December 30, 2019
A Leverage Fanfiction
By Sarah Schumacher
-Everyone thought that Eliot was abused as a child, and that was why he was the way he was. They thought that he had spent his childhood nursing bruises and scratches from parents that could never be bothered to love him. They thought this had turned him cold, and mean, and angry- angry at his home, for never being safe, angry at the world for being so perpetually useless, and angry at himself for always being too small to stop it.
-But the opposite was true, actually. Eliot's parents never raised a hand to him. They never made him angry, or gave him scratches and bruises to ice. They never made him anything but hungry and good at feeling absolutely nothing. His childhood wasn't where the anger and hurt and pain had started. No, that would come later. His childhood was one of insignificant nothingness.
-Nothing. That was the way Eliot liked it. He liked it when he could walk away from a job-any job- without turning back. He took pride in the cool pit of indifference that settled in his stomach like a stone when he decided he didn't care. That- not the hitting or the defensiveness or the ability to nurse himself and others without any semblance of professional training- that came from home. The ability to think and feel nothing kept Eliot alive, time and time again. It was his lifeline- the one thing he relied on to be there for him. Always.
-Or so he thought.
-Eliot had had a lot of time to practice his emotions. That was why he was so good at not having them. When you hurt people for a living, somewhere along the line you have to stop seeing yourself in them. You have to stop wondering if they can afford to fix the snapped collar bone you just gave them, or if you just took away some little girl's dad. You have to stop seeing the enemy as human- because nobody can save them all. Eliot just specialized in the unsavable.
-That was especially true on this side of the law.
-So when Eliot first met his team, he felt nothing for them. Well, that wasn't entirely true. Contempt was one emotion he was good at. And Hardison, with his neverending chatter and obnoxious book smarts, well he provoked the most contempt in Eliot. He often imagined throwing a well-aimed fist through the hacker's face. That would shut him up for awhile. Parker, he regarded with cool admonishment. He hated her a little bit less than the rest of them, though he would never admit to such out loud. Sophie mattered not to him, but he had a grudging respect for her; respect was a dangerous emotion, but he had learned to put up with it when he needed to. It was Nathan Ford that had him distracted, and a little afraid.
-Eliot Spencer had not spoken with an honest man in almost seven years. He lived his entire life on the wrong side of the law. It was the only place you could get away with not feeling anything but anger and resentment and pure ugly hate. And Nate threatened to bring with him the one thing honest men valued more than their lives: loyalty.
-It was no wonder, then, when the loyalty Nate carried around on his shoulders and in his face began working its way into Eliot's heart. At least, everyone else had come to expect it. Eliot was still very much wondering how this could have happened without him ever realizing it. And frankly, he was quite peeved about it.
-But none of that made any difference when Nate's voice plowed into his ear, thin and reedy with anxiety. Eliot knew that voice. He knew it well.
"Eliot," Nate said tersely.
"Where is she?"
-Eliot had already heard the crash- the telltale sign that Parker had messed something up. He had jumped at the sound of it, but managed to ignore her sideways cry of pain. He didn't need the distraction, not right now. His job was to keep her from getting killed, or injured beyond repair.
"Don't know," Nate said. "Just heard her fall."
-Eliot grunted. Of course they had no idea where she was. He knew this, really, without having even asked. It was the tone of Nate's voice- annoyance and helplessness. Eliot liked that he could understand his team without wordy explanations. He knew their tones of voice, could digest their facial expressions in a mere second. It was more than a "distinctive style", more than the cold reading Sophie did for a living. He knew somehow what they were thinking by the way they said something or looked at him. And even though they would never realize it, it had saved their lives time and time again.
"Parker?" he tried, not really expecting an answer. If she was able to speak to them, she would. Then again, maybe not. He let out a frustrated sigh, and then remembered something.
"You still have that GPS tracker in her shoe?" he asked.
"The what?" Parker squeaked. So she had been listening.
"Parker, where the hell are you?" Eliot demanded.
"Outside. I'll be there in a bit," she responded. Eliot could hear broken bones in her voice. Maybe a concussion. She had her normal air of petulance, but it was weak,full of air and secrecy.
"Where outside?" Eliot looked over Hardison's shoulder. The hacker was slightly less obnoxious when he was useful. Eliot had to respect him when he was useful. Without him, Eliot would probably be dead. At least once, maybe more.
"Why? Who wants to know?"
"I do, Parker," Sophie chimed in. The team collectively realized that Parker was silent because she didn't want their help, couldn't find it in herself to accept it.
"Why?" Parker's petulance was louder than her pain. Eliot admired that.
-He looked at Hardison, who whipped his laptop around to show him the blinking red dot. Her shoe tracker. Outside the building. In the back.
-He wasted no time following that dot.
"Eliot," Hardison started, then shook his head. He always shook his head at himself. He knew Eliot would take care of her. That was his job. Always had been.
-Eliot's back was pressed to the cool brick wall as he rounded the corner. He didn't really expect to find anyone lurking, but he could never be too careful. His heart was steady and firm in his chest, and he breathed deeply before rounding the corner. He wasn't afraid. Eliot Spencer was never afraid.
-He shone his flashlight in front of him, sweeping side to side. It was a beacon if anyone was here that didn't want him here, but right now it was more important to find Parker than to worry about being seen. Because chances were, they would find her first.
"Parker," he said, leaving his place against the wall. He heard the woman shift, almost silently, followed by a tiny gasp. She didn't want to be found. 'Too bad,' he thought. He knew firsthand what happened when you didn't accept the help you needed.
-He rounded the corner, around the dumpster, and tripped over part of the remains of her rappelling equipment. She was sitting on the ground, tangled in her gear. One leg was badly bruised; he could tell even in the low light, and laid out in front of her. Her face was scratched here and there, but otherwise fine. She looked at him with large eyes, never really scared but always searching for a reason for fear.
-Eliot didn't really need much more than that. He crouched down next to her, assessing the damage. She didn't seem to have a concussion. He usually trusted his instinct on that one; he had seen enough of them to be able to tell by a glance. Same with her leg. He could tell it was fractured, not terribly, but she wouldn't be jumping off a building any time soon.
"Eliot," she started, but thought better of it.
"What?" His voice was gruffer than he intended. He really hated that he came off so violent, all the time. Mostly it was a plus, a huge advantage to have your enemy afraid of you. But this time, Eliot felt he would be better off if she did not have that look in her eyes. Not fear, no, but certainly not trust. She barely found it in herself to trust him on her best day, let alone when she was curled in the corner behind a dumpster with at the very least a broken leg.
-Parker paused as she looked at him. She reached carefully up to his ear, and removed the comm. Then, she took her own and placed both on the cement next to her. She didn't want the team to hear what was going on.
-Eliot understood that, better than any of the others would. He said nothing, but resigned himself to feeling something other than admonishment for the young thief that sat in front of him.
"Please, let me do this by myself."
"What do you need?" Eliot hauled himself up. He knew she needed him, but not in the way people usually needed people. She didn't need him to patch her up, or make her feel better, or tell her it was going to be okay. She needed his anger, and frustration. She needed his plain, calculating experience in patching up injuries. She needed to rely on his nothingness.
"Something to splint my leg, probably. I think it's broken. Antibiotics, ice, some booze."
-Eliot turned away from her. He didn't ask if she'd be okay without him. She always had been. The only difference was that now she didn't have to be. But it was what she was used to. What she preferred. And he wasn't about to interfere with that.
"Eliot?" Sophie asked. She was shaded with curiosity, but had the decency to keep it to herself. She understood Parker only to an extent, and Sophie had never found herself injured and vulnerable- her experiences typically left hard-hearted and barren but never so simply out of time.
"She's fine. I just gotta bring her some supplies."
"What's the damage?" Nate tipped his glass back, the scotch falling neatly into his open mouth. He regarded Eliot with a cool, detached interest that was equal parts disturbing and safe. At least Nate knew how to stay uninvolved. At least he didn't let his cursed loyalty get in the way of doing a good job. His personal problems, the reasons for his drinking and anger and stubbornness, those got in the way all the time. But he never let his attachment to the team get in his way. And for that, Eliot had real respect.
"Broken leg. Some scratches and bruises. Nothing we can't handle."
"Do you need help?"
"She's got it. I just need to bring her some supplies." Eliot began gathering makeshift medical supplies. He pulled a hockey stick from the closet. A package of frozen peas from the fridge. A scarf from Nate's closet. Sophie's. A first aid kit. The last of the scotch left in Nate's bottle. Opened today, Eliot noted.
"Wait. Hold up," Hardison said. "You're having her splint her own leg? I thought your job was to help us, protect us and stuff."
"Can't help her if she don't want it, Hardison. Parker's gonna do what Parker's gonna do."
-You couldn't save them all. Eliot was just glad that saving had nothing to do with anything today.
"But shouldn't you, I don't know, help her out?"
"Hardison," Nate warned. For all his internal uncertainty, Nate sure was good at understanding the team-keeping them in check and forcing them to commit to compromises. That was one thing no one of them were any good at.
-Eliot ignored them. He may not be saving anyone today, but he wasn't about to let the world of their little thief fall apart on his watch. Well, come to think of it, they were always on his watch.
"Eliot?" Sophie's voice was hesitant. The grifter and the hitter had yet to understand trust between each other. She rather liked to keep her streak of not being injured.
-Eliot paused, impatience painful in his gut. That was another emotion that often settled there, but that one was dangerous. Impatience had nearly killed him. More than once.
-He took a deep breath. Sore ribs told him not to do that again, so he answered, "What?"
-His response was curt and paved with respect, and he turned out the door without another word. He could appreciate her appreciation more than her apathy. Any day.
"Parker?" he asked. Quietly. Always quietly.
"Yeah?" She was still where he had left her. For some reason he had expected her to move. Expected her restlessness to seep into the pavement, or something equally Parker.
"I brought you supplies. What do you want first?"
-The man handed it to her.
-Parker made short work of splinting her own leg and situating ice to ease the swelling. She had done this before.
-Eliot didn't ask when.
"Eliot?" she asked, when she had finished her splint and had downed the rest of the scotch. It still burned, but not as much as it would have if she had not spent the past few years with Nate. It was funny, how humans could adapt to anything.
"Yeah?" He didn't look at her. Didn't need to. He sat on the cold cement, his back against the wall, eyes anywhere but here. He daydreamed of nothing. Wished for it.
"Can you help me?" She was pulling antibacterial cream and bandages from their packages.
"With what?" It took more effort than it ought to to turn and look at her. His stomach was unsettled at the sight.
"I need to clean these scratches, but I can't," she didn't finish. Didn't have to. It wasn't a part of the Parker package to finish sentences if she didn't have to. It took too much of her precious time.
-Eliot said nothing, but held his hand out for the supplies. When given them, he deftly and silently fixed her face. Eliot snorted to himself. He could fix people's faces and jaws and elbows and knees, but didn't have the guts to fix their hearts. Maybe because it was harder.
-Maybe because there was a book about fixing lacerations on a woman's face, and a list of do's and don'ts when one considered splinting a broken leg. Eliot suspected that splinting it with an old hockey stick was definitely on the latter list. But there was a list.
-But no one told Eliot how to feel when his teammate fell from the top of a building, her body crushed underneath her. No one told him how to deal with the contempt he felt for Hardison, or how to understand why he never actually put a fist through his face. No one told him how to feel when Nate's drinking got out of hand, and put his family in danger. And for that matter, no one ever told him that his team would become his family.
-Eliot was thinking about all of this as Parker pulled herself to her feet (foot) and hobbled inside. She didn't use him as a crutch, and he didn't offer. That was part of being a family- sometimes people needed to rely on you, and sometimes they needed to rely on your ability to feel nothing.
-But that wasn't really true anymore, was it?
"Eliot?" She was out of breath. Pain curled on her breath. She cringed with each hop. But her eyes were light. Grateful. He barked a laugh. She was ridiculous.
"Thank you." She paused in her hopping and reached into her pocket. In her fist was his comm.
-Eliot pressed the comm into his ear, and cringed inwardly at the cacophony that assaulted him. Nate and Sophie were yelling at each other. Hardison was trying to get his attention.
-He shook his head to dislodge the onslaught, and then thought better of it. He may not know how to fix their hearts, but he was no longer sure they hadn't somehow managed to steal his.
-And it was there that Eliot realized that the gift his family- his real family- had given him was just as much a curse. And, he realized, he had begun to shed the nothingness, felt less pride at the pit of indifference he carried around like a badge of honor for so many years. He was turning into something else, something less angry and full of contempt, and more and more like his team, each day.
-Eliot Spencer was becoming an honest man.
-He was still wanted in more countries than he could name, still angry and hurt and bitter at times. But Nate's loyalty had found him.
-He just needed to decide if this was a blessing or a curse.