot, he was pretty sure, would get it.

---

Tues., April 15, 2014 0:12 EDT (GMT-4)

Eliot shoved the stack of bills Parker had handed him- enough for a hotel room and supplies- into his jacket's interior pocket. Her promise of more, whenever he needed it, just say the word, would be hard to ignore any other time, but he was deliberately trying to keep it in his head, right now.

She and the others had already split; now it was just him and Hardison, who, despite what he'd said, didn't look like he was about to crash out any time soon. He'd pulled up a chair and had parked himself in front of the computer, already getting to work.

"Hey." Eliot wondered if he'd actually spoken aloud or just thought about it; Hardison didn't react. Given how intensely he was typing away, maybe he didn't want to be interrupted.

Getting Miranda cleared was the priority. Eliot only needed to know if the what had happened back at the hotel wouldn't be getting in the way. Actually wanting to know what Hardison thought about it, well, wants weren't needs, and now wasn't the time.

Eliot was already shifting his weight, preparing to turn towards the door, when Hardison finally looked up, eyebrows raised. It felt like being caught out, even though he'd been the one trying to get them talking in the first place.

"You need to actually sleep sometime, you know." It was an opening, not what he'd intended, but close enough. Beyond that, he was winging it.

"Tell me about it." Hardison's skin looked dead, bathed in the light from the screen, and the bleariness in his eyes was throwing Eliot off balance; he'd honestly been expecting Hardison to fight or at least prevaricate. Hardison rolled his head on his neck and winced before jutting a thumb over his shoulder. "Got a cot in the back with my name on it."

"Yeah, well. Don't stay up so late that you're useless tomorrow. I'm gonna see about a room at the joint down the block," Eliot decided. He knew he was skirting the edges of broken field protocol, so he didn't push it. "Let me know if you need anything. "


Hardison regarded him for a moment, his eyes unreadable in the computer glare, then smiled. Even broken as it was by a yawn that couldn't be stifled, Eliot realized he'd kind of been waiting for that, or maybe just hoping for it.

He was gone, though, halfway down the block, before he could admit it.

---

Tues., April 15, 2014 03:00 EDT (GMT-4)

The bedsheets felt like plastic. Eliot could've afforded a lot more, but the cash that Parker had given him would've attracted attention at the Hilton two blocks south, which had been out of the question anyway. Five-star hotels tended to pay their clerks well enough that they found it worthwhile to stay awake through their shifts, as opposed to the tired woman on the desk downstairs who'd been nice enough, but far too exhausted to notice, much less register, Eliot's face.

Eliot could hear the guy in the room next to his, bitching into his phone about those assholes in project management. Whoever was in the room upstairs was watching some late night talk show as they paced across the floor, back and forth. Someone was having sex upstairs, though it was impossible to tell if there was more than one person involved. Three women, down at the south end of the hall, had stumbled in drunkenly some time ago, but apart from the occasional fit of giggling, it finally sounded like they were turning in for the night.

If he'd been trying to sleep, the noise might've bothered him; now it was merely a diversion. He'd had the layout of the hotel, with every exit point and kill box noted and filed within ten minutes of arrival. and he'd tested the contacts on his charge pack, re-stashing them carefully in his pockets three different times. The only things worth watching on television were the news feeds, which had managed to be infuriatingly vague and too damned precise all at once.

Ditching his contacts and jeans and getting into bed had been less about sleep, and more about preventing himself from stalking out of this room, down onto the streets, looking for answers, and probably making this entire mess go critical.

On a good bad day, he'd go to work, go home, and maybe his phone would ring. Hardison would be on the other line, he'd patch Miranda in, and they'd tell him that the worst thing in the world had happened, but then they'd tell that transport was heading his way. He'd hit the ground running, and then, usually, he'd fix it.

This week, though, he'd hung out in one hotel room or another, just waiting, and the closest he'd come to knowing what he was supposed to do next had been twelve hours ago, too aware of Hardison's hand on the metal rig of his shoulder, mouth just open enough to reveal his perfect teeth.

The bitch of it was that it hadn't felt like a mistake then, and he hadn't yet managed to convince himself that it was. And maybe it was the fact that for the first time in a week- hell, less than a week- he and Hardison weren't breathing the same air. Or maybe Eliot was finally forcing himself to just deal with it like the problem he hadn't wanted to admit that it was.

He didn't need to know the inner workings of DC backroom dealings, or have the identity of whoever it was who'd been fucking with his operational directives, to guess the worst case scenarios for this thing with Hardison.

Eliot could kill, he'd done it before, and he'd probably have to do it again. The possibility was never really off the table. The few times Frequency ops had gone so badly that it had become necessary, Hardison had been miles and miles away, only aware of it through the comm lines. His being on the ground with Eliot, the way he was now, wouldn't just expose him to it, it was practically begging for the inevitability. Hardison might've shrugged off the tech, but watching someone he'd slept with end someone's life might be a little much to handle.

And it had been nice, Eliot thought, hanging out with someone who wasn't terrified of him; he'd miss it if it happened. But it still wasn't the nightmare scenario.
Most of the opponents Eliot had gone up against had been good- very good. It went with the territory, since two-bit nobodies rarely caught the GF's attention. Nine times out of ten, Eliot was going up against an opponent who was skilled enough to know to exploit whatever chink in his armor they could find.

The people Eliot cared about were merely hostages in waiting. He'd leaned it young- all his siblings had- and he'd never forgotten the lessons.

But he hadn't really wanted to, until now.

---

If the hotel had been quieter, if there hadn't been so much noise bleeding through the paper-thin walls, he would've been aware of the footsteps in the hallway a lot sooner. He would've been on his feet before he'd even registered the quiet knocking on the door.

"Yeah?"

There was another creak from the hallway. Weight shifting. Hesitation. Someone deciding.

Hardison's voice.

"It's me. You still up?"

---

Chapter 22
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