Disclaimer: not mine, right? Yeah, I knew it was something like that. Oh, and also, I used google translate and take no responsibility for if I accidentally insulted someone's mother horrendously. That wasn't the idea.

Notes: pretty much what it says on the tin, yes? We all know how this goes. Except that I'm cheating and most of these times will be from canon. Because my muse needs a kick in the pants (British or American usage, take your pick) and this is easy.

Spoilers: for this one, none. Pre-series. But generally assume that if the show has aired an episode, it might be referenced.

Moscow. Ten years ago.

The first time Eliot caught Parker, she was just a kid. Red Square, dead of winter and twice as bitter. Even then she was fast, with a knack for disappearing in a crowd. If she hadn't been fifteen and spooked, there was a chance he might have actually lost her.

But as it was, the line she was on took her right through a patch he happened to know drained poorly, and when her feet skidded out from under her on the ice, it was his arms that kept her from landing on her ass. Not to mention from recovering enough to try to stab and/or pickpocket him.

He made sure of his grip and got his first good look under the scruffy hood. "Whoa, whoa – oh..."

She took advantage of his split-second shock to try to break free, but it would take a whole lot more than surprise to loosen his grasp.

"You're – a girl?"

He didn't need the look she gave him to know it was a stupid thing to say, but some things required verbal processing. "But..."

"But what?" she snapped, jerking against him, apparently on sheer principle since there was less strength in her skinny body than he had in one arm.

His mind was already rifling through options, and, more urgently, the men he was with who would even now be catching up.

"Where is it?" he asked, ruthlessly and easily shutting out any thoughts of what might happen to this pixie-faced waif in their custody.

She struggled a moment longer, and then, face sullen, indicated her right inside pocket.

With little consideration for decorum, he yanked her coat open and pulled it out, wary of a dummy switch. He eyeballed it for less than a second, but enough to be satisfied that it was the real thing, and tucked it away. As expected, she tried to wriggle free while he did this, but he only tightened his hold around her thin wrists, giving her no slip room at all. She glared defiantly up at him, and if he hadn't been close enough to feel it, he'd have never known about the shiver that ran through her as the wind cut into her clothing.

"Listen," he said, not quite knowing why, even while he efficiently did up her too-large coat, tugged her a little closer, and turned his shoulder against the wind. "Someone sold you out."

He grimaced back at her no duh look. "Okay, whatever." The kid was crazy anyhow, or at least well on her way. It didn't take a genius to spot that there was plenty wrong inside there. And it wasn't his problem. Eliot Spencer wasn't the guy who cared about this sort of thing, he was the guy who got the job done.

The mental map he had of the men's positions told him it was about to become even less his problem, which was why it made no sense that he would slip what he did into her palm.

As the slim, ridged shape of the skeleton key in her hand registered, her eyes widened and locked onto his. He still didn't have any explanation for it, other than: "After about the third double-cross, you start making sure you have a way out of any place the guy who employed you is gonna try to keep you." He frowned, to make sure she got his point. "Even so, you're always on your own."

The cocky twinkle she gave him was almost lost in the chaos as three men closed around them and roughly hauled her out of his reach. Eliot made sure to immediately forget it anyway. He wasn't the guy who cared. He was the guy who, when the asshole team leader barked the question, "вы его взяли?" at him, smirked and held up the merchandise in answer.

He was the guy who got the job done.