It's not in him to give up, Parker realises.
Just like Nate can't let an injustice go, and Sophie can't stop watching people until she's got them figured out, and Hardison can't leave a security system alone until he's cracked it.
Eliot moves fast and deadly, far lighter than his stocky build would suggest. If he had on long sleeves, Parker thinks, you might not even notice that he's injured. She pulls her feet up on the narrow rafter in the gym roof and once again, she watches him train.
Hardison's told him he shouldn't be training, that it's OK for him to take some down time, that he should make the most of it before Nate finds them another job and just let himself heal. But here he is, practising kata, fighting his imaginary opponents one-handed with his broken arm tucked in close to his chest. His moves are slow and controlled, balanced and careful, but when he forgets and moves his injured arm out to parry or block, Parker can see that it hurts him to do it.
His eyes are closed and he's frowning. He moves again and breaks the pattern, and Parker can almost see the enemy he's fighting in his head. She watches the grab that would be someone's neck, the kick clearly aimed at his enemy's ribs and the sweep that would drop them hard onto the concrete. She scrunches down on her rafter, protecting her own neck from half a childhood memory that bubbles to the surface, and the shadow of a hand around her own throat.
A fast turn and parry has Eliot forget again, and he hisses with pain. Parker watches him curl his fingers against the cast and take a deep breath as he pulls his arm in close. Even fighting one-handed, he's formidable. If anything, working around an injury makes him more dangerous, more vicious in a fight because he knows he's starting at a disadvantage. He's sweating now, his face creased in concentration. Parker can see the effort it takes him to keep training, to keep pushing himself to his limits.
He must have done thousands of left handed punches and elbow strikes since he broke his right arm. The people he trains with look at him with expressions Parker can't read. It's something like the face Hardison shows to Nate when Nate comes up with an especially good plan though, so Parker figures that might be what respect looks like.
Eliot pulls the bandanna off his head as he walks around the mats. He's breathing really hard and he looks angry. Parker drops lightly off her rafter and lands at the edge of the mats. She doesn't step onto them because shoes aren't allowed, but waits for Eliot to walk around to where she is. He flips his hair back and nods to her. His shirt is sticking to his back, and Parker can smell the soap-and-sweat scent of him.
He stops when he gets to her, sitting down and starting to stretch out. Parker sits down too, legs crossed, and studies him. Like a lot of fighters, he's more flexible than he looks. He leans forward over his legs until his chest touches them, reaching out to put his hands around his feet. The movement pulls at his broken arm and he winces, pulling it back.
"Why what, Parker?" Eliot sits up and frowns at her, holding his arm.
"Why do you still train when you're hurt? You won't mend." Parker looks away from his steady gaze, picking at a bit of loose rubber on her sneaker.
"I won't… Parker, look at me." Eliot waits until she looks up at him through her fringe. "You've seen me worse than this, right?" She nods. "And I was fine then, yes?" Another nod. "And I'll be fine now. This is just taking a little time to heal, is all."
"But why can't you take some time off? Nate said we could."
"Yeah, he did." Eliot sighs, pushing back his damp hair. "Parker, you think the Italian is taking some time off right about now? How about Moreau?" He watches her shake her head. "No, me neither. Moreau is still out there, still hurting people. Still ruining lives. Still…" he breaks off, biting down on whatever he'd planned to say next. Instead, he stands and holds out his good hand to her.
"I can't rest until this is done. I have to be ready, so I have to keep training, keep my edge sharp." He pulls her to her feet, surprised as always at how little she weighs. "I gotta keep the team safe. It's my job."
"And you always do your job. I know." Parker takes her hand back and stuffs it in her pocket. "Even when it hurts you to do it."
"Even then." Eliot's voice is quiet, his expression bleak. "Especially then."
Parker watches him collect his gear and head for the showers, broken arm hanging stiff. There's something about Moreau that hurts Eliot in ways that have nothing to do with a broken arm, she thinks. Something he's keeping secret. Parker understands about secrets, understands how much it can hurt when they get out in the open before you're ready for them.
Alone in the gym, Parker makes a silent promise to Eliot: When he tells this secret, she'll be there for him.
No matter what it is.