Chapter 1: The Weapon on the Coffee Table
The gun is...pretty.
It’s normally not something Parker would think. She finds beauty in weapons, yes, but her passion lies in grappling hooks and cash, not knives and guns. Still, the smooth, well-worn handle, the elegant grace it excludes, brings her to one conclusion: the gun is pretty.
The gun is pretty like Eliot is pretty, all hard surfaces and functionality. The gun is carved with subtle runes just as Eliot is carved with silver-white scars. The gun, like Eliot, is dangerous and deadly, a well-oiled machine, a sort of honesty and trust that comes from the simple truth of the thing: it is an instrument of death, and it makes no apologies for it.
Still, Eliot acts sometimes. Parker thinks that this gun does, too. There’s more beneath the surface, not trying to hide but not trying to be seen, either. Maybe it has something to do with the way Eliot’s eyes are resting on the gun, evaluating it, his shoulders going tense and his fists clenching.
“Eliot?” Nate asks, obviously having noticed the hitter’s reaction.
Elliot stares at the weapon for a moment more. Then he reaches out, picks it up, slides it into his hand like it belongs there. For a second, Parker thinks it does. But the way he’s holding it, gentle and considering and natural, makes her think that it doesn’t belong to him; he’s holding it for someone else.
“We need to drop the case,” Eliot says.
“What?” Sophie asks, confusion and concern battling on her face.
Eliot rubs a finger along the gun’s trigger. Parker wonders why he hasn't unloaded it yet. “It’s a warning.”
“The gun on our coffee table is a warning?” Hardison asks incredulously, and Parker can hear the worry in his voice that he’s trying to hide.
Then, like he’s been broken from a trance, Eliot points the gun at the ground, straightens his shoulders, and looks away from the weapon for the first time since they’d entered the room. He looks at Nate, and the resident mastermind looks right back. “I know the man this gun belongs to. It’s not a threat, it’s a warning. We need to drop the case.
For a second, Parker thinks that Nate is going to insist. That’s what he’d have done if it was Hardison protesting, she knew. If it were her or Sophie, even. But this is Eliot, and if Eliot says they shouldn’t do a case, if he doesn't even bother arguing his point, hiding his determination…
“Okay,” says Nate, and he leaves the room before anyone can argue.
Not that they would. Hardison looks a little scared, and from what they know of Eliot’s past, Parker can’t blame him. Sophie looks rather constipated, as though she can’t decide what emotion to showcase on her face. Parker herself feels curios, but she’d already decided that this is one of those things she shouldn't ask about.
“You can ID a guy by his gun?” Hardison says eventually, to break the silence, Parker thinks.
Well, if Hardison’s asking, Parker can too. “You can tell it’s a warning...just by the gun?”
“It’s a very distinctive gun,” Eliot answers, and walks out the door.
Nate learned to read people a long, long time ago. And he may not be Eliot, but he knows who this gun belongs to.
The gun is a colt, intricately engraved with ivory grips. For a brief moment when they'd entered the office that morning, Nate had thought the gun belonged to Eliot. Oh, he knew that Eliot didn’t use guns, and he knew that, even if he did, Eliot would never leave them just lying around. But the way he’d looked at it, held it, had spoke of familiarity.
Eliot, though, didn’t match the gun. The gun was beautiful, and Eliot didn’t have time for beauty. Eliot was calloused hands and dried blood, not cold steel and smoke. This man, on the other hand, well...they match.
The fact that there was someone other than Eliot in the pub kitchen was odd enough. It was, after all, almost three in the morning, and Nate himself wouldn't be here if he hadn’t fallen asleep at his desk and woken up with a craving for peanuts. It was even odder that the man was cooking. Not fighting, not visiting, not being patched up. He was cooking. And if there was one thing Nate knew about Eliot, it was that he didn’t like other people in the kitchen while he was cooking.
But there they were, side by side, making omelets.
The stranger had the gun’s beauty. Nate would go as far as to say gorgeous, actually, in a brutal, bloodstained sort of way. The man’s features were oddly delicate, like a male model or something. But he moved like Eliot: carefully measured motion, relaxed like a predator, smooth like a hunter, ready to bolt like prey.
This stranger knew how to use the muscles under his leather jacket. He knew how to fight, how to run, how to win, and how to kill. He’d done all of the above before. He’d do it again, no hesitation.
But in the wrinkles traced into his face, in the weary lines of his ever-alert form, Nate saw exhaustion. In his scars and his steady hands, Nate saw hopelessness. In his eyes, Nate saw loss.
In the gun, resting innocently on the table, he saw this man. The beauty, the simplicity, the unhindered honesty and the well-worn grip; this man and this gun were no strangers to violence, to hardship. The matched.
And watching the two men in the kitchen as they stepped in time to a beat only they could hear, as they cooked and cleaned and never said a word, circling around each other like a fight, like a dance, like wolves from a pack that had been separated for too long…
They matched, too.
Another short chapter, I know. Oops! They'll get longer...probably...
Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the story. Please, please, please give me feedback, and I'll see you next week with another chapter!
Chapter 3: The wounds on a soul
The premise for this story is that Dean's hunting alone because this is pre-season six and Sam's in the pit. It's up to you whether this is an AU in which Dean left Lisa or if they just had a fight and Dean's hunting to take his mind off it or something, but either way, Dean's on his own. Hope that clears up any confusion this chapter may bring about!
Eliot knows Nate is watching them.
He knows this like he knows that the gun on the table belongs to Dean, that the blood on Dean’s shirt belongs to Dean, like Dean himself knows that he is welcome here. He knows this, and Dean knows this, and neither of them make a sound until Nate has gone back to bed.
Not that they make much sound after Nate’s gone, either. They’re both too well trained for walking softly to be anything but natural, for moving silently to be anything but instinct. And it’s been a long, long time since they’d needed to fill the silence between them. Words have no place where they’re from.
They lean against the counter and eat their midnight omelets, and Eliot feels a spark of worry when Dean presses his back to the edge of the counter and doesn't wince. Eliot doesn’t comment, though. That would be rather hypocritical.
When they’ve finished their food and put away their dishes, Eliot looks at him and asks, “Did you take care of it?”
He doesn't have to. They both know the answer. But Dean replies anyway. “It’s done.”
Another silence, and Eliot can feel the heat of Dean’s skin from how close they’re standing, not touching, just existing. He can hear Dean’s quiet breathing, Dean’s finger tapping on the edge of his jeans, and if he listens very closely, Eliot imagines he can hear the battle going on in Dean’s mind.
Eliot makes the decision for him. “You gonna let me fix you up?”
Dean sighs, barely, an exhale of air that’s a tad bit harder than the norm. It’s not something most people would notice. But Eliot is not most people, and neither is Dean, and they both know that the sigh is Dean giving in.
Dean crosses the kitchen to sit on a bar stool, taking off his jacket as he does. Underneath, his shirt is ripped, and through the hanging fabric Eliot can see hanging skin.
He’s going to need stitches, not many, but enough. Eliot pulls a well-stocked first aid kit from behind the bar and goes to help Dean get his T-shirt off without opening the gashes any further.
“You idiot,” Eliot says as he begins wiping down the areas he can with antiseptic. “What were you thinking, hunting alone?”
Dean says nothing, just looks down.
Eliot sighs, long and low. “You’re gonna get yourself killed.”
Dean doesn’t answer, but Eliot knows what’s going through his head. That’s the point.
After the whole Lisa fiasco, which, despite it being funny to watch Dean trying to live an apple pie life, Eliot’s glad is over, Dean had been hunting practically non-stop. And without his brother to keep an eye on him, or even his father to at least check in every couple months...well, Eliot and Bobby did what they could, but it wasn’t enough.
Eliot knew the feeling.
Dean’s only twitches of pain were instinctual, just bodily reactions. As if Eliot wasn’t worried enough already. The hitter had thought Dean had been getting better after Hell, that his pain tolerance had been going down. Apparently not.
Or maybe it was just Sam’s death that had brought this on. Eliot knew that feeling, too, that numb, uncaring, unfeeling state where pain was distant and meaningless. What could physical pain do that the pain inside hadn’t?
Eliot finished up with Dean’s back and started on his shoulder, readying the needle. Dean fiddled with the empty beer bottle in his hands.
“How’re you doing, Shaggy?” Dean asked softly, the nickname familiar on his tongue.
“You know me, Dean. I’m always good.”
“So the honest life’s treating you well?” Dean asked teasingly, leaning his head way back to get a look at the man standing behind him. Eliot pushed his head back up roughly to get to his shoulder.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it honest,” the hitter replied, and started on the stitches.
“No?” Dean was curious, Eliot could tell.
Eliot made a motion that would have been a shrug if he weren’t so focused on keeping his hands steady. “No. We’re still a team of criminals, Doll Face,” Eliot explained, amused.
He couldn’t see it, but Eliot was a hundred percent positive Dean made a face. “Don’t call me that.”
“It’s accurate,” Eliot said with a chuckle, his words echoing the ones they’d exchanged a thousand times by now. “Like I’ve said before: You’re way too pretty to be a hunter.”
“And you’ve got too much hair to be a hired gun, but here we are,” Dean shot back, reaching behind him to tug at a lock of Eliot's hair.
Eliot rolled his eyes fondly. Dean always brought out the child in him, for one reason or another.
Maybe it was the honesty. Kids don’t hide much, and what they do hide is rarely of import. It’s secrets that make people mature. Not experience, not if you don’t have to hide it. Not pain, although that came close. It was the secrets that made people grow up, learning to keep yourself to yourself, what to say and what not to say, how to lie, how to cheat, how to hide. It was dishonesty that made the difference between an adult and a child. Not just dishonesty to others, either. Dishonesty to yourself.
And Eliot did lead a life of dishonesty, even with his team. Oh, he wasn’t hiding much; they knew the basics about his past, though what they knew wasn’t even the tip of the massive iceberg that was Eliot. But the facade he had to present, even to them, hid an awful lot.
He couldn’t flinch when Parker sat down next to him on the couch. He couldn’t let Hardison see the scars on his back, couldn’t let Nate see him sleeping. He couldn't let his shoulders tense when Sophie patted his arm. He couldn’t let his shoulders relax, either, couldn’t let his team know that, in their natural state, his fists were balled up, his feet found their way to a fighting stance, his back found its way to a corner.
He couldn’t let them know how comfortable he felt with a gun in his hand. He couldn't let them know how high his pain tolerance was. He couldn't let them know how good pain could feel. How good /causing/ pain could feel. And when he woke up in the morning, especially when he woke up with a smile on his face, he couldn’t let them know what he’d been dreaming about.
But Dean...Dean knew. Eliot barely even had to tell him, though he’d told him a whole lot. It really did help to talk if you were talking to the right person.
Especially after the hunter had come back from hell, as horrible as it was, Eliot could relate. They were both hunters, in a way, both assassins, both torturers, victims and villains, hitters and protectors. They hunted different things, protected different people, fought in different wars. But they held themselves to the same standards.
The difference, the main difference, was that Dean had always fought on the side of good. His morals were far more developed that Eliot's, though Eliot had seen him pretty desperate. Eliot, on the other hand, hadn’t exactly gone into a morally sound career.
It had driven them apart, for a while. A long while. When Eliot had first began, Dean had still been on his side. He didn’t approve, but he understood. When Eliot had taken up with Moreau, though...that was where Dean had drawn the line.
Sometimes, Eliot wondered if that was when the first domino in the line to Eliot’s...when the first domino had been tipped.
But Dean was back now. He was broken and hopeless and damn near suicidal, but he was back, and that was what mattered.
“You getting sappy on me back there?” Dean asked after the moment of deep silence stretched on for a little bit too long.
This time it was Eliot who didn’t answer the question. Instead, he patted Dean’s shoulder and wiped his hands on a bar rag. “All done.”
Dean stood up and stretched. Eliot smacked him on the back of the head. “What was that for?” Dean exclaimed, spinning around.
“You’re gonna pop your stitches, Doll Face.”
Dean huffed, but was more careful sliding his jacket back on. “Alright then, Shaggy. You done babying me?”
“Not until you get your four hours,” Eliot answered, no room for protest.
Not that that kept Dean from trying, but Eliot had had a lot of practice corralling exhausted Dean Winchesters, and before the hunter realized what was going on Eliot was pressing the keys into Dean’s hand and sliding into the passenger seat of the impala.
Dean sighed. “Your place?”
“My place,” Eliot agreed, and they drove off into the night.
Chapter 4: The Stranger on the Couch
Hardison was low-key terrified.
The man on the couch was way too attractive for Hardison to be secure in his masculinity. His muscles were obvious, even beneath the worn leather jacket he was wearing. His eyes were a piercing bottle green, and they had the same darkness in them as Eliot’s. Where his shirt collar had slipped down, Hardison could see the beginning of silver-white scars. There were dark bags under his eyes along with more wrinkles than a man his age should have.
But that wasn’t what had Hardison scared.
It wasn’t his size, either (he was a strange mixture of lithe and built-like-a-brick-wall, solid torso but overall thin.) It wasn’t even the gun on the coffee table that he was taking apart with nimble hands, well-cared-for pieces sliding through his fingers like the movement was muscle memory, like he could do it in his sleep, like the gun belonged there in his calloused palms.
It was the fact that not only was he pressed against Eliot’s side, but he’d just called Eliot “Shaggy” then pulled his hair and still had all his limbs. Eliot had even smiled fondly, that smile Hardison had only seen on the hitter’s face maybe four times, and elbowed him in the side in mock protest.
“Good morning,” Hardison greeted, trying to act casual.
Neither of the manly men on the couch looked convinced, but he got a chorus of “Morning”s in return.
Hardison really regretted being the first--well, other than Eliot and his guest, that is--person into the office.
Nate arrived next. He did a double take when he saw the two men on the couch, but otherwise, he didn’t react, just headed for the coffee machine.
As soon as the grifter entered the room, her gaze was locked on the scene. Sophie’s eyes flitted from the stranger to the gun he was now reconstructing, then back to the stranger. Hardison followed her gaze and had to do a double take of his own.
It was the gun that had been on the coffee table the other day, the one Eliot had identified as a warning. Which meant this was the man Eliot had been speaking of.
The last to arrive was Parker, who climbed over the back of the couch to sit next to the stranger with no regards for personal space. Hardison’s fists clenched. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Parker sitting that close to an unknown with a gun.
Apparently Parker’s judgment, in this case at least, was sound, because the stranger simply looked at her for a moment before giving her a nod and saying, “You must be Parker.”
“How’d you know?” Parker asked, eyes wide.
The stranger smirked. “Eliot’s told me about you.”
Except it wasn’t really a smirk. It wasn't condescending or cruel or sarcastic, even. It was more like the guy had forgotten how to smile any other way.
“Are you going to introduce us to your friend, Eliot?” Nate asked, leaning in the doorway. Sophie was behind him, looking curious.
Eliot shared a glance with the stranger, some sort of silent conversation passing between them. Hardison’s spine straightened. Eliot’s past made him nervous, he wasn’t ashamed to admit, and this man...this man was from Eliot’s past, of that there was no doubt. The hitter obviously trusted him, but Hardison wasn’t sure whether that actually made it better. If anything, it made Hardison’s nerves grow.
“This is Dean,” Eliot announced, breaking the eye contact. Then he went around the room, nodding to each of the team in turn. “That’s Nate, Sophie, Hardison, and you’ve met Parker.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Dean,” Sophie said smoothly.
“The pleasure is mine, I assure you,” Dean said with another half-smirk, dragging his eyes up and down Sophie’s form. For a second, Hardison wondered why Nate hadn't started doing his usual ‘Sophie’s getting checked out’ posturing, but then he noted the distinct lack of heat in Dean’s gaze. The man was on autopilot, just going through the motions.
Hardison shifted uncomfortably. Autopilot or not, the guy, Dean, was putting him on edge. He was like a flayed wire, like Eliot without the plastic coating, and Hardison didn’t like it. “Will you be staying long?” the hacker asked.
Dean opened his mouth, but Eliot beat him to answering. “Yes.”
Dean glared. Eliot looked frighteningly decided. Dean raised an eyebrow. Eliot raised a smug eyebrow of his own. Dean sighed.
“Yeah, I’ll probably be staying a while,” Dean gave in, then added, “as long as nothing comes up.”
Eliot dipped his head minutely, agreeing to the terms, and Dean finished reconstructing his gun.
“Right, well, we have a case,” said Nate, “and we’re going to need Eliot, so…”
Eliot nodded. “I’m still going to do my job. Dean’s just going to be...hanging around.”
“Am I?” Dean asked.
“Are you?” Eliot shot back, looking like he knew the answer.
There shared another one of their looks, and then Dean shook his head slowly, the barest hints of a smile making his lips twitch up. “Stubborn bastard.”
“You’re calling me stubborn?”
Dean rolled his eyes and jabbed his elbow into Eliot’s side. Eliot returned fire, and Dean kicked his shin.
Hardison gave Nate a pleading look. He wasn’t too sure about this whole Dean’s gonna hang around for a while thing. Nate just shrugged.
“Alright, crew,” Nate began, walking into the room. “Here’s what we’ve got to do.”
Chapter 5: The Good Man on the Job
Last chapter, guys!
For everyone who's stuck with me, thank you. For everyone who's left comments and/or kudos, double thank you. And for those of you finding this story after I'm done with it, thanks for giving it a try. :-D
Now have some bad-ass Dean! Hope you enjoy!
The case went bad.
This crew of assassins was a lot more coordinated than the last team of fellow criminals they’d gone head to head with, and it showed. Oh, Eliot could take them all on separately, no problem. He could probably take them all on together, too. But Dean wasn’t the only ghost from Eliot’s past that had shown up, and the assassins had known to drug Eliot before even attempting to incapacitate the rest of the team.
Ah, Dean. Sophie just couldn’t get a read on him. Oh, she could see the loss, the despair, the injuries he hid and the secrets he held. She could see how much Eliot trusted him, how much he trusted Eliot, and how little he trusted the rest of them. She could see the predator in his movements and the hopelessness in his eyes, and, perhaps most importantly, she could see that he didn’t mean anyone harm. Well, not anyone on the team, at least.
But she couldn’t understand what his drive was. What he wanted, why he was here, why he stayed. And she couldn't figure out how he knew Eliot. It was bothering her.
Now wasn’t really the time to be thinking about that, though. Not when she had a mastermind in chains three feet behind her, an unconscious hitter five feet in front of her, and a rather large gun pointed right at her nose.
“Sophie! Sophie!v” Hardison was calling through the earbud, and Sophie wanted to reply but she was a little busy trying not to be shot.
“Look,” she tried to placate the man behind the gun. “You don’t want to do this. I’m not your mark. You don’t need extra bodies.”
“Tell us the code to the safe,” the man demanded. Sophie swallowed. The man cocked the gun. “You ain’t gettin’ out of this one alive, girlie, unless you tell us the code.”
Sophie tried to regulate her breathing. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to hyperventilate. “You can’t shoot me,” she said, a desperate giggle trying to force its way out of her throat. “Then you won’t ever get the lock combo.”
The woman standing over Eliot chuckled menacingly. “You think we don’t know you’ve told the rest of your little team here? You don’t tell us, we’ll shoot you in the head and move on to your ringleader there.”
She gestured to Nate, and Sophie heard the third assassin kick the mastermind in the side. Sophie jerked instinctually, and the man in front of her squinted his eyes warningly, pressing the barrel of the gun to her forehead.
“Hold on, Soph, just hold on. Parker’s on her way,” Hardison reassured.
“No,” Sophie said, as much to the man with a gun to her head as to Hardison. She didn’t want Parker in here, too. There was nothing the thief could do except give the assassins more people to get answers from.
The man gave her a grin, more bared teeth than anything, and Sophie felt a slow trickle of icy cold fear run down her spine. Her breath caught in her throat. She closed her eyes.
And she was...alive?
The bang wasn’t the gun. It was the door.
Sophie opened her eyes. Standing in the now-open doorway was none other than Eliot’s friend, Dean.
He had a gun in one hand and a wicked looking knife in the other, the blade ridged and carved with strange sigils. His chest was heaving, and blood dripped both from the tip of the knife and from a long gash across his chest, ripping his shirt to reveal the tanned skin underneath it. Despite that, he looked relaxed, in his element in a way that even Eliot never was. It looked like he was barely taking the fight seriously, like his life--Sophie’s life, Nate’s life, Eliot’s life, the lives of the thousands of people who would die if the assassins finished the second part of the job they’d been hired for--wasn’t on the line.
Dean tilted his head, studying the man who, until about three seconds ago, had had a gun at Sophie’s head. Now the gun was pointed at Dean. Dean still seemed unconcerned.
“Hey,” he drawled, pointing his knife at the man like he’d forgotten he was holding it. “I remember you. Ohio, ‘02, right? Or was it ‘01?”
“You,” the man hissed. “You were with…” He looked at Eliot.
“Yup!” Dean agreed cheerfully. “I believe I owe you a bullet.” And then his gun was up and a bullet was flying and before anyone could so much as blink, the assassin was dead.
The girl who’d been standing over Eliot growled and lunged. Dean growled back, and Sophie shivered at the sound. The other assassin pushed his way passed Sophie and jumped into the fight, too, knocking the gun from Dean’s hand. Dean wasn’t fazed.
For a moment, Dean was on the defensive, blocking punch after punch, kicking the girl away but otherwise not lashing out. Then he grinned, shoulders rounding, fists clenching, knife held steady, muscles flexing, and pounced.
Sophie closed her eyes. She couldn’t wash that smile from her mind, feral and unrestrained. It promised pain. It promised death. Somehow, it was scarier than the growl he’d let loose, scarier than the gun at her head.
Solid thuds, bodies hitting the floor, harsh panting. The grifter risked a look, not entirely sure who she hoped had won. Dean stood triumphant, more blood on his knife, the side of his face starting to swell, and, thankfully, the smile gone from his face.
Dean gave her a nod, then started on the ropes binding Eliot. The hitter groaned softly but was otherwise still. Dean looked concerned. “El?” he murmured, chopping away the last of his bindings and pushing at his shoulder.
“D’n,” Eliot grumbled, reaching out to paw at Dean’s chest. He squinted. “You rip m’ sh’rt?”
His friend chuckled softly. “Saving your ass,” he replied, standing up.
On his way to Nate, who had been suspiciously quiet throughout the whole ordeal and was probably, Sophie realized, unconscious, Dean stopped by her shoulder. Sophie forced herself not to tense up.
Dean looked oddly apologetic, like he knew what was going through her head. “You alright?” he asked gently.
Sophie looked at him, really looked. He didn't care about them. She knew that. He was Eliot’s friend, not theirs, and in the two days they’d known him they hadn’t had nearly enough interaction to foster fondness in either party. But to her surprise, what Sophie saw wasn’t indifference, as one might expect. It was...protectiveness. Sympathy, concern, genuine kindness.
This was a good man. He was broken, burned out, savage. He knew how to inflict pain. He was willing to cause death. And there was something in his eyes that told Sophie that if anyone got in his way, the consequences for them wouldn’t be good.
But he didn’t want to hurt people. And apparently, just being friends with Eliot was enough for him to put himself in the line of fire to save them. Sophie got the feeling that he’d do it for anyone, too, not just Eliot. Not just them. He was a good man, perhaps not honest, not pure, but a good man nonetheless.
And he was bloody terrifying. But Sophie wasn’t afraid, really. Not of Dean.
“I’m good,” Sophie answered, voice faint but sure. Dean nodded, then knelt beside Nate.
“He ripped my shirt,” Eliot said, finally processing the realization. "I let him borrow that shirt, and he ripped it."
Sophie shook her head and chuckled lightly, remnant panic making the sound come out about an octave and a half higher than normal, but hey. It was something.
And maybe it didn’t matter that she didn’t know his motive, that she didn’t know how he knew Eliot. What mattered was that Eliot trusted him. What mattered was that he protected them. What mattered was that he was a good person, a potential ally, and maybe…
“You doing alright?” Dean asked Nate, helping the dizzy mastermind to his feet.
Maybe, given a little time, a friend.