The Secrets We Keep

By: Gilbert H. Karr

A/N: This piece has an episode tag to The Big Bang Job, and is my take on the conversation that might have taken place between Eliot and Hardison after the scene in the spa room, where Hardison was kicked into the pool. I don't own Leverage or the characters, and I write for fun and not for profit. This story is dedicated to my dear friend, Soquilii. Hope you enjoy.

Alec Hardison's suit had almost dried by the time he and Eliot met the others in that park in DC. Still, he had not been himself at all on the journey back to the hotel, failing to crack jokes and pointedly ignoring Eliot. Eliot knew the younger man was angry with him, and he also understood why. The hacker viewed the world in black and white, or ones and zeroes as it were. To people like Eliot, there were a million and one gray areas that served to complicate things.

As soon as the team pulled in to the hotel where they were staying to plan the next part of the job, Hardison practically jumped out of the car, before it even had a chance to stop completely, and stomped upstairs to his room before anyone could stop him. Eliot growled in annoyance. The man hadn't even let Eliot make the security sweep he usually made, to make sure there were no surprises waiting for them, before he just disappeared.

Nate had watched all of this with tilted head and narrowed eyes, and moving up beside Eliot as they both watched the young man leave, Nate said, "You need to fix this. I don't care how you do it, but I expect it to be fixed."

Eliot nodded and didn't answer. A moment later, he followed the hacker upstairs. For once, he was grateful for Nate's preference to rent a suite of rooms for the team, so that they had a central meeting place to use as a makeshift office while they were on the road. That meant the other man couldn't have gone far—he was sharing a room with Nate for the duration of the trip, while Parker and Sophie shared the other room, and Eliot had his own space, which allowed him to take care of security concerns and contingencies. What that actually meant was that Eliot, who was the odd man out and didn't sleep much anyway, had laid claim to the sofa.

As Eliot entered the room, he looked around for anything that looked different than it was before. He noticed Hardison's laptop was missing from the coffee table, where he had left it that morning. Walking to the boys' bedroom, Eliot knocked on the door, and when he didn't receive an answer, used the key his job allowed him. Hardison was sitting at the desk, with his laptop in front of him, with a blank screen, staring straight ahead. He either didn't notice or didn't acknowledge Eliot's presence.

Eliot suppressed a growl and quietly said, "Hardison."

Hardison turned his head at the sound, but it took him a moment to register that anyone was in the room with him, and when he did, he flinched and said, "Go away. I don't want to talk to you right now."

"As soon as I've convinced myself you haven't suffered any ill effects from that pool, we're going to have a serious discussion. Then, if you wish, I will leave you alone."

"I'm fine."

"You almost drowned in that pool. Ever heard of secondary drowning?"

Hardison shook his head.

"I'm not surprised. A lot of people haven't, but it's a real thing."

"I don't care. I don't want to do this right now, and especially not with you."

"You're angry. That's honest. I appreciate that, but medical concerns trump others. Now, you have a choice. You can let me do a couple of tests, make sure you aren't in any danger of suffocation, or we can test the strength of one of your aliases, and I can escort you to a doctor. Either way, we will talk."

Hardison saw that Eliot wasn't backing down, and in this case, it made him more angry, though he didn't really understand why.

"Why can't there be an option where you trust me to know and do what's best for me?"

"You hadn't even heard of it, so how would you know the symptoms? And if you don't know the symptoms, how do you know whether you're okay or not?"

Hardison didn't have an answer for that, so he just stayed quiet. Finally, he nodded, almost to himself, but Eliot read the signal well enough.

Without even being asked, the hacker started to unbutton his shirt when he saw Eliot put a stethoscope around his neck. Eliot would usually talk to him to take his mind off of what was happening, but he knew Hardison was still angry and that made this hard enough, so he started his examination silently.

When the cold metal of the stethoscope touched his chest, Hardison balked again and physically backed up. A new wave of anger exploded from him, and he said, "Don't be all caring now, wanting to examine me and be sure I'm okay when you showed today that you don't care about me at all."

"You still don't understand, do you? After all this time, you still don't trust me." Hardison froze, dead in his tracks, and stared at Eliot, shocked at the depth of hurt he heard in the other man's voice. Eliot, for his part, just growled and turned away.

"What do you mean?"

Eliot shook his head. "Forget it. If you don't know, I ain't gonna explain it to you."

"But I—" Hardison started to say, before Eliot cut him off with a growl.

"Don't!"

Hardison started to stand up to leave, but felt a weight on his shoulder, pushing him back into his seat. He looked up at Eliot without a word.

"I told ya…medical issues trump others. Let's get this done."

Eliot's tone was still angry and hurt, but his hands were gentle as he finished the tests he needed to make sure Hardison was all right. When he finished, he stripped off his surgical gloves and deposited them in the trash can by the door, before closing it behind him. Hardison just stared after him, stunned.

A few minutes later, Nate walked into the room they shared and made his way to his bed, searching for something in his suitcase. He had been in there for a good five minutes, when he realized his roommate hadn't moved. Glancing at him out of the corner of his eye, Nate found that he seemed to be frozen, lost in thought.

"Hardison, is everything okay?"

"Not really."

"What's going on?"

"Eliot thinks I don't trust him."

"Why does he think that?"

"That's a long story."

"I have time."

"Moreau was having a pool party in the lower level of the hotel, and I had planned to go in as the middle man, with Eliot as my bodyguard. Somehow I found myself handcuffed to a chair, and then kicked into a swimming pool. I almost drowned." He rose and paced to the other side of the room. "I thought he would come and get me, but he didn't. When I said something to him about it, he told me I didn't trust him."

"Do you?"

"What?"

"Do you trust Eliot? He worked for Moreau, once upon a time, so he knows him better than any of us. If he didn't come and get you, he must have had a good reason. Incidentally, how did you survive?"

"Keys dropped down into the water after about 2 ½ minutes. I unlocked my handcuffs, went up for air, then swam to the side and climbed out."

"That would have been when Eliot made the deal with Moreau to kill Atherton. He did that partially to save you."

"Why couldn't he just jump in after me?"

"Did you ask him that question?"

Hardison hung his head. "No. I guess I was too busy being angry with him for not coming to get me in the pool."

"I think you should seek him out and ask him. You might be surprised by the answer."

(0o0)

Hardison stood staring at the closed doors of Lucille, where Eliot was loading luggage and preparing them for the trip home. He was trying to summon the courage to go inside and talk to the other man. He swallowed hard. Eliot was probably still angry with him and probably still didn't want to see him. He couldn't really blame him. While he was standing there thinking these things, the door in front of him swung open and Eliot was standing there doing "that things with his eyes that scared people" as Tara so aptly put it.

"Damn it, Hardison. Don't just stand in the doorway. Get in here." Eliot reached out and grabbed the man by the shirt and pulled him in to the van, slamming the door closed behind him. Eliot pushed him down against the wall just inside the door, and said, "What do you want?"

"I-I," he tried to say something, but the words wouldn't come. Eliot saw the uncertainty in his eyes.

"Spit it out, man."

"I don't want to fight with you."

"I think I owe you an apology," Eliot said.

Hardison looked at him with wide eyes. "For what?"

"For expecting you to understand. You're not military. Good or bad, you don't think the same way I do."

"So explain it to me. Help me understand."

"Everything Moreau did in that meeting was a test—it was him looking for any sign of weakness—anything he could exploit. He was trying to figure out whether I was lying, what the relationship between us actually was, and if I was telling the truth about who you all were and why you wanted a seat in the auction. If I had jumped in that pool, Moreau would have known that you meant something to me, and that would have made you a target. We both would have died, if not in the pool, when we came out. Moreau doesn't tolerate any type of liability, and that includes those who lie to him, or those whom he thinks are lying. And I can assure you, you don't want to be a target of Moreau. He believed me because I didn't give him a reason not to believe me. If it hadn't been for the men in the Italians organization reporting to him about her activities, he wouldn't have known anything and this day would have gone much differently."

"I'm sorry, too, Eliot. You were right. I didn't trust you, and I should have. I won't make that mistake again."

"Good. Then I won't have to kick your ass."

"So, you never did tell me—what's the verdict?"

"What?"

"Am I drowning, or not?"

"Well, you don't appear to be, but if you start feeling lethargic, or have trouble breathing in the next few hours, you need to tell me."

Hardison nodded. He sat silently for a moment, thinking.

Eliot interrupted his thoughts a moment later when he put a hand on the younger man's shoulder.

"Hey. You'd better go get changed. Nate's gonna wanna go out for dinner soon."

Hardison nodded and headed for the door. When he got there, he stopped and turned back. Eliot was still in the same position. Neither his posture or his expression changed.

"Eliot?" The hitter stopped with a suitcase in mid-air and looked at the younger man. "Thanks." Eliot nodded.

Hardison moved on out into the parking lot and back into the hotel, feeling lighter than he had in a long while.