Disclaimer: I do not own Leverage, or the characters from Leverage.
This is not one of my better works. But my sisters like it; this is for you, girls!
"I was just –"
"You just thought you'd take things into your own hands? Go off script?" Eliot growled the words, his voice taking on that dangerous quality his teammates had come to understand to mean 'back off, or lose an arm.' He usually only used it on the bad guys … people he was about to beat up. Sometimes he'd use a watered-down version on Hardison when he was being really annoying, but this was full force.
Tara, however, wasn't getting the message. Nate and Hardison both flinched as she took a brazen step forward into Eliot's personal space, going beyond simple lack of self-preservation to outright defiance of all reason and survival instincts.
"Look, Eliot," her voice was calm and set in a tone they were all familiar with from when Sophie would manipulate the mark just where she wanted him … just before the kill shot. "I get that you're angry, but I was only doing what I had to, to keep Lukas in play. We were losing him; I had to do something."
Eliot's glare would have felled a lesser individual; fortunately for the grifter, Tara had some experience with pissed off men about eight inches from tearing her limb from limb. It couldn't be helped when you went around making people fall madly in love with you for fun and profit, only to rob them blind and leave them hanging. Still, she took a step back, but her expression remained defiant … arrogant.
Every word was enunciated with deadly venom; "You don't sell out your team so you can make your own escape. You don't."
"That's not what I did!" Tara exclaimed, exasperation coloring her tone as she threw her hands in the air. She glanced to where Hardison was sitting hunched over his laptop, seeking help.
Hardison refused to meet her eyes as he quickly gathered up his things and moved into what had been the neighboring apartment before Eliot cut a doorway in the wall. Parker was in that room, where they had deposited her so that Eliot could take care of the mostly superficial wound; he had assured them that she didn't need a hospital, and it was just so much easier not to go through all the trouble of aliases and insurance if they didn't have to.
Tara switched her pleading gaze to Nate, but he was intent on the shot glass in his hand, watching the golden brown liquid swirl gently as his grip shook a little. She would get no help from him now.
Eliot shook his head, hair normally pulled back but which had fallen free during the rescue falling into his face. "Yeah, you did." He insisted, unmoved. "It was your job to keep the mark busy, not send him Parker's way without givin' her any kind of a warning. You blew the con. More important, you got Parker shot." His voice went flat and deadly at the end. A chill moved through the room and nobody breathed.
Tara was silent for a moment, and Eliot thought he saw something flash across her face and fester in her eyes. It looked almost like regret … but it was gone as quickly as it had come. Her face reverted to the face of a grifter on a con, smooth and unreadable.
"It wasn't my fault. If I had said anything, Lukas would have heard and he would have killed both you and me. Then he would have found and killed Parker. I made the right call."
Eliot scoffed. "Right for who?"
"Eliot …" Nate's voice was more tired than admonishing, but it was enough.
The tension in the room softened slightly as Eliot took a step back, his face twisted into a snarl. He didn't say anything else, just moved quickly around Tara, careful not to brush his newly relocated shoulder against her, and into the other room with Parker and Hardison.
Tara turned to Nate. "Thanks." She sank down on the couch tiredly. It had been a long day.
"Didn't do it for you; Eliot would've been pissed later if he lost his temper now." Nate kept his eyes on his alcohol, but he still didn't take a sip. He poured the bourbon first thing when they got back, before he even took a moment to assess their losses, but he hadn't taken a sip yet.
Tara nodded. "Fair enough." She toyed with the heavy bracelet on her left wrist; part of the persona she had been playing. "So do you blame me too?" she asked, keeping her gaze fixed on the side of his head.
Nate sighed heavily as he set the liquor on the countertop. He turned to face her. "I don't know. I don't know what to think, Tara. You disobeyed orders; you nearly got us all killed. There is a reason I tell you guys to do the things that I do, but you didn't trust me. And that's the real problem, you know. You didn't trust me. Teams don't work if the people on them don't trust each other. People get hurt. So, what you need to ask yourself is, do you want to trust us? Can you trust us? Because if the answer is no, then I suggest you get out now, before someone gets hurt worse than what Eliot can fix with an Ace bandage and an ice pack. If you can't trust us, then you need to leave now."
Tara sat stunned for a moment. Nate met her eyes steadily, not about to take back anything he had said. There was no reason to; he meant every word.
"Well, then maybe I should go." Tara tested the waters gently as she could. Gentle had never been her strong suit.
Nate blinked. "Maybe you should."
She had expected him to put up more of a fight. Maybe he did blame her, after all.
Tara stood, nodding once before moving toward the door. "I'm gonna get some air." She didn't look back until the door closed behind her. Neither of them, grifter or mastermind, knew if she would be walking back through that door. After all, she didn't owe Sophie this much. This … this was like family. She hadn't been prepared for a family. She wasn't sure if she loved or hated it. She wasn't sure she could stand it yet.
She wasn't sure she'd be coming back.