Title: Small Town, Smaller World
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds belong to SyFy and TNT.
Summary: Eureka/Leverage. Something about the strange group in Café Diem was setting off all of Jack's danger instincts. 2000 words.
Notes: General spoilers for both Eureka and Leverage; probably set mid season 3 of the former, and early season 2 for the latter. My first attempt at the Leverage crew!
Jack frowned as he pushed open the front door of Café Diem, glancing over at the table full of strangers in the corner that had prompted the call from Jo. An nondescript white van had parked in front of the building, disgorging five unfamiliar faces; she'd seen them going into the café on her way out to another call, and in the absence of any expected visitors to Global Dynamics that day, it had seemed like an event worth investigating. Eureka wasn't the kind of place people just happened across, his own experience notwithstanding.
There were only four people seated there at the moment, a fairly eclectic-looking group that he might have taken for a family, based just on their postures and body language, if they had resembled one another even a little. The oldest of them, a guy probably a few years older than Jack with casually wavy brown hair and sharp, light-colored eyes, was leaning back slightly in the chair facing the door; he'd glanced up automatically as Jack entered, and was watching him now with a faint furrow between his brows. Seated at the man's right, an elegantly dressed brunette woman in the same age bracket wrapped her hands around a mug of coffee; she reacted to her companion's distraction almost immediately, glancing over in Jack's direction. Across from her, a thin young woman in comfortable clothes and a blonde ponytail had folded her legs up under her on the seat of her chair; and facing away from Jack, a younger man with dark skin and a vaguely familiar profile occupied the last seat.
He didn't know where their fifth was, but he'd already been caught looking; better to just get it over with. Jack strode casually over to their table, thumbs hooked around his belt, and nodded to the apparent patriarch of their little group. The younger pair turned to look at him, too, as he approached, and their gazes were just as sharp as the others'; he caught the blonde's eyes flicking to his badge, and felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck.
"Good afternoon, Sheriff," the older man said, in even, patient tones. "Something wrong?"
"Afternoon," Jack nodded in reply. "No, nothing wrong. Just thought I should introduce myself, since I haven't seen you around town before. You folk new to Eureka?"
He already knew the answer to that, of course; anyone he didn't recognize who actually belonged here, Jo would be sure to know, or Allison would know about, which pretty much eliminated this group. But he was curious what their answer would be. Something about the four was setting off all the danger instincts he'd carefully honed during his time with the U.S. Marshals; he couldn't have pointed to any one cue, but they were definitely not scientists.
"Just passing through," came the bland reply. "One of our coworkers said the food here was worth stopping for, and so far, I've got to say he was right." The man lifted his coffee cup. "For a one-restaurant town, the selection here is pretty amazing."
"Yeah, it is that," Jack agreed, casually. "Vince has a PhD in molecular gas, uh, gastronomy, and he loves to experiment. I've never heard of a dish he can't cook, and the whole town would probably grind to a halt without his Vinspressos." He took a step closer as he spoke, and noted the interesting degree of tension creeping into their postures; none of them relaxed as he held a hand out over the table in greeting. "Sheriff Jack Carter," he said, hoping to prompt a round of introductions.
"Nathan Ford," the other man said, shaking his hand with a firm grip. Then he gestured to his co-workers, but did not offer their names. "We're with a consulting firm out of Boston. I'd guess you don't get many travelers through here?" he asked, shrewdly.
Jack offered an automatic smile in response, opening his mouth to answer even as his eyes tracked over to take in the missing member of their group. Whatever he'd been going to say flew immediately out of his mind, however, as he recognized the man talking animatedly with Vince. Jack was turning toward the counter, grabbing for his weapon, almost before his mind finished processing the image: average height, long brown hair, leather wristband, and what Zoe would refer to as 'urban cowboy' attire disguising one of the most dangerous men he had ever had the displeasure to not quite meet. Eliot Spencer: hitter and 'retrieval expert' extraordinaire.
He'd barely managed to get his hand on the butt of the gun, however, when it was jerked away from him without ceremony. Instinct told him not to take his eyes off the criminal at the counter, but the theft of his service weapon was definitely a more immediate threat; he jerked his head back to catch the blonde one in the act of handing the gun over to Ford.
"Eliot doesn't like guns," she said simply, her tone perfectly matter-of-fact.
"Eliot's perfectly capable of dealing with them on his own, Parker," Ford said, for all the world like a disapproving father. Then he stood and approached around the table to pass the weapon back to Jack, carefully handling it in a non-threatening manner.
Baffled, he accepted it, carefully holstering it again; he hadn't been about to actually draw the gun, but it had been an automatic reaction: see danger, grip weapon. But it was clear none of the people in front of him considered him or his gun an adequate response to the danger they represented-- and from what he knew of Spencer's record, they were probably right.
"Look," he said, trying to regain some measure of control over the situation as he fumbled his cell phone out. If ever there was a time for backup, this was it. "I'm the Sheriff of this town, and its security is my responsibility. I'm not sure if you're aware of your friend's reputation...."
Before he could so much as touch the button to autodial Jo, however, the phone was removed from his hand as unceremoniously as the gun had been removed from his belt.
"Oh, they're aware," an amused voice informed him.
Already knowing what he'd find, Jack turned his head to see Spencer standing there, phone in his hand, showing a white arc of teeth in a tight, predatory smile.
"Marshal Carter," the man said, as he tossed the phone over to the third, still unnamed man in their group. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Eliot Spencer," he gritted out by way of reply, wishing this meeting had taken place anywhere other than the busiest place in town. There weren't any other customers inside at the moment, but that could change at any time. Not that Spencer was known for involving innocents, thank God; but there was always a risk of collateral damage around someone with his skillset and reputation. "I thought you were in Europe."
"Things change," Spencer said, still grinning.
"I take it you two know each other?" Ford cut in.
"Know him?" Jack objected. "I used to be on the Fugitive Retrieval Task Force."
Spencer just chuckled, unworried, never taking his eyes off Jack. "You'd get along great with this guy, Nate, he's the only other honest man who ever came close to catching me."
Honest man? Jack could practically see the finger quotes around the phrase. He cut his eyes over to Ford, and caught an amused, appraising smile on the man's face. "I used to work for IYS Insurance," he said in response to Jack's incredulous look. "I chased him more than once myself; I'm surprised you got anywhere near him."
As though that were any sort of rational explanation. Jack shook his head in disbelief. "And now you work together," he said, warily, then paused as possible extrapolations of the situation caught up with him. "Please tell me you're not here for anything up at G.D."
"Not to worry, Sheriff," the brunette woman chose that moment to comment, her tone warm and reassuring. "We have no business here, other than the obvious," she said, as she gestured to the unrecognizable cuisine on the plate Vince was setting in front of her. "We'll be gone before you know it."
Vince himself gave a nervous smile as Jack switched his attention to the café manager. "Please, Sheriff. They were perfectly well behaved until you arrived. I'd appreciate it if you didn't cause a disturbance."
Jack felt his jaw drop. "Excuse me?" he said.
Spencer chuckled, a low, smug sound. "You're welcome to join us, if you want. I swear, we're only here for the food. Been awhile since I had a chance to swap tips with Vincent, here."
Jack stared at him in disbelief as he processed the invitation. He'd witnessed Spencer pull off some pretty brazen moves in the past, but that took the cake. Wasn't the man at all worried about being arrested? Even if they kept Jack from reporting their presence until they left town, he could have Marshals after them the instant they were gone.
Except-- the familiarity that had been tingling at his nerves since spotting the young Black man suddenly crystallized, and he groaned. So much for any legal footing for running them out of town. "I suppose if I went and pulled your file right now, I'd suddenly find that all warrants and charges out on you have been revoked, wouldn't I-- Hardison?" he asked, turning to stare at the infamous hacker.
Hardison's eyebrows flew up. "What warrants, man?" he asked, widening his eyes in feigned innocence. "Though I got to tell you, it does my ego good to be as recognized as Eliot, here."
Jack drew in a deep breath, looked around at the various hopeful and/or amused faces again, and let it out in an aggrieved sigh. He could walk out right now, go to the office, and look for excuses to arrest these people that he wouldn't be able to find; no doubt they'd be gone by the time he emerged, and if they had come to town on a job there'd be no stopping them. On the other hand, he could make the best of a bad situation: take them up on their invitation, share a meal and some awkward conversation with a bunch of thieves who had somehow made it onto Vincent's VIP list, and at least attempt to keep an eye on them.
"All right," he finally said. "Under one condition: you get the hell out of my town the minute you're done eating. I mean it; the minute you're done."
Ford answered for all of them, calmly. "That won't be a problem."
"Thank you, Sheriff," Vince interrupted, looking utterly relieved. "What can I get you, then?"
Jack contemplated the bizarreness of the situation a moment longer, then shook his head and ordered his favorite burger. The blonde shifted her chair aside and pulled another from a nearby table, situating it between hers and Ford's-- and holy crap, had Ford actually called her Parker? Next thing he knew, they'd be referring to the brunette as--
"Well, Sophie? What do you think?" Vince asked, pausing hopefully next to her chair on his way back behind the counter.
"Delicious, Vincent," she said, beaming widely before lifting another forkful to her mouth.
--Sophie Deveraux. Yet another world-famous thief-- though one Jack had never had the pleasure of chasing, as she usually worked in Europe. What was she doing with these people? What were they all doing with each other, especially the former insurance guy? Jack took the offered seat slowly, nodding his thanks to Parker, then did what he always did when faced with the crazy in Eureka: tackle the part of the situation he had a chance in hell of understanding.
He turned to Ford. "So," he smiled, brightly. "How'd Spencer end up tangling with IYS?"
Ford smiled back. "Well, you see, it's kind of an amusing story..."