Much to my chagrin, I do not own Leverage.




Chapter 1

"General Flores, can you please tell my team what you were saying earlier about Moreau?" Eliot said, standing at ease.

"I have not been General for a long time ... Commander," General Juan Flores said, smiling.

A small smile crept to Eliot's lips. It was too bad that they only ever talked when it was something about Moreau. He missed Juan. But the General would never leave San Lorenzo — "They need me here," he'd say — and Eliot … Eliot could never go back.

"Moreau bankrolled Ribera's political career. Within a year, Ribera had bribed and murdered his way into the presidency. Anyone who opposes him is declared an enemy of the state. They are imprisoned, and by law, their assets are seized, their families bankrupted."

"This is why the General is in hiding. He's your candidate running against Ribera," Eliot told the team. He wished, for the umpteenth time, that the General would just once try to keep a low profile. But the man loved San Lorenzo too much for that.

"General," Nate said, "I understand you're taking quite a risk for yourself and your family by talking to us." He (finally—show some respect, Nate) stood up to address the General. "We certainly owe you a debt."

"No, I'm the one with the debt. Spencer saved my life … twice."

Eliot chuckled. "Once … and a half."

"How do you half save someone's life?" Parker asked.

Eliot paused, then decided to go ahead and tell his team. He brought the question on, after all. "Because I was the one sent to kill him, so I figure that only counts as a half. Right?" He smirked at the General, who smirked knowingly back.

"That actually makes sense," Hardison commented.

Eliot rolled his eyes at Hardison, but he smiled to himself. It had been a long time since he had made that joke. If anyone asked why, he would always tell them it was partly to tease the General, and partly to lighten the mood, which was true. The real reason he did it, though, was because he didn't think he deserved to be lauded. Not because he because he actually felt like it counted as half — that was the joke — but because he didn't think he should be honored at all for saving the General's life, since it was really the General that had saved his, a thousand times over.

He was snapped out of his reverie by thumping noises coming over the screen.

"What is it?" he asked with growing dread.

"I don't know …"

"General, is that a secure line?" he asked, fearing the worst.

Then the worst happened. He watched in helpless horror as the General was grabbed by armed men. No …

"I thought you said this thing was safe!" he yelled at Hardison, because that was the only thing he could do besides watch the General struggle before being dragged away by the men … men who belonged to —

Moreau suddenly appeared on screen. "Manticore?" he asked, probably responding to something Hardison was saying. "Thank you for destroying Duberman last year! You bankrupted his company, put his old servers on the open market. It's amazing what ten million dollars and some clever tech support can do … Hey, don't blame yourselves for this, Ribera makes sure I stay safe and I make sure he stays president." He paused, then added smugly, as only Moreau could, "Actually, to be fair, I wouldn't have found Flores if you hadn't contacted him, so, uh, go ahead and do blame yourselves!" And he laughed. The bastard.

"You can't just kill a war hero like Flores," Eliot growled, his rage building. He had forgotten just how sick Moreau could be. That's what made him so terrifying.

"No, of course not. We've got U.N. election inspectors here, world media. He's just imprisoned until after the election. Then he'll have a car accident. You know how these things are done ... or, uh, you used to." He smirked, enjoying the look on Eliot's face. He always had loved taunting people. "Sleep tight." Moreau sneered, before cutting the feed.

Eliot trembled all over. With rage, with guilt, with other emotions he didn't dare show in front of the team.

He barely heard Nate say, "Eliot ..." He was already halfway out the door.

He needed to hit something, hard, before the rage devolved into emotions he had always been awful at expressing.




He hit the bag over and over and over and over. He hit it until he was out of breath, until he needed water, until his knuckles were bloody, but the rage wouldn't ebb, the helplessness wouldn't recede. His phone rang and rang, then stopped — voicemail. He was glad he had come home to his workout room; he had thought about going to a park and beating up some local thugs, but nobody deserved to be beaten that badly ... except Moreau. His phone rang, then stopped. He kept hitting. There was blood all over his hands now, but at least it was his own blood this time ... He kept hitting. His phone rang, then stopped. The rage kept him from feeling any pain. His phone rang, then stopped. Rang, then —

He threw the phone against the wall and it shattered. He knew it was Sophie, or Nate, or maybe even Hardison. At least Parker knew when to leave well enough alone.

He took another swing at the bag, but his energy was gone. He knew what was coming, but he tried to fight it. He took another swing and collapsed, hanging onto the bag for support. His eyes welled with tears. There was no stopping it now. He dragged himself to the wall and leaned back against it. Drawing his knees to his chest, he let his head fall onto his arms and sobbed like a child.

But he couldn't even cry properly. The tears didn't fall; they never did — hadn't, for almost ten years. They stung his eyes until he couldn't see, and the sobs wracked his body until he could barely breathe, but he couldn't cry. Not even for Juan Flores, the man who had saved him from his worst enemy — himself.

When the emotions had run their course, he let himself fall over to the floor and tried to think.

How had he let this happen? He had called the General right after Moreau left for San Lorenzo. Juan had been surprised; Eliot hadn't called him in almost two years. He was calm, as always, and told Eliot they'd figure out a plan. He mentioned, almost as an afterthought, that he was in hiding because of the election, but he told Eliot they'd be in touch. When Nate decided to finish Moreau, they had set up today's talk with the team. Why?

It's not like he was hiding for his fucking health, Eliot thought. They both knew what Moreau was capable of. Why hadn't he insisted on a more secure call?

It wasn't surprising that the General hadn't objected. He had always put his country and his cause — freedom and democracy for San Lorenzo — ahead of his own safety, and even that of his family. But Eliot should have caught it. Why hadn't he?

He knew why. He was exhausted. After what happened in the warehouse, the nightmares had started again. And not the usual ones he had nightly — there was a reason he said he only slept ninety minutes a day (an exaggeration, but not by much). These were bad. Night terrors, not nightmares. He'd wake up screaming, heart racing, in a cold sweat. He couldn't even sleep with the lights out. They hadn't been this bad since he'd joined the team. And even Eliot Spencer couldn't go a week without sleep. He was off his game.

And the General was suffering for it. After everything the man had gone through at the hands of Moreau — countless injuries, death threats, assassination attempts, threats against his family, the loss of his only son — this is what finally got him? A fucking phone call?

Eliot had promised the Flores family that he'd never let anything happen to the General. Almost a decade ago the man had saved Eliot from himself; he'd been the father that Eliot needed when he was at his lowest, and Eliot had helped Juan fill the void after the loss of his son. That's why he hadn't mentioned the warehouse when they talked. He knew what the General would think, and he couldn't bear the thought of the disappointment in Juan's eyes when he learned Eliot had … relapsed.

He had told Nate they were out of their league. But he wouldn't listen. He never did. The rage was back, but it wasn't helpless this time.

He got out the spare phone Hardison had given him the last time his broke. ("I'm sorry, you're calling me from where?! A payphone?! Are you also calling from the Delorean that took you back to the 1990s? Do you have any idea how insecure that is? Where's your cell? ... Dammit, Eliot, we are going to have a strong talk when you get back. A strong talk!") Eliot dialed the only man who was capable of maybe — maybe — getting them all out of this alive.

"What's the plan, Nate?"