AN: This is the third part following 'Leaves of trust'. For this to make sense I suggest you read that and 'Blown back' before this one. I still have at least one more part of this series planned. I've started on it (it will be several chapters) but I can't give you a time for when I'll publish. Just keep your eyes open and more will follow :)

Parker and Hardison clearly don't understand Eliot's motives when he struggles to get up from the dingy motel bed he wakes in. They tell him he's safe now, and has to stay in bed to get better. It says something about his state of health that they are able to hold him down.

Eliot tries to explain that he just needs to get out, that they should let him go. His friends clearly believe he's hallucinating and thinks he's still in that basement. They tell him again that he's safe now, and Eliot's muddled brain has no idea how to make them see that that's not the issue. He just needs to be outside.

Even if he's reasonably certain the whole thing is real Eliot wants confirmation before he goes back under. His grip on consciousness is slippery at best and he suspects the sedatives haven't fully left his system yet. When the front door swing open to reveal Dean Winchester of all people Eliot's hope is squashed. That is too strange to be anything but a hallucination.

"Whoa. What's going on?" Dean-the-hallucination puts a bag of take-out food on the table and shuts the door behind him.

"He's trying to leave." Apparently-phantom-Hardison replies. "I don't think he knows where he is."

On the off-chance that it is indeed real Eliot hopes Dean might understand what the others don't. "I just wanna get outside." His voice is hoarse after both the drugs and too much screaming.

"I know." Eliot can bet fantasy-Dean's telling the truth. "Let him go." Dean's order is reluctantly followed and Eliot fights his way to his feet. It's a close call to remain upright but he stops Parker as she steps up to help him.

Something in his demeanor must have made the others back off as well, because when Eliot steps out of the room he does so alone. Dean's and Parker's cars are parked just outside and not far behind them a picnic table has taken its own parking space. The hitter drags himself over to it and sinks down on the bench.

Maybe it's not a drug induced dream after all. Eliot is usually able to tell, at least outside like now. His dreams never have big overcast skies and almost chilly winds. The wood under his hand is rough after too much exposure to the elements, and when he's hallucinating the world never has that amount of detail.

No more than a few minutes can have passed when Dean steps out from the room. Eliot has no idea what he said to the others to make them stay put, but he finds he's sort of grateful. He doesn't have the energy to calm them down.

"Decided it's real yet?" Dean stops in front of Eliot, hands in the pockets of his grey jacket. The nod Eliot gives for answer turns out to be a bad idea as the world spins around him.

"Fresh air does wonders doesn't it?" This time Eliot doesn't nod but makes an agreeing noise.

"How long?" Eliot doesn't elaborate; he can't find the right ending. How long had he been gone? Been in that basement? How long had he been sedated? Screamed? Asked about Quinn? How long had passed with his capturers still convinced he knew?

"Six days." It feels longer. Eliot realizes he must have said it out loud as Dean answers him. "Doesn't it always."

"You're the one who got me out?" Eliot has no recollection of that part, he just knows he went under in the basement and woke in this motel room.

"Hero of the day." Dean fires off his cocky grin but Eliot's too tired and grateful to be annoyed. "Apparently you need to hand in a list of possible substitutes for when you're out of commission; your friends were pretty desperate once they got a hold of me. They tracked down Charlie to get to me, it was just lucky that she hadn't burnt the phone I called her at from your house."

"And all the while your number was still on my fridge. Should've put your name on the note." Eliot allows himself a small snort. Dean laughs outright.

It is sobering for Eliot to realize how vulnerable his friends are without him. He is used to it regarding himself, knowing that no one will come for him. The difference this time was the anguish of his team as they could do nothing to help him.

Eliot isn't stupid, he wouldn't have lived much longer if Dean hadn't come. There is a line for how long you can keep people interrogating you before they either realized you don't know anything, or simply tire of trying to get it out of you. When that line was crossed you died, end of story. Only it wouldn't have been the end of the story for Parker and Hardison.

The problem was that there had been no one he could direct them to. The few hitters he knew who owed him big enough to risk their life for him weren't easy to find. Not to mention they would probably kill first and ask questions later. He could never send his friends to any of them. It was just lucky that they had run into Dean in the first place, that they had thought of him now, and been able to reach him.

"Thank you." Eliot says, and he wonders if Dean understands that he saved more than one person.

"Hardison and Parker did most of the work." Dean shrugs. "They already knew where you were and had intel on the place, number of guards, everything… I just did the heavy lifting."

Closing his eyes Eliot could see it all before him. Parker and Hardison sitting on all that information, not being able to act. Knowing they'd die trying before being able to get him out. He owed Dean, a lot.

"I thought you didn't kill humans?" The words are out the moment Eliot thinks them, and he must still be drugged considering how he keeps doing that.

"Who said they're dead?" Dean grins at him again. "I borrowed the tazer from Parker, beautiful thing when it's not directed at you, I might keep it. Had to shoot one guy in the shoulder but he'll live." Dean's gaze sharpens as he looks at Eliot. "Why do you care? They weren't the nicest guys I've met."

"It's usually not the people doing the violence that decides what's to be done." Eliot should know, being in the business and all. Besides, he has done it himself enough times that it would be hypocritical of him to want them dead.

By God, Eliot hopes he didn't say that last part out loud as well. A glance at Dean reveals nothing so hopefully he didn't. It's not as if he can ask without giving it away.

"I should return you to your friends, there's a suspected vampire nest in Virginia I need to look into."Dean brings out a hand to scratch his neck.

Eliot takes a long look across the parking-lot, savoring the feel of open space after his time in captivity. He knows he'll be more prone to be outside the next couple of days, but apart from that it's mostly his body that needs healing. To his right he can see Parker looking at them through the window.

"How…" Eliot trails off, starts again. "Are they okay?" He doesn't make a gesture towards the room, doesn't want them to know that they're talked about. Dean understands anyway.

"They're a bit shaken, but they'll be fine when they realize you are."

Eliot closes his eyes and tries to push away the thoughts about what would have happened without Dean. Reconciling with his own death is easy compared to knowing how bad it would hurt his adopted family.

"Thank you again, for saving them." Dean doesn't comment on Eliot's obvious lack of concern for himself.

"Dude." Dean says instead. "No chick-flick moments. Now get your pansy ass inside before you faint, 'cause I'm done with carrying you around." Smiling might ruin Eliot's reputation so he grumbles instead but moves to follow the order.

It's hard work to get his wobbly legs under him, but Eliot manages it. Dean stands to the side, watching him, and Eliot can't help but think it's nice with someone who doesn't worry or pity him. It's nice with someone who understands.

"You coming inside before leaving for Virginia?" Eliot starts across the asphalt, his steps embarrassingly slow.

"Just to get my stuff."

If Eliot hadn't already gotten so much from Dean he would have asked him to stay, but as it is it's not Eliot's place to ask for anything from the man. If he wants to go hunt some imaginary creatures Eliot won't stop him, he just prays that no innocents will get caught up in it.

They make their way back to the room in silence. The sedatives still in Eliot's system are beginning to take their toll on him and he crashes into bed before managing to reassure his friends. Somehow he still thinks it's alright, because as he's getting dragged under again he can hear Dean's voice. However insane it might be to trust the wanted man with his civilian team, Eliot does it anyway. He simply knows that Dean will calm them down on his behalf.

The next time Eliot wakes Dean is gone. But the drugs are clearing out and he can look after his team on his own, so it's not that much of a disappointment.