A/N: I know it's been a LOOOOONG time since the last chapter, and I apologize. But here's the ending chapter. Hope it was worth the wait.
Parker had managed to snag a couple of women's magazines from the waiting room and brought them to Eliot's bedside, reading them to pass the time. She shook her head at one of them, scanning the cover. "How can they have a headline that says, "Lose weight!" and have a picture of a chocolate cake on the cover? Duh!" she muttered, shaking her head some more before heading to the recipe section. A minute later, her brows furrowed, she added, "easier to just go to the grocery store and buy a cake."
"Won't… taste… as good."
Parker looked up, startled at the whispered words, and met Eliot's tired gaze.
"Hey! You're awake!" she exclaimed, a smile on her face.
Parker found herself at a loss for words then, not knowing what else to say to Eliot.
Seeing the hesitant look on her face, even in his tired state, he knew she wasn't one for small talk and that this circumstance would make her even more uncomfortable.
"We secure?" he asked, getting her mind back to business. "Nate and Sophie okay?"
Parker sat up then, comfortable with this conversation. "Oh, yeah. You're the only one that got hurt," she said. "You're Eliot Smith – how boring," she reported, rolling her eyes. "You were defending Ambassador Duncan and his wife, when someone tried to mug them. Me and Hardison work for the Embassy and are checking into things." When she saw that Eliot had a look of understanding on his face, she sat back in her seat, bringing one foot up on it and resting her chin on her knee. "You're like a hero or something. And a witness. I'm protecting you right now."
"Don't make… me… laugh, Parker," Eliot got out, trying not to do just that. "I could kick… your ass… from here."
Parker squinted her eyes at him, mocking him. "Not if I pull at a certain tube connected to your anatomy…" she told him, a playful tone in her voice.
Eliot closed his eyes. "You can be… nasty… Parker."
"Remember that, Eliot," she said. "Now go back to sleep."
Later in the morning, the rest of the group showed up. Hardison took over "guard duty" for Parker, and sent her to the hotel to get some sleep. Nate and Sophie were allowed in to Eliot's room for a brief visit.
"Are you doing well, Eliot?" Nate asked. "The doctors say you are," he added.
Eliot smiled at the British accent, but nodded his head, saying, "Yeah, Boss, I'm okay." He grimaced as he tried to sit up in his bed. "When can I get out of here?" he asked.
Sophie smiled as she shook her head, coming to sit on the bed, keeping him from moving any more. "When the doctor says you're ready," she told him, patting his hand.
"Ain't safe. Y'all should get outta here."
"We're fine, Eliot," Hardison put in. "I'm keeping tabs on things – no one's after us. No one's asking snoopy questions. The bills are being paid..."
Eliot was about to protest when Nate held up his hand. He leaned in closer to Eliot, dropped the British accent and said, "He's right, Eliot. We're good. The only job right now is to get you better. And that means staying put."
"Hey, you'll have Parker or me with you twenty-four/seven," Hardison chimed in. "Can't beat that for company – well, my company, anyways."
The look Eliot gave him showed that he would disagree.
"I think it's time Eliot got some rest," Sophie said. "The more rest he gets, the sooner he'll be able to leave – and not need the Embassy's finest watching over him."
Three days later Eliot managed to convince his doctor to release him. Ambassador Duncan and his wife graciously arranged for his transportation home and promised to hire the best medical staff to assist in his rehabilitation.
"I ain't no invalid, guys."
"Just sit in the damn wheelchair, Eliot, so we can get the hell out of this place," Hardison scolded.
"It's only until you leave the hospital and get to the limousine," Sophie added.
Eliot relented and sat in the wheelchair, doing his best to hide the wince of pain in his side.
"See! You can't tell me you ain't still hurtin'!" Hardison admonished. "I'm fine, I'm fine…" he mimicked.
"I can still kick your ass, Hardison," Eliot retorted.
"Anybody can do that," Parker put in.
"How did this turn into a put down Hardison deal?" Hardison asked. "He's the one bein' a pain in the ass!" he added pointing to Eliot, being wheeled toward the elevators.
Nate put a hand on Hardison's shoulder, keeping him from following.
"Everything set here, Hardison?" he asked quietly.
Hardison took a breath to let go of his hurt feelings and nodded to Nate. "Yeah. All the bills are paid – hospital and hotel. Ives and his crew are still running in the opposite direction – set that up before anything went wrong. Anyone tries to follow up on anything here is gonna come up on a dead end."
Nate nodded his head and patted Hardison on the back. "Good work. Now let's get our boy home."
Shortly after the ride started, Eliot closed his eyes. While he was tired, sleep wasn't quite what he needed at the time. The looks he kept getting from his teammates were starting to bother him – not so much in a bad way that they were uncomfortable… yet… they were. He wasn't used to such scrutiny – at least not such caring scrutiny.
In his hospital room it hadn't been that bad. There were distractions – the nurses coming and going, the television, the end of visiting hours. Hell, he even fell asleep a few times – genuinely.
Now, though, for the two hour ride home, all eyes were upon him. If it was anyone else, he would have just told them to go fuck themselves and look somewhere else. But he couldn't say that to this group.
Any other job he may have worked – with any other crew in the world – he would have been dumped on the roadside and left for dead. Caring for an injured teammate wasn't worth the risk in most cases. Not when people were after you.
This team was different. He knew he'd never leave one of them behind. Not now. Not ever. Not family.
He smiled then and opened his eyes.
"Eliot?" Nate asked.
"Thanks, guys. For taking care of me."