Nate had just come back with another round- he'd probably already heard the ending of Sophie's story about the Duke of Gloucester before, hell, he'd probably been the one chasing her, when Parker set her sights on Alec.

"Okay. Your turn. What's the lowest prep, biggest payout job you've ever done?"

Alec grinned, shaking his head. "Not that I can compete with a four hundred thousand dollar fish," watching Nate bow as he sat down. He still only had it narrowed down to two- Stanley Mircosystems, or his first major Visa hack. No. He had it.

"Aw, man. Then there was this one time," He tried to wipe the grin off his face. "About seven years back. Company was based out of Iceland, called Kiesel Software. Took me less than a week to get it all together once I landed. Laying out all the groundwork, gaining access to the server rooms so I could plant the relays to get around their firewall, setting up shop in the next building over." Glancing up, he noticed Eliot glaring at him, no doubt irritated about a geek-spiral that hadn't even happened yet. "But. Okay," Alec switched gears, filing Eliot's expression away, he'd deal with his moody boyfriend later. And it was like the crew would have a proper appreciation for the intricacies of the hack, anyway.

"They were doing some contract work for a program that, for lack of a better word, allowed secondary systems to piggyback off of two dozen satellites at the same time. So, essentially, a satellite that had been tasked for a particular type of imaging could also be used to bounce thermal imaging. It's more common now, but at the time? Everyone wanted in on it, and yeah. Instant rep. That's actually the first time I came across Chaos. Kicked his ass all over the internet, man, it was beautiful."

"And how much was it worth?"

"Nine point two million?"

"Seriously? What did you do with the money?"

"Money? Nah, man. Didn't work like that. I accessed the system from the office I'd stolen, buried some code in the program that the sounds the spaceship in Close Encounters made would start playing whenever anyone accessed the signal reset control, copied a few hundred lines of code for proof, and et an alarm on the system as I backed out for whoever tried to get in there next. Five minutes to do the job, another two to upload the proof onto the forum, and I was out of there."

Nate smiled, inordinately pleased as Sophie and Parker gaped in horror. Eliot, though, his face had gone blank, which was a little unfair. Dumbing it down any further and he'd be selling it on Sesame Street.

It was a little awkward, sitting there underneath all their stares, so he shrugged and continued the story. "Funny thing is, I really wasn't used to flying much, back then, and I was jetlagged before I got on the damned plane home, you know? And-"

Alec grabbed for his beer, only then realizing that the table had been bumped, sharply, as Eliot got to his feet.

He was out the door before Parker glanced around the table. "Okay, so. Did I miss something?" Nate's eyes were wide, surprised and clueless, but Sophie was looking straight at Alec, like she'd already found her paper trail.

Nate picked up on it first, glancing between the two of them before settling on Alec. "Ah, Hardison?"

"Yeah." He'd been expecting that. He drained his beer and stood up, wiping his hands on his jeans. "Yeah, okay."


By the time Alec got upstairs, Eliot was leaning over Nate's stove, watching the kettle heat up.

"Ah, yo, man. What's up?"

Eliot shook his head before glancing over his shoulder, considering him a moment before shaking it again. Somewhere between the bar and the kitchen, he'd gotten this tired look, same one he got sometimes after the job had dragged on for weeks and they'd only barely gotten out. But it faded as he straightened.

"Nothing, just. Figured something out."

"Yeah?" Alec leaned against the island, unsure if he was supposed to come any closer. "What's that?"

Eliot smiled, deliberately disarming. "This," he said, before pulling the collar of his shirt down and to the right to reveal the scar. "Iceland. 2003. Went in to retrieve some data. Our techs had reported in a few hours before, saying it was all clear. We got around security on the first and third, and accessed the server directly. I'd just plugged in the hard drive when the alarms went off."

Alec blinked. He'd heard that someone had triggered his program, but not that it had taken place from inside the building.


"Yeah. Oh."

"I'm sorry?"

Steam was rising up from the rattling kettle, and Eliot shut the burner off before grabbing the handle.

There was a slight chance Alec was going to be burned very badly in a moment.

But Eliot was pouring the water into the mug he'd set out, nodding down at it. "Want some?"

"Ah, no. Thanks. I'm good."

Picking up on his tone, Eliot cast a startled glance in Alec's direction before following his stare back to the kettle, and he rolled his eyes, setting it back down on the stove and taking an exaggerated step back.

"So what happened?"

"Near as I can tell, the guards from three came up while the guards on first went out. Our getaway was blown before they'd even kicked the doors in, I heard the shots coming from outside. They tried stopping us, we lost two guys."

"I'm sorry, man," Alec knew he was repeating himself, but hell. He hadn't known anyone had died.

"Don't be. They weren't good guys," Eliot shrugged, but didn't sound like he meant it. Not entirely.

"Then I'm sorry I got you shot," Alec reached out, tugged at Eliot's slightly stretched collar. Not enough to unbalance him, just enough for emphasis. He didn't yet know if Eliot was done talking.

"Anyhow, long story short, I went up, got on my phone and tried to contact the handler, but couldn't get through. Wound up digging the bullet out in a supply closet on the ninth floor. It was small caliber- just a .22, probably just should've left it in and found a doctor later, but I was stuck there for six hours with nothing better to do." The grin came back, because apparently bragging about his scars was as entertaining as Nate's lying in wait to get his hands on someone's pet fish. "I couldn't get a good angle, so it looks worse than it was."

Alec tried to picture sitting in a supply closet with the bad guys- wait, no, the security team- bearing down on him. Eliot had been the bad guy, then, even if that hadn't jived in Alec's head for more than a year.

He was aware of his own skin under his shirt, completely unscathed, and he hadn't been aware, until now, that there'd been any other option.

And the idea of digging into a wound, searching out a bullet just to kill time? The very idea was utterly beyond him.

He wasn't exactly sure what he was supposed to say, if he actually needed to say anything at all. But Eliot's smirk hadn't faded, so the worst part was over with.

"Well. I'll make sure that doesn't happen again," he decided.

"Yeah. All right." His shoulder- the one with the scar just inches away- bumped against Alec's as Eliot moved across to check on his tea, pulling a sharp face when he found it still too hot to drink.

Alec moved forward, leaning down and kissing him before he'd had a chance to recover.

"What was that for? Kissing it better?"

"Didn't you just hear me? Told you it wasn't going to happen again."

"It was hot tea, not a bullet."

"Yeah, but you wouldn't have been up here, drinking tea, if you hadn't just heard about how I got you shot."

Eliot raised an eyebrow, checked to make sure Alec was watching, and again raised the cup to his mouth, jerking the cup away quickly when it burned.


"What, not your fault any more?"

"At risk of rewarding idiotic behavior, I'll let it slide," he leaned in again, Eliot's lips still warm from the steam. "Just this once."

But out of the corner of his eye, he could see the cup being raised again, taunting him.


~~~~~~~~ Back to Leverage ~~~~~~~~


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