Thanks as always to my beta, Valawenel. Her support astounds me. Thank you to everybody who has stuck with me on this journey as this has been my first Leverage fic. Gratitude and love to you all!

Disclaimer: As always I make no money from my story. My compensation comes from reviews and the joy of keeping these characters alive.

Chapter 13

Parker pulled Lucille behind McRory's. She jumped out of the driver's side and pulled open both doors, coming face to face with Nate and Sophie. "How is Eliot, Nate?" Parker asked. She didn't like the expression on Nate's face. Sophie's still crying.

"He's still unconscious. We're gonna have to carry him upstairs."

"He's gonna hate that," Parker whispered. She shook her head. "Not gonna like it. He'll growl at you. That'll be worse than poking him."

She stepped back as Nate and Hardison pulled the mattress closer to the back of the van. "He won't have much of a choice, Parker," the mastermind said.

Won't have much of a choice. That statement hurt. Eliot was always in charge of his own body. Eliot being helpless was surreal.

"I can get his feet if you want to get his shoulders, Hardison." Nate said.

Hardison turned his ashen face to Nate. "No. Nate, I'll get him. I can do it. I need to do it."

Nate met his gaze and nodded.

Parker watched as Hardison reached for Eliot. He pulled the injured hitter closer and hooked one arm under his knees and the other under his shoulders. He took extra care as he lifted his friend from the makeshift bed and held him against his chest.

Eliot's left arm was lifeless as it fell from his chest and hung in midair.

The hitter emitted a quiet moan and his head fell to Hardison's shoulder.




"Shh…I got you, man," Hardison whispered to Eliot. He held him closer to his chest to keep from jostling him any more than necessary. Eliot would kill me for doing this. But the hitter didn't move. They had all seen Eliot hurt before. Iced injuries, bandaged cuts and wrapped sprains were normal. But this; this was different.

Nate rushed ahead, making sure the no one saw them. "I've got you, Eliot," Hardison whispered.

He got no response. The hitter was still. Eliot was never still. Even sitting in a briefing, the man's energy and intensity filled the room. The air snapped with his vitality. Now, his eyelids didn't even flutter.

Hardison took care to get Eliot upstairs to Nate's apartment without further injury.

Nate flipped the light switch and bathed the apartment in a warm glow. "Upstairs, Hardison. My room."

Hardison nodded and made his way up the spiral staircase. His lower back throbbed and his arms burned but it didn't matter. Eliot would do it for them.

Hardison stopped beside the bed and his arms trembled as he took his time lowering Eliot onto the sheets. Eliot's soft groan tugged at Hardison's heart and hot tears burned his eyes.

"Hardison." Nate's voice pulled his attention from the battered face of their friend. "He'll be okay. Dr. Brewer will be here any time. This is her drug. She'll be able to tell us what we need to do. She can take care of his shoulder. He'll be okay."

Hardison swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. "He's always okay, right?" Even though he let the grin spread across his face, he remained unconvinced.




Sophie breezed into the room carrying a bowl of water and washcloths. "You two get out."

Nate turned a shocked gaze her way. "Sophie, what are you doing?"

How do I tell him I can't stand the sight of that blood on him? "I need to clean those wounds. That place was filthy, and he doesn't need an infection on top of everything else."

"Can handle it?" Nate asked.

"Yes, Nate, I can bloody handle it! He stitched you, didn't he? Don't we owe him the same?" She was directing her anger where it didn't belong but she was so scared. It hurt so much seeing Eliot this way.

"Yes we do, Sophie," Nate whispered. "We owe him that." He nodded to Hardison, and they both headed for the door.

Nate paused beside her. "Do you want me to stay?"

She regarded him through tears and sniffled. "I…I need to-"

Nate nodded in understanding and pulled Hardison from the room.

Sophie listened to their retreating footsteps as she focused on Eliot's chest rising and falling with each hitched breath.

She sat beside him on the bed and dampened the washcloth. Scenes from that video played in her mind as she dabbed at the cuts on his face.

"You stubborn idiot," she murmured. "Were you prepared to die for us? Didn't you believe we would come get you?"

Sophie ran her fingers through Eliot's hair. "Honey, you have to let us love you."

Eliot's hand shot up from the bed and latched onto her wrist. She looked into his eyes and met his feral glare. "Wha' you doin'?"

She had trouble getting him to focus his wavering gaze on her. "Eliot. Eliot, listen. It's Sophie. Look at me, honey. I'd never hurt you."

He squinted his eyes and his grip loosened. "Sophie? Is…you?"

She reached with her free hand to push a strand of hair out of his eyes and ignored the flinch as she touched him. "Shh. Yes, it's me, Eliot." She smiled at him, hoping to calm his fears. "Remember the time you put the huge cockroach in my food? I made you serve me tea for revenge?"

Slow blinks showed he was mulling it over. A playful glimmer sparked in his gaze. "Was…was big…"

"Bloody gigantic, that thing! Let me help you, darling," she whispered.

Eliot's glazed eyes drifted to her wrist. He released her like a hot pan in his kitchen.


She squeezed his hand and lay it back on the bed. "It's okay. You didn't hurt me. Just let me finish cleaning you up, yeah?"

His eyes drifted closed again while she started cleaning the wounds.




Nate checked his watch as he sat downstairs in McRory's waiting for Dr. Brewer. She should have been there. He fought the urge for a drink as he checked the face of every new arrival. After ten minutes relief washed over him as the doctor entered and looked over the faces. She shot him a nervous smile and made her way across the room to meet him halfway.

"I'm sorry. I got held up in traffic. How is he?" The woman looked apologetic.

He guided her back the way she had come with a light hold on her arm. "Eliot's…well, follow me upstairs. They drugged him. He's with us for a while, then he doesn't recognize where he is."

Nate ushered her into the apartment and upstairs to his bedroom. "There are other…complications."




Dr. Brewer entered through the open door and stopped in her tracks. She let her eyes drift to the man's pale face. This was more than just the drug. "What happened to him?" She studied the bruises on his face and the exposed parts of his chest. The problem registered when she saw the bandage on his left bicep and just below his left collarbone. Blood was seeping through, staining both white bandages red.

She hurried to the side of the bed and dropped her purse on the floor, but held onto to her bag of medical supplies as she stripped out of her coat. She leaned over the man and touched his forehead.

"Be careful," Mr. Ford warned. "He can be…dangerous in this condition."

The injured man leaned into her touch and looked anything but dangerous. "He has a fever. What happened to his shoulder?" She peeked underneath the bandage. "Stab wound? What happened?" Her attention drifted to his bruised and raw wrists. "What did those people do to him?"

Mr. Ford had joined her at the man's- Eliot, she remembered- bedside. "They used your drug on him. Beat and tortured him."

Eliot shivered and mumbled as he forced his eyes open. "You…you're a doc…tor?"

"Yes," she whispered. "I'm a doctor. I'm here to help you, Mr. Spencer."

He squinted up at her. "Where's your…uniform? Not military?"

She looked up at Nate. "Military?"

"He has a military background. When we got him he thought we were his unit. Wanted us to leave him. Thought he was in the field."

She looked back into his tired, blue eyes. "No. Not military. Civilian doctor. They imagined this would be best. Don't you?"

He nodded and gave a slow blink. "Yeah. Yeah, tha's best. Not sure who…can trust."

"You can trust me. I'll help you, okay? I need you to do everything I say. Can you do that?"

Fear flashed in his eyes. Fear that warred with anger.

The change in his stare startled her. "Mr. Ford is the one who sent for me," she added with haste. "You trust him don't you?"

She eased her hands away and stepped back.

Eliot rolled his head over to face Nate. The unreadable expression on his face remained in place as he studied his leader's face. Moment by moment the mask showed cracks as Nate waited for his response. The older man showed incredible patience while waiting for his teammate to decide. Patience she didn't share after seeing the man's injuries.

Shivers from Eliot drew Dr. Brewer's attention back to his injuries. His shoulder was still bleeding. "Mr. Ford," she whispered. "He needs to be treated."

Mr. Ford nodded. "Eliot, listen. I brought her here." He touched Eliot's right bicep and frowned. "We're safe. You can let us help you."

The tremors shook Eliot as he kept his gaze on Mr. Ford. He shivered again. "M'kay." His eyes slid closed again.

The mastermind couldn't hide his distress. "Tell me what you need. We'll get it," he whispered.

She took a pen and pad of paper from the nightstand scribbled a list of supplies. "I'll need these supplies for the shoulder wound." She took out the supplies she needed for a quick exam. Her thermometer read Eliot had a fever. Not dangerous, but still worrisome.

She listened to his lungs. His labored breathing concerned her. "How many injections did they give him?"

Nate shook his head. "I'm not sure. I'm aware of maybe two times. May have been more that we don't know about." His eyes drifted to Eliot's face. "He's been incoherent."

She frowned and lifted his eyelids to check his pupils. "He has a concussion. His pupils are dilated. Dislocated shoulder…" She picked up the pad and scribbled more notes and handed it to Nate. "These are the things I'll need. I can't stress how important the medicines are. Antibiotics and an antidote to reverse the effects of the Blethe. They damn near overdosed him."

Nate looked over the list and nodded. "He has a fever doesn't he?"

She nodded. "He does. It isn't cause for alarm yet but we need to get a jump on it now."

"I understand." The older man stood up and opened the bedroom door. He didn't appear to be as surprised as she was that the blonde- Parker- hung upside down from the ceiling. "Parker, we need these things for Eliot. Can you get them?" He handed her the list.

She tucked the paper in her pocket. "I can get them."

"You didn't even look at it," the doctor said.

"Don't need to," the lithe thief replied. "It's for Sparky. I'll get them." She turned in midair and landed on her feet. "I'll get them," she finished in a whisper.

Nate closed the door and returned to the bedside. Dr. Brewer had spread out the supplies she needed to suture the wound in Eliot's shoulder.

"Do you want to aid or wait downstairs?" she asked as she readied her needle.

"I'll stay. If he comes around while you're working you may need a familiar face to be here too."

She nodded. "Alright. Here we go."




Nate watched the hitter's fitful sleep. The doctor left two hours ago. She had left behind the antibiotics Eliot needed and instructions for their administration. How could she have known that Nate was familiar with giving injections? But that was years ago and this time would be different.

His shoulder was a challenge. The doctor put his shoulder back in place and stitched the wound. Enough time had gone by that Eliot's muscles resisted the relocation. Eliot had woken up in the middle of the procedure. Nate had never seen so much pain in Eliot's eyes before. Yell, he had told him. Eliot roared with pain as the joint slid back into position. Nate was thankful when blue eyes rolled back as Eliot lost consciousness and gave the doctor time to do her stitching.

And now he waited. Again. Waited as another loved one struggled with pain and fever. Odd. He had once told Eliot that they weren't friends. The hitter had worked his way into Nate's heart when he wasn't looking.

The dark color of the sling only enhanced the pallor of Eliot's skin. Nate started when a quiet moan broke the silence.

Eliot's fingers twisted in the covers as his head tossed on the pillow. "No…"

Nate wrung out the washcloth in the basin on the nightstand and held it to the younger man's forehead. "Shh. It's alright, Eliot. You're home safe."

"Don't ask me, Parker," he murmured. "Please."

"Parker isn't here. It's just me. It's Nate. They have no idea what you did for Moreau. That's over. Moreau is gone."

The hitter turned his face toward the sound of Nate's voice. "Moreau gone? He's gone?"

Sophie entered and closed the door behind her. "Yes, darling. He's gone."

Her grace distracted Nate as she crossed the room to sit across from him on Eliot's left. She smiled and took the cloth from Nate and dabbed it on Eliot's brow. "He's gone for good. And it doesn't matter what you did then. That isn't who you are now," she whispered.

The feverish man sighed at the coolness of the cloth as she ran it down his neck and repeated the motion on his right side. She untangled his battle scarred fingers from the sheet and held onto his hand.

Dark eyes pinned Nate as he observed how she calmed Eliot. "Are you okay?" she asked him.

"Am I okay? Eliot is the one suffering." He'd never become accustomed to her being able to read him with such ease.

"He isn't the only one suffering. Parker is blaming herself because he got taken protecting her. Hardison is convinced it's his fault for missing those guards." Her chocolate gaze had him squirming in his seat. "And Nathan Ford is second guessing his decision to leave the hitter behind."

They shouldn't be having this discussion now. He was sure she was protecting their hacker and thief but discussing this over Eliot wasn't right. "Sophie-"

"You should talk about it. We all need to talk about it." She leaned forward to run the washcloth down Eliot's neck and throat and dabbed it on his chest.

The gloomy expression on her face wore on Nate's nerves. He hated seeing her in such turmoil. But he was the leader. He wouldn't let the team realize how much he agonized over his decision. "I'm fine, Sophie. When he's well enough, I'll talk to the others."

Sophie smiled. "He'll be okay." She had that reassuring tone of voice she used on marks.

Damn, she always knows what I'm thinking. "This is what he does."

Something changed in her eyes. "What he does." The chair scooted across the floor as she surged to her feet. "I'll talk to the others," she said and rushed out.

Nate sighed. "Aren't always the best at communication are we?" he asked the unconscious man.




Nate jerked awake in the chair, aware of the throbbing in his head and lower back. Too old to be sleeping at bedsides. Thoughts of another bedside floated to the surface, and he tamped them back into the dark corners of his mind. Behind walls constructed years ago. When he had stood guard over his son as he shivered even though his body was burning with fever.

He checked his watch. Two hours. He hadn't meant to fall asleep but Eliot had quietened after Nate and Sophie had taken turns bathing his face, neck and torso with damp washcloths. They tried to stay one step ahead of the infection. He had given the hitter another injection of the antibiotic. The grifter had turned her gaze to Eliot's face as she murmured to him and pushed the hair out of his eyes.

Nate looked back at his charge. The younger man was sleeping, albeit a restless sleep. His head tossed on the pillow. His right hand clenched the covers in a death grip only to relax again after a couple seconds. Then the mumbling began. "N-no...won' tell. Bout them."

Nate leaned closer. "Sh…you're okay. You're not there."

Blue eyes snapped open and Nate had to act fast to keep the hitter in the bed. "Eliot! You're okay." A low growl filled the room as Eliot fought against the sling.

"No. Leave it alone. It's just a sling. You aren't tied down. A sling for your shoulder. You got hurt. Remember?" Nate caught a flailing right hand and held tight. "It's a sling. Just a sling. It's okay." He dropped his voice to a whisper hoping to inject much needed calm into the situation.

The silence in the room was eerie before Eliot's raspy voice broke it. "N-Nate?"

"Yeah. It's me. Everyone is safe." He still clung to Eliot's hand and after the fight left his body, fierce tremors replaced the hitter's strength.

Eliot closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "Shit. 'S hot."

"It's not hot. You are. Your wounds got infected. I'm giving you antibiotics."

"Infection? How bad is it?" His unsteady blue gaze found its way to Nate's face.

Nate understood what the hitter meant. Not just the infection. "Your shoulder is dislocated. Dr. Brewer put it back and immobilized it. She stitched the knife wounds and left me the medicine for them. You've got other cuts, bruises. A concussion. That covers it."

A quiet groan described Eliot's thoughts on the situation. "Tha's enough." He shifted to get comfortable and Nate released his hand. "What did they see?" he whispered.


"C'mon. Cut the crap. I need you to tell me. How much did they…?"

The hitter's icy stare gave Nate a new sympathy for specimens on a dissecting table. He remained silent.

"So everything." It wasn't a question. Nate's silence had betrayed him.

"It doesn't matter."

Eliot flinched and his jaw muscles flexed as he turned his face away from Nate. "It matters," the hitter replied. His eyes drifted closed again.

With a sigh, Nate re-wet the washcloth and wiped down Eliot's face and neck again. "I know, Eliot. I wish they hadn't seen it too. Wish you'd never been in that position."




Parker had been sitting beside him for hours it seemed. Eliot sensed her stare. Could feel her gaze penetrate his skull.

He tried to not let his annoyance build to a dangerous level. He couldn't pretend to sleep forever. His muscles cramped. He had to change position.

He stretched out his legs and sighed at the relief in his aching back.

"Eliot?" Parker's voice was quiet. "Are you awake?"

He forced his eyes open against the light in the room. "Yeah, Parker. I'm awake."

Her smile made the room even brighter. "Hey, Sparky."

"Hey," he murmured. "How long you been starin' at me?"

The blonde shrugged in that disinterested way she had. "Not sure. Three…four hours?"

Eliot tried to sit up too fast and the pain in his side forced him to his back again. He struggled to control his discomfort and asked, "I've been asleep that long?"

Parker nodded. "Yeah. I've never seen you sleep so long." A confused grimace marred her features. "I've never seen you sleep at all. Nate told me not to, but I got nervous when you didn't wake up after a couple of hours and I poked you. I'm sorry but at least you growled at me in your sleep."

"Park- you did what?"

Tears filled her eyes as she stared at him. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "At least that let me know you were okay."

Never could stand to see her cry. "It's okay." He reached out to her and touched the back of her hand. "It's okay." He put as much effort as possible into the smile he gave her. Eliot hissed as his lip split open again.

"Oh. Hang on." She sprang from her chair and hurried for the bathroom. She came back with a washcloth and glass of water.

"What're you doing?" Eliot asked as she leaned over him. He tried not to shrink into the pillow as she dabbed the blood from his lip.

"Here. I brought you water."

She hooked her arm under his shoulders and helped him sit up enough for a drink.

It took all of Eliot's self-control to not snap at her for treating him like an invalid. If he did that he would break the spell of Parker showing emotion and caring for someone.

She was smiling as she eased him back to the pillow, and he returned the smile. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. Sophie showed me how to…you know. Help."

"You're doing good. A good job, Parker." He let his eyes drift closed. Damn. Still tired.

The thief was quiet but Eliot still sensed her presence at his bedside. "What is it, Parker? You're thinking too loud."

"I was thinking about the job."

He detected how her voice cracked on the final word and forced his eyes open again. "What about it?"

Her steady gaze met and held his. "You got caught protecting me."

"We all know that's the danger of my job. I protect the team. Sometimes things happen."

"I never meant for you to get taken, Eliot."

Dammit. Her eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill over. "It's not your fault. I was in the building. They had you cornered. I wouldn't leave you."

Blonde hair fell over her shoulders as she shook her head. "But, what they did to you-"

"Has nothing to do with you. I told you to run, Parker. You had done your job. It was time to do mine. You got that file out of Conrad's hands before he could do real damage with it. Remember what I said about what makes us different?" He saw the realization in her eyes before she dropped her gaze to the comforter.

"We can make the hard calls the others can't make." He had to strain to hear her murmur.

"And I wouldn't change the call I made. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."




The next time Eliot awoke, he knew someone else was with him. A sluggish turn of his head showed Hardison with his head on the side of the bed. His soft snores filled the room. He still had a washcloth clutched in his hand.

Eliot's fever had been improving. He could tell on his own but he had damn near hourly confirmation from Sophie and her infernal thermometer.

He held still as long as possible to keep from disturbing the hacker. If his bladder had its way, he would have to resort to covert ops just to take care of nature's call.

When the need to relieve himself reached critical levels, he decided it was go now or face the ultimate indignity of having someone change his sheets.

Eliot kept his groaning to a minimum as he pushed the sheets back enough to swing his legs over the edge of the bed.

He plodded to the bathroom using furniture and walls for support.

He had washed his good hand and pulled the door open when he ran into a bug eyed hacker. "Dammit. Hardison." The sudden appearance had surprised him.

"Eliot! What the hell? What are you doing out of bed?"

If Eliot had felt better, he would have chuckled at the indignant stare Hardison gave him. "I had to take a piss, Hardison." He walked slower than he wanted as he headed for the bedroom door.

"Aw...hell no. Where do you think you're going?" Hardison asked and grabbed Eliot's good arm.

Eliot gazed at the bedroom door and the freedom it offered as the hacker steered him toward the bed with ease. "Going stir crazy up here," he grumbled.

"Sit," the hacker ordered when they reached the bed.

"Hardison, I can get up-"

"No! Just no, okay. You've had a fever. You need to rest. Heal."

Eliot caught himself before he rolled his eyes. "It's been two days."

"Only two days since we got you home. Two days you've been recovering from beatings, being drugged, a stab wound. Not to mention a raging infection."

This time he did roll his eyes. "I wouldn't call it a raging infection."

A forlorn expression crossed the young man's face. "Just let me help you. It's the least I can do for you."

Eliot bristled at the comment. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Hardison shrugged. "It''s just those extra guys. I missed them."

Eliot eased himself onto the edge of the bed. "Hardison." He hoped his voice came across as more of a warning than it sounded to his own ears.

"Come on, man. I know you wanna yell at me over it. Wouldn't blame you. I almost wish you would."

Eliot couldn't stop the grunt that escaped as he scooted back on the mattress. "I'm not gonna yell at you."

"Don't you want to at least talk about it? I must have something-"

"I don't want to talk about it, Hardison!" Note to self, yelling hurts ribs. He settled back on the bed and closed his eyes. "I don't want to talk about it right now. Wanna sleep." There. That should send him scurrying away if he thinks I'll rest.

"Yeah. Okay, Eliot. I'll be downstairs."

Eliot heard the hacker's footsteps pause at the door before it opened and closed with a soft click. He covered his eyes with his good arm. "Shit." He had hurt Hardison's feelings. The team hadn't given him a moment alone with his thoughts since he got home.

These things happened to people like him. It wouldn't be the last time.

What he was sure of, was his team was hurting. It was a hitter's job to stop that from happening. As soon as I recover from walking across the room. Dammit.




Nate looked over his team as they watched him. Waiting for him to impart wisdom he didn't have right now.

He knew Parker blamed herself because Eliot was protecting her when he they grabbed him. And Hardison. Hardison looked a mixture of terrified and ready to throw up since coming back from talking to the hitter an hour ago.

Nate wasn't sure that Sophie didn't blame him for leaving Eliot. "Are you okay, Hardison?"

The hacker looked at him for a moment, then lowered his gaze to the floor. "Yeah. He's just…grumpy."

Parker's eyes were big when she looked at the hacker. "He's always grumpy though. That's just Eliot."

Hardison shook his head. "This was different. I tried to talk to him about what happened. He…yelled at me. Said he didn't wanna talk about it. Wanted to sleep."

Nate knew his shock showed on his face. "That's not out of the ordinary considering what he has gone through."

"Isn't it obvious? He blames me," Hardison said.

Parker shook her head. "If anybody is to blame, it's me. I'm the one who got caught."

I've got to do something. This will spiral out of control. "Listen. This is a team. We each have a job to do. And we do it. I'm the mastermind. You're my team. You do what I tell you."

Sophie narrowed her eyes. "Nate, you can't blame-".

"Maybe I should, Sophie."




Eliot had stumbled to the bottom of the stairs. Sophie studied him as he stood clinging to the railing. While the worst of the fever had passed during the night, he was still pale and slight tremors shook his form.

Sophie was happy to see Eliot still wore the sling. The happiness faded when she realized he couldn't take it off by himself.

Hardison moved as if to help Eliot, but Sophie placed a hand on the hacker's arm and gave him a minute head shake. Best to leave the hitter alone right now.

"You can all stop staring. I ain't gonna fall over." Eliot's voice was gruff as he chastised them.

The team members looked at each other and shared a glance that said they weren't convinced.

The hitter pressed his lips together as he shuffled toward the kitchen. But Sophie saw how much effort he put into not letting the pain show.

"Damn stubborn man," she muttered as she watched his progression to the fridge.

"Where the hell is my beer? I had a six pack in here." He did not sound happy.

Sophie walked over to the counter separating the kitchen from the rest of the apartment. "You don't need beer with a concussion. Not to mention your other injuries."

The hitter gritted his teeth. "I'm not a kid, Sophie."

"Nobody said you were, man," Hardison offered. "We needed room for the stuff you'd need."

It was true. Not only was Eliot's beer gone, but also Hardison's beloved orange soda had disappeared. In its place were bottles of water and Gatorade. Containers of soup and broths filled the shelves. All things for helping someone recuperate.

"I got things I thought would be good for you," Hardison continued. "My soup isn't as good as yours. A place downtown makes it fresh though."

"Dammit, Hardison," Eliot whispered. He turned and looked at the team. The look on his face softened.

"Shouldn't you be in bed, darling?" Sophie flashed him a big smile.

"And let all you sit down here enjoying a nice guilt fest?" He raised a hand to silence the instant denial. "You're all blaming yourselves. I've tried to tell you one on one not to. So let's try this with everybody together. We each have a place- a job- within this team. Mine is dangerous. Nate is our leader. He knows each of our skill sets. Parker, Hardison, you each have skills I don't have. My skill is keeping you all safe."

He looked the team in the eye, each member. "We're a family. I protect my family. It's what I do." Tears welled up in his blue eyes but he didn't allow them to spill over. "Don't belittle the sacrifices I make by feeling guilty about them."

The team stared at him, speechless. Sophie smiled at the pride swelling in her chest. Eliot had come so far. He admitted to caring for the team and let them know his sacrifices weren't just for the job.

She walked to him and took a gentle hold on his right elbow. "Come on. Let's get you back in bed. You look tired."

Much to her surprise, he didn't argue as she guided him up the stairs, into the bedroom and to the bed once more.

His tired gaze drifted around the room in his ever present sense of hyperawareness as she tucked in their hitter.

"Why don't you get some sleep?" She patted his right bicep with gentle movements.

Eliot's attention was back on her. "Because I've been lying in here for two days already. How much sleep you think I need?"

"Well, darling," she whispered as she leaned over him, "you had quite the fever yesterday. Even Eliot Spencer needs time to recover." She gave his elbow a squeeze.

"I see what you're doing. And you can stop trying to brainwash me." His voice was a tired growl.

"Why, I don't know what you mean." She put all her charm and grifting abilities into her smile. "We're just talking."

"You know 'xactly what I'm talking about. Your neuro…neuro…" He closed his eyes for a few seconds before forcing them back open.

"It's neuro-linguistic programming, not brainwashing. And I'm just telling you how important rest is. I could always get Nate to hypnotize you."

"Damn con men," he mumbled as his eyes slipped closed.

Sophie noticed there was a smile on his face though.

She sneaked out, threw one more glance at him, and closed the door.