"Hey, are you okay?" Parker's voice shook Eliot from his thoughts. The rest of the team was celebrating another victory, but he just needed some quiet. So while everyone else was downstairs enjoying drinks, he was staring out Nate's apartment window, lost in another time and place.
"Yeah, I'm good." He lied.
As a general rule, Eliot didn't get emotionally involved in cons. He worked the job, did his part, and kept his goofball friends alive for one more day.
But this one was different. The moment he found out the specifics of this case, he wanted to destroy the mark.
Travis Zilgram, a wealthy undergrad student, was supposedly conducting 'sleep experiments in PTSD patients' as part of his senior honor's project. Somehow, these sleep experiments were connected to homeless veterans. There had been one confirmed death, but they suspected more.
And they had been right.
Eliot had gone undercover, and discovered that Zilgram wasn't trying to cure PTSD, he was using it to exploit the Veterans and test interrogation techniques. They had thrown him in a freezing cold cell, blasted heavy metal, and deprived him of sleep for days before engaging him in psychological torture.
Lucky for them, Eliot didn't break easy. He'd been through worse. But there was one conversation he couldn't get out of his head.
"You ever count them?"
"You know, the people you've killed? Give me a ballpark. It's gotta be a big number, right?"
"You think asking me about my past is gonna open up old wounds? Maybe put me off balance a little? Make me easier to break?"
"I'm just trying to get to know you better. Why does that question make you so nervous? Is that what this is for you? Are you trying to punish yourself for the things you've done? I think that's it. I think the reason you won't give me your word and walk out that door is because you think you deserve to be here."
That interrogator had gotten too close to the truth, although Eliot would never let him know. Dammit, he hated feeling like this. Just when he thought he'd put his past behind him, shit like this had to happen.
"Are you sure? You look sad."
"Yes, Parker. I'm okay." Eliot snapped. "Go away."
"Okay," She shrugged, walking away. He didn't miss the fleeting expression of hurt that crossed her face, and he felt even worse. She was just trying to help.
He needed to shake this off.
"Parker, where you been?" Hardison greeted her with a kiss.
"Bugging Eliot, apparently." She grumbled.
"Aw, don't let ol' Grumpy get you down."
Nate and Sophie exchanged worried glances. Eliot pushed people away as a defense mechanism, but he seemed to be getting better about letting them in. They didn't know exactly what happened to him down in that cell, but it was affecting him more than they had realized.
"I'll go talk to him." Nate set his drink down.
"Good luck, he's in one of his moods." Parker called after him.
"What do you want to know? Names? Dates? Locations? Their eyes...what color their eyes were? Do you wanna know the last words they spoke? You want to know which ones deserved it...or better yet, the ones that didn't. Do you want to know which ones begged? Do you know why I remember these things?
"Why?" The man had whispered, clearly disturbed.
"It's because I can't forget. So there's nothing you can do. No punishment you can hand out that's worse than what I live with every day. So to answer your question; no. I haven't counted. Because I don't need to."
Eliot had spoken these words to shake the guy. To gain the upper hand. And it had worked; his interrogator gave up trying to break him.
Because he was already broken.