AN: Here it is, the last chapter. I honestly don't know how I feel about this, but hopefully you'll find it okay. Once again I would like to thank all my reviewers, and all of you who have followed or marked this as one of your favorite stories. Today I finally wrote the statistics exam I've been studying for and hopefully that means I'm back to writing the next story in this series soon. I really want to make use of all your input. /ThosePreciousWalls
Trying to convince Dean that he can fly back home is like fitting a grand piano through a roof window. This time there's even a voiced promise to Hardison, making negotiations all the more futile. In the end it's all Eliot can do to make sure he's the one driving.
In a way it worries Eliot that Dean folds so easily, it seems out of character for the man to simply roll over and give another the keys to his car. At the same time the way he winces at high sounds and squints in the light are clear indicators of a massive hang-over, so Eliot might be reading too much into the surrender.
Slouching in the passenger seat with his head angled against the door Dean seems asleep but Eliot knows he's not. The way he cracks an eye open every time Eliot speeds up or slows down is evidence he's not completely at ease. Clearly there's a limit to how much he trusts Eliot with the vehicle he calls his 'baby'.
It's a clear danger, being worn out and drunk in Dean's kind of business, yet there is nothing Eliot can do about it. In a way it scares him that he cares enough to wish there was. Dean has crawled under his skin faster than anyone before, and maybe that's the way it'll be now. Maybe Eliot will keep finding new people to care about and as such become weaker and weaker.
The Leverage team has brought Eliot the kind of strength that lies in purpose and belonging, and he wouldn't trade that for the world. He will have to live with his past for the rest of his life, it's his atonement. The people who used to be his team and are now his family; they're what make it bearable.
Eliot's not beyond admitting that he'd been a machine before that first job. He had stopped killing and laid down the firearms, but he had no way out and no desire to find one. It had been a bleak existence, rich only in liquid assets. Not until later had he realized how dead he'd been.
The bonds he has tied to his team has saved Eliot Spencer in so many ways. At the same time he also knows that if anything will ever truly ruin him it's those ties, so he's not exactly elated to have even more people assert such power over him. Yet here he is, unable to just shove Dean out of his life and leave him there. He better not make this flaw regarding Winchester a habit.
By now Eliot figures he's too submerged in this sticky mess to make it out. What he's seen and learnt in these last days? Sooner or later he's going to need Dean as a guide to this new world he now exists in. Besides, Parker is clearly considering Dean family and Eliot could never take that away from her. The hitter sighs and flexes his hand around the steering wheel.
"Hey Tardar? Stop at the next gas station, I need more coffee." Dean pushes his fingertips into his temple. Eliot huffs.
"Why?" He can't help but question, taking the chance to get back at Dean for his incessant smirkiness. "I should just let you suffer through the consequences of your actions like the adult you are."
"Geez Sandra Dee, please don't tell me you've never been drunk?" Dean opens an eye to look at Eliot.
"Oh, I have." Eliot counters. It comes out darker than planned. "I however managed to stop before it killed me." Silence falls for a long second.
"Just stop for the fucking coffee." Dean says and his tone marks the conversation as over.
The takeaway cup Eliot's sipping from as they roll back onto the highway contains brownish water that he's not sure can legally be called coffee. It's bland and overly bitter, and maybe Eliot's spent too much time abroad to drink gas-station coffee anymore. He wonders how many years it's been since he last bought it; he should have made them a couple more.
With two hours to Portland and nothing but trees lining the road Eliot finally breaks the silence. They are halfway into their trip and he can't keep avoiding the subject. It's gnawing on his mind and the cliché that there's no time like now haunts him.
"Did you mean it?" Eliot says, and berates himself for the vagueness even as he feels Dean questioning eyes on him."What you said the other night." Spit it out Spencer. "About going to hell."
The word hangs in the space between them, a foul-smelling Wunderbaum in the rearview mirror. Hell. The good thing about driving, Eliot thinks, is that you don't have to look at each other. It's perfectly logical to keep your eyes on the road.
"Awake for that, were we?" Dean's question is rhetorical, maybe for buying time. Eliot gives a right-shouldered shrug.
"Not really, I was getting dragged under when you snuck that on me. I didn't even remember it until I read the page about hellhounds last night." A risked glance to Eliot's right reveals Dean is looking emptily in front of him, his face carefully neutral. Eliot moves his eyes back on the road.
"Hm." Dean vocalizes. It's not an answer but Eliot doesn't push, he's opened up for talking but is not interested in forcing it.
"Guess I know where I'm going then. Hard not to think it'd be better if this was all there was." Eliot admits.
"Preaching to the choir." Eliot can feel Dean's eyes on his face. "I wouldn't worry if I were you though. As far as I've seen you have to do something stupid to end up in the pit."
"I'm pretty sure 'thou shall not kill' is part of the admittance criteria for heaven." Eliot huffs.
"Nah, that's bull, you should see the angels man. 'Thou shall not kill' – my ass. The only souls I know for sure ends up downstairs are folks who made deals and spirits that turned vengeful. Besides, I think you're pretty covered on the whole repentance thing." Dean produce one of his fake grins and under the circumstances Eliot sees it as a good sign.
The answer brings some hope to Eliot regarding the after-life; maybe he's not completely screwed. In a way he feels guilty for the emotion, sitting next to Dean. "So you made a deal?" He asks to clarify and Dean agrees. "And you went to hell?" That one's been covered already. "How did you get out?"
"With a little help from my friends." Dean half sings. "Or friend, not that I knew him at the time. It was a once in a millennia thing, trust me."
Dean doesn't offer who or how it happened, and Eliot doesn't press for details. He knows when something's omitted by choice. He also doesn't ask the pressing question of whether Dean will be sent back when he dies. Even if he knows the answer Eliot can bet that's something Dean prefers not to think about.
"You know what's funny with you? I tell you the angels are dicks and you don't bat an eyelash." It's a change of subject and Eliot accepts it with a shrug.
"What's so funny about it?" Eliot asks and glances at Dean. For the first time since the conversation started their eyes meet.
"Most would tell me they don't exist, hell I didn't believe it even after having dealt with demons for years. Anyone religious enough to buy into their existence would deny that they're mean sons of bitches. You however just take it at face value." By Dean's string of words it seems his hangover is finally residing, the coffee might have had its use after all.
"Yeah? Three days ago I was sure all of this was bullshit. You say angels exist and are assholes, then fine. Stranger things have happened, or so I hear." It's as true as it's simple. Dean could use his blind trust to give him hell and feed him all kinds of crap about the supernatural but Eliot bets he won't, the hunter takes his job far too seriously.
"So have I told you ET is real?" Dean's tone is teasing. "And gremlins…"
Eliot tells him to piss off.
The conversation of movies versus reality lasts them almost the whole way to Portland before they roll through the suburbs in silence. "How do I tell them?" Eliot finally asks as he stops at a red light not far from the city center.
"You don't." Dean says, which is decidedly unhelpful.
Eliot wishes he could agree but he can't lie to Hardison and Parker, not about this. He's all for maintaining their innocence in some areas, but to keep this from them would be unforgiveable. "Not an option." He says.
"Well good luck with that." Dean chimes and Eliot is reminded of how much he still wants to properly punch the man.
"You are the most annoying person I've ever met." Eliot snaps, he could use some honest advice here.
"Look Tardar, I have no idea because I don't tell anyone, ever. Either they find out by themselves or they won't believe me. This shit ruins people, it's better for them not to know." There's a fever in Dean's voice that leads Eliot to believe he knows what he's talking about.
"I'm still telling them." It's the end of the discussion and Eliot feels he should never have brought it up. He has no idea what's happened to cement Dean's belief in the matter, and as such he can't really question it. Maybe it's enough to know that almost everyone Dean knows are dead.
This time Eliot does ask Dean to stay, at least for dinner. Something tells him it's not wise to leave Dean alone with his own thoughts for very long, the other man is still exuding something dark and unstable that probably shouldn't be allowed to reign unchecked. Eliot knows where he's ended up when he's been in similar moods and he can only hope Dean will manage to avoid the worst pits.
Dean only smirks at him. "Hell no." He replies. "No offence man, but you're about to open a can of shit in there, I'd rather be in the next state by the time it hits the fan."
"They will be pissed if you don't at least say hi." Eliot tries, after all it's a card Dean's been using against him for days now.
"Parker maybe, but she'll survive." Dean doesn't mention Hardison, and Eliot wonders if things will always be tense between them. He has hope they will put it all behind them eventually, even if waving guns and being a carbon-copy of your brother's murderer might take a while to get past. Maybe that's okay, at least they both seem willing to try.
"Besides, there's something down in Redmond killing people by spontaneous combustion, could prove to be interesting." Eliot bites back a sigh as Dean smiles dishonestly once again. "Say hi from me."
"You know where to find us." Eliot says and it's something in between a statement and a question. Does Dean even have their cell phone numbers?
"Yes Sir." Dean answers with a botched up salute.
"You don't… That's not even… Just don't! Okay?" Eliot slaps Dean's hand away from the man's forehead and Dean laughs at him.
"You're a prude Tardar, now run to your little friends. Shoo." He makes a sweeping gesture with his hands to get Eliot out of the car.
Eliot should put up a fight about Dean driving, it's still just after lunch and there's no way he's decently sober for another couple of hours. It's not a battle he has much chance of winning though, and Eliot has a habit of not starting anything when the odds are against him. This way he can step out of the car because he chooses to do so, not because he's been defeated.
"Take care Winchester." Eliot offers before he closes the car door.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. I'll see you around." Dean slides across the front seat to the driver side and turns the key. He's got the car rolling even before Eliot's finished slamming the trunk shut after grabbing his backpack.
The Impala fades into the traffic with ease and disappears. Eliot allows himself one deep breath before he turns towards the pub, steeling himself. This is going to suck.
AN: Yes, I will end it here. My thoughts when writing this series is that it will focus on Eliot and Dean, as such it ends now that Dean has left. I believe you'll get a hint about how the conversation went next time I see you; in the meantime I'm sure you can use your imagination.
A question: For the next story I'm thinking about writing a small part (a prelude really) from Dean's point of view. What do you think about that? I have a hard time deciding since this was supposed to be exclusively from Eliot's POV, but at the same time I can't get Dean's voice out of my head…