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You know, he can almost hear her say, the sun gives people vitaminsI don’t know which one, but it’s not K.  Is it?  I’m pretty sure we get K from bananas.  I like bananas.  They’re best with chocolate pudding, though.  Or peanut butter.  Ooh, what about with both?  Yeah, definitely best with both.  While in sunlight.  You get K either way, then, right?  I love the sun.  It’s so shiny and warm.

 

Her hair looked like sunlight.  And she was so much fun.  He could barely keep up with her, and he loved her so much, and she’s gone now.  She’s gone.

 

“C’mon,” he hears Eliot mutter.  “Time to make those fuckers pay.”

 

He wasn’t the only one who loved her, and he’s not the only one who misses her.

 

Alec ruined their lives without ever seeing their eyes.   But Eliot will take their lives and watch their eyes die, and Alec knows it won’t be enough, but it’ll have to do.

 

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He knows what the team thinks. Quite a few people have other the years. It's obvious in the sad look Sophie gets in her eyes, especially after that MMA job, and the way Hardison always softens when Eliot's around kids. It's in the gentle way Parker touches him sometimes, how she's careful to move slowly.

Eliot wasn't abused. Not physically, anyway. But he always tracks how much alcohol Nate's had, and he always stops himself after two. He wasn't hit, he wasn't beat, he wasn't bruised.

The team thinks his father was a monster, at least until the ValueMart job, when Hardison listens to Eliot talk about his father's store.

He has a sister; she's living in New Hampshire with her son. Eliot hasn't seen either of them in years. She's older than him. She wasn't home much when he was young. She wasn't there when Gran moved in, Gran with her wine.

No, Eliot wasn't beaten by his father, or smacked by his mother. But he learned quickly that alcohol loosens tongues, and painful truths will fall right out.

Eliot can take physical pain. But words will scar so deep, the wound might never heal. So he watches when people drink, keeps track, and he gets in-between whoever he needs to.

He never drinks more than two. He's always been a quick learner.

Chapter Text

"This is insane," Eliot says flatly at the same time Hardison starts jumping around while squealing.

"This does seem a bit... more dangerous than our usual jobs," Sophie observes.

"The governments of the world have asked us to save it," Nate says, turning to look at Sophie. "Do any of you wanna say no?"

Eliot snorts. "Did you really just misquote that movie? This ain’t the time, Nate."

"Think they'll have alien buildings to jump off of?" Parker asks.

"I," Eliot announces, glancing at the mirror he knows they're being watched from, "want it on record that I am against this."

"I'd'a thought you'd be all for it," Hardison tells him, while still dancing around the room in some sort of geek ecstasy. "It's the most patriotic thing we'll ever do."

Nate says, "C'mon, let's go steal a galaxy," and dramatically storms out.

Sophie sighs, shrugs at Eliot, and follows. Hardison bounces out and Parker trails him, peppering questions at him.

Eliot always knew he'd die for this group of idiots, but he'd never imagined it'd be on another planet. He sighs, squares his shoulders, and hurries to catch up.

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There is a story that hasn't been told yet. One day, it'll be whispered by breathless grifters who've just begun, by art thieves and forgers, by anyone in the game.

There was a crew, once, the greatest in the world—a hacker, a hitter, a grifter, a thief, and the brains behind it all. Each of them were the best, and they also learned to play each other's part, and there was absolutely nothing they couldn't do. The stole things that were unstealable, and they hacked the unhackable, and they never got caught.

It surely can't be true, some doubters would say.

They had Eliot Spencer,, the hitters say, and Parker! the thieves chime in, and Hardison, the hackers add, while the grifters sigh, and Sophie Devereaux.

What about the brains? the doubters ask.

No one knows, everyone says.

There are rumors, now. Hearsay. But it'll be legend soon enough.

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The bunny wanted to come home with her.  He stared at her with those cute black eyes, his paws all spread out.  Hug me, he said.  Take me home.  I'm yours.

 

Mrs. Monroe's back was turned, looking at the other animals she wouldn't get because they weren't necessary, and Mr. Monroe was all about the necessary.

 

Hug me, the bunny said.

 

Her shirt was too big, and she wore a sweatshirt over it anyway.  The bunny fit snug against her and she wrapped her arms around her middle. 

 

(Much later, years and years, Hardison asks about the ragged bunny on her dresser.  Parker smiles and says his name is Real.)

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Nate begs them not to, and Sophie leaves in tears, but Parker stands resolute in his room and Eliot stands with her.

"They took him from us," she says as Nate follows Sophie. She doesn't look over, doesn't reach for his hand. His scent is still on the air, orange soda and cheetohs and sweat, and she doesn't move toward the bed or the shirt discarded on the floor.

"We can't get him back," Eliot says softly. He doesn't move, either.

"We can make them feel like we do," she whispers.

He wouldn't want that, wouldn't like that. But it's all she can think to do.

"Yeah," Eliot says. He sounds tired. "That we can."

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Sebastian retires after his fortieth birthday (the one nobody knows is his). It’s still fun but there’s no one he trusts enough at his back anymore. He still keeps up with the old crowd and the chatter, and he finds a nice quiet city in the States and goes back to his roots: theatre. He tries to put aside all of his masks and become—well, that’s the thing, isn’t it?

He barely remembers who Laurence was, that stupid boy. Sebastian is better at just about everything, but sometimes… sometimes, he does miss Laurence so much.

.

Eliot’s favorite thing is when the goons underestimate her. Not only is she a woman, she’s also kinda small. That’s two strikes against her.

She loves it.

See, the thing is, she’s quick and precise, and she smirks as they go down, one after the other. If they’d rushed her all at once, then maybe—but of course they didn’t.

“I love watching you work,” Damien says, leaning against the wall.

Eliot grins at him, wiping blood off her cheek.

.

Parker knows there’s a lot of things he doesn’t know. But there’s also things no one knows better than he does. He likes shiny things, and hard-to-get-to things, and things other people have. He also likes money.

Archie gave him a home all to himself and trained him on safes and lasers and alarms, and when Parker was about eighteen (they guessed) Archie said, “Well, I’ve taught you all I can.” Parker thinks he might’ve been angry and hurt but he’s not sure, and anyway, Archie had already given him more than anyone else ever had.

It’s been ten years since then and Parker still has a home all to himself, and it’s full of stuff that’s his and also money. Sometimes, he even steals things to prove he can and then puts them back just because he can do that, too.

.

“Oh, Nana would be furious,” Alecia mutters, deftly sidestepping a trap in the code. Nana had told her there was a whole world waiting for girls as good at computers as Alecia, and, yeah, she was right about that. But Alecia is pretty damn sure this is not what Nana meant.

“I got you now,” she tells all of the pretty little bits of information. The CIA ain’t nothing compared to her.

.

When Sam dies, Natalie feels part of her die, too. Mark is heartbroken but he doesn’t know that Sam could’ve been saved, and Jim is hurting for them, Natalie can tell, but he doesn’t know either, and after the funeral, after Sammy is in the ground where she can never hold him again—the pain and the despair begin to harden into something that Natalie Ford hasn’t felt in a long time.

She drinks to hide it, to dampen it, to ignore it.

And then Dubenich uses her son. For the first time in years, Natalie’s rage has a target and she focuses in.

The bastard really should’ve just paid them.

...

 

The worst thing Eliot ever does in her life, she does for Damien Moreau.

She started working for him as a bodyguard and then began moving up until she was his chief enforcer, his favorite tool. She started for the pay, stayed for the thrill, and then—well, he’s charming. Elegant. She fell in love. Stupid, Mama would’ve said. You stupid girl, you know the kind of man he is.

Eliot knew the whole time. So many terrible things she’s done, under orders or for money or just to survive.

Damien asks her to and so she does, and afterwards, before even reporting it done, she just looks at her hands. They aren’t shaking. They aren’t even splattered in red. They’re just… hands. Her hands. And they’ll never be clean again.

She goes home, to Damien’s office where he’s waiting, and she says, “I’m done.”

No one walks away from Damien Moreau. No one except Eliot Spencer.

.

Parker asks, “What did you do?” His head is tilted to the side, his shoulders tucked in, his hair even longer than Eliot’s. He’s so damaged and yet so innocent, and Eliot wants to keep him safe.

She says, “Don’t ask me that, Parker. Because if you ask, I’ll tell you.” She would, too. She’s been hiding this truth for six months and she’s so tired. She wants them away from this, away from Damien. Alecia is still dripping water because Eliot had to play Damien’s game, and Natalie is looking at Eliot like she’s never seen her before.

Of course she hasn’t. Eliot Spencer walked away from Damien Moreau and changed everything about herself.

She walked away. She didn’t scorch the earth behind her because he let her go. And now… she looks at Parker and Alecia, at Natalie and Sebastian, and she chooses.

.

Eliot Spencer doesn’t ask forgiveness because she will never earn it. All she can do is protect the team until her dying day.

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He gets out after—well, he gets out. Goes back to Oklahoma and works anywhere they need a handyman or a touch with horses, anywhere he doesn’t have to talk much.

He doesn't look over his shoulder. Doesn't care if an old enemy tracks him down. Doesn't care if they try to break him before killing him. He doesn't care about much anymore.

But no one comes for him.

He saves up his paychecks to buy a parcel of land, even though he could buy the state for how much is hidden away in a bank-account with a fake name. He won’t go near that money, though. Not even if he were starving.

There’s blood on that money, and guilt. So much regret he can’t breathe sometimes.

He flinches around laughing blondes. Around motherly brunettes with bright smiles. Can’t stand fireworks or skyscrapers.

It takes ten years of living hand-to-mouth before he buys that parcel of land. Four horses. He never expected to live so long, and sometimes wishes he had the courage to kill himself. But Grandma had told him that suicides don’t get to Heaven, and he knows that’s where they are.

He wants to see them again. To apologize for being too slow. Too weak. He was unconscious while they died, and there’s no excuse for that. He wasn’t good enough and—

It should have been him. That’s why he was on the team. To take the punches and the gunshots and the killing blows. It should have been him, but it wasn’t and he’s got to live with that.

So he does. With his stamp-sized piece of ground and his four rescued horses, he lives with that.

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"Okay, everyone," Stiles says, looking each of them in the eye, "there can be none, ABSOLUTELY NO, werewolf shenanigans for the upcoming week. Okay? Okay." He nods firmly. "NONE."

“Oh, no,” Scott breathes. “No, tell me he’s not—”

Stiles nods, a nervous smile on his face. “He is.”

Scott facepalms.

“What?” Derek finally demands, cutting off whatever Isaac or Erica were about to say.

“My Uncle Eliot is gonna be spending the week with us,” Stiles says. “He’s ‘recuperating.’” Stiles actually uses the finger quotes and Derek rolls his eyes. “Hey, no, don’t roll your eyes at me, bucko!” Stiles says. “He’s—I don’t know what he does, he never talks about work, but he’s got scars like you would have if you didn’t heal, and I’ve made lists about it! He’s either an assassin or mob enforcer, or, like, the specialest special forces guy ever, and he will notice if anything happens.”

“Look,” Isaac says, “he’ll only be here a week, right? Not a problem.”

Stiles shakes his head, sighing.

(Uncle Eliot makes them in half a day.)

(Also, Chris Argent doesn’t look at Scott for months after Uncle Eliot leaves.)

(Also also, Eliot asks his older brother, “You’re really acting like you don’t know?”

His brother says, “I’ll wait for my son to tell me.”

Eliot just scoffs at him.)

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Daddy used to keep cats. She remembers that much from when she was a little girl.  He lost the sanctuary a long time ago and that's not why she's here now, but these people... they remind her so much of those days. 

 

Mr. Ford is a lion, the one who keeps the territory and fights off interlopers.  He does some work, it seems, but not the most.  He plans, but he doesn't really fight.

 

Call me Sophie, dear is a panther, sleek and quick, sharp and soft.  She'll lurk in the shadows except when stepping into the sun would be better, and she'll draw all eyes, keep people distracted while the others lunge in with the killing bite.

 

Hardison and Parker, they're something small and fast.  Maybe a serval and an ocelot.  Not as dangerous, but just as invisible.  And can still do so much damage... but those four, as dangerous as they are...

 

Eliot is something more.  She saw it from the first moment Sophie sat her down with this team, Mr. Ford's pride.  Daddy had one tiger, that he'd rescued from some idiot who didn't realize how big Siberians get. She's always liked tigers, and she used to watch him close every chance she got.  Eliot's movements are as fluid as that tiger.  He's attuned to everyone in the room like that tiger knew everything about his environment.

 

Eliot could kill everyone present just as easily as that tiger could've, just as fast.  And that...

 

But she's come to these people for help.  To save Maura and Colette's legacy.  And as dangerous as they are... they'll be on her side.

 

A lion and a panther and a serval and an ocelot and a goddamned tiger. 

 

She'll have to go to confession later, but Maura and Colette need her, and Mr. Ford's pride is their last hope.

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            You gonna go after Wolfram and Hart? Lindsey asks from the mirror.

            And Eliot answers, Someday.

 

            They’d been best friends, growing up, identical twins with dirt-poor parents, two older brothers and a sister four years after.

            Only Eliot and their sister are still alive.

 

            It wasn’t your fault, Lindsey tells him when nightmares wake him up gasping.  I wanted out.  You didn’t chase me away.

            I didn’t chase after you, either, Eliot says, and doesn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

 

            Lindsey got the brains and Eliot got the brawns—that’s what their eldest brother used to say.  Lindsey spent all his time studying, had the highest grades in their year all the way to graduation.  Eliot got in daily fights and only learned when Lindsey made him quiz him.

            Lindsey graduated at the top of their class, with grades perfect enough for Wolfram and Hart to come calling.  Eliot barely graduated at all.

 

            I need to know you forgive me, Lindsey whispers.  That’s the only way I can move on.

            Eliot doesn’t say a thing.

 

            They saw each other sporadically over the years, with random phone calls in-between.  Lindsey was an up-and-coming lawyer, while Eliot floundered.  And then Eliot fell into the underbelly of society and found his calling.

            Lindsey had always been driven to be the best, to shine, to rise above all the rest.  Eliot finally realized how that felt and he rose through the ranks swiftly, the jack of all trades in retrieving or assassinating.  Lindsey once asked his brother where he was going; Eliot choked on a laugh and rumbled out, Hell.

 

            They’re good people, Lindsey says.  I’m glad you’ve fallen in with them.

            Eliot nods, but replies, Not as good as you’da been.

 

            Lindsey never said goodbye.  He said he had some loose ends to tie up in LA and he’d be back in three weeks.

            Eliot had a job in Moscow.  He was a world away when he heard Lindsey scream and then—nothing.

 

            Eliot, Lindsey murmurs sometimes, turn left.  Or Not that way.  Or Bad guy, duck! Before Lindsey died, Eliot had been a kick-ass fighter, but after?  No one could get the drop on him.

            He’d trade the reputation and prowess in less than a heartbeat to have his brother breathing again.

 

            Eliot spent a month at his little sister’s home in Oklahoma City.  She was the only family he had left.  Her twin daughters were six and little boy eight.  He took a break from retrieving to look after them and feel like a real person again.

            It didn’t work.  He only felt alive when he was breaking bones or making people bleed, and that didn’t worry him as much as it should.  So he kissed his sister and the kiddos goodbye and vanished back into the underbelly of society, never pausing or resting, searching for something that died in Los Angeles when he wasn’t looking.

 

            You’re gonna get yourself killed, Lindsey yells in the middle of a brawl.  He’s been dead for three years and Eliot doesn’t look over, just ducks a punch and kicks some poor bastard in the ribs.

            Fuck you, Lindsey snarls.  Eliot takes a hit in the face and keeps smiling.

 

            After they had make-up sex years too late, Aimee said, “I heard about your twin.  I’m sorry.”

            Eliot pretended to be asleep.

 

            Forgive me, Lindsey begs.  El, come on.  It’s been four years.  Let me go.

            No, Eliot says. 

 

            Lindsey’s middle name had been Spencer.  Growing up, his hair had always been a wild tangle until high-school, when he cut it to look more respectable. 

            They’d both loved horses.  Never felt as free as on the back of a horse. 

 

            Devereaux suspects there’s more to you than breaking faces, Lindsey whispers.  Hardison looked into your background.  Ford’s heard about you beyond what your file says.  And Parker—man, she’s ten pounds of crazy in a five-pound bag.

            Don’t worry ‘bout me, Linny, Eliot says.  The only person I trust is dead.

 

            Eliot was never a team player.  He couldn’t trust anyone—a character flaw, Dad said.  Mom said it was smart. 

            Lindsey, though, didn’t just play on a team.  He led it.

 

            You gonna go after Wolfram and Hart? Lindsey asks from the mirror.

            And Eliot answers, Today.

 

 

Chapter Text

She waits in the dark apartment, curled up on his bean bag.  His orange drink tastes purple and the chips are stale.  The computer keeps beeping and blinking, like it’s trying to tell her something, but she doesn’t know the language.

 

Eliot opens the door, silently walking in.  He reaches for the light-switch, but pauses.  “Parker,” he says.  “It’s time.”

 

She shakes her head.  It’s not time. It’ll never be time until Hardison is back to translate what the computer’s saying.

 

Sophie steps around Eliot and she does hit the light.  Nate stays in the hall, a glass of alcohol in his hand.  “Please, Parker,” Sophie murmurs.  “For me.”

 

Parker closes her eyes and hums the theme from Star Wars, putting her fingers in her ears.

 

She’s not going anywhere until Hardison comes home.

 

Eliot turns off the light when they leave, and Parker doesn’t wipe away her tears.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Alec cannot take anymore of the sunshine glaring down at him and the branches that keep trying to smack him off the monster's back and just—is Eliot grinning?

 

"Dude, I miss air-conditioning!" he calls.  “And the internet.  I can get internet in a car.  Hell, I can get internet on a sub at the bottom of the sea!  But this monst—” The horse shies from something that ain’t even there and Alec grabs onto the pommel, sending up a prayer.

 

Eliot laughs.  “Yeah, horses don’t get the internet.”  His beast prances over and he pats it on the neck.  “But cars don’t got souls.”

Chapter Text

Sometimes, he wants to walk into traffic. Or off a building. There's ways to get a gun, or there's always a kitchen knife handy. It'd be so easy.

Maggie's gone. Sam. He didn't try hard enough--he knows how to twist the system, but he just stood there, gaping and sobbing, while his baby boy died from something that shouldn't have been fatal.

He knows the system. He should have been able to work it, but instead he watched.

His life is over. And he wants it to end.

But he's not good enough to join Sammy yet. So even though he's tempted, he'll wait until he's been punished fully, no matter how long it takes.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Lindsey knows that working with a team only ends in pain, blood, and betrayal. A shitload of betrayal. The only dependable people are family, and Eliot used to know that, too. He's forgotten it, though, because of Nate Ford and his merry band of thieves.

Well, enough's enough. Lindsey survived Angel's plan and Lorne's heel-face turn, and he won't let Eliot feel a knife in the back (bullets to the chest) because Lindsey's the big brother and it's about damn time he stepped up and took care of his twin.

Running off to be a lawyer and selling his soul was one thing. Eliot was safe then--or, well, as safe as someone can get being a bounty hunter. But he was good at what he did, and Lindsey watched out for him, in a distant and mystical way. But as a bounty hunter, everyone knew it was just a job and anything he retrieved could be retrieved back. A few times, he was even hired to steal something he'd already stolen.

But this, what Ford's doing? He's making enemies. Powerful, vindictive enemies. And Lindsey doesn't have Wolfram and Hart on his side anymore.

He'll have to step in. Actually, physically step in to keep his baby brother safe.

And it's only when he's standing just inside the door and watching El laugh with the hacker and thief that the ache sharpens in his chest. He's missed his brother. All these years, he's missed his brother so much.

And these people will not betray Eliot. Lindsey's here now with the only family he'll claim, and he'll kill them all before his little brother hurts like he did.

... 

Eliot’s brother is even scarier than him, which Alec hadn’t thought possible.   Lindsey is cold and calculating in a way Eliot isn’t.  They’re both smart, but Eliot hides his intelligence behind belligerence.  Lindsey doesn’t bother with the mask.  And where Eliot’s eyes are warm, Lindsey’s are Arctic. 

 

Lindsey doesn’t like any of them, and he lets them know it.  He dismisses Nate with a glance, and is icily polite to Sophie.  He’s barely even looked at Alec since Eliot introduced them.  And Parker… well.  For her, he turns on the same good-ole-boy charm Eliot pulls out around most women or when he’s on a con.  Alec’s not sure why he does it, but he knows he doesn’t like it.  Not one bit.

 

Alec wants the brother to leave.  Lindsey is frightening, and taking all of Eliot’s attention, and looks at all of them but Parker like they’re already dead and he’s planning where to hide the bodies.

 

But Eliot is smiling.  In a way Alec’s never seen before, Eliot is goddamned <i>smiling</i>.   Like it’s his birthday and Christmas and Santa not only brought everything on his list, but all the stuff he wanted and didn’t ask for, too.

 

Alec did in-depth background checks on the team before that first job, and then even deeper background checks after.  Eliot Spencer is a ghost.  Before the mid-nineties, he didn’t exist.  Alec couldn’t find a hint of him.  He has no idea what Eliot’s real name is. 

 

When he looks up Lindsey McDonald, he gets nowhere.  The next morning, when Lindsey walks into the kitchen at Eliot’s back, he smirks at Alec, like he knows Alec tried and found absolutely <i>nothing</i>.

 

Damn, but does Alec hate that man.

 

Not that it matters.  Eliot didn’t like any of them either, at the beginning.  They won him over eventually.  They’ll get his brother, too.

 

(Alec hopes.  Because Lindsey is scarier than Eliot, and if he’s already decided where to hide the bodies, there really is nothing they can do.)

 

Chapter Text

She's attended her own funeral multiple times over the years, always as part of a con. She likes hearing what people have to say, even if they're not talking about her. She's attended the funerals of friends, and once a cousin—sometimes part of a con, but sometimes truly.

She attended Sam's funeral, not that she'll ever tell Nate.

"You've gotta stop doin' this," Nate says, stepping up beside her on the hill.

It's a double funeral this time, and Hardison is sobbing while Eliot reads the eulogy. Parker's face is tucked into Hardison's chest. Maggie, Sterling, Tara, so many colleagues—some, she knows, have come purely to make sure Nate is actually dead.

"I wish it weren't necessary," she murmurs, resting her head on Nate's shoulder.

This will be the last of her funerals she attends.

"It's for the best," Nate says, and if she didn't believe that, she wouldn't have let him do this to their children.

She blows them a kiss, Eliot and Parker and Hardison, and then she lets Nate pull her away.

Chapter Text

"Um." Alec's horrified gaze darts to Eliot, whose hand is frozen halfway to his mouth, the cracker crumbling in his grip.

“Parker.” Eliot flicks his fingers to get rid of the crumbs. “Ask Nate.”

“Okay!” she chirps, bouncing out of the room.

Chapter Text

 

He doesn't say 'tis but a flesh wound even though he wants to. Wouldn't Hardison be shocked, that he's seen Monty Python? The dead parrot is his favorite.

He doesn't say it's just some bruises, and he doesn't say, just some cracked ribs. It's worse than that. Hell of a lot worse.

They told him to quit lying about how badly he's hurt, to stop hiding the blood and broken bones. Said it's their job to take care of him after he takes all the bullets and hits.

More than that, they said, they wanted to make sure he was as safe as he kept them.

They've scattered, supposed to meet up at Hardison's safe house for this town.

He wants to say goodbye. But if they know he's this badly hurt, they'll come after him instead of going to ground. And this way, they won't have a clue until it's too late. This way, he's keeping them safe to the last.

Besides, it's not just a flesh wound. He can feel it, the silence and darkness creeping up. Not even a hospital could save him now.

He's on a bridge, collapsed against the railing. He won't jump; he'll let Death walk right up to him, but he won't go meet the bastard ahead of time. Instead, he pulls out the com and lets it fall into the water.

His last words to his team—his family—were I'll see y’all on the other side. It wasn't a lie.

 

Chapter Text

Before heading back to LA for reconnaissance, Eliot swings by his sister’s place. It’s been over ten years since he went home and he knows it’s long overdue. Emily’s happy to see him, just like he figured she’d be—he’s the prodigal brother. She has no idea who he is. What he is, what he’s done, what’ll he keep on doing until it kills him.

The husband is a good enough guy, with a quiet voice and gentle hands he will never raise to Emily in anger. That’s all Eliot really cares about. Emily never got the brunt of Dad’s rage and Mom’s helplessness, and he never wants her to experience that, no matter what it’d take to make sure. If that meant a midnight visit with the husband and a deep grave far out in the middle of a pasture, so be it. Luckily for the husband, though, he seems the kinda man that’ll never happen to.

The kid’s bigger than Eliot thought he’d be. Already seven. Where do the years go? Just yesterday, Eliot got the phone-call. Now the kid is always asking questions, peppering Eliot for information. Where he goes, what he does, who he sees. Eliot has no idea what to answer. He looks to Emily for help, but she’s grinning, snuggled up with the husband.

Finally, as the kid pauses for breath, Eliot asks, “Kid, you like horses?”

The kid nods, face lit up in excitement. Eliot smiles and looks to Emily for permission.

Her one instruction is, “Have him back for supper.”

Chapter Text

 


I'm coming back for you, she says, I promise. And then she runs.

He isn't awake to hear the words. It's the only reason she can find the strength to leave.

.

She still doesn't know what went wrong. But with Alec down (head wound) and Eliot not answering on the com, the only thing she can do is lead the bad guys off and hope Alec wakes up conscious enough to escape.

She’s bleeding from a gunshot to the shoulder and she knows she has no chance.

.

I’m coming back for you, she hears, I promise.

Eliot, she whispers, the goons loud as they hurry through the woods after her, get Hardison out. Forget about me.

She pulls the com from her ear, kisses it, and throws it into the brush. And then she runs.

 

 

Chapter Text

Eliot never mentions any time in his life before his twentieth birthday. He once told Sophie about the farm he was living at then, and the bay mare he'd loved. He only left when she died.

Nate and Hardison have both researched him, Nate when he was chasing a ghost and Hardison when he learned who his new teammates were. There are files upon files for Eliot Spencer, but none of them say anything real, anything beyond speculation.

But Eliot never talks about his life, beyond little tidbits that might relate to a case. And even then, with consideration, those tidbits are from after his twentieth birthday.

After the job in the boxing ring, Sophie thinks she's learned something important about Eliot Spencer. After Eliot gently coaches Hardison in self-defense, so does he. Eliot talks Parker through a nightmare and Nate off a bender, and they're all so sure they know him.

They don't, but that's need-to-know information and his past is his.

Chapter Text

Eliot likes sex, for the most part; he never stays the night, and they always go back to his partner’s place or a hotel. He doesn’t bring anyone to his apartment, or to wherever the team is staying.

He knows immediately that he has a physical attraction to both Parker and Hardison, but he doesn’t act on it because first there’s the job, then there’s the going their separate ways, and then they’re on a team. Relationships on teams rarely end well.

When it moves past physical attraction and becomes actual affection for them, despite how annoying and odd they are, Eliot knows there could be trouble.

One night stands are one thing; short dalliances are another. Actual relationships? He had Amy, before the army; he had Damien, after.

Damien. It had ended as well as it could; they’re both still alive, after all, though he knows Damien will always be a threat. Another reason to avoid starting anything with Hardison or Parker. They’re dancing around each other, anyway. There isn’t room for him.

When they learn about Damien, that after six months, Eliot had never mentioned—well, he figures that’s the end of it.

It’s for the best, anyway. He’ll protect them as long as he can.

(What he doesn’t know—yet—is that Hardison and Parker are going to give him a couple more months and then pounce.)

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Parker's down, bullet to the thigh. Hardison's with her, trying to keep her still and putting pressure on the wound. She'll live, if they can get her out of here.

Sophie's the hostage, one of Reynolds' goons holding a gun to her head and demanding some shit they can't deliver, trapped here at the bottom of a barrel.

Nate's trying to reason with the bastard, but Eliot knows they passed that point a bullet ago.

There's a gun in reach. Full clip; the fucker carrying it went down with a crushed laraynx. There's a gun in reach and goons with jumpy trigger-fingers, and Parker will bleed out if she stays here.

Nine goons, each with a gun. Reynolds crying in the corner, pissing and moaning about something or other, and Eliot can kill them all.

He moves, knowing how this will play out, but his team will live.

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Lightning flashes and Eliot flinches. "Fuck," he mutters.

Alec shares a bewildered glance with Sophie but Parker keeps making the celery dance while Nate flips through the TV guide. (And why he's reading paper-copy, Alec doesn't know. He'll worry about that later.)

"Somethin' wrong, Eliot?" Alec asks hesitantly after Sophie commands him with an eyebrow raise.

Eliot sighs. "No," he growls. "Just a distinctive lightning bolt, is all."

“A distinctive… lightning… bolt,” Sophie repeats.

“Yeah.” Eliot slams the bottle of vegetable oil onto the counter. “My daddy’ll be by any day now, the fuckin’ deadbeat.” He scowls at the frying pan of carmlizing onions. “Sophie, don’t let Parker outta your sight. Dad’s got no self-control and if he touches her, I’ll have to kill him again, king of the mountain or not.”

Alec shares another glance with Sophie, but this time he doesn’t say a thing. He’s not touching that with a thousand foot pole.

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It's not his fault, and they tell him that, but he doesn't listen because he doesn't want to hear, because he broke, he told, he gave in and gave up, didn't have faith, didn't believe in the team, didn't believe in Eliot, and that—that—

He doesn't go to the funerals. He's not worthy.

"Alec," Sophie says. "Sweetheart. Please—"

He turns away, closes his eyes, covers his ears. He hasn't even turned on the computer in the three days he's been here, or showered, or eaten a thing. He's cried more tears than he had water in his body, and he hopes he dies.

"If you die," the Parker in his mind whispers, "then our deaths are pointless. Hardison. Don't you wanna make those men pay?"

Yes, he thinks.

"Sophie," he says, and his voice is so hoarse it hurts. "Sophie."

She cries, wrapping her arms around him, and he thinks, They'll bleed and suffer and die.

 

Chapter Text

"Uh, Eliot?" Parker says after Eliot picks up, "I think I killed him."

There's silence for a moment and then Eliot asks, "Where are you?"

.

Some idiot tried to mug Parker. Unfortunately for him, she's much stronger than she looks, figured out the basics of self-defense on her own, and then had additional training from Eliot goddamned Spencer.

Also unfortunately for the mugger, she hadn’t quite figured out how to adjust how hard she hits.

.

Eliot looks down at the body, then at Parker bouncing on her toes. “I’ll deal with this,” he says. “But tomorrow, we’re adding to your lessons.”

“Thank you, Eliot,” she chirps, kissing his cheek and then skipping away.

He sighs, shaking his head. Having friends is so weird.

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He's a killer. That's what retrieval specialist really means. He's a goddamned killer-for-hire who's wanted in a dozen countries and a person-of-interest in a dozen more. He's dangerous with too much blood on his hands to ever wash off, and they'll realize it one day, this team that's become family, they'll figure out what he is, what he's done, and they'll—

They'll turn away. They'll turn him out. They'll wash their hands of him and be done.

And he knows he'll go. Because they deserve better than him, Hardison and Parker and Sophie. Even Nate, really, no matter what Nate's become these days.

When they finally decide to get rid of him, he'll go. But he won't go far because, no matter what else he is, he's the best at what he does, and even though as a person he's not good enough for them, he'll stay close enough to keep them safe.

He just won't let them see him do it.

(And yeah, he knows exactly how it'll end. He wouldn't have it any other way.)

Chapter Text

Sometimes, when the mark isn't intimidated by Hardison's skill with computers and making money disappear, or doesn't fall for Sophie’s charms, or refuses to be bought by Nate’s offers, or doesn’t flinch from Eliot’s fists, Nate will shake his head and tut, then release Parker on the poor fool.

Whenever things have gotten that far, his one command is “Don’t get caught, dear.”

Eliot shadows her, to clean up the mess, and then takes her for ice cream on Nate’s bill.