Eliot shook his head. "No."
Nate smiled like Eliot had said yes and said, "You haven't even heard the whole plan yet."
"And I'm fine with that." Eliot crossed his arms and then uncrossed them quickly as he realized how defensive that would look and, okay, these people were as good as bad people got, but defensive around Sophie was like walking right up and asking for it.
Too late, she'd smelled fear. Sophie leaned forward, just enough to let him know he had all of her attention. "Eliot, we need someone next to Valdez for his protection and you know you're the only one who can do it."
She smiled with an encouraging, understanding expression. There were shades of regret, respect and just enough self-knowing mockery he couldn't get mad she was trying to play him. Hell, he was even a little pleased she'd go to the effort.
Damn, she was good.
Eliot scowled. "What about my protection, huh?"
Nate made his sell. "Parker can go in as a guard, Sophie can play psychologist again and Hardison and I are on the outside. Anything goes wrong, we're all in place to get you out."
Sure, that sounded reasonable. If you were broken in the head. "So spring Valdez instead."
"Valdez is trying to cut a deal, escape really isn't going to look good on his jacket," Sophie pointed out, but a little too gently to hook someone like him. She rolled her eyes to make up for it.
He smiled. "Fine."
"Really?" Nate looked dubious, but hopeful. Eliot stared at the crazy man in disbelief. "No.Hell no. How much've you been drinking?"
Alec looked up from whatever the hell it was he was poking at with that screwdriver. "He could go in as a guard instead."
Nate shook his head. "We need someone next to Valdez as close to twenty-four seven as we can get. I think the overcrowding would have to get a little more extreme before guards bunked with the cons."
Eliot smirked, despite himself. "Says the guy who's never been inside."
"You've done time?" Alec canted his head, curious. The hacker probably had every little thing ever written down on any of them by now … but some of them had more written than others.
Eliot wasn't feeling in a sharing kind of mood.
"Let me guess, you dated a prison guard?" Sophie's smile widened indulgently as she slipped into the role of affectionate, older sister. The one you wanted to please, just to make her laugh.
He was immune; he wasn't planning on letting her know that, though. Always helped to have a fake heel lying around. "No. Okay, yes, one time. But no. I had other places to be so I ... left."
"You escaped," translated Nate, with a more speculative expression. "So you shouldn't have any problem doing it again."
"That was a whole other circumstance and there was this monkey, which- never mind, it doesn't matter 'cause I'm not doing it."
"I'd like to be a guard," said Parker. "It might be interesting. Maybe they have snacks."
Eliot shot her a glare. "She gets to have fun, but I'm going to be avoiding the attentions of my fifteen cellmates?"
She waved that off. "You're not that pretty."
Hardison looked at him appraisingly for an uncomfortable moment before turning to Nate. "You know, he is kinda pretty. And some of those guys have been in there a while, the hair might confuse them is all I'm saying."
"Not helping," Nate hissed.
Eliot raised a hand and pointed at their glorious leader. "Nate can do it, fit him up for DUI."
"Are you saying I'm not pretty?" Nate held a hand to his heart. The amusement that lulled Eliot into meeting his eyes flipped on a mercury switch and left something cold and inescapably intent. "It's got to be you, or we write Valdez off now. You want to tell his wife and kids?"
Eliot felt his shoulders rising and tried not to hunch. "That's not- I hate you all. All of you." He looked at the door. It was open and there was a pretty good chance he could make it. Parker's hand closed around his arm and he looked over into her cheerful expression. "Especially you."
She reached across to his shoulder and her hand came down in an irregular rhythm. "There, there." Pat. Pat. "There."
Hardison stared. "Okay, disturbing." He shook it off and pulled his laptop closer. "Eliot, you want to be a Sheridan or a Sinclair?"
"I don't want to be – whatever. Sheridan, I guess."
"Good choice, good choice. He's not the one, but he'll last longer." Off their blank looks, Hardison shook his head. "I am wasted on you people. Wasted. But that's okay, Nana said we all got our own cross to bear."
"Parker, uniforms. Eliot, go break the law." Nate stood and turned towards the bar. After a step, he swung halfway back around. "Hardison, go with Eliot and trip him up if it looks like he's getting away."
Eliot's scowl deepened and his mood was lifted only a little by Nate's whimper on finding Sophie had already hidden the whiskey.