Seattle was a battlefield. Or at least a small part of it was. The part Logan cared about the most. From what he'd been able to uncover, most of the rest of the country seemed to think that the truth of the transgenics revealing themselves to the world was some sort of conspiracy theory and he was doing everything he could to encourage that idea. Not all the transgenics were gathered to one place and any still out there were vulnerable.
As one of the few people in their compound who could go out without being targeted, Logan was making a supply run when he was approached by a man in a suit who appeared a little older than him but otherwise unremarkable. His very unremarkableness made Logan cautious.
"Logan Cale," the man said and Logan tensed, glad Joshua's blood seemed to be a more permanent solution than Max's since he had the feeling he might need to flee quickly and the wheelchair would have been a significant hindrance.
"Can I help you?" he asked, turning slightly in case he needed to run quickly. The man appeared indulgent of his caution but otherwise unconcerned.
"It's more a matter of how can I help you?" the man told him. "SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson."
Logan tensed, wondering what an agent wanted with him, especially a SHIELD agent. He'd made the mistake of hacking them once, on the trail of something unrelated back before Eyes Only, and what he'd seen in their files had made him wish he hadn't. Coulson reached into his jacket and pulled out a card which Logan hesitantly took. It had nothing but Coulson's name a phone number.
"What do you want?" Logan asked.
"For you to work with us." That stopped Logan short.
"Work for you?" he asked, because out of everything he figured a government agency would want from him - his arrest, his quiet disappearance, access to the transgenics - he hadn't expected that.
"You're exceptionally gifted with computers and you have a strong moral centre. We could always use more people like you."
"Thank you," Logan said, uncertainly. "But I already have a job."
"We could assist with that," Coulson offered. "We could help in relocating and hiding your friends."
"They don't deserve to be locked away again," Logan told him, drawing himself up. His back twinged and he hid a wince, unable entirely to hide the worry that despite the fact that it had been weeks since the transfusion, that there wasn't any sign of degeneration as far as anyone could tell. "Or conscripted."
"Of course not," Coulson agreed easily, as though that had never been a real concern. "But under our aegis they would have their freedom without worrying about reprisals."
Logan thought of Max, who'd had to hide most of her life, and the others who'd been prisoners and lab rats. They didn't deserve to be persecuted, especially not for something they hadn't had any control over, but Logan couldn't trust an offer from a stranger and he wasn't sure he could trust SHIELD not to use them either. Then again, it wasn't his decision.
"I'll have to think about it," Logan told him, tucking the card into his jacket.
"Of course," Coulson agreed affably. He turned to go and Logan didn't move until he was out of sight.
Logan sought out Max as soon as he returned. She was busy organising the defence of the east perimeter. The fence had holes in it and the wall was crumbling.
"We need to talk," he said, coming to stand just short of in her space. She was beautiful. Powerful and born to lead. It took a moment to realising the piercing ache he usually felt at being unable to just touch her had faded to a dull twinge. He wondered at not feeling more sad about that.
"Can it wait?"she asked, distracted and not even looking at him. She didn't gravitate to him these days either and he felt a little less guilty about not feeling as overwhelmingly intensely as he used to. What he missed was the way they used to push each other, tease each other and lean on each other.
She turned to look at him then and smiled at him, but it seemed almost reflex. They hadn't been able to touch in more than a year, had barely gotten their act together before that, and maybe their doomed romance had never been as important as their friendship anyway.
"Okay," she said with a grin. "Lay it on me."
"I was offered a job," he told her and she frowned in confusion.
"They're that shady organisation you told me about?" she asked, still frowned. He nodded.
"They offered to help you too," he told her. "In exchange for me working for them."
"That sounds halfway between too good to be true and indentured servitude," she told him. "And that's if we're willing to trust them."
"This situation is untenable," he said. The police had them barricaded in and the public was nominally aware of transgenics, although most that hadn't had direct encounters believed there was some other conspiracy at play. They couldn't stay trapped as they were. "You know that."
Eventually the forces gathered outside would grow impatient and compel a conflict that neither side would win. He knew she knew that too. He could see the knowledge in her eyes.
"It's better than another Manticore," she told him sharply, then sighed. "We don't know SHIELD will be any better."
"So negotiate," he offered. "Tell them your terms."
"I'll meet with them," she conceded eventually. "If nothing else, we need to know what else we might be facing."
That was how Logan came to be sitting in a cubicle in SHIELD headquarters in Washington while Max and her people were resettled in a town of their own in the middle of nowhere where they didn't have to hide themselves and could live as they pleased. The arrangement hadn't been without its issues, but one of their number had been a transgenic like Mia and had determined Coulson was telling the truth in her hypnotic way.
It wasn't quite as exciting as he was used to. No one had tried to kill him in weeks and he hadn't seen any of the transgenics in about the same amount of time. It had been years since he'd had a nine-to-five job. The work itself was occasionally challenging but, for the most part, Logan found it endlessly boring.
Still, he tried to enjoy it as much as possible since he seemed to be doing more for the transgenics than he could otherwise. The only issue was, he wasn't sure why SHIELD fought so hard for him, why they were willing to concede so much, if this is all they're going to use him for. Anyone with a bit of talent and training could be doing his job.
"Cale," Sitwell called and Logan was on his feet immediately, hoping something interesting would come of the spur-of-the-moment meeting. He followed Sitwell into his office. There was a beautiful red-headed woman in skin-tight body armour standing looking out of the window, hands folded behind her back. Seated in front of the desk was a pale man with dark hair and darker eyelashes. Despite the relatively mild weather, he was wearing long sleeves and gloves. Logan took the seat next to him and waited.
"We have a critical mission for you," Sitwell said, sitting across from them and steepling his fingers. Logan nodded but kept his silence.
"You and Agent Krycek must infiltrate a fanatic organisation and uncover the details of a plot," the woman told them, turning to look them over impassively. Something passed over her expression, like a cloud over the sun, when she looked at the other agent. Logan had no idea what she was looking for as she searched their faces or if she found it.
Logan turned from her gaze to glance at his temporary partner. Krycek seemed just as implacable and difficult to read as the woman was. He wasn't entirely certain he was willing to put his life in the man's hands. Sitwell handed each of them a folder.
"You have 24 hours to acquaint yourself with the information therein," he said, dismissing them. Krycek nodded and was out the office a moment later. Logan followed a little more slowly, with the feeling that this was not going to end well.
It turned out Logan's instincts were right on the money. They'd infiltrated the organisation's headquarters with forged identity documents easily enough, but taking cues from each other was not nearly so easy. The moment their presence had been discovered everything had gone to hell.
They'd argued about how to hack the system, which direction to take to exit, about Logan's lack of experience with weapons and everything in between. When they did finally make it out, Logan had been shot in the arm and his hip grazed, and Krycek had several broken bones from the tumble out the second storey window.
When Logan finally limped back to the Spartan apartment he called home these days, he found he had company. Alec was wondering around, picking up the few things Logan brought with him and tossing them from hand to hand. He didn't turn when Logan entered, but Alec had probably been aware of him as soon as he exited the elevator.
"What are you doing here?" Logan asked, too tired and sore to try to be polite. Besides, he and Alec had never really been polite to each other.
"Just passing through," Alec said and he tossed the first edition Logan had been reading the night before he'd set out on the mission onto the side table. Logan winced.
"Just passing through Washington?" Logan asked. "Did Max send you?"
Alec shrugged and turned around, catching sight of Logan for the first time.
"What the hell happened to you?" Alec asked, stepping forward. It took Logan a moment to remember he had a fading black eye too.
"New partner," Logan said tiredly. It had been a very long few days and he wasn't sure he had the energy to deal with Alec. It took a moment for him to recognise the sound Alec is making as a growl. "Work partner," he clarified. "A mission went sideways."
That seemed to mollify Alec, but only a little.
"I'd hate to have to help Max hide a body," Alec said, stepping back a little and giving him a nonchalant grin. "So messy."
Logan huffed a small laugh at that. Between them they'd all done far messier. He collapsed on the couch, too tired to keep on his feet any longer. Alec snorted and settled down beside him.
"What are you really doing here?" Logan asked, resting his head back and closing his eyes.
"I missed your pretty face," Alec teased, but there was something in his tone Logan can't identify. He wanted to open his eyes, see if Alec's open face and expressive eyes reveal the truth, but it was so much effort.
When he woke, there was cold take out on the coffee table and a blanket from his bedroom draped over him. There was no other evidence Alec had been there.
It took them several months to manage to work together efficiently, if not exactly well. They didn't talk unless it was related to their current mission and Logan hated that this was his life now. He spent his time now either working in cold and efficient silence or at his lonely and empty apartment. He'd done it before, before Max stole into his life, but now he knew what he was missing and it seemed intolerable. The only bright spots were the occasional visits from Alec, who'd show up unannounced, with no regular pattern, and stick around, sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes for hours.
At the moment, Logan and Krycek were trying to track down the source of some strange signals. It was not going well. There was another team after the same thing they are and they seem to be one step ahead of Logan and Krycek.
They were deep in the jungles of Uganda and Logan was never going to get used to the improbably situations that Krycek seemed absolutely comfortable in. Logan secretly suspected that he was military, probably covert ops of some sort. Logan was a little too worried about what he'd find to hack the man's file. What was even more unusual was that even in the humid heat, Krycek was still wearing a long-sleeved shirt, sticking damply to his skin with sweat, and gloves. No amount of speculation and subtle prodding has given him any clear reason why Krycek felt the need to hide himself.
"Looks like this is it," Krycek said, pointing to a small, mostly collapsed hole in the rocks. It looked like it might once have been a constructed entrance, supported by stone pillars, but that would have been many years ago.
They entered cautiously, Krycek going first as he always insisted. Logan swallowed to wet his suddenly dry mouth and followed, ignoring the thought of being trapped under all that rock and unable to move.
Krycek moved silently down the corridor and Logan envied the ability as he shuffled, fumbling over stones and cracks in the floor in the pale light of their torches. Krycek moved slowly enough that he was never more than a few feet from Logan.
When they reached the end of the passage, it opened into a broad staircase that descended into a cavern. At the bottom of the steps was the first indication that they were not alone. A spiked log swung gently, even though there was no breeze. They moved carefully onward, flashlights illuminating a narrow passage on the other side of the cavern that looks like it was hidden at one time. Within the confines of the passage they come across several other traps that have either been disabled or were rendered useless long ago.
At the end of the passage was a small room with two men in it. One was a tall, well-built man in fatigues with a bandana tied around his head. The other was shorter, chubbier and in civilian clothing. The tall one noticed when they move into the doorway and had his gun aimed at them almost before Logan can react. But not quicker than Krycek.
"Doctor Jackson," Krycek said. Jackson's face flickered with surprise for only a moment, but his hand doesn't waver on the gun and his eyes are hard.
"NID?" he asked. Logan had no idea who or what that was, but Krycek seemed to. Krycek shook his head. The doctor didn't seem to relax at all.
"SHIELD," Logan told him. Jackson simply looked confused.
"Strategic Homeland, Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division," Logan said. That didn't seem to clear up anything for the doctor either as he frowned.
"You're kidding, right," he said.
"We're not your enemies," Krycek said. He lowered his gun in a show of good will. Logan copied him a moment later. He might not like him, but he couldn't deny Krycek's instincts. The doctor didn't move.
"I've heard of them," the timid man behind the doctor told him. "They're generally more covert than us, but their goals are usually the same."
It wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement, but Logan would take what he could get.
"We're not giving up the artefact," Jackson told them, still suspicious. From what little he'd managed to learn about reading Krycek over the last few months, he thought Krycek looked equally frustrated by and respectful of the doctor's attitude.
"We only came because we picked up an unknown energy signature," Logan told him. "We were sent to make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands."
That seemed to be what it took to get the doctor to relax just a little. He lowered the gun but didn't holster it.
"SGC's hands are as good as SHIELD's," Krycek told both Jackson and Logan. Logan hesitated, because he didn't know SGC or the doctor, but he trusted Krycek's instincts. Finally, he nodded.
Two weeks later, Logan showed up to work to find a third desk pushed into his and Krycek's small office. Krycek seemed as confused as him and Logan was sure Sitwell hadn't mentioned a new team member to him either. Sitwell was also in meetings all day and no amount of Logan's hacking or Krycek's skulking got them any information beyond that there was someone new and that getting them was a real coup. Details were surprisingly sparse. For a secret agency, SHIELD is ridiculously fast at spreading gossip.
It was only after lunch that the door opened and Doctor Jackson stood in the doorway. It took Logan a moment to recognise him out of fatigues and with glasses. He looked exactly like the archaeologist he was and not a soldier.
"Apparently I'm the guinea pig in an exchange program," Jackson said dryly. He didn't exactly look happy about it, just resigned. Krycek grunted. Logan thought it might be in welcome. Jackson didn't seem to take offense as he nodded at Krycek and went to drop his backpack at the only empty desk.
"Welcome aboard," Logan told him and they shook hands.
"You want a beer?" Logan asked when he heard his study door open.
"Sounds good," Alec said. Like Max he didn't bother to use the front door more often than not.
"I'm making Fettuccine Alfredo
" Logan told him, sliding the beer across the counter as Alec settled on one of the stools.
"How's the job going?" Alec asked as he does every time. And every time his gaze rakes over Logan looking for injuries
"It's going fine," he said, flushing a little at the intense scrutiny and, when he hadn't found anything serious, Alec smirked at him, enjoying his discomfit. "We've got a new team member."
"What're they like?" Alec asked, opening the beer and then taking a long drink.
"Smart, capable... sarcastic."
"Should fit in just fine then."
They grinned at each other.
"What about everyone else? How are they doing?" Logan asked. It wasn't a question he asked often, because as exciting as his job was, he missed Max, Joshua and even Original Cindy. They had all been an intense and defining part of his life for two years and he'd come to define himself by Max and her war. He was still trying to work out who he was without them again. Still, he knew if anything had gone wrong Alec would have told him. Max called occasionally, but the only one he saw with regularity was Alec.
"They're doing fine," Alec told him, gaze skittering away from Logan. Logan tensed, anxious at the thought that there was something Alec couldn't tell him.
"What happened?"Logan demanded, rounding on Alec.
"Max," Alec began and Logan felt his stomach drop. The blood drained from his face and Alec blanched. "No, no. She's fine. She's just... seeing someone."
The relief Logan felt wasn't entirely just because Max wasn't hurt or worse. She'd moved on and he was surprised by how okay he was with that. Not that he wasn't a little disappointed, but that was mostly at the dream he'd had of them.
"Good for her," Logan said genuinely. Alec gaped at him for a moment before shaking his head.
"You really mean that," he said, watching Logan closely, judging his sincerity.
"It had to happen sometime," Logan said with a shrug. The way the evening light hit Alec's eyes highlighted the green in them. Logan thought they really were quite a remarkable colour.
"The bacon is burning," Alec told him. Logan swore and turned to deal with it.
Logan wasn't sure what to make of Crichton. He'd seen the footage and the global consequences, though he hadn't had much opportunity to investigate it in any meaningful way. Not with Manticore and the Familiars. Especially not when half the world still believed it was all an elaborate hoax and he'd half been convinced the aliens were escaped transgenics. Now the man was back on Earth and no one had any idea what to do with him. No one except Fury that is, but Fury had a plan for everything.
"John Crichton?" Logan asked to get the man's attention. The man looked up from his tablet. SHIELD intelligence indicated that he'd been looking up a combination of news from the last four years, scientific advancements and viral videos.
"Can I help you?" Crichton asked, hand dropping to his hip even though he wasn't currently wearing his pulse pistol.
"We'd like a moment of your time," Logan said. Crichton's suspicious gaze swept over the group and Logan remembered the speculation about PTSD and anxiety disorders in the exposé after Crichton's last visit. Of course, he'd never paid much attention to television psychologists. Finally, Crichton nodded. Logan and Jackson seated themselves opposite him. Krycek lurked several feet away.
"We represent SHIELD, an organisation dedicated to the protection of Earth," Logan told him. He drew a business card from his pocket and handed it over. For a moment he was struck with the memory of Coulson doing the same at their first meeting too.
"There's far more out there than even you have encountered," Jackson told him. "And most of it seems to find its way here."
"Well, it'd hardly be the natural order of things unless we were the refuse heap of the universe," Crichton said. The sarcasm was obvious, but beneath that he just sounded weary.
"I've got an offer for you," Logan told him.
"An offer I can't refuse?" Crichton asked with a faintly amused smile and a spark in his eyes that had been missing before.
"One you won't want to."
"I've got nothing better to do," Crichton said with a shrug. They shook hands.
"You wouldn't happen to be related to a Cameron Mitchell, would you?" Jackson asked after a moment.
"I've got a cousin by that name," Crichton told him, frowning at him. "Why?"
Jackson smirked but shook his head.
"Vala was right. The gene pool is rather limited."
The four of them were in Germany, cleaning up Loki's mess, when the Chitauri showed up.
Logan had never expected to be the most normal and least damaged person on his team, but it seemed like that was how it had all fallen. His three colleagues were a mass of desperate, defensive insecurities and the only one who hid it relatively well was Jackson. Though there was some reason that Stargate Command had been only too happy to indefinitely shift Jackson to another organisation.
"Danke schön," Jackson said to one of the law enforcement officers on the scene. He turned to join Logan again. "They're releasing the scene. They'll send us the report in a few days."
Logan nodded, looking away from where Crichton was watching the security footage. Loki had what he needed from Stuttgard and was now in custody. There wasn't much more they could do. Krycek approached them, looking grim.
"Loki broke out several hours ago. He's created a portal in New York through which his army can invade," he told them. Logan clenched his fists, surprised at his intense desire to want to be in the middle of the action, protecting people. He'd never been like that before Max. But there were well-trained agents on-site and they couldn't afford to divert resources just because he wanted to be in the thick of things.
"Coulson's dead," Krycek added without intonation. Logan thought he might be learning to read him just well enough to see the carefully hidden grief in his eyes. Jackson and Crichton frowned, struck by the news, but they hadn't met Coulson, hadn't been drawn in by the man. Coulson had been quiet and reserved, but somehow Logan hadn't had any trouble believing at least half the rumours about him.
"Come on," Jackson said softly, touching his arm lightly. "Let's head back to the hotel. We can monitor the situation from there."
Logan nodded; there wasn't anything more they could do on scene anyway. Even though Jackson and Crichton hadn't known Coulson, in the team's silent support, Logan felt for the first time that they might actually be coming together.
When Logan got home from Coulson's funeral, Alec was sitting at his kitchen counter, eating a sandwich. Logan pulled at his tie, feeling like it was choking him. Alec put down the sandwich and looked his over.
"Jeeze, whose funeral did you go to?" Alec asked with a grin, trying to lighten the mood.
"Colleague," Logan said and the smile immediately dropped from Alec's face.
"Shit," he said, shaking his head. "I'm sorry."
Alec shifted awkwardly on his feet before he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Logan. Logan sighed and brought his arms up to envelop Alec's slim shoulders. Alec really was a better friend than he'd ever given him credit for, Logan decided.
"Usually I get a drink before hitting third base," Alec joked weakly.
"Tomorrow," Logan said tiredly.
"Yeah, okay," Alec said, arms tightening briefly around Logan and then he was quiet.
Logan paused to wipe his brow before righting another chair. Several blocks of New York were all but destroyed, but most of SHIELD, in their civilian guises, had volunteered their services to help with the cleanup. Even Stark had thrown a small fortune at the problem.
A small distance away, Jackson and Crichton were sniping at each other as Crichton shovelled debris out of the way and Jackson swept up behind him. It seemed friendly enough though as they were both grinning. Crichton paused to strip out of his shirt and tuck it into the back of his jeans. Jackson rolled his eyes but not, Logan noticed, before raking his eyes over Crichton's toned chest.
"You done showing off?" Jackson asked, jerking his head in the direction of several women who'd stopped what they were doing to blatantly watch him. Crichton glanced in their direction and shrugged, a bemused look on his face.
"Maybe it's not them I'm showing off for," Crichton said. He went to pick up his shovel again. Jackson snorted and took a moment to take a long drink from his water bottle, missing the way Crichton's gaze followed the line of his throat. By the time Jackson was finished, Crichton was back to shovelling.
Logan gave his own snort and turned to see that Krycek was helping shift chunks of concrete that Logan would have thought too heavy for a normal person. None of them were entirely normal, but Krycek was still wearing his long sleeves and Logan was determined to find out what that was about one day. Krycek noticed him watching and nodded in his direction.
Even the civilians had banded together to assist and for the first time in a long time, since before Max, since before Eyes Only, Logan felt like he was really part of something.