: An Even Exchange of FavorsAuthor
: Jedi ButtercupRating
: Human Target/Leverage. For this, Guerrero knew, they were going to need outside expertise.
: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.Spoilers
: Human Target post-1.12 "Christopher Chance"; Leverage post-2.15 "The Maltese Falcon Job"Notes
: Because a world in which these two teams coexist would contain twice the awesome. (Possible geographical AU-ness; wasn't sure where Chance's apartment is supposed to be located.)
"Of course I know what to do," Guerrero muttered to himself as he turned away from the helicopter carrying Christopher Chance out of the city.
Just because they'd intended never to face a situation like the one they'd found themselves in didn't mean they hadn't long since laid plans for something like it. You didn't live through leaving the service of a man like Joubert without cultivating a healthy sense of paranoia, and planning for the day when that action might come back to bite you. The only real surprise was that they were temporarily working with
said former boss, rather than against him; and that it was Winston who'd been captured and stolen away for interrogation.
As much delight as Guerrero usually took in riling the guy, he was as loyal to Chance as Guerrero was, and was also possibly the only person on their team who didn't have it coming. There was no guarantee that their opponent would leave Winston alive once they'd wrung the secret of the missing case out of him, either. For all that the man was an experienced former police detective, everyone had a breaking point-- and Winston didn't have the benefit of Chance and Guerrero's level of training.
Even presuming they did
manage to rescue Winston and find the case everyone was so eager to recover-- which would be the only way to prevent this situation from recurring in future-- the Old Man would almost certainly betray them in turn. He might want Chance back on his side more than he wanted him dead, but Guerrero knew full well that he and Winston would be shit out of luck if Joubert had anything to say about it, and Chance would rather kick the bucket than rejoin his former occupation. The loss of Katherine had been the kind of milestone for him that a man just didn't get over.
Guerrero had killed, lied, stolen, and otherwise used all his various talents in the interests of Chance's continued freedom already; he would not hesitate to do so again as the opportunity arose, and knew he could expect the same consideration in turn. The problem at the moment was that the current obstacles in their path already knew far too much about the team's capabilities to make individual action feasible; hence the previously laid plans to which Chance had been referring.
For this, they were going to need outside expertise.
He dialed his cell from memory as he climbed into his car, the first of a list of numbers long tracked for his encrypted files but seldom used.
The voice that spoke was brusque and professional as his contact answered, much more so than when Guerrero had previously worked with the man. Offering nothing, asking nothing, leaving the ball in the caller's court. Guerrero approved; he took it as a sign that whatever do-gooder nonsense the kid had been up to since dropping out of the high-profile hacking world had been a maturing influence on him. Alec Hardison had always had potential, but the last time he'd seen him that potential had still been mostly unrealized. Maybe he wouldn't have to go past the first name on that list, after all.
"Hey, dude," he said, smirking to himself as he pictured Hardison's reaction.
?" he heard the young man splutter after a brief pause, followed by the clatter of an abruptly jostled keyboard. "What are you-- what-- you know
I'm out of the business these days."
"Yeah, I know," Guerrero assured him. "I've heard. I've also heard you're working with a man named Eliot Spencer now. Do you know where I can reach him?"
A more lasting silence reigned on the other end of the line after that statement: a dead, slightly static-y sort of quiet that suggested a mute button in action. Guerrero smirked to himself again as he waited; yes, he'd picked the right man to call first. Spencer was definitely
present, and between him and Hardison they could easily cover most of the needs of the mission.
Sound came back over the line, backed by a higher degree of environmental noise as Hardison no doubt put him on speakerphone. "Man, I don't know what you want this Spencer guy for, but even assuming I was
working with him, I don't know why you'd think I'd ever give him up to you
Guerrero put the car in gear, setting off for his next destination as he continued the conversation. There were a few items he needed to pick up as soon as possible; a few more wheels to set turning beyond the necessary personnel arrangements. Ignoring Hardison's transparent attempt at denial, he addressed the second presence on the other end of the connection.
"Tell Spencer that the man he once knew as Junior needs to call in that outstanding favor." He chuckled. "And mine with you, while we're at it."
"What favor?" Hardison quickly objected, indignantly.
"You mean you don't remember that time in Atlantic City?" Guerrero poked at him cheerfully. "I sure do; and I still have the spare copies of the surveillance footage to back it up, if you need something to jog your memory...."
"Hey. Hey! Enough said about that," Hardison objected loudly, cutting him off as Guerrero had known he would. "You've made your point. But I ask you again, what makes you think...."
"Hardison," a third voice growled, interrupting the hacker-- the unmistakable voice of the best independent hitter to leave the shadows since Chance had changed his name. "If he's in Junior's league, then he already knows I'm here. But if he's in Junior's league, then he should also
know I don't play their kind of game."
"I know, I know, you don't like guns," Guerrero waved that off, casually. "He told me. Would it help if I told you he doesn't play that game anymore, either? At least, not from that side of the tracks."
There was another pause, a thoughtful sort of silence followed by an annoyed snort. Guerrero had only been in visual range of the man once, but that was enough to easily picture Spencer's expression; the hitter seemed to have only two public settings when not grifting, 'one nerve left' and 'you're standing on it'. "That
side, huh? From assassination to protection? Don't tell me, he's the new Christopher Chance. Should have put that one together myself; I'd wondered who was running around using the name these days."
He was definitely quicker than his reputation made him out to be; Guerrero had suspected so from his track record, but it was nice to be proven right. "You knew the old man, huh?"
"Best bodyguard in the whole damn business," Spencer confirmed, offering no further information.
That was all right, though; he'd already said enough just by revealing that he knew the name, and what it signified. "So, you in?" Guerrero asked, casually.
"What, just like that?" Hardison spluttered.
"Yeah, just like that," Spencer addressed his coworker, grudgingly. "Like the man said, I owe him. Long story, a long time ago. Thing is, though--" his tone grew more intent as he directed his attention back to Guerrero, "--we're kind of in a situation, ourselves."
Well, that was a wrinkle. "What kind of situation? How urgent?" he asked, mentally running down the rest of his list of contacts. The roster of those who were skilled enough, which he would also risk trusting under such vulnerable conditions, not to mention were still kicking, grew shorter every day. The operation would still be doable with alternate assistance, but it wouldn't be nearly so neat a solution.
"Very," Spencer said, dryly. "Though, maybe...." He trailed off pensively. "You know that I'm here, that means you know who I'm working for."
"Nate Ford," Guerrero filled in, promptly. "Former insurance cop, laundry list of personal issues but generally thought of as an honest if ruthless investigator. Fell off the legal wagon a couple years ago after his son died; jury's out on whether he's just gone undercover, or if he really did snap and turn evil mastermind. Either way, not many people want to risk fucking with him."
He hadn't been sure what to make of that at first, when his routine check of those with useful debts to him had turned up Hardison's connection with the man. Further inquiry had turned up several other world-class thieves gathering under the same umbrella: all of them geniuses in their own right, previously limited only by the fact that they didn't play well with others. Since finally jumping ship to join up with Chance and observing the man's partnership with Winston, though, Guerrero had begun to get an inkling of the dynamics at work.
"One was enough," Spencer said, a scowl completely audible in his dark tone. "Cops have him right now. Not for long if we can help it, but there's reasons we can't break him out until after the trial. Left over business from the fucked-up job that got him captured."
Guerrero made a noise of assent, smirk returning as he began to gain an idea of where the conversation was going.
"Problem is," Hardison took up the thread of the explanation, "half the people in
that joint know him from the other side of the fence, and not all of them's happy about it. There've been threats, some serious, some not, but Interpol's not listening to any of 'em. Their new golden boy Sterling's chased after Nate before-- both before and after he left IYS, if you get my drift-- and he thinks it's all just a setup to get Nate sprung. We
can't protect him 'cause Sterling knows all the rest of us, too, even the new girl."
. Guerrero was always more comfortable with an even exchange of favors; there was less risk of self-interest leading one's temporary ally-- however trusted-- astray. "You scratch our back, we'll scratch yours?" he suggested, wryly amused by the parallels.
Spencer hmm'ed noncommittally. "Now might be a good time to fill us in on exactly what kind of scratching we'd be expected to do," he said.
"Funny thing," Guerrero replied lightly, "our boss seems to be in as much jeopardy as yours, only more immediate. An old opponent captured him an hour ago, hoping to get some information out of him. Unfortunately, there are other players involved who have Chance on a tight leash for the time being, and my involvement is expected. A little outside expertise for a swift extraction would be very much appreciated."
"And since there ain't nothing I can't retrieve...." Spencer concluded.
As the hitter spoke, Hardison drew an audible breath; the clicking of keys, which had been a constant background clatter during the conversation, came to a sudden halt. "By boss, you mean Laverne Winston, former city badge?" he asked. "Looking at his record now; retired kind of sudden-like six years ago."
"I see your skills haven't suffered at all for your time out of the game," Guerrero replied, dryly.
"Deal," Spencer said then, abruptly.
"Eliot, man, don't you think we should talk to...." Hardison began to object, startled.
"This guy could take me
down on a good day," Spencer shut him down, firmly. "And he's on this side of the line now. We're not going to get a better opportunity than this."
"You sure, man?"
That seemed to be enough said. "So, deal?" Guerrero inserted himself back into the conversation.
"Fair trade?" Spencer replied, gruffly.
"Fair trade," Guerrero agreed.
"All right, whatever," Hardison verbally shrugged. "Where do you want to meet up?"
"Your usual place will do. Three hours," Guerrero told them, then hung up as he parked the car, ready for his next piece of business.
Yes, he knew exactly what needed to be done. The question was, did the Old Man? A lot had changed in the past few years.
Three hours; one day, maybe two. They were about to find out if it had been enough.