Title: Leverage

Author: A. X. Zanier

Status: WIP

Rating: R (Language, violence, sexual situations, the usual)

Fandom: The Invisible Man (SciFi, 2000), The Pretender (NBC 1996)

Disclaimer: a) The characters and basic story ideas of The Invisible Man are the property of others including, but not limited to Matt Greenberg, Studios USA, Stu Segall Productions and NBC Universal. b) The characters and basic story ideas of The Pretender are the property of others including, but not limited to 20th Century Fox Television, MTM Entertainment, Mitchell/Van Sickle Productions, and NBC Studios. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine. I make no money from this intellectual exercise. c) This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any opinions or views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the author and are used for story-telling purposes only.

Sequel/Series: XOver between The Invisible Man (AS AU) and The Pretender

Timeline: Good effing question. Post-The Road Not Taken, but in the sideverse that includes The Ghost in the Crowd. Approximately one year after Island of the Haunted in the Pretenderverse. This story takes place in November of 2003.

Spoilers: Probably. Does it really matter after all these years?

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Leverage

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"If knowledge is power, clandestine knowledge is power squared; it can be withheld, exchanged, and leveraged." Truer words were never spoken, especially in the spy biz, where pretty much anything can be used against you. Now, I had my share of knowledge, knew stuff that your average spook would scoff at, hell, I was the invisible man for cripe's sake, and yet… Yet, it took mere days for our entire world to be tipped on its side.

Sometimes what you need to know is exactly what you don't want to know.

Eureka Montana, Northern Rockies

Near the Canadian border.

Hobbes pulled to a stop in front of the motel with a sigh of relief. It was one of those quaint places that had a main building with the office, a restaurant, meeting rooms (probably used for birthday parties and wedding receptions), and a pool that would be closed this time of year, the patently fake blue water covered to keep leaves and other detritus out. All the 'rooms' were individual cabins lining the scenic barely two-lane road that wended it's way up the mountain side for a couple of miles. There were obvious pathways that cut across the zig-zagging road, which meant even if your cabin was off in the proverbial boonies you would only have a quarter-mile to actually walk to reach the lobby.

They were late, though it wasn't really his fault, between the later than planned start, the unfamiliar twisty mountain roads, and the deep shadows created by a combination of the tall trees and setting sun they'd missed their turn off twice; the map and Fawkes' lack of navigation skills not helping much either. They had to follow some tiny switchback local road to their destination; Mountain High Resort, just northeast of the town of Eureka. The airport had been tiny, the so-called town miniscule, at least compared to what he was used to in SoCal.

He only hoped their contact, one Special Agent Miner of the ATF, wouldn't take offense to their tardiness. They would have called to let him know of the delay, but had no direct contact number for him. All information had gone through the Official up until now. Why the Official had pulled strings to get them in on this job, whatever it may be, as they had not been read in prior to their departure, Hobbes had no clue, but he had and now they were stuck out in the middle of nowhere, far away from home, with limited supplies and contacts. Then again, the kid had come along, and she could find contacts in the middle of a desert with no one around for miles. Just one of her more unique skills. And one he was more than willing exploit.

Fawkes gazed about the area with wary eyes, taking in everything as they crunched their way up the gravel drive following the posted directions to the main lodge building. They had been given a basic info packet on the resort and had been content that it would be more than some piece of crap no-tell motel where sleeping on the bed might just endanger life and limb. One final right revealed the huge lodge where they would be partaking of most of their meals... and meeting their contact.

Hobbes parked in one of the many empty spots and turned off the engine of the rental SUV. He opened the door and climbed out, noticing the quite dramatic drop in temperature even compared to the airport they had landed at earlier. Of course, that had been down in the lowlands; they'd been driving steadily uphill since leaving the small airport. It was freezing compared to southern California and he reached back in to grab the jacket he'd wiggled out of in the warm vehicle. He tried to convince himself being this far north in the Rockies actually made some sort of sense this time of year. A light dusting of snow already lay on the ground and more was sure to be on the way, within days at the most. He wanted to be gone from here long before that happened.

Bobby glanced at Fawkes as he climbed out of the passenger side and stretched his arms up over his head to work out the kinks from the drive. Even the oversized SUV wasn't big enough for his long legs. Bobby looked over the area, making note of where everything and everyone was. He wanted no surprises on this little jaunt. Not that there was much to see with the last of the evening light swiftly shifting from deep orange in what must be the west to indigo in the opposite direction. Darkness came early this time of the year, thanks to being so far north and the end of Daylight Savings Time just a few weeks prior.

Darien had opened the rear door, checking on Alyx who was probably still out like a light. She'd arrived in San Diego just hours before they'd left, after spending nearly a week on a solo mission she'd been sent on. She hadn't even slept before leaving on this trip. In fact, she'd barely had time to say 'hi' to them before debriefing and then rushing home to pack for this bit of nonsense. They were all learning to hate these missions where they didn't find out what was going on until after they arrived.

Fawkes ducked in, trying to encourage her back into consciousness. She'd been unable to sleep on the flight, which was nothing new, but meant she was running on fumes and would need a solid eight, or for her five or six, hours of sleep before being in the frame of mind needed for this job. Not a big deal even if he would rather she were there for the initial meet and greet, they were more than capable of filling her in tomorrow if she couldn't keep her eyes open tonight.

Bobby turned away, searching for their contact, a fruitless effort given they had no idea what the mook looked like. You'd think that he'd be on time even if they had failed to be. Then again, he'd have to be a fool, or someone from far colder climes to want to wait outside in these chilly, and swiftly falling as darkness encroached, temperatures. If he wanted to be inside, the kid would want it even more as she had a very low tolerance for cold temperatures. Fawkes just had no padding anywhere on his body, and hopefully had packed accordingly, though knowing his partner as well as he did, suspected the warmest thing he'd brought was a t-shirt or two, long-sleeved if he was lucky. In other words, typical Fawkes. Then again, with the kid back, she'd be certain to keep him warm, even if they didn't share bed space.

Fawkes stood up straight, met Bobby's eyes over the top of the vehicle, and grinned. "She's alive... sort of."

"She need to crash?"

Fawkes nodded. "Soon, but she'll make it through the meet and greet." He stepped back and Hobbes could only presume Alyx had made her exit from the SUV, he couldn't tell as she was too short to be seen.

"I could have stayed home," she grouched, her voice carrying just fine in the chill air.

"S'okay, kid. Happy to have you along," Hobbes said, trying to placate her. Far as he was concerned she was justified in a little crankiness and he knew once she had some real sleep she'd be just fine. Hell, given how long the day had been they all had reason to be tired and cranky, they just needed to swallow it down for a bit and find their contact to get this party started.

The car door swung shut and the couple walked about the back end to join him in staring up at the building before them. "We waiting for him to come out?"

Alyx shook her head and shivered. "Yeah... no. Besides I smell fresh brewed coffee inside and I could use a cup or three about now."

Fawkes snorted in amusement. "That's my girl and her caffeine addiction." He draped an arm over her shoulders, volunteering some of his body heat to keep her from turning blue.

Together the three of them mounted the brightly lit steps and entered the main lobby area of the resort.

Jarod watched the men get out of the black SUV, recognizing the pair immediately from the dossiers he had acquired. The taller of the two - Fawkes, Jarod reminded himself, Darien Fawkes - was the mystery of the pair. Until a few years ago he'd been living the life of a career criminal, sentenced to life stint in prison on a third strike in Bakersfield... but he'd never made it there. Within weeks he had been free and working for the semi-secret Agency as one of their top agents. Even with Jarod's resources, he'd hit more stonewalls than a drunk in a Porsche.

Agent Hobbes had been simple in comparison. He had records dating back to his acceptance into West Point. The drug list alone was nearly three pages long. It wasn't too surprising that he had ended up with the Agency. They might be underfunded, but they had the knack of acquiring just the right piece at just the right time, and these two men together had worked wonders for the aging Agency. Jarod just wasn't quite sure why or, for that matter, how.

Why the Agency had volunteered to assist on this matter Jarod had been uncertain, but as no one else seemed to be interested, he'd take the help and be thankful of it. If he played his cards right he'd have access to even more resources, and possibly make some new allies that he could call upon if needed again.

He observed them through the window of the conference room he'd reserved for their use in the event they would rather their cabin remain private, much as Jarod preferred. He had plenty to hide and even though he'd be putting his trust in these agents, would not risk the truth of who he was... or wasn't being exposed. They surely had their own secrets to hide, which was the nature of the beast when it came to spy craft. Everyone had something to hide. That had to be the one truism Jarod had learned since embarking on this journey of redemption.

As he continued watching, Fawkes moved to the back of the vehicle and ducked inside, presumably to grab their gear, which didn't make sense, as they weren't yet at their cabin. So when after a few moments he backed out and held out a hand to assist a third person Jarod felt more than a touch confused as he had not been expecting any additional personnel. Then she stepped into the light of the building and his heart all but stopped in his chest.

He shook it off quickly. She wasn't the first woman he'd met, never mind redhead, or agent for that matter. Assuming she was an agent, that is, though why one of them would bring along a child... They wouldn't, it was that simple, which meant she was an agent no matter how young she appeared to be. And that appearance was young indeed; early twenties at the most. He frowned slightly, certain this was neither the time or place to be shepherding about a green agent. Had the Official perhaps misunderstood the urgency and crisis level of the mission? Jarod didn't believe so, but it could be possible he had failed in relaying the potential dangers involved.

He allowed his concerns to fall to the wayside for the time being, deciding to wait until he'd spoken to the threesome before contemplating any changes to the plan. She may very well not be the hindrance he feared, in fact, she might very well be the lead, though he doubted that given her apparent youthful age.

He lost sight of them once they had mounted the steps and entered the building. He waited a few minutes, giving them a chance to check in and catch their breath after a long drive. He looked over everything he had set up in the room, knowing he was missing a piece or two to the puzzle, but reasonably satisfied with the work he had done so far. Wasn't often he had to go back and deal with someone he had already made an example of, but there was often a first time for everything, and the odds certainly dictated that it happen eventually. It just caught up with him sooner than he'd thought.

When he stepped out into the main lobby, the trio had found their way to the coffee brewed twenty-four/seven and were preparing cups for themselves. This gave him another few moments to observe the trio as they talked quietly amongst themselves. He got the distinct impression that they had worked together for some time and, given the casualness of the discussion, were more than just co-workers. The girl was far from subordinate to the two men, in fact, they treated her as an equal, which Jarod found very interesting. Perhaps she was a prodigy? Had been sent to the Farm and hired by the Agency straight out of college. That would fit with the age he had pegged her at. And yet... yet it didn't seem to fit, visual cues seeming to suggest she was older than her appearance would decry.

She turned about first, her eyes meeting his with a hint of suspicion in them. Even though separated by more than a dozen feet her eyes caught and grabbed a hold of his, a startlingly light shade that seemed to be not of nature, and made him wonder if she wore contacts to achieve the effect.

She produced a smile for him. "Agent Miner?"

Her partner's turned about and locked their attention on him as well. Jarod strode forward as casually as he could, some gut instinct making him want to drop into a defensive crouch, the focus of all three of them sending thrills of danger through his veins. Not a single one of them appeared to be the least bit threatening, but combined... Somehow, he sensed that together they were a force to be reckoned with. "Yes, Agent..." He left the sentence hanging intentionally, hoping she would fill it the very large blank he had where she was concerned.

She quirked one eyebrow upwards and sipped at her coffee before answering, "Silver."

"Kid, now is not the time to be enigmatic," Hobbes grumbled, holding out his free hand to be shaken, which Jarod did without hesitation. "Bobby Hobbes." He released Jarod's hand and nodded towards the other man. "Darien Fawkes."

The taller man held out his hand for the mandatory handshake, the sleeve of his coat pulling back slightly to reveal a watchband and a partial view of a tattoo on the inside of his wrist. "So, why have we been dragged to within a stone's throw of the Canadian border?"

Jarod shook his head. "You've had a long day, it can wait until the morning." He meant the words; all three of them looked exhausted and in need of some real sleep before he explained to them the mess he had dragged them into the mountains for.

Agent Silver tipped her head to the side, eyes narrowing slightly. "No, it can't."

If Jarod were surprised, he covered it well. It really couldn't wait, but he'd be more than willing to defer to their needs at this moment. He still might fail to read people correctly, but remained certain that they would be at their best once they'd rested. Still, he could not deny that she was correct; they needed to begin sooner rather than later. He gave her a nod of acknowledgment. "No, it can't," he agreed. He turned slightly and gestured towards the conference room. "We can get started right now, if you like."

He watched as Hobbes glanced at his partners with a questioning look on his face, both gave nods, and he said, "Sounds like a plan. Probably need to keep the coffee flowing, but we'll be good for a few hours at least."

"That I can arrange, and a couple hours should be more than adequate to give you an overview of the situation." Jarod led the way into the conference room and waved at what he had ready for them. Agent Silver shut the door behind them, but remained in place as her eyes roved over everything in the room. Fawkes and Hobbes walked about the perimeter, taking in as much as they could, pausing now and then to look over certain items in detail.

It remained quiet for several long minutes, but eventually they had absorbed enough data. Fawkes spoke up first, "Navshots?"

Hobbes groaned, "Again?"

"You've dealt with them before?" Jarod asked in obvious surprise. He hadn't expected that twist, but realized it might very well explain why the Agency had wanted in on this so badly.

"Few years ago," Darien confirmed with a nod.

"How big was the one you dealt with," Jarod asked in real curiosity.

"Rifle sized, with an optional tripod mount," Hobbes told him, moving to join his partner and get a look at the current version.

"Ah. This is the Mark III. Oversized handgun in size and far more portable," Jarod explained, facing the two men, but paying far more attention to Agent Silver who had not moved other than to sip from her coffee cup.

"Far more deadly as well, I imagine," Hobbes grumbled with a frown adorning his features. Whatever their experience had been with the previous version, it had not been pleasant.

"We're nowhere near a military base," Fawkes turned to Hobbes, "ain't no way we're looking at more grunts stealing and selling to the enemy. That'd be too clichéd even for us."

Hobbes snorted in amusement. "Don't mean it ain't true."

"But it isn't," the first words she'd spoken since entering the room and while soft were still enough to silence all of them. "Hurst is the key, is he not?" She turned to Jarod, who nodded confirmation. "Goodrowe must be blackmailing him into delivering the weapons."

Jarod blinked, impressed given she had to have read over all the information without having moved any further into the room. "Yes, he is."

"Goodrowe," Hobbes muttered, "why do I know that name?"

"Arms bust about a year ago, Geoffery Goodrowe was indicted, but never went to trial. One of his toady's took the rap, and the boss walked free and clear," Alyx stated, her focus on nothing in the room while she recited the information in an oddly colorless tone. She blinked back to full awareness to see Jarod's quiet observation of her. "Yes?"

Her question could have been about his observation of her or confirmation of her information. While tempted to respond to the former he chose the latter. His odd... attraction to her not what he wanted to focus on at the moment. "Correct. And he wasted no time picking up where he left off."

"Why Hurst?" Fawkes asked, turning back to the information pinned up on the whiteboards.

Hobbes tapped a particular sheet of paper. "Ah, gunsmith and distributor." He turned about to Jarod. "Handles military contracts. He had the access Goodrowe needs."

"Exactly. He is already in possession of several dozen completed models and awaiting confirmation of delivery destinations." Jarod strode over to stand by the two men. "Goodrowe wants them diverted to his recipients."

"That's not good," Fawkes stated dryly. "How'd you know Goodrowe was up to his old tricks, again?"

Jarod shrugged, not about to tell them the truth. "ATF has been keeping tabs on him all along," he told them, hoping they wouldn't dig too deeply. He would just need to keep their attention on the here and now.

"But he's been hiding his tracks much better since his arrest," Silver pointed out, eyes narrowing slightly, as if she knew he was shoveling bullshit as fast as he could. "So, what made you suspicious enough to dig deeper?"

Jarod shrugged, trying to remain casual and confident when part of him wanted to run away, certain that she knew he was not Agent Miner... which was impossible. She was clearly very observant and had simply pieced together what she could of the puzzle and had requested the how of his investigation. "Some of the wire taps are still in place, and while he has indeed been more careful, his encryption code was not that difficult to decipher."

"But you weren't able to convince anyone else in the department that something hinky was going on."

Jarod spun back around at Hobbes' words, not really used to working with people that caught on so fast. The surprise must have been written all over his face.

"I know we don't look like much, but we're not stupid," Hobbes told him with only a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "How you dragged the Official into this is a story I'd love to hear."

Jarod managed a shaky smile. "Maybe when all this is over... that's if you aren't planning on walking away."

Fawkes chuckled. "Not a chance. You have her interest." He waved at Agent Silver. "What say you give us an overview of the situation and we'll go from there," he suggested.

Jarod smiled. "Sounds like a plan."

The Centre

Blue Cove, Delaware

"Broots, I'm tired of playing cat and mouse with him. Where is he?" Miss Parker glared down at the man who tried to hold her gaze for a moment, but turned away and back to his computer. Her gaze was just too forceful, too intimidating, and, more often than not, too dangerous. Besides she wanted to go home and try to get some sleep for a change.

"I'm working on it. We haven't picked up his trail since he left New York," Broots explained, and cringed as if waiting for the storm that he felt certain was about to break upon him. "He's adapted to the times and is very good at hiding his tracks."

"Of course he's adapted, that's what he was designed to do," she groused, but without any real force. She knew how smart Jarod was, why else would she have spent the better part of a decade chasing him around the globe. She'd come close, hell had succeeded in catching him a couple of times, but he always escaped again. If there was no information, then there was no information. Jarod would let them know where he was when he was ready to and not one moment before. So, she stood there quietly for a few minutes just to watch Broots shake in fear and then, after giving him a curt nod, turned and walked away.

Behind her, she heard Broots sigh with relief, the clicking of keys echoing off the walls of the room as she swung open the door and stepped into the hall. Broots wasn't the only place to get information on the wayward child of The Centre.

Miss Parker entered Sydney's office, and presumptuously sat on the edge of his desk.

He closed the file he'd been reading and looked up to meet her eyes. "No luck I take it?" he asked her.

"Luck? No, no luck. He's gone to ground for some reason," she informed him, her blue eyes watching him carefully. "Have you heard from him?" She tried to make the question sound casual, but apparently didn't do a very good job of it.

Sydney shook his head. "I haven't heard from Jarod in weeks. Why, if I may ask?" He leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers together, his entire demeanor calm and composed.

"Aside from my dear brother Lyle breathing down my neck?" She paused twisting the necklace she wore. "I just have the oddest feeling that something is coming. And it involves Jarod." After their last adventure and the revelations about their families, it was little wonder she felt there were signs and portents everywhere. It didn't help that Raines was now in charge and pushing harder than ever for the capture of Jarod.

"I'll speak to Angelo. Perhaps he can come up with something," Sydney offered, his look enigmatic as always.

"Do that. Let me know if he comes up with anything." She stood up and moved to leave the room. "It's important Sydney. I'm not sure why, but it is."

She shut the door behind her, snapping her heels on the floor and wishing she hadn't given up smoking.

Mountain High Motel

Eureka Montana

Northern Rockies

Near the Canadian border.

Alyx had been listening to her partners argue for fifteen minutes, and was getting tired of it. The problem was the sleeping arrangements. Jarod had reserved a cabin for the boys, but since he did not know she was going to be along, there was only one bedroom with two oversized twin beds. And while Alyx didn't much care if she slept with either of the men, there just wasn't any room in the beds for two. Darien and Hobbes were both determined to be gallant and give up their bed. She, however, had already made the final decision on the matter, and was just letting them argue to blow off some steam before informing them, taking a shower, and crashing. She'd had a long couple of days after an exceeding long and exhausting job and wanted nothing more than a couple of days off to rest and recharge.

Not bloody likely, as the good Keeper would say.

She had figured out that the sofa was a sofabed and she'd be more than comfortable there, in fact, it was bigger than either of the beds the boys would be sleeping in and, even with the mission facts rattling about in her brain, she would sleep well for the first time in over a week. Being with Darien made all the difference in the world, his immediate presence helping her to remember who she really was after spending far too much time deep in a role.

She heard the soft knock on the door and, after a light scan, confirmed it was indeed Agent Miner standing outside. She padded over to the door and swung it open taking a moment to assess the man again. He probably had a decade on her in age, but much like herself, it didn't show on his face. There was an innocence about him that confused her, and it made him feel far younger than he truly was. "Agent Miner, what can I do for you?" She stepped aside and waved for him to enter.

"Jarod, please, there's little reason to be so formal and I get the impression that you and your partners work better that way." He stepped past her and into the sitting area of the cabin, assessing the room the same way Darien might.

"All right, Jarod, you may call me Alyx." She shut the door and sighed as the bickering in the other room upped in volume. "Have a seat. I'll see if I can break up the argument."

"Problems?" Jarod turned about to watch her, a look of concern crossing his features as he shrugged out of his coat. The temperature had dropped dramatically since their arrival, and the threat of snow hung in the air as well as the clouds that had rolled in.

"Nah, they're just trying to out-gentleman each other." She walked to the bedroom door and swung it open. "Boys, stop arguing, we have company."

"Alyx, you take the bedroom, we'll manage," Bobby ordered, glaring at Darien.

Her quick response was, "No."

"Good, that's set... What?" Bobby looked confused, not an unusual state for him sad to say.

"I said 'No.' I will sleep on the couch," Alyx informed them in no uncertain terms.

Both Bobby and Darien opened their mouths to argue, but she ran right over the top of them.

"I don't sleep nearly as long as either of you and, besides, I'm the only one short enough to sleep on the couch." No need to inform them about the bed she'd found inside, she walked in between the men and set a hand on each of their arms. "I've been sleeping on the floor, when I've slept at all, for two weeks. The couch will be heaven."

Darien tipped his head down and shuffled his feet a bit. "If you're sure?"

"I'm sure," she assured him, shoving him with an elbow. "Now, Agent Miner has stopped by, can we at least pretend to be normal humans?"

"All right, kid. As usual you have a better grasp on reality than we do." Bobby walked to the doorway of the room.

"Of course I do, Bobby, I'm a woman," Alyx lilted, causing him to stop dead before he quite made it through the door. He stood frozen in place by her off-handed comment, so she pushed past him and out into the main room while Darien tried desperately not to laugh aloud.

Bobby glared at his taller partner. "The scary part is she may very well be right."

Jarod stood by the kitchenette, doing his best to act as if he had not heard every word they had spoken, but the amusement showed in his eyes. Clearly, not disagreeing with her assessment of the situation. "Is she often right?"

"Too often," Darien answered around a yawn. "Sorry, long day is catching up with me."

"Getting old there, my friend," Hobbes said with a smile. "What can we do for you Agent Miner?"

Jarod shrugged. "Just wanted to make certain you were settling in okay."

Alyx bounced one eyebrow upwards; while not a lie, exactly, that answer most certainly wasn't the whole truth. "We're just fine and you're shoveling bullshit."

She felt the shock and concern that shot through him at her words, he did not like that she had picked up on that, and he was truly curious as to what he had done to give the game away. "I'm not sure I understand," he tried.

Bobby came to his rescue. "Ignore the kid, she's been on the job, and her warning system is still set on high."

"You came straight from another job? Why?"

"Because I could," she answered, wondering why he was so curious, and why she wanted to tell him the truth, that she'd begun having dreams about her friends that left her feeling concerned they were heading into trouble and would not be able to get out of it easily.

"Boss works her too hard, that's why," Darien explained with a shake of his head. "You don't trust us... yet."

Alyx snorted, not the least bit surprised that Darien had picked up on that so quickly. Not that it mattered, not yet anyway. They'd figure out how to work together or this would be a disaster from the start and people would get hurt. "You have new info for us?" Definitely not out of the realm of possibility, they had gone their separate ways a couple hours ago.

Jarod nodded. "Timetable has moved up based on the most recent communications I've intercepted. I was hoping we could rough out a plan tonight and move on the detailed surveillance tomorrow morning, but it is quite obvious all of you need sleep. "

Hobbes scrubbed his face with both hands, as tired as the rest of them. "You thinking two teams?"

Jarod nodded. "I had plans for three set, but it can easily be modified for four."

Hobbes nodded. "That'll work. We need to cover the warehouse and Hurst's estate, yes?"

"Yes. And confirm the presence of the Navshots, and..."

"And a whole lot of other shit, before we can arrest anyone," Darien finished. "Meet bright and early in the conference room?"

"Eight a.m., if you can."

Darien made a face, not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, but he'd learned to endure for the sake of the job. Luckily, on this occasion he hadn't been up staking out a place all night and then expected to show up for a meeting first thing in the morning.

"We'll be there," Hobbes assured the ATF agent. "You have point on this one, we're here to assist."

Jarod cocked his head to the side. "Technically true, but I doubt any of you like to play the part of subservient. I have no pride to be damaged, if you see a better way, by all means let me know. Based on your records - those I was able to access - you are all exceedingly good at your jobs. I want to put those skills to use."

The two men looked to Alyx for a response. She knew that this particular agent did not have full disclosure to their more unique abilities and did not yet have the insight she needed to reveal herself fully to him. "Oh, you will," she assured him. "I think you'll be surprised by just how... capable we are."

Jarod smiled at her. "Actually, I'm not surprised by anything anymore."

While tempted, she chose not to take the bait at this time; she was too damn tired to deal with it right now. "Jarod..." she shook her head. "We'll see you in the morning." She walked over to the door and opened it, at this point wanting little more than a hot shower and four hours of sleep. She stepped out onto the porch with him, the night air wrapping her in its cold embrace. She could smell the snow in the air; it would begin within hours and make the next few days interesting to say the least. How it might change the timetable and the plans they had not yet come up with had yet to be seen. She shivered visibly and Jarod being the gentleman that he was, set a hand on her arm, probably to encourage her to go back inside, but his touch, while innocent enough, caused an instantaneous connection that she had felt only once before.

It took but a moment, mere milliseconds, and everything that Jarod was poured out of him and into her. She had already jerked away by that point, but it didn't matter the connection had been made and it didn't cut off when her touch did. Instead he remained in the back of her head, his presence oddly familiar and comforting, which should not have been possible. She did not know this man, had never met him before in her life and yet... yet she knew him. Knew far more than she ever should know about another person. Yes, she sometimes saw into a person, knew things, saw things, learned things; some good, some bad, some enough to save a person from their fate... even if it later catches up with them, but this was so much more.

"Are you all right?"

She blinked back to awareness, "Uh, yeah, just fine, why?"

He set a hand on her shoulder and she managed to not flinch away, but he saw that she wanted to. "No, you're not." He tipped his head to the side. "You are far more than you appear, aren't you?"

She understood that somehow he had gained knowledge of her, could feel that he understood... everything, but not why or how. "I could say the same about you."

He smiled. "Touché."

"Alyx, come inside, you're gonna freeze your ass off," Darien said as he stepped through the still open door, warming her back with his comforting presence. She could feel the possessiveness coming off him, but ignored it for now. "Agent Miner, is there something else you need?"

"Just answers that none of us have yet," Jarod replied, hand falling away from her shoulder. "I'll see you in the morning." And on those words he turned and walked away, heading for his own cabin at the resort.

Alyx shuddered, his presence not fading from her mind, as it should once the contact had ended. What the hell was going on now? She did not need yet another unwanted connection in her mind. She had enough trouble filtering out all Darien was, she most certainly did not need yet another persona buried in her psyche. Hers still remained fragile even months after cracking into pieces and being poorly glued back together. And now... now she had Jarod in her brain. Dozens of him, all the same and yet all different. Unless she'd gone completely over the deep end, he'd spent a lifetime being anyone except himself and that made no sense whatsoever. She closed her eyes, a hand coming up to rub her face, trying to push the images, the memories back behind a wall for the time being, not having the time or inclination to sort through them right now. No, right now she wanted to curl up in Darien's arms and find that peace only he could give her.

"You okay, baby?" Darien asked, wrapping his arms about her and pulling back against him, his nearness pushing Jarod's presence further back.

"Yeah, just got a surprise head full when he touched me, is all."

"Ah. Anything we need to worry about?"

"Nope," she assured him, turning about to look up at him. No, on this occasion the worry would be all her own.

"Would you two get in here and shut the door, my ankles are cold," Bobby groused from inside, causing Darien to chuckle softly.

"Yes, Hobbesy, we'll be right in," Darien told their irascible partner. "Shower?"

Alyx turned about and smiled slyly. "Only if you join me."

He sucked in a breath and blew it out slowly, his breath creating a fog about the two of them. "I think that can be arranged."

"Cool." She went up on her toes to kiss him lightly, a promise of more to come and allowed that link between them to open a touch more so that he could feel how much she wanted him. After two weeks, the need was mutual and near-desperate.

"Damn, girl..." He stepped back, pulling her with him.

She didn't argue, more than content to let him take the lead for the next small slice of eternity. Besides, her toes were cold.

Jarod retuned to his cabin in what could best be described as a state of shock. He stood inside by the door for several minutes trying to wrap his head about what he had just experienced mere minutes before. When he had innocently touched Alyx, wanting no more than to assure himself that she was all right, he had been drawn into some odd connection with her, suddenly knowing far more about her than should ever have been possible just with the simple meeting of skin on skin. He knew her even though he had never met her prior to today, but he could not fathom how.

Convincing his body to move, he headed for the bedroom of his cabin and pulled out the DSA from under the bed and carried it back out to the sitting area where he opened it and then stared at it for a long moment not certain where he should start. As a diversion he reached for his laptop and clicked on the file he had quickly complied on Agent Silver after their initial meeting earlier in the evening. That had been his real motive in going over to their cabin, to reassess the woman once he'd had a chance to read her official file. The information had been both accurate and total bullshit. She had only existed under her current name for a few years, since coming to work at the Agency in fact. Who she had been prior to that remained a mystery.

The fact that she was most certainly gifted with some sort of psychic or ESP type ability had been completely absent from her file. Not overly surprising, but of great import he believed. It certainly made him wonder what else had been hidden from him. Psychics working for the government had not been unheard of, hell that was at least of half of what The Centre was all about, but he'd never really encountered it before. Jarod reached for the picture of his mom and set it next to the horrible Agency file photo of Alyx. While similar - the red hair being the most obvious similarity - they bore only a vague resemblance to one another, so it was very unlikely that Alyx was related to him in any way. Besides, assuming her official age of twenty-four was even close to accurate, there was little chance his mother had had anything to do with her birth.

However, that certainty did little to dispel the feeling that she was indeed related to him in some manner, as impossible as that might seen. But then again, look at what The Centre had done in the past. With a frown of unhappiness adorning his features, he chose the DSA's relating to the Gemini Project, the one that had most recently resulted in a clone of Jarod, one that was decade and a half younger, but with the same Pretender abilities. While part of him wanted to contact his father to make certain his brother remained safe, he knew better. One call at the wrong time and The Center would have the boy back in their possession and there was no way he would allow that to happen.

No, better to review the data he had on hand and hope to glean just that one last kernel of information from it than risk lives he'd sworn to protect. He didn't really expect to find much, at least not that connected to Alyx, but he had no idea where else to start. While the few DSAs he had on his younger self played, he dragged over his laptop and dialed out via the wifi connector plugged into the side. He preferred to use wireless connections, as they were more difficult to trace, especially with the encryption program he ran along with it. He'd done a few pretends as a variety of computer geeks and could handle pretty much anything at this point. With a little creativity he made his way through the 'net and into the Agency's servers. Security was beyond tight, but he didn't let it worry him. What he wanted was far more than the basic profile on Alyx Silver he'd been able to look at earlier. Whoever... whatever she was he intended to find out, and also discover how she had come to be in the possession of the unique powers he had unexpectedly experienced.

No one could be that powerful by accident. Even those at The Centre with abilities had been carefully bred or manipulated or both into acquiring their skills, even his brother Ethan's empathic skills had been due to a remarkable combination of his father's and Katherine Parker's genetics. Miss Parker also had the gift and though untrained had found it a useful to gain knowledge when there seemed to be no other way to discover it.

The Agency's computer decided to put up a fight and Jarod's concentration swung to the laptop before him. "A challenge. I haven't had one of those recently." He smiled thinly and focused on the screen before him.

"Sorry for the early call, Alyx, but I wanted to make you aware of a potential security breach."

Alyx yawned and rubbed her eyes. She'd actually gotten nearly five hours of sleep, but it had taken medication to do so and that sleep had not been as restful as she'd hoped. That surprise connection to Jarod had not dulled in the least and the man's thoughts and emotions had invaded her dreams, so even without Drake's phone call she had known the supposed ATF agent had spent his time hacking the night away, and that the files in question were hers. Apparently, that connection had been two-way, to a degree, anyway, and made him even more curious about her than he already had been. Fun... not.

"S'okay, Quen, not like I have to be anywhere but here."

"Someone tried to break into your secure files last night. I was unable to trace it back to the source, but they did not gain anything of value." He tried to sound reassuring, but Alyx recognized that tone of underlying worry in his voice. "I've made some changes, so they shouldn't be able to get in that particular way again, however that won't prevent them from trying another route."

"I may know who is trying to access my file," She informed him, thanks to her dreams, certain who had been showing his curiosity overnight. "Crack the door. Let him see into the second layer, but tweak it so it appears to be deeper."

"Are you certain, Alyx? Even that layer is Classified."

Alyx sighed softly and rubbed her forehead with one hand. She really wanted coffee, but would perforce have to wait until this call had been dealt with. "I am aware, Drake. I am also aware that most of it is comparatively harmless and scrubbed clean of anything to do with my abilities. Let him in." She had little concern about Jarod learning she was skilled at being other people. Nothing in the modified version of her time as Ariana held anything that she feared sharing with Jarod, though it probably should have. The events of last night, aside from disturbing her slumber, had done nothing to make her concerned, which actually worried her, given she knew Jarod was even less who he said he was than her.

"Understood. I will inform the Official. Be careful, Alyx," Quentin told her, his concern honest.

Alyx chuckled softly. "As I can be, Quen. I'll check in when I can."

"Works." And with that he disconnected. Alyx shut her phone and set it aside, knowing there was little chance she'd get back to sleep. She got up and shuffled over to her bags to retrieve her laptop. She brought it back to the bed and opened it up. Time to do a little research on one Jarod Miner and his slight case of multiple persona disorder. Fair was fair, after all. He had gone digging into her records, there was no chance she wouldn't return the favor. Besides, maybe filling in the blanks of who he was would help with him being stuck in the back of her head. Damn, that was the very last thing she needed. She still barely handled having Darien stuffed in there, she so did not need someone else, a complete stranger no less, sucking up her needed cranial space. Especially when she had enough trouble keeping her memories separate from all of those she'd stored in her mind and could not forget.

By the time she would need to get ready for the meeting she would have plenty of information, whether or not it would be of any use was something else entirely.