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What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.

Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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Geneva, Switzerland, late Thursday night (local time)
James Sterling, formerly IYS Insurance, now an agent of Interpol, was good. He was very, very good, quite possibly the top of his field. The number of times he'd backed Eliot and his team into a tie -- always a tie, never a win, not on either side -- was testament enough to that. The was no way Eliot would've been able to track the man down on his own, not across the 190 member countries the man could be working in at any given time.

Of course, James Sterling also had a daughter. And no matter how well Sterling had trained Olivia, she was still a teenager. Teenagers were idiots. They made mistakes. As had Sterling, it turned out, when he brought the Leverage team in on his mission to rescue her. The key to finding Sterling was simply to find Olivia.

There were easier ways to get the intel Eliot had promised Leland. For instance, he could be trying to bust into Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, or one of the handful of regional offices around the world. A massive security system and actual armies worth of guards would definitely be easier than going directly after a man who knew Eliot's face and MO as well as Sterling did. But -- it just wouldn't be anywhere near as satisfying.

Yeah, Eliot thought, when Sterling clicked on the light after returning from dropping Olivia back off at her swanky Swiss boarding school for the night and saw Eliot sitting in the living room of his suite. This was much more satisfying.

"Spencer." Sterling actually managed to look almost bored when he said it. "To what do I owe the pleasure."

Eliot stood, cracking his knuckles and his neck. "Nah, Sterling. Pleasure's all mine."

The door fell shut behind Sterling and the fight was on.

Sterling had apparently learned a new trick or two, since the last time Eliot had beaten him up. For instance: this time he used his baton to desperately whack at Eliot's head instead of his hip. He managed to land a blow that split the skin over Eliot's right eyebrow, but that mostly just made Eliot angry.

A hotel like this one was going to be well-insured, so Eliot didn't worry too much about the damage to that wall.

"The hell do you want?!" Sterling shouted as Eliot slammed him down onto the desk (nice one, too, real mahogany; Eliot liked it when a place put that kind of effort into interior design) and pinned him in place.

"Who said I want anythin'?" Eliot smirked down at him, then yanked him up by his collar and slammed him back down again. Sterling gurgled, and Eliot frowned, knocking his head into the desk a few more times until Sterling stopped squirming. He stepped back, letting Sterling slide to the floor, and watched him for a few moments to make sure he was unconscious, then pushed his hair out of his face and winced. He pressed his thumb against the split on his forehead, then kicked Sterling in the foot once for good measure before rifling through his pockets to find his phone and any other electronics he might have on him. He figured those and the laptop should cover it.

Of course, if he just took them with him, then Sterling would know this was more than just a random revenge beat-down. Which meant Sterling would come after him. Maybe follow him to Fandom, put the students in the line of fire.

Eliot looked over the small collection of computer equipment. He dug around in his own pocket until he pulled out one of Hardison's magic little hacker thumb drive things, then looked at the electronics again. ". . . Dammit."

He was going to have to call Hardison.

[ooc: for him -- and let's be honest, potentially her -- on the other end of the phone.]

"Yeah, man." Eliot leaned over, plugging the thumb drive in and hunting down and transferring the files he'd promised Leland. "I know." He did, too. You know, when he wasn't cursed into being obsessed with a piece of jewelry. "And don't worry. Sterling's not going to have any idea what I'm doing here."

He'd just figure Eliot broke in just to beat on him a little.

"What he said," Parker echoed. Then yawned, closing her eyes and looping her arm through one of Hardison's. He was always better with the words. "Still calling Val new names until you get back."

Because that absolutely wasn't gonna result in trouble down the line. Really. Sterling was so inclined to let these sorts of things go.

"Glad we ain't the only ones, then," Hardison muttered. "Drag yo' ass home or we're gonna keep feeding Megabyte table scraps and Purina puppy chow."

He drugged Eliot! He had a beating coming!

Eliot closed his eyes and heaved a sigh. "Megabyte is a terrible name for a dog." He pulled the thumb drive out once the transfer was done, carefully replaced the laptop to the position it was in when he came in, and went over to put Sterling's phone back as well.

And kicked him again for good measure.

"And do you have any idea what kinds of preservatives commercial dog food has in it? Tell me you at least looked up the ASPCA's list of food that's poisonous to dogs." He took one last look around the suite for anything incriminating -- other than the dent in the wall, the broken glassware, and the Interpol agent unconscious on the floor -- and slipped back out into the hall. "On my way out, now. I'll let you know when I'm headed back stateside."

"Cool, we'll catch you then. What alias you using? I'll get you a first class ticket home. Send you up through that TSA fast-pass or whatever."

And, y'know, find out about this heretofore unknown alias that Eliot had kept hidden, la la la.

"Text it to me, yo. I've gotta go give Megabyte her chocolate-and-onion guacamole we just mixed up. Smooches!" And then he hung up, laughing.

"He's gonna whup my ass when he gets home," he told Parker fondly.

"If he really thinks you're feeding Valentine guacamole, he's going to do the slamming around thing," Parker responded, smirking. It was a good thing Hardison had already told her chocolate was not possible for poor Val. Life was so unfair for the puppy. "And the stomping around. Have you seen the way the kitchen staff hides when he does that?"

Oh yes. There was currently a list of 'Poisonous Food For Pups' list printed out and hanging on the kitchen door and next to the TV. Because obviously Hardison had checked the ASPCA's website when he'd gone to fetch Val. Obviously.

"Funny," he said, wrapping an arm around her. "I just kinda think it's hot."

"Funny! Me too!" Parker leaned against him, enjoying being close in their apartment. Theirs.

Of course, she still had hidey-holes, but it was weird how much she liked sharing with him.

"We're still on for plan E, right? Even with him going 'off the reservation'?" Yay for movies and TV shows that Hardison showed her, which used that phrase.

"This just goes to show how important plan E is," Hardison pointed out. "Imagine him tryna sneak outta bed or something with both of us in there. Hell, by this point, I'm pretty sure plan E is for Eliot's own damn good."

Val--err, that was Megabyte--snuffled around a little then crawled into Hardison's lap. Because puppies needed cuddles, too, you know.

"And hers, too," he said, obligingly reaching down to pet her. "So that the next time Papa Grumpybear tries to bail, she'll already be with us."

"We could make sure he wasn't getting bitten by things," Parker had to agree. "Well, things that are supernatural, anyway." She tilted her head against Hardison's shoulder, watching him pet Valentine Megabyte Puppy. "You think he'll try to bail again."

That wistful note? That was her agreeing without saying it.

"I dunno, babe. I didn't think he'd bail this time. And I know he owed Quinn one, but why didn't he just say that from the get go? Why'd he leave his phone and earbud behind?" Hardison sighed and cuddled closer to Parker. "Even if it wasn't a Leverage thing, that don't mean we wouldn'ta been there for him. I guess I just thought he knew that."

"Me too. I don't understand why he has to be so difficult." Parker sighed, and sniffed Hardison's jawline, because he smelled good and that always calmed her down. "I know I was difficult. Before we got together. But I'm me. He's ... normal. Er."

Look, that made sense in her head. Parker was just really, really grateful that Hardison was a patient person.

"Babe, he is only normal in the most generous of definitions," Hardison said gently. "And I fell hard for you way back when we first met and don't you ever forget it." His hand traced her cheek. "I like the way you turned out, remember?"

Yeah, they were talking about Eliot's deal and he'd get back to that in a second. But sometimes Parker needed reassurance--whether she knew she needed it or not.

It was nice to remember that, because as much as Parker felt like she'd changed around the Leverage crew, she was still about twelve stories from 'normal', and probably always would be. Hardison was awesome, and so good at the people stuff.

Parker kissed him to demonstrate that fact, because words were not as useful, and she couldn't steal him a new hard-drive this minute.

That was his girl. She kept him in kisses and hard drives--what more could he need?

Besides an Eliot, obviously, but that was less was he needed and more what they all did.

"Girl, you kiss 'bout as good as you steal," he murmured against her lips before kissing her again. He would have said 'better than', but he knew Parker's priorities.

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