Rating: 15 for adult themes
Disclaimer Not my sandbox, I'm just playin' here...
Spoilers: AU Ending of The Big Bang Job
Summary"The rest of the team. They don't need to know. What I did."
Nate looks at him a little quizzically for a moment but finally he nods. It'll be their secret. Could it be their last?
Notes: Written for the leverageland "TV Tropin'" challenge. My Trope was this, which is kinda spoilery for the fic, so I'm not putting the text in until the end of the fic
Warnings: Highlight text for spoilers major character death, and a little bit of Nate bashing...
Beta: teamgrifter rocks. The support from my fellow Grifters has been astonishing - and most especially mizzy2k who helped provide the ending when I was scared to actually go to that very final place, and to telaryn for listening, reading, cajoling, threatening and above all, writing me reward porn. (I can haz Dean/Eliot/Impala now plz?)
There's no going back. Not after this. Eliot knows it, and from the look in Nate's eyes he knows the other man sees it as well.
The one thing he swore he would never do again, he's done. He picked up a gun and he used it to kill. He can tell himself that he did it to protect others, to save them from danger, but it's still a betrayal of everything he'd built over the last few years. A betrayal of the man he'd become. And now? Well, now he's going to have to pay the price. It's only fair.
Eliot hears the others approaching and pulls his jacket tight, disguising the evidence, the blood. "The rest of the team. They don't need to know. What I did."
Nate looks at him a little quizzically for a moment but finally he nods. It'll be their secret. And right at that second Eliot knows it'll be their last.
* * *
Nate's not surprised when Eliot doesn't join them for the post-job celebration. He knows the hitter has a lot to process. Nate's pushed them all harder than he'd like lately but Eliot he's pushed further than even he is comfortable with. He doesn't think he'll ever forget the look in the younger man's eyes when he'd reached down to pick up that gun. He knows he'll never forgive himself for causing it.
He's not even particularly shocked when the next day rolls around and the rest of the team trickle into what he has now come to accept is the office - any pretence of calling it his apartment had gone forever the day he let Hardison upgrade whatever router thing it was that was so vitally important at the time but which Nate also knows has very little to do with him as a tenant (and probably a whole lot to do with boosting 'torrent times', whatever that meant) - and there's still no sign of Eliot. After all, of them all he's been the most successful at keeping his life separate from the rest.
Nate throws himself into planning just how they can go after Moreau now. That the man has fled to San Lorenzo is no secret, but they know so little about the place that he realizes Eliot's knowledge of his former employer would come in incredibly useful right about now and he starts to get a little annoyed that the hitter would be so selfish at a time like this.
Parker's the first one to comment on Eliot's continued absence the next day and, typically, she's not exactly subtle about it. "I scared him away when I asked what he did, didn't I?"
Nate sighs and shakes his head. "No, Parker. He just needs some time. That's all." She doesn’t sound convinced so he attempts to reassure her by adding, "it's nothing you did."
Apparently he must have inadvertently put some stress on the word 'you' because suddenly she's off on a tangent listing all the potential suspects who could have chased Eliot off. Nate's actually surprised that she hasn't included his name until she finishes up with: "Of course, it might be whatever the big secret is you two were talking about in the hanger. You know, the thing we didn't need to know about?"
Damn her safecracker's hearing.
* * *
It's another two days before he's pissed off at Eliot enough to think of calling, if they're going to get the jump on Moreau then they have to leave *now*. It takes a lot of control for Nate not to throw his phone against the wall when straight away the call diverts to voice mail. Doesn't the man know he's jeopardizing Nate's freedom here? He remembers the look on Eliot's face as he'd agreed to keep quiet about the gunfight in the warehouse. He'd thought at the time the man might bolt but he'd stuck around, he'd teased Hardison even.
Surely he hadn't run, not after that? Nate pinches the bridge of his nose and automatically pours himself another drink before he hits re-dial. This time he'll leave a message. The tone has barely sounded in the earpiece before there's the doorbell rings.
"That better be you, Eliot," he says down the phone before hanging up and hauling open the door.
It's not him. It's Sophie, looking far more scared than Nate can ever remember seeing her. "You have to come," she says. "We've found Eliot."
* * *
Nate tries to stay angry, to not let Sophie's quiet panic take control of him too, but the moment the cab turns into the visitors' drop off lane at Massachusetts General, he feels his heart sink. Still, he won’t let himself accept the worst. Not yet.
“Do I really need to be here to watch him get patched up after yet another barroom brawl?” he asks, trying to keep his voice light.
Sophie doesn’t say anything, but the glare she gives him as she slams the can door tells him more than words ever could. This is serious.
He forces down the lump in his throat and resists telling the driver to just take him home – or maybe even to the nearest bar – with everything he has.
She’s waiting on the kerb for him to join her.
“He asked to see you,” she says, not meeting his eyes as she leads him to the elevators. It’s a short trip to the critical care unit and Hardison and Parker are already there and he feels more than a little annoyed that he, Nate, was the last to know. But then, for the last few days he’s not wanted to. He hasn’t asked.
He hates that the first thing he notices is the smell. The sharpness of the antisceptic doesn’t quite manage to mask the stench. Death.
It’s all around him and right now it’s only Sophie’s hand on his elbow that stops him from bolting.
Nate forces himself to focus on the signs, the no-smoking, no-cell phones, no-food or drink, no more than two visitors per patient. He’s always wondered where the ‘No Hope’ sign is hidden and then he looks into the face of the doctor who’s just closed a door behind him. No Hope is written large on the man’s face for anyone to read.
He sinks down and lets them help him to one of the waiting room chairs.
He can’t ask.
* * *
Eliot knows this is the end. The odds are too high, there are too many of them. He knows he’s not going to walk away from this one but he can damn well make sure that Nate does. And that she does. Between them, they can bring down Damien Moreau. He knows that makes it worth it; knows that once Moreau is out of the picture no one else will end up like him. He’s not an idiot, he knows Moreau’s not the be-all and end-all of bad guys. But the things Eliot has done in his name are things that no one should ever have on their conscience.
He nods acknowledgement and steps out, the hated gun held out, ready. He keeps track of Nate and the Italian, knows when they’re out of the warehouse and for a moment he thinks maybe…
He goes for it. Sliding across the torrent of industrial lubricant, feeling the whip of bullets passing over him as he leans back into the slide. Feels the tug at his side.
When it’s done he’s the last one standing and he knows it’s over. But Moreau’s not here and Eliot needs to see him ended. He runs for the hanger, letting the adrenaline course through him as he clutches at his side. Forces himself to ignore the pain.
* * *
There are voices outside and he thinks that maybe they've managed to find Nate and bring him here. Eliot needs to tell him it's not his fault. That this was always how it was going to end - albeit a little sooner than he might have liked, but still. And one more thing. He needs Nate to promise him it wasn't for nothing. Needs to know that he will see this though now that Eliot can't. Needs to know Moreau is ended.
He didn't want it to come to this. He, probably more than anyone except for Maggie, knows just how keenly Nate Ford hates hospitals and with good reason. Now the time's come for him though, Eliot hates himself for needing the team here. All of them. Including the one who will have the most trouble walking through that door.
The steady beep from the machine is almost comforting, but he's under no illusions. This is nothing more than a respite, a breather. He doesn't have long now. Eliot hears a weak cough and is a little surprised to realise it came from him. The nurse looks up from the chart and moves forward - what for, he doesn't know. There's nothing she can do. Nothing anyone can do. His body is failing him. It's just a matter of time.
He's not aware of time passing, of having blacked out again, but when his eyes open next they're there. Even Nate, although the man looks like he's about to run. Eliot doesn't think he's ever seen Parker so broken in all the time he's known her and he hates that it's over him. He reached up to wipe a tear from her cheek but can't quite get his arm to work. He scowls and then smiles as Hardison reaches across and grasps his hand and helps. Alec might be annoying as hell most of the time, but he'll never let Parker hurt for any longer than she absolutely has to. Eliot knows he can't ask for anything more. As for Sophie… well Sophie's curled into herself physically and mentally, putting them all first it seems. He looks across at her. "Sophie?" he says, and his voice is so weak it doesn't sound like his own. "You know I wouldn't waste time training anyone I didn't like…"
"I suck at goodbyes," Sophie says. "But thank yous… Thank yous I can do." She keeps her voice together – later, he thinks that maybe when she's alone she'll let her guard down. She's let him see behind her walls in the past and he knows how vulnerable she really is. He hopes Nate will be strong enough to be there for her when she breaks; she needs someone. "Thank you, Eliot." She leans over and kisses him on the cheek, and when she straightens, she looks pointedly at Nate.
Nate swallows, steps forwards, and Eliot sees him freeze. "I can't do this," he says, and bolts. Eliot's head drops back onto the pillow and this time it's Parker who has to wipe away his tear.
He thought he could. He really thought he could. But seeing Sophie stay so calm and strong, seeing her say thank you, and kiss him like she would a corpse in a coffin… Nate hasn't smoked since he was a kid on the streets of Boston, and then it hadn't been for very long, but he needs it now. Needs the poison tang and the smoke coating his mouth, darkening his lungs. He buys a packet from the hospital gift shop, marveling for a moment at how sick the concept is, and cadges a light from one of the nurses, and he carefully chain smokes right through the whole packet.
He chokes at the end, coughs and coughs until his ears are ringing, and the familiar taste of nicotine at the back of his tongue brings back even more memories. Memories he's been repressing for years. Memories of his own father pushing him away, never having a kind word to say, pushing Nate to the brink and back day after day. Nate used to think, I will die never hearing a compliment from my father.
Now he knows what it's like to get a compliment from his father, he wishes he had never wanted it. Eliot's better off without a broken goodbye from an idiot like him. Except… Nate's always had the conceit of being able to do things better than other people. And Nate's not his father. He could say goodbye to Eliot without being a dick, and prove he's better than his father…
Nate runs. His breathing is labored by the time he's back to the fourth floor, and he can feel his heart rattling against his rib cage, but it doesn't matter – now he has his purpose, his drive, he can make things right.
He bursts into Eliot's room, and starts speaking, high with it, impassioned by the idea that Eliot's not going to die feeling any of the disappointment Nate has ever felt from his father. He never got to say anything to Sam before he died, and this is his chance to amend things, make things right.
"Eliot, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. I can't do this without you. But I'm going to keep the others safe. I know that's what you worked so hard to do, so I promise, I'm going to continue the amazing job you've always done in keeping us safe. Whatever happens, whatever path we continue on, I'm going to continue your legacy." Nate steps forwards. "You were the rock in my life, Eliot. You've kept me strong when I thought I couldn't. You've kept us safe when I couldn't. I'm so sorry this has happened, but I'm so proud of you, Eliot. We'll keep your legacy going. I promise."
Eliot doesn't respond. Nate swallows. He hasn't said enough. Perhaps he'll never be able to say enough, but he can keep trying. "Eliot," Nate says, "I-"
He freezes when his hands touch Eliot's shoulder, and that's when Nate realizes it.
He can't hear Eliot breathing.
He can't hear anything.
No heart monitor.
Nate's knees collapse underneath him and his arms find Eliot's prone, cooling body as he falls. Nate wraps his arms around Eliot and doesn't let go. He'll never let go. He's still clinging on when the nurses come in and find them, but he won't let go.
My TV Trope? Final First Hug.
Just as well I love the angst innit?!