The truth is, Eliot barely notices the passage of time. Nate and Sophie leave. He and Parker and Hardison continue to run their cons. Hardison stays true to his word: he releases the black book to the dark web and Leverage International begins to form.
It doesn't happen overnight of course, but there's only so much a three-person team can accomplish. Only so many aliases they can use before the mark's seen them and they're stuck in their role.
So they recruit. Grifters and hackers and hitters and thieves. Criminals, sure, but good people. Tara comes back a few times and nobody mentions that her requested pay is smaller than the first time they'd met. People come and go, some stay for months, some for years. Offices spring up around the globe and before Eliot knows it they've got regional managers and they're paying taxes. It almost seems like a real business, but they're careful not to let it go too far. Not to forget how it all started.
They see Nate and Sophie again of course. People like them never really retire. (The first time they run into the married couple after their wedding, Nate and Sophie are in the middle of a con at the airport where Eliot and Parker and Hardison are picking them up. Of course they help out too.)
Time passes, and Eliot barely notices.
They're doing good. He'll never be clean, but he's doing good. He's helping people.
He never forgets his words to Sophie either: "'Till my dying day." He meant them with all his heart.
He takes a bullet for Hardison somewhere down the line. Another for Parker a few years after that. (The next time he tries to dive in front of Parker, she pushes them both out of the way).
Time passes. People come and go. The three of them remain.
Eliot's not the type to settle down and start a family. He still has flings every now and again, catches the eye of a nice girl and walks her home. Still has his own apartment. But more often than not, he spends the night in one of the many guest rooms in one of the many houses Parker and Hardison own. (And sometimes, on a bad night, he'll make his way to their room, fall down between the two of them, and just sleep.)
Things change but they don't. A con is still a con. A hitter is still a hitter. Greed is still greed. But with technology evolving and changing, security systems are different. The weapons are different. The crimes are different.
They're lucky that Hardison's so smart, always able to stay one step ahead of the latest technology. It seems to be, now and forever more, the age of the geek.
When someone releases a new model for body armor that's almost indistinguishable from everyday clothing, Hardison and Parker manage to get their hands on a week's worth of outfits for him.
He takes another bullet for Hardison in the years to come, but he barely feels it thanks to their gift.
Time passes and their hair grows gray and their joints start to ache. Eliot doesn't even realize he's growing old until he wakes up one morning and looks in the mirror. His hair is white and his wrinkles are prominent. His joints ache and he's stopped keeping track of his scars.
He hasn't punched anyone in three weeks. Hasn't been out in the field in two.
But old doesn't mean unfit. He can still fight, and Parker is still limber, and between the two of them they've managed to keep Hardison fit. Especially because these days you don't need to sit behind a desk to use a computer. Hardison's more mobile than he ever was in the beginning.
Sure they've got people working for them now. Lots of young and energetic hackers and hitters and grifters and thieves who are just as good as they were back then. They can still pull off a con though, and they do. Eliot readjusts his fighting style to his slowing body, his stiffening limbs.
Until one day, Eliot groans as he wakes up, extracts himself from bed with difficultly (he can remember when he only used to sleep 90 minutes a day), and stares at the face he sees in the mirror. Somehow, without him noticing, he has grown old.
It's been a month since he's been in the field. Two since he's been in a real fight.
He's old, he realizes with astonishment. And so are Parker and Hardison. Somehow, he never thought he'd make it this far.
Nate had died a few years back, the alcoholism haven taken a toll on his body. They haven't seen Sophie since, though Hardison had managed to find out that she was living comfortably in the rich people's version of a retirement home, no doubt continuing to con people out of their possessions before they pass.
He walks into the kitchen, where Hardison and Parker are eating breakfast and stares at them. He's lived far more of his life with them than without them, he realizes. He never thought he'd be so lucky. He'd never thought he deserved to be so lucky.
"What do you think about retirement?" he asks them.
Hardison looks up, raises an eyebrow. ("What, you're only just thinking of this now?" he means.)
Parker looks up and grins softly, a little bit of her wild nature shining through in her eyes. ("Finally. We were waiting for you," she means.)
(They have long since stopped needing words.)
Of course, people like them never really retire. They're still running Leverage International, still planning cons and mentoring criminals. They just don't go out in the field so much anymore.
Parker gets restless not too long after they unofficially quit so Eliot takes her skydiving. It calms the both of them down. (Hardison still declares them crazy, despite the advancements in technology that make it so much safer).
Several years later, Eliot collapses one day at home, passes out and manages to think "this is it" just before he hits the floor. He wakes in a hospital bed, Parker and Hardison by his side.
There's no real problem, just, he's old. Too much stress when he was younger, too many bruised organs and broken bones. He's old and he's lived his life. The doctor thinks he's got another year in him. Maybe two at most. There's nothing to be done. Eliot's okay with that.
It's a mark of how old Parker and Hardison are, how much they've grown together, that they're okay with it too. They encourage him to hold on, to get his rest and take it easy, but they don't panic. There's no furious denial or frantic bargaining. They too have had him for far longer than they expected.
When he finally does pass, he's comfortable, with Parker on one side and Hardison on the other, a hand in each of his. He thinks back to Sophie's words, oh so long ago.
'Till my dying day, he'd promised her, and he'd kept his promise even though his dying day had been so much further off than he could have imagined.
He thinks of the kids he'd mentored (good kids, the lot of them), the ones that Parker and Hardison will pretend not to notice following them, keeping them safe. He thinks of all the enemies he's stopped from hurting the ones he loved and the reputation he'd helped Leverage, Inc. gain so that few people even bothered to go up against them in the first place.
Parker and Hardison are old too, and they're not long for this world, but he's done everything he can to ensure that they'll stay in it as long as they want to.
'Till my dying day, he'd promised, and beyond.