When Trust Becomes Sound
He can't bring himself to drink it. The coffee steams gently, the scent tempting him but he hadn't made it himself, doesn't know if it's safe. He feels the team's eyes on him as he gets up and starts a fresh pot, keeping his back turned against their questions.
It's been one day since Stirling drugged him.
Hardison sets the bag of sandwiches on the table, handing them out. They're all the same, turkey club and the rest of the team dig in eagerly. Eliot touches the wax paper, bruised knuckles throbbing along with his jaw. His stomach rolls at the thought of eating unknown food and he pushes it away gently.
"Don't you want it?" Parker asks, one small hand already reaching for it.
"Naw," Eliot says, and hesitates, because they're all looking at him and he's not sure which raw spot to expose to their eyes. He gestures vaguely to his face, the bruises there already dark and deep. "Not really feeling up to chewing right now," he says quietly, letting out the easier excuse, the one they'll accept without poking into his already tender emotions.
He can barely explain it to himself but he just can't eat anything he hasn't made himself.
It's been three weeks since Stirling drugged him.
The job had been a tough one and he's battered, bloody and bruised by the time they get out. Hardison drives them back to the hotel and Eliot limps up to their room, the familiar post adrenaline feeling stirring in his gut. He needs to eat something to settle his stomach but they're in a small town where everything closes after dark and his only options are the various snacks scattered over the two hotel rooms.
They're all open, chips and nuts and candy and he stares at the mess. Parker offers him a bag of popcorn and he shakes his head. "I'm going to shower," he says and barely gets the door closed before he's retching. He hangs over the toilet for seconds-minutes-hours, until he's pretty sure there's not even bile left to come up, then forces himself to his feet, stripping and stepping in the shower, knowing that everyone in the other room must have heard his little performance and he's not ready to face the questions in their eyes.
When he steps out, dressed in a baggy hoodie and sweatpants, no-one says anything but there's a neat pile of unopened protein bars on the table.
His team is starting to catch on. It's been four weeks since Stirling drugged him.
"Just drink it," Hardison insists, quietly, holding out a bottle of water. He's watched the other man navigate the past few months, avoiding food, avoiding consuming anything that isn't sealed or that he's made with his own hands. It's taking a toll. The jeans hang a bit more loosely on his hips, the tshirts have space where they didn't before.
Eliot takes the bottle with shaking, soot stained hands. The bad man they've spent days chasing had set a trap, lighting the building on fire and they'd only just made it out. His throat is raw, mouth parched but he struggles to lift the bottle. It's his, from earlier, half full, but it's been out of his sight and while he trusts his team more than anything, his emotions are having a hard time accepting that it's safe to take anything from them. Stirling was meant to be safe too, he thinks bitterly.
"What's going on, man?" Hardison asks, keeping his eyes up, on the horizon. It's the wrong time to be asking, so soon after a near miss, when he can still see the cost of escaping on his friend's skin, but the question has been trying to escape for weeks and he can't hold it back any longer. He expects Eliot to walk off but he doesn't. He stays where he is, sitting on the curb, the bottle of water clasped between his hands.
"Stirling drugged me," Eliot says, a snarl in his voice that doesn't quite cover the shake. "He druggedme. Put it in my coffee." He pauses, swipes his hand over his mouth. "I woke up and I had no fucking clue if you were all alright. If he'd hurt you. He could've, because fuck knows I was no use." The last words come bitterly, and Hardison expects him to stop talking but he doesn't, just draws in a quick breath. "Drugs mean bad things," he says, and there's something so remote in his voice that Hardison breaks his self imposed rule and looks.
Eliot senses the attention and turns his head, making no effort to hide the pain in his eyes, to hide the betrayal. "He was supposed to be on our side." It's a childish thing, and he knows it, but it's also not wrong. Trust is everything in their business, and Stirling had shattered that.
Hardison isn't sure what to say, what to do, because he rarely gets to see this side of Eliot. It's as enlightening as it is unsettling. He sits down, bumping the older man gently with his shoulder, getting the expected bump back, but he senses this conversation isn't quite done. I blew him off, made some joke, Hardison thinks, guilt sitting like a stone in his gut. I didn't know it had hit him like this.
Plastic crinkles as Eliot tightens his hands on the bottle. "The first time I was captured, they gave me drugs. I spent three days awake, in an unlit cell, seeing the faces of my squad being tortured." He tips his head forward and something shiny drops to make a tiny splash on the floor. "The fuckers had lined them up and shot them in front of me. Made me pick who went first." Another splash on the floor. Eliot drags his hand over his face, not quite hiding, but wishing he could.
"I'm sorry, man," Hardison says quietly, leaning over just a bit, so their shoulders are touching. He's got a powder keg with a lit fuse on his hands and he's not quite sure what move to make next. He knows the words are pointless, helpless against the depth of hurt. He's putting the pieces together and he's not sure that he likes them. "Want me to ruin the dude? I can wipe his finances like that." He snaps his fingers to illustrate his point, but he's not kidding. Hell, he might just do it anyway, because Eliot isn't the only one with a protective streak a mile wide. No one fucks with his friends.
"No, I have my own plans for him," Eliot says, voice harsh. His throat is dry from the smoke and he needs a drink, lifting the bottle, but his hand falters before it reaches his lips.
Hardison takes it from him silently and offers a bottle of unopened orange soda. Baby steps. He'll do what he can to help his friend recover, even if it means giving up his favourite drink.
Eliot nods, and twists the lid off the bottle, gulping a few mouthfuls. "Thanks, man." The soda is overly sweet but washes the soot out of his mouth.
"You're welcome," Hardison says, and plays a hunch, reaching into his pocket for the bag of gummy frogs. He selects one and offers the bag to the other man who hesitates, eyeing the candy like they might explode before he takes one, turning it round in his hands before closing his eyes and popping it in his mouth.
It's been seven weeks since Stirling drugged him.