Title: There's No Such Thing as Paranoia

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: PG/K+

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.

Summary: The first inkling Reese had that word of his survival had circulated to unintended ears was when an all-too-familiar, rough edged drawl interrupted a breakfast meeting at the Lyric Diner. 1300 words.

Fandom: Leverage Season 3; Person of Interest through 1.5

Notes: So I may've hinted in one of my tagfic that Finch had looked up a few other guys before he made his offer to Reese. And, you know, this is me. I figure this fic was inevitable. Title's part of an Eliot quote from The Studio Job: "When you've done the things I've done, there's no such thing as paranoia."

The first inkling Reese had that word of his survival had circulated to unintended ears was when an all too familiar, rough edged drawl interrupted a breakfast meeting at the Lyric Diner.

"Well, if it ain't John Reese. You're looking pretty spry for a dead man."

Reese looked up, startled. He'd noted a long-haired man in casual clothes entering the diner a few moments earlier, deep in animated conversation with a taller, darker skinned man, but his eye had slid right past them without registering anything particularly unusual. That wasn't very surprising, though, considering the identity of his guest; the man known as Eliot Spencer was one of the few true equals Reese had met during his years spent in service with the Agency.

He was smiling the same wolf's smile, though, as he slid onto the bench seat next to Reese. That much about him hadn't changed.

"You know how it is," Reese replied, smoothly. He'd heard the stories about the lost, though thankfully still living, girlfriend and the months left without rescue behind enemy lines. "A little fresh air, a little perspective can work miracles."

Spencer tilted his head in acknowledgement, then shot a sharp glance at Finch, who was watching them with a wary stillness behind the twin barriers of his menu and his square-framed glasses. "And a new master," he commented, in a tone half question and all caution.

Considering who'd taken up Spencer's leash after he'd broken with the government- a known international crime financier and illegal goods trader, according to the grapevine- that hint of bared fang seemed more than a little excessive. "I like to let him think so," Reese replied, then smirked across the table at his partner. "Finch, let me introduce you to-"

"Eliot Spencer," Finch replied, stealing Reese's thunder. Then he returned the smirk, as much as he ever did: a tiny crinkle at the corners of eyes and mouth. "You did not imagine you were the first potential operative I researched, did you, Mr. Reese?"

Then he inclined his head respectfully to the 'retrieval specialist'. "Your hacker is very good, Mr. Spencer. But I had access to unrestricted government records in my previous life, and you have settled long enough in Boston to accumulate a number of loose threads there."

Spencer's hackles rose visibly: he stared narrow-eyed across the table at Finch for a long moment, then shrugged his shoulders and sat back again. "You're pretty good, too," he said. "But you can't hack a Russian gang."

He cut his gaze back to Reese, something that looked like amusement- or maybe approval- in the set of his mouth. "Word's been spreading about a ghost haunting the streets of New York. Six two, dark hair, dangerous sense of humor; always wearing a suit. So I had Hardison check it out; turns out the local cops are building quite a file. Gotta say, though-" he jerked a thumb toward Reese's hairline, "-I didn't believe the distinguished part until I saw you. The gray's definitely new."

"Rather dashing, isn't it?" Finch commented, dryly. Then he turned his attention to Reese again, casually ignoring the interloper as he offered an explanation. "He was otherwise occupied by the time I tracked him down, in much the same field of employment. I saw no reason to disturb him."

"Much the same field?" Reese echoed in surprise. Then he studied Spencer again, paying a little more attention this time. The same wolf smile, yes- but there were changes there, camouflaged by the cosmetic alterations Reese had noticed before. A certain relaxed tension in the way he carried his shoulders; laugh lines forming on a face Reese mostly recalled set in a scowl; a warmth behind his eyes that spoke of an actual soul somewhere behind those deadly hands.

...Possibly, he was projecting more into the situation than was there to be seen, but Reese felt inexplicably hopeful as he stared at his fellow ex-soldier. "Then you've stopped working for guys like Damien Moreau."

Spencer's eyes went a little flat. "He and I had... call it a difference of opinion. Took him down for good a few months ago with my new team."

"I must have missed the news; I've been... out of circulation for awhile," Reese acknowledged with a lift of his eyebrows. That must have taken some doing; Moreau had been untouchable for years.

"So I heard," Spencer nodded. "Was sorry to hear about it."

But not sorry enough not to be suspicious about Reese's survival- especially in light of his own experiences, Reese reflected. He could hardly blame him; he'd felt much the same upon first realizing it was Spencer who'd found him. "And your new team's overall goals...?"

"We... provide leverage," Spencer said, clearly quoting someone else. "Like your friend says- much the same field, I'd guess. Though we usually try for humiliation and financial ruin, not violent deterrence."

"...And you're sure they knew what type of work you were known for when they hired Eliot Spencer?" Reese couldn't help but fire back. Perhaps the man really had changed.

...In which case, perhaps Reese wasn't entirely a lost cause, either.

He dragged his thoughts away from that last conversation with Andrew Benton with an effort as Spencer chuckled. "You'd be surprised how many rich guys with secrets hire guys like me as enforcers."

Reese felt Finch's eyes on him again, prickling along his nerves, and looked up; Finch glanced toward Spencer, then back to him again, a faint disgruntlement in his expression.

"I believe it," Reese said, fighting the sudden urge to smile.

Finch pursed his lips even more primly and folded his hands over his menu. "Is there anything else we can do for you, Mr. Spencer? Or have you sufficiently discharged the concerns of your current employer?"

"Nah, I think we're good," Spencer said, looking over his shoulder toward a table on the other side of the diner. "Though it looks like Hardison's decided to eat before we go; I swear the guy has a hollow leg. Anything decent to eat here?"

Reese let the grin slip free this time, carefully not looking at Finch as he answered. "I hear the Eggs Benedict are good. But I'm afraid we won't be joining you; we were just about done here."

Spencer took the hint, sliding out of the booth again, taking a balanced stance next to the table. For all Reese was five inches or so taller and several years more experienced, he was glad the encounter hadn't come to blows; Spencer was all coiled muscle, and at least as thoroughly trained, while Reese was still mildly out of condition from the months he'd spent on the sidelines. He wouldn't have given good odds on either possible outcome.

Spencer seemed to be thinking something along the same lines, for he stuck out his hand for a shake, a business card tucked against his palm. "If you're ever in Boston," he said, gruffly.

Reese had no cards of his own, but Spencer had found him once; he could undoubtedly do so again. "If you ever have a job in New York," he replied, meaningfully.

"Fair enough." Spencer smiled again, all friendliness this time without the snarl, then turned and paced down the row of tables until he slid into the booth where he'd left his companion.

Reese watched him go, then tucked the card into a jacket pocket along with the photograph Finch had passed him of the next person of interest. Time for them to leave.

"Sorry, Finch," he said. "Looks like you're going to have to pick another diner."

Finch blinked, then smiled- actually smiled, which made him look near Reese's age for once- and picked up his book.

"Not at all," he said, mildly. "It was a very... enlightening... experience."