Disclaimer: I don't own the Network, the show, or the characters, and I mean no disrespect to the producers or the writers.

This is my first try at a Leverage story (not to mention my first OC) and it starts out darker than I thought it would . . . it will lighten up later, I promise.

Please let me know how I'm doing.

(4Aug2010 Note: I'm currently editing to correct formatting errors-no story content will be changed.)

Her life—her real life, the one she chose—began when she saved the life of a man she'd never met.

She did know him, as much as she knew any of the people who walked down the street past her usual spots. She'd seen him running in the nearby park, too, when she went to use the restrooms. Not every day and not at regular times, but often enough so she began remembering him out of all the other passersby.

The most frequent thing he did was visit the building a few blocks down, but sometimes he'd come out the front when she hadn't seen him go in, or he'd use the rear entrance while she was checking the dumpsters behind the Chinese restaurant, but she wouldn't see him leave.

That was part of why she'd remembered him in the first place—everyone else had a schedule, a routine, and they eventually became part of the landscape. But he didn't. His randomness was another kind of pattern, and it set him apart. Made him distinctive.

The other reason why she'd noticed him went beyond the obvious. She supposed a lot of women would call him good-looking, with those shoulders, and that hair—even the grim set of his features was somehow attractive—but it was the way he moved that caught her attention. He walked without fear.

Caution, maybe—she would bet he made note of everyone and everything around him at all times, just like she did—but it was clear that he would never allow fear to paralyze him past the point of action. He wouldn't cower or scuttle away like a damaged coward at the first sign of trouble. . .

She didn't know how she knew this about him. And maybe she didn't—maybe he was just an arrogant dock worker with a bad temper and an uptown girlfriend. She'd seen him with an athletic blonde once or twice, and more often with a dark-haired woman who seemed to have multiple personality disorder—or at the very least multiple wardrobes.

But she didn't think either woman was his lover, or even wanted to be. And she didn't think he got all those bruises and scraped knuckles down at the docks, either. She figured that one of these days, she'd discover for sure what he did and maybe even why.

And then . . . well, nothing would change, not for her, not for him. How could it? He was just some random guy with a life and a job and a purpose, and she . . . she only had one-and-a-half out of three. Maybe.

But she'd still wanted to know, and that was a change all by itself. A spark of curiosity, of her former self, that hadn't been there since . . . well, it didn't matter how long it had been since something had mattered to her, even something this small. She often wondered if that spark would die if she ever learned more about him—or if she could keep it going . . .

And one afternoon, two days after she'd seen him on the street arguing with the blonde, who must be a close relative to irritate him that much, she had her chance to find out.

She'd made her usual rounds of the neighborhood and was hunkered down in one of her safe places—a dark, forgotten courtyard separating the blind sides of two apartment buildings and an office block. She had just started to sort through her finds, when she heard footsteps pounding down one of the three alleys that intersected at the wider, paved area. Visitors meant trouble, even in the daytime, and she shoved herself back into the debris lining the long wall.

It was him, looking fierce and determined as he scanned the area. Everything about him signaled danger—not for her, not from him, but trouble was trouble. The part of her that had kept her alive all this time screamed at her to stay hidden, stay part of the garbage until she could escape.

But for once something overrode the fear, and she was on her feet before making a conscious decision to stand. She reached down and picked up the baseball bat she'd pulled out of someone's trash—it had split down the length, but it still had weight and heft.

She knew he saw her, but he kept his attention focused on the way he'd come, and pretty soon shouts and more footsteps echoed around them. Five men, dressed in suits and ties, appeared at the mouth of the alley and fanned out. None of them looked at her and she froze in place to keep it that way.

"Give it up, Spencer," said the one in the middle. "Tell us what we want to know and we'll let you walk away."

He—Spencer—made a scoffing sound, but didn't say anything. He changed his stance a little, but seemed almost relaxed.

"We can do this the hard way or the easy way," said the man.

"There ain't no easy way," said Spencer in a soft, gravelly voice that belonged farther south.

"Fair enough." And three of the men charged him.

It was like . . . a dance. Spencer led—dodging, weaving, a kick here, a punch there, all in time to some rhythm that only he seemed to hear. They landed a few on him, but he shook it off and took his dance partners out, cracking two skulls together and dropping the third with a punch to the stomach that lifted the man off his feet before dropping him to the pavement.

Another suit stepped in, a big guy who moved almost as well as Spencer. The man who had spoken, the leader, stayed back.

She didn't want to move—didn't want to miss seeing the next round, to be honest—but she edged her way down the wall. When she thought she might be in the leader's blind spot, she stepped away from the wall. Slowly, softly, she made her way to the alley behind him, still clutching the bat, still not knowing exactly why. If she'd wanted to escape, she could have followed the wall all the way down to the street. But something about the remaining man worried her, something in the way he stood and watched . . .

There was a final grunt and a thud of meat hitting concrete. She glanced at Spencer, who straightened, his hair loose and wild in his face. "Next," he said.

"The hell with this," said the man and pulled a gun.

She went still and held her breath.

"How many bounties are on your head, now, Spencer? I'm going to auction off your corpse and retire. After we find Mr. Wharton's property. And who's going to protect the others when you're gone?"

Spencer's expression changed, and she was glad it had nothing to do with her. Except . . . she raised the bat, shouldered it. She moved closer, as silently as she could.

Spencer's eyes didn't betray her by so much as a flicker, but he rubbed his elbow. She nodded.

"You think my team can't protect themselves?" said Spencer, as she shifted to the right.

"They can't bother Mr. Wharton if they're on the run." The man shrugged. "We tracked you down, so the rest should be easy. Maybe Ford will give up the goods if we start mailing him little pieces of Devereaux."

Spencer growled, a sound of deadly promise that hit her right in the pit of her stomach.

The man backed up a step, then stopped. "Good-bye, Spencer." His finger tightened on the trigger.

She swung with all her strength.

The gun fired.

The impact threatened to tear the bat out of her hands, but she kept hold. The man screamed and grabbed his shattered elbow, and she swung again, knocking the gun out of his nerveless fingers. She readied the bat again. He'd shot Spencer, threatened his friends, and she had nothing to lose.

Idly wondering whether Devereaux was the blonde or the brunette, she brought the bat down on his unprotected head, intending to split both in half—

A hand gripped the bat, halting it in midair.

"Allow me," said Spencer, pulling the bat gently but firmly away. Using the side of his hand, he laid the moaning man out with a blow to the neck. Then he looked at her.

She knew what he saw: the doughy face, hidden by hair the color of filth. The shapeless, hunched body covered by layers of dirty clothes. God only knew what he smelled.

But he held out his hand like none of it mattered. "Thanks," he said. "Name's Eliot. Eliot Spencer."

She reached out and his warm, calloused fingers closed over hers. It had been a long time since she'd touched another human being. It had been almost that long since she'd spoken, and her voice came out a low and rusty croak. "Jo."

"Jo," he said. "I owe you." He looked serious, as if it was more than just another way of saying thank you, and waited until she nodded. He let go and looked around. He strode to the gun and picked it up. "I have to take the bat, too" he said. "Fingerprints."

She nodded and watched as he went through the pockets of each suit and took their wallets.

"Are you going to run?" she asked, her voice getting stronger.

"Me?" He grinned, showing teeth. "Not hardly."

He wasn't leaving. And he owed her. She thought harder than she'd thought in a long time.

" . . . you should get out of here for a while. I don't think they saw you, but . . . "

"You owe me," she said.

He stopped what he was doing. "Yes, I do. You need a place to stay? Something to eat, maybe?" He pulled out some cash from one of the wallets and held it out. "This ain't charity. You earned at least half of—"

She shook her head. "No. I want . . . " Her courage failed. "I need . . . "

He waited, glancing away only when one of the men let out a groan.

She forced it out. "Teach me to fight."

"You mean self-defense? Sure. I can get you a new bat, teach you a couple of moves—"

"No," she said. "Teach me to fight—like you."

He blew out a breath and shook his head. "Right." He waved at the bodies "You can see what that'll get you."

She smiled, careless of showing her lack of dental care, and nodded. "Clarity."

He frowned and looked her over again, this time with an assessing eye. "You drink? Do drugs?"

She shook her head.

The groaning man rolled over.

Spencer stood up. "Time to go." He looked over the area one last time and headed down the far alley. "You coming?" he asked over his shoulder.

She took a deep breath and followed.

Please let me know what you think as you read along—your reviews will help me become a better writer!