Title: Snowy Arrangements
Plot: Takes place toward the end of 'The Long Way Down Job', when Draxel send's his Russian hitter after the notebook. Eliot and Parker are on their way down the mountain to finish the job, but they run into 'difficulties' along the way, and now they're stuck in the storm. With limited resources, they wait it out in high camp. But how long until the cold gets to them? Will help come in time to save them? To save Parker?
Disclaimer: I don't own Leverage of the characters, just the plot (for the most part).
"Parker!" Eliot called, moving to help, but when he heard the click of a gun, he froze.
The Russian had a gun and Parker, and Eliot had the book.
"The notebook—now!" he demanded.
Parker tried to squirm free. "Eliot, don't! It's all we have." Unknown to the man holding her, she'd slipped Allen's phone—and proof that Draxel betrayed him—into the his jacket pocket. They didn't really need the notebook: they needed a ride down the mountain.
With feigned hesitation, Eliot tossed the notebook at the capture's feet. When Parker's freed, Eliot grabs her, never taking his eyes off the man with the gun. They watched as he lights a flare and slowly burns the book.
The plan was to get the phone past the reception line so Hardison could broadcast the message waiting on Allen's phone. The Russian got back on his ride and started moving, his gun still trained on the hitter and the thief. What Eliot didn't understand was why Parker decided to lung for the snowmobile. The sudden movement spooked the man and he fired two warning shots.
Eliot shoved Parker into the snow, keeping her head down. When he was gone, the hitter got to his knees, needing to make sure that Parker was okay. "P-Parker," he choked out, the lack of oxygen making it hard to breath. "You okay?"
She nodded, swatted his hand when he tried to look her other. "I'm fine…" She was also breather heavy, he lungs screaming for more air. "We have to…get moving." She stood and brushed to snow from her knees.
Eliot couldn't have agreed more. That storm was still closing in and they needed to get back down the mountain. Their part was done and the job was finished. It was in their teams hands now.
They started back down the mountain. The wind was picking up, but once they reached the tree cover it wasn't as bad. They were making good time, but without a break the lack of oxygen was waining on them… He was going to need beer after this.
But…something wasn't right. His instincts gnawed at the back of his mind, telling him that something was off. And then it hit him. Well, it tugged him. The rope that tether him to Parker went taught, yanking him back a step.
He snapped around. "Parker?"
She was on her knees, hunched over. He doubled back, forcing his legs through the knee-high snow. "Come on, darlin'," he coaxed. "We have to…keep moving before the storm gets to bad to— Parker?"
She took couple deep breaths. "I…I can't."
His brows behind his face shield furrowed. This wasn't like Parker. Harison, sure, he wouldn't have never made it a hundred yards past base camp. But Parker… She was a fighter—a surviver. "What do ya mean you—?" Then he saw it. The reason she collapsed and why she couldn't keep pace with him.
Crimson stained the pure white snow at his feet. Looking her over he noticed she was holding tight to her left shoulder. He pieced the puzzle together in his head. The warning shots from the Russian… He'd heard one whiz by his head. And the other—
"Damn it, Parker!" he cursed, not really at her, but in general.
He fell to his knees next to her, moving her hand away from her arm. As soon as did, he saw the hole in her thick, outer coat.
"I didn't…want you to worry," she breathed, looking up at him. "I thought I could…could do it. I figured once we got back to…base camp, they could…patch me up…"
The hitter ignored her excuses and looked her over. The bullet wasn't in her shoulder, it was in her arm, just below the shoulder joint. He remembered something before they started their trip back down. She stood and whipped the snow from her knees, only using her right arm. When he tried to tie her rope, she insisted she'd do it and to take care of his own. He would occasionally hear her grunt from behind him, thinking it was just from trying to move through the thick snow.
He mentally cursed. What made matters worse and worried him the most—there wasn't an exit wound.
"Parker, you can't go on like this," he admitted, but hated to say it himself. Anger flashed over him. He growled in frustration. "You should have said something!"
She chuckled dryly, looking his in the eyes. Pale grey met vibrant blue. "Would you have?"
He didn't need to answer. She already knew.
With a deep breath, he tried to find his inner calm. He pulled a bandana that shielded his neck from the cold out of his jacket. "You aren't like me, Parker. I take the hits because I can—I can physically deal with the pain."
She bit back a yelp when he tightened the cloth around her arm. As gently as he could, he helped her stand.
"Listen to me," he commanded, waiting her to look at him. He'd have to choose his words wisely. "At the pace we're going, we won't make back to base camp before the storm worsens." Before you bleed out. "I can't get a good look at your wound out here with this wind." I can't take bullet out in this cold. "We have to back track toward high camp. The tent will provide enough cover so that I can…get you patched up."
Swallowing hard, the young thief nodded. Together, with Eliot refusing to leave her side, they doubled back.
Eliot tapped the com in his ear. "Nate! Nate, are you there?"
"—liot? Where are—? The job is done." There was slight static, but he could make out Nate's voice.
The storm was interfering with their coms. He had to tell the team the plan and pray they'd send help in time. "Nate, listen to me. Parker…" He glanced her, knowing this wasn't going to be easy for Hardison to her. She nodded. "Parker's hurt. We had to back track toward high camp. We aren't going to make it down in this storm." He took a breath. "Nate…we're going to need a chopped evac."
Eliot knew that Nate would understand the severity of their situation. They would need help as soon as they could get it.
"How bad is—?" It was getting harder to hear the mastermind on the other end.
"She's okay, but if we have to wait out this storm…"
"Understood. We'll—…soon as we can. We—" Static claimed the coms.
"Nate? Nate!" No response. "Damn it…"
"Looks like…it's just…you and me…Sparky," Parker panted, a small smile playing at her lips.
Eliot's heart squeezed, worry for his injured teammate claiming his mind. "Yeah. Just you and me, hun."
There was a long pause as they trudged back through the trees.
"Do you…really think we'll make it?" she asked, wrapped her arm over his shoulder for more support.
He glanced at his surroundings, taking in their snowy arrangement. "We'll make it…if I have anything to say about it."
After what felt like hours, but was really only about 20 minutes, the tent came into view, just passed the tree line. It had taken them twice as long to get back due to Parker's worsening injury. But they'd made it.
Without the cover of the trees, the wind was relentless. The cold nipped at whatever exposed skin they had. Parker let out a sigh of relief when she saw the tent. Eliot let her go just long enough to get it open. She willed her legs to keep her up without Eliot's support. She was cold, hungry, and in a lot of pain. Her arm started feeling numb—they couldn't have gotten back at a better time.
Once in the tent, Eliot ripped off his gloves, hood, and mask, helping Parker do the same. There were enough supplies for a couple hours. Thermal sleeping bags and blankets. Protein bars and a small, portable gas heater. And, thankfully, a medical kit and an oxygen tank. The one Nate used when he went looking for Karen.
Eliot grabbed the medical kit, noticing something underneath it. He wondered for a moment why that would be up here, but decided it was for medical emergencies.
"Here, let me help ya."
Parker was struggling to get her injured arm out of her heavy jacket. As gently as he could, Eliot pulled the sleeve of the jack one way, and carefully pulled her arm the other. She sucked in a harsh breath, but sighed when she could relax her sore arm again.
Eliot eyed her worriedly, setting her jack aside and pulled the med kit closer. "Pain is good," he informed her bluntly, trying to bring a little hope to their crappy situation. "It means the nerves are still attacked." He pulled supplies out, not meeting her gaze. "Feeling something is better than nothing."
She stayed silent, knowing he was trying to keep her calm. She knew what was coming, and they both knew that she wasn't going to like it.
She sat cross-legged in the center of the tent. He shifted to her left side, one leg folded in front of him, the other stretched out behind for better balance. There was a heavy silence before her spoke again.
"The bullet can't stay in there, Parker." He finally met her gaze. "You know that, right?"
He watched emotion flash in her eyes: fear, pain, and…something else.
She nodded more times then necessary, as if trying to reassure herself. "Yeah, I—I know."
Using scissors from the kit, he carefully cut the material of her long sleeved shirt, then moved to cut loose the bandana he had tied to her arm earlier. Once free from her arm, blood poured from the wound. Eliot quickly, and as gently as he could, placed a rag to her arm. Parker flinched, hissing through her teeth.
Eliot hated this. He hated seeing someone from his team in pain. It was supposed to be him; he was the one that took the bullets because only he could. A lifetime of experience made his the shield he was. (Or, in this case, suppose to be.) He hated himself for not being able to protect Parker.
Shaking his thoughts, he pulled the supplies for the next step.
She gulped, her heart racing. She knew it had to be done. Eliot was right—the bullet had to go. But…watching it about to happen made her head spin.
"Parker. Hey, Parker! Look at me!" He squeezed her good arm, forcing her to look him in the eye. The panic in her eyes worried him, but the blood pumping from the wound as her heart raced worried him more.
"Deep breaths; relax," he soothed, dropping the tweezers back in the box.
She faked a dry laugh. "'Relax'?" she echoed. "When you'r about to…"
She took a deep, shaky breath, closing here eyes. But it was no use. Her thoughts immediately drifted back to that was inevitably about to happen. She let the breath out hurriedly. "I can't! I can't do this! I…I'm…"
The hitter knew. She didn't have to say it. "You're scared," he concluded, trying to soothe her. "You have every right to be, darlin'. But it's okay, and you want to know why?"
She nodded, opening her eyes to look into his.
He continued: "Because you got me. If it were anyone else—Nate, Sophie, Hardison—they would have no idea how to do this. But me… I've been where you are, and I'm the only one that can help you."
It's a good thing it was us.
We do things they can't—won't.
Remembering their conversation earlier, she let out a slow breath. "Y-yeah. You're right. Hardison would have probably passed out by now." A brief wonder of what exactly she saw in him passed over her, but she brushed it off.
A tiny smile tugged the corner of Eliot's lip. "Yeah, he defiantly would have," he agreed, picturing the young man feinting at the sight of his own blood
The wind whipped the tent suddenly, startling them back to the current situation.
Eliot picked the tweezers from the box, this time talking to her to keep her from her thoughts. "Parker, I'm going to level with ya, this is goin' to hurt like hell." It was harsh, but she needed to hear it; to understand that he did not, in any way, want to do this. He had to do it.
She nodded, putting her hand gently on his knee. Somehow, hearing him be so forward helped calm her. His voice brought her a sense of understanding. This had to be done the old fashioned way, whether she liked it or not. And knew with ever fiber in her body that she was not going to like it. But Eliot… Eliot made it okay.
"I trust you," she practically whispered, looking him in the eye.
Something pulled in Eliot's chest. He knew that the team trusted him to protect them. It was his job, after all. Almost every con they played, Nate got them in, but it was Eliot that got them out. It was the way that Parker looked at him now—the way she pleaded with her eyes. It wasn't just trust she was giving him, it was her whole-hearted belief that he would protect her.
Gently, he held her right shoulder to keep her steady. "Hold as still as you can, hun." Her right hand came up to clasp his, holding tight to it. He felt her grab the pant of his out-stretched leg with her left, gripping it tightly and steadying herself.
"Do me a favor though?" she asked, voice as calm as she could make it. He glanced at her. "Talk to me."
He furrowed his brows, confused, and a little annoyed that she was stalling. "I am talking to you, Parker." He moved to start again, but she persisted.
"No, I mean… I want you to talk to me while you…" She couldn't quite get the rest of the sentence past her lips. "Help me think of something else."
She was practically begging him, and he hated that.
Eliot nodded, readying them both. He wracked his brain for something he could say to keep her distracted.
When he pulled the rag away, blood immediately started to pool. He had to go now before she lost too much. "When I was a kid, I had a dog," he began, and at the same time, carefully pressed the tweezers to the opening of her wound. She yelped, and his strong grip kept her sturdy. "He was a labrador—beautiful black coat dark brown eyes. The shelter near my house was joinin' to put him down as a puppy because he had a cleft pallet—meanin' the roof of his mouth never developed and he was missin' his front teeth." He dug deeper. She released her hold on his hand to cover her screams. His heart ached, and he raised his voice get her to focus on his voice. "There was nothin' wrong with him other than that, but no one else wanted him because, in their eyes, he was broken. I begged my parents to let me adopt him; even used my own allowance." He felt the tool connect with the bullet, and carefully stretched her already tender wound to grab it. Her muffled screams continued, and so did his story. "The shelter had a name picked out for him, but I didn't like it. I renamed him Chance, because I was giving him a chance at life that they weren't goin' to let him have."
By the end of his story, the bullet was out. Eliot dropped the tweezers and bullet, quickly returning the cloth to stop the blood.
Parker's breathing came out in pants as she tried to catch her breath, her teeth clenched hard.
"Hey, look at me," Eliot ordered. She did, tears of pain sliding down her cheek. He wiped one away with his callused thumb. "You did it, darlin'. The worst is over."
She nodded, looking from his eyes to the hand that held her wounded arm. He hadn't been kidding—that hurt like hell.
Suddenly, Parker's body went slack; Eliot quickly caught her with a hand behind her neck.
"Whoa—hey! Parker!" Her eyes fluttered closed and her body fell heavily against his. Her head lulled onto his shoulder. He cradled her head to keep her from falling.
He laid her gently on the sleeping bag and left the pulse in her neck. It was still racing slightly, but it was there. He'd concluded that she passed out from pain and exhaustion. He had hoped she wouldn't, but at the same time it made it easier for stitching her wound. Now he wouldn't have to see her in pain anymore—pain he would have to cause her.
He rolled her to her side and slid behind her. Passing out may have been better for her, but it didn't help him. With Parker asleep, Eliot was left alone to wallow in his thoughts.
Misery spread through his body like a wild fire, remembering her screams as he dug into her arm and caused her pain. He recalled he death grip she had on his pant leg, trying to stay still; the way her eyes screwed shut with every tiny move he made in advancing on bullet lodged in her arm; the tears that caressed her cheeks.
This wouldn't have happened if he'd just protected her in the first place.
The wind howled outside the tent, as if agreeing with him.
A few stitches was all it took to close the wound. He wrapped her arm with gauze and gently laid her on her back. He'd let her sleep a while longer. She more than deserved it.
About a half hour later, Parker stirred. She didn't remember laying down, and wondered for a moment what was happening. When the memories of the gun and hiking back to the tent and the pain came flooding back, she gasped. Her right hand flew to her injured arm.
Eliot, alert as ever, snatched her wrist before she could hurt herself. "Easy there, darlin'. Move slow."
As gently as possible, he helped her sit up. Something soft but heavy pooled into her lap as she did. A coat, but it was too big to be hers. And her arm was in a makeshift sling from his hoodie he wore under his coat. When she turned her eyes on her companion, a long sleeve thermal was all that shielded him from the cold.
She tried to speak, but coughed instead, her throat dry. Eliot handed her a mug of warmed water he'd been sipping on for a few minutes. He'd decided that with the lowering temperatures that he'd have to start the tiny propane heater to help keep them warm. He'd also removed his coat and laid it over Parker. She offered it back to him, but he declined.
She slowly sipped the mug, thankful for the liquid that quenched her dry throat.
Once she was sure could speak, she said, "Thank you."
He nodded, reaching for another mug.
"Not for the drink. For…for saving me," she clarified.
He froze mid-reach, letting her words ring in his head. "I didn't do anything to deserve your thanks." He grabbed the mug and poured steaming water into it, and then placed the small kettle back on the propane burned. He turned to her, but didn't dare look up at her.
She tried to meet his gaze. "What do you mean? You go the bullet out."
"That's enough, Parker," her urged, trying to keep his calm up and his anger down.
"If it weren't for you, it'd be in so much more pain. And still have a bullet in my arm."
"And I'd probably die out here if—"
That was it. What little control he had on his anger snapped. He slammed his fist down on his own leg; it hurt but he didn't care. "Damn it, Parker! I said that's enough!"
Anger and hatred—for what, she wasn't sure—burned in his eyes. He yelled her all the time to stop bugging her, but never quite like that. She usually pushed his buttons, but she'd never gotten that kind of reaction from him. Was it the altitude? The lack of efficient oxygen? He grumbled and rubbed the leg that his fist came down on, looking away. Actually, he looked anywhere but at her. Her curiosity spiked.
"Why?" she asked after a few minutes of silence.
He sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Why, what?
"Why won't you look at me?"
He clenched his fist in his lap, trying to rein in the rest of her anger. He wanted to tell her everything. Why his ego was hurt. Why it pained him almost as much as it pained her to dig that bullet out. Why he couldn't look at her because… Because he knew that if he looked her in the eye, she would force him to tell her. He'd lose all sense of pride and spill his guts to her. The guilt of not being able to protect her would force him to tell her everything—anything she wanted.
But he couldn't.
He took a breath in.
And then let it out.
"It's…hard to explain, Parker," he said, as if consoling a child.
"Can you try?" she asked innocently.
He sighed, deciding to flip the rolls and ask the questions. "You wanna ask questions? I've got a few." He rummaged through the supplies and pulled out two protein bars. "Why did you lung at him, Parker? Why did you scare him into shooting at us?"
She cocked her head to the side, waiting for him to go on.
"Our job was to get the phone down the mountains fast as possible. That was it! What possessed you to challenge an armed man?"
She blinked. "I tripped." Short and sweet, but still not very clear.
Eliot tried to wrap his head around her explanation. "You…tripped?"
She sipped her water again and nodded. "Yeah. There's a steak in the ground about a foot from the tent. That steak is what's keeping this-" she motioned toward their tiny sanctuary "-in place on the mountain. I tripped when I moved my foot."
Well, that answered that. He nodded, accepting her answer. He took a bite of his bar, chewing it thoroughly. Of course it was something a simple and innocent as tripping over something that caused the guy to fire his gun at them.
"So, when you think about it, it was an accident." Eliot looked up at her then, surprised by her words. "If I had paid more attention to my footing, I wouldn't have tripped, and he probably wouldn't have shot at us." She shrugged. "He also might have shot at us anyway. Who knows?"
She nonchalantly took a bite of her own bar.
Parker didn't do emotions. She didn't understand them, or why people felt the way they did. She also didn't read people well. That was Sophie's thing. Maybe her and Sophie were hanging out too often.
For a moment, they locked eyes. He didn't know what she saw, but whatever is was surprised her. She leaned in closer, studying him. He instinctively leaned away. "I think I got it." She may have figured something out, but she wasn't letting up on her stare.
"Parker…" he warned, gently pushing her right shoulder.
She continued: "I think I know why you're upset."
"Yeah?" he challenged, looking again at his hands in his lap, the hands still stained with her blood. The hands that couldn't keep her from getting hurt.
"Yeah. I can see it in your eyes. It's pretty clear to me." When he didn't press for a better answer, she kept going. "I see pain and fear. And…guilt."
He closed his eyes in defeat. Maybe she was better at reading people then he thought. Either that, or he was was hearing his heart on his sleeve. Which would mean that he'd been hanging out with Hardison too often. Damn it, Hardison!
"You…feel guilty for what happened, even though you couldn't have stopped it." She sounded confused, which usually meant he was in for another string of questions he wasn't prepared to answer.
"What if it were you?"
His eyes shot open. That wasn't the question he was expecting.
"What if…you got shot? Should I feel guilty for not being able to protect you?" She paused to mull over her own question. "Is this how you feel all the time?"
Eliot wasn't one for confessing his feelings, but after the day she'd had, perhaps he'd humor her. Just this once.
"Do you really want to know?"
She rolled her eyes. "Have you been listening? I've only asked, like, three times!"
Another deep breath. "No, Parker, you shouldn't feel guilty if our rolls were reversed. I get hurt all the time because it's what I do. It's my job to take the punches. I'm the hitter, and you're the thief. And no, I don't feel like this all the time, because…" He chose his words wisely. She waited patiently for his response. "Because I don't usually…fail at doing my job."
She thought that over for a minute. "Yeah, but sometimes the job doesn't work out. Sometimes Hardison can't hack, Sophie can't swing her mark, and Nate's plan doesn't work out. Everyone fails at something some of the time."
He noticed that she didn't include herself in that scenario, but didn't press it.
"Sometimes…people get hurt."
"Well, they shouldn't, not if I'm standing right there." He hadn't wanted to say that, but it slipped out.
The guilt the weighed him down lessened, but he knew would never truly disappear. It was the hitter's job—his job—to keep them safe. He failed as the hitter today. He failed his job. He failed her.
He only had moment to dwell in his self-loathing before she perked up again. "Hey! I know what will cheer you up!" She slapped his arm with her good hand. "Grab my jacket."
He growled, annoyed that she'd just hit him for no reason. He hander her the jacket.
"I lifted this off Russian man when I slipped the phone in his pocket." With her good hand she pulled out a flask.
"Really? You thought alcohol would cheer me up?" he asked, glaring at her, but it reality, it was definitely going to cheer him up. He needed something to take the edge off.
She offered the flask to the hitter, which he took, despite his words. He smelled the contents, and then sipped the liquid.
"Stolichnaya—Russian vodka. It originated in Moscow; earliest production date: mid 1940s." He rattled off facts of the product and he took another sip. "The alcohol by volume is 40%; proof is 80 by U.S. standards."
When he finished he caught Parker eyeing him. Her brow was raised as she gave him an incredulous look.
"What? It's a very distinct vodka—very popular in Russia."
"Mm-hm," was all Parker said, snatching to container back.
Eliot immediately took it back. "Oh, hell no."
"Hey! I stole it first," she whined, reaching for the flask childishly.
Eliot pulled it out of reach. "No way. You just lost a lot of blood, and alcohol thins your blood by design; no way are ya drinking this."
She continued her advancements, though she was at a disadvantage with her wounded arm. "Yeah, but it's freezing out here and I need something to warm my body. Just one sip…" She could almost reach to flask, but he moved it again, this time behind his back.
He glared at her. "First of all, that's not how alcohol works. Second, there's a heater in here, Parker! And third, I gave ya my jacket."
"Yeah, so you can freeze instead? I don't want you coat."
"Well, ya have it. Use it."
It wasn't until that moment that they realized the…compromising position they found themselves in. Parker, in her goal to reach the flask as he moved it out of her reach, was now straddling his right leg. Her right hand pressed on his chest as she tried to get closer to her target in their limited amount of space. Her arm bent at the elbow only brought their faces closer as they yelled at each other.
Eliot realized then just how close she was, his entire body tensing. Her hand on his chest and that fact that she was straddling him was unnerving, as well as feeling her hot breath on his face.
"Parker…" He voice came out as a whisper, as if he would spook her if he spoke too loudly. His heart raced in his chest, and he wondered if she could feel it, though her hand wasn't quite near his heart.
"Eliot," she countered, their current situation not seeming to bother her at all.
"Get offa me, Parker." He was warning this time, though he didn't know what he would do if she didn't get off. His brain was too fuzzed, and for that be blamed the alcohol.
"No, not until you give me that flask." Without any warning she leaned closer—impossibly close. Too close. Their noses almost touched. "Please…."
With an unsteady breath, he gave in, revealing the flask from behind his back. "Fine."
Parker smirked triumphantly, pushing off his chest and sitting back in her spot, cross-legged. She extended her hand, ready to claim her reward.
"One sip," he warned. "And then you're givin' it right back to me. Got it?"
She nodded more times than necessary. He handed her the flask and she sipped.
"Damn it, Parker!"
Eliot snatched it away, glaring at her for not listening. Parker giggled childishly.
Eliot almost put the flash in the waist of his pants, but quickly dismissed that idea, instead placing it in the far corner. She's lift that off of him too easily; one handed of not, he didn't doubt her skills.
For a moment, silence fell over them. The effect the vodka had on Eliot's body was pleasant. A warm sensation washed over him, leaving him a little more relaxed. But what troubled him now was Parker's sudden personality change. Parker had always struggled with close encounters with marks in the past—she stabbed a man with a fork, for God's sake! Even now, she keeps her distance from the team mates; Eliot was pretty sure her and Hardison never even hug, since they seemed to have a 'thing' for each other. So…what happened between him and blonde thief just now? What was she thinking?
Parker was battling with her own thoughts. She didn't know what had come over her. She never got close or attached to anyone, because when she did they always left her behind. Foster care had shown her that she could never feel anything for anyway, because she would always get hurt in the end. So…why had she gotten so close to Eliot just then? What about him made it feel…okay to feel?
"Hm? Yeah, what's up?" she asked, pulled from her thoughts.
Eliot chewed on the inside of his lip for a moment, and then shook his head. "Forget it."
…Then fell an awkward silence between them.
This was going to be a long night.
Well, that's that. For now. I don't know how many chapters there will be; maybe one or two more i'm thinking? We will see!
Until then, let me know what you think!
Thank you for giving it a chance!
Stay safe everyone!