Leverage fanfic, not mine, no money made, blah blah blah. Altho, if a certain Retrieval Expert wanted to 'retrieve' me, I'd make nooooo fuss. Don't worry; I'll put 'em back on the shelf when I'm done........mebbe.
This is purely Eliot-whumpage, PWP (Pain Without Plot), because there's not enough of it!!! My brain refused to let this one go, so I decided to humor it.
Oh yeah, and I've only seen about 2 episodes, so if the characterization is off, please forgive! I just needed to get some whumping in, and Eliot begged for it :)
In the back of his mind he could hear the urgent insistence that told him to 'wake up, wake up now!' His body, however, would not respond. Somehow he knew he was in a panel van, and had been there for some time. He wasn't sure exactly how long, but the thirst in his throat told him it had been for more than a few hours. Fragments of memory assaulted his brain; a bar at night, a fight, a blinding pain in his head, then nothing until now.
He could hear big metal doors somewhere close starting to roll open, and then hands grasping his t-shirt. They pulled at him, flinging his body harshly from the bed of the van onto the hard ground.
He blacked out for a moment, then distantly felt himself dragged on his stomach by his manacled ankles across pavement, his cheek being lacerated by the concrete before his head thumped from hard surface onto softer grass. They dragged him a bit further, then grabbed him by his jeans and t-shirt again and hoisted him onto the back of what felt like an ATV. Ropes were lashed around his shoulders and waist to secure him in place, his legs hanging over the edge, and the vehicle lurched into motion. His head banged roughly onto the hard metal surface and then he lost even that little awareness.
"Rise and shine, little rabbit!!" The sing-song voice didn't match the boot that thudded into Eliot's ribs as he was jerked from darkness. "Rise and shine before I shoot you in the head, you little jackass!"
Hearing the rising anger in the voice, he gingerly opened his eyes to find himself lying on his side, staring up at three men with camouflage clothing on and holding long hunting rifles. They were in a lightly wooded ravine, with the sun hammering down.
"…w….what..?" he stammered, trying to get his brain to start firing on all cylinders. Eliot realized he was handcuffed wrist and ankle and nearly naked, wearing only his jeans.
One of his captors towered over him in the hot sunshine, grinning, a cigarette hanging from his lips. The two others had backed off and now stood twenty yards away by two ATVs.
"Well, see here, Little Rabbit, we're on a huntin' trip," the man closest to him said as he crouched down closer to Eliot, although never making the mistake of getting too close. "There are all kinds of hunting trips a man can go on, and I found me some 'clients' who would pay a lot more money for a really special hunt, rather than one with just grizzlies, or big cats, or stuff like that. See, there's some who want their targets to be able to think, to strategize, not just run. I spent the better part of a month finding and catching you in my little trap, and now, Little Rabbit, you are going to be their fifth trophy!"
Chills ran up Eliot's back as he realized he was the prey in an exotic safari, even though he was obviously still in the western USA. He looked at the man in front of him, who apparently enjoyed his captive's predicament as he puffed on his cigarette.
"Now, the way this works, we give you a two hour head start, then we track you. If you can make it to civilization, you win. If you don't….." He let the sentence fall.
"How the hell can it be a fair chase if I'm handcuffed?" Eliot growled.
"Oh yeah, there is that. Heh, almost forgot." The man took out a handcuff key from his pocket and dangled it in front of Eliot's face before flinging it off into the distance behind him. "Go fetch."
With that he rose and sauntered back to his companions. They got onto the two ATV's and started the engines.
"You got two hours, Rabbit! Better hurry!!"
Eliot could only stare at the retreating dust in shock, disbelief clearly written across his handsome face.
He didn't let his shock delay him for more than a few seconds though, knowing that he would need every possible moment to get a jump on the hunters. Forcing himself into a sitting position, he looked in the direction Cigarette Man had thrown the key. It was a small hope that he would find it, but if he didn't, he was lost before he even began because there was absolutely no way he could evade them with his ankles cuffed. He couldn't see anything, so he rolled over a few times and sat up and looked again. Three times he did this, and then the blinding sun that he had cursed for the heat gave in and winked off of the tiny silver key.
Eliot had to roll over nearly a dozen more times before he got to the key, and finally he had it in his grasp. Closing his eyes to concentrate, he slid the key into the lock and turned, opening the cuff. In moments he had released the cuffs and started to toss them away. Thinking better of it, he locked them onto his belt loop and put the key into his pocket.
Looking at the shadows on the ground, he noted that it was around noon, and with no idea where he was and no way to find a direction, he simply turned in the opposite direction the ATVs went and headed off at a strong, ground eating lope.
Although he wanted nothing more than to keep running, Eliot knew that somehow he had to not only outrun his trackers, he had to elude them as well. So he began to veer off course, backtrack, and lay a myriad of false trails to confuse his true path. He hated the time it took to obfuscate his path, but he knew that a straight shot on ATVs was a lot faster than a straight shot on two legs. There would be no chance for him to run fast enough.
Figuring that the hunters would head off in one direction until out of sight, and then try to outflank him by circling around as he headed off in the exact opposite direction, Eliot changed his course slightly to one side. By the time the sun fell enough to tell east from west, he figured he was heading roughly southwest. The land began to change from grassy to rocky, which was both a help and a hindrance. The rocks would make tracking him harder as long as he was careful not to disturb them too much. However, it was also rougher on his bare feet, which were actually feeling pretty good while he ran in the soft grasses of the more open fields between the wooded tree lines. He had felt safe running in the open area because they had told him he had a two hour head start, but he hadn't been counting on it, which was why he zigged and zagged unpredictably. Now that he was in a rockier area, he used it to his advantage as much as he could, jumping from boulder to boulder when he was sure they wouldn't roll from their spots and give him away.
After about ten minutes of this, he decided that his two hours were probably up, and he should get into better cover. A more heavily forested area rose up to his right, so he carefully and swiftly worked his way over to the trees and melted into the underbrush.
"Hardison, have you found anything?" Nate was visibly upset and pacing back and forth behind his desk.
"Nothin', Nate. No activity on his credit cards, no John Does at any nearby hospitals or morgues, his vehicle is still where he left it." Alec replied, fingers moving rapidly over the keys of his computer as he frantically tried to find Eliot's whereabouts.
It had been a day and a half since the Leverage crew had seen Eliot, and normally they wouldn't have worried. However, a job had been scheduled for the previous evening, and when Eliot had failed to show, the rest of the team had made the difficult decision to back out. It hadn't been a very important one and could be rescheduled for later, but the fact that the Retrieval Specialist hadn't showed was very unlike him.
In the hours after they returned to their offices, they had realized that Eliot was missing. They had been able to trace him from the offices the afternoon before to his home, then to a local bar, after which they lost his trail.
"Keep working," was all that Nathan replied as he looked out the window into the rapidly falling dusk.
Further out in that dusk, Eliot continued to head in what he hoped was a generally southerly direction. The forest had begun as fairly level ground, but the further he traveled, the hillier it became. Every once in a while he was able to see the night sky, and the stars shone brighter here than in the city. He found the North Star and kept his back to it, heading the opposite direction.
He had been traveling constantly for hours without stopping, trying to get as far as he could before his strength started to fail. With the growing darkness, however, he realized that no matter how brightly the stars shone in the sky, he soon wouldn't be able see well enough to continue without the very real danger of injuring himself, and that he could not risk. He had hiked over a few slopes that day that gradually became more like cliffs, threatening his footing on many occasions and if he fell, the injuries would take him out of the game.
He hadn't seen or heard anything from his pursuers since they left him in the valley, and he was unsure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. It would be good if they had lost his trail, but if they had some other way of tracking him, like a GPS locator or something, it would be bad. He was pretty sure though that they hadn't implanted something like that. Otherwise, what fun was the hunt?
Reluctantly, he decided to search for a place to rest, hoping that the hunters would rest as well, and didn't have night vision goggles. In case they did though, he decided it would be a good idea to hide in an unlikely spot. Before true night fell, he found a place he liked. Climbing like a monkey, he reached a tall fork in a large tree and wedged himself into it, gathering a few branches closely to himself to break the distinctly human shape of his shadow. Then, he slept.
Not only were the stars brighter at night, the birds were louder in the morning. A LOT louder, Eliot decided as a particularly enthusiastic songbird trilled a melody nearly right in his ear. Thankfully he wasn't too startled to fall from his perch. Taking precious time to scout the clearing under the tree, as well as the surrounding forest he could see in the early light, he decided it was safe to descend. Aches and bruises made themselves known quite clearly as he dropped the final few feet to the ground. Sleeping in a tree was definitely something he was going to remove from his 'things to do' list.
Feeling the muscles in his legs complain he spared himself a moment to stretch. Unfortunately, it also made him aware of the sunburn on his back from the previous day.
It was early enough in the dawn that the sun hadn't yet burned off the morning dew that clung to the leaves and grass. Eliot's throat was so dry. He lowered his mouth to the forest leaves that gathered dew and licked at them, trying to get as much moisture as he could, but it wasn't much. He had to find a stream or some source of water today or his odds would drop severely. He picked up a pebble from the ground, brushed it off and put it in his mouth. Rolling it around and sucking on it would produce a little saliva.
Noting the sun's orientation, he put it to his left shoulder and resumed his journey.
After hiking up and down half a dozen hills and covering about eight miles in his estimation, Eliot reached the edge of the current forest and looked out on a field that was about two miles across. He sat on a small rise, resting for a few minutes and trying to figure out if he should keep to the trees or risk crossing the open area and into the mountains beyond. He had almost decided to stay in the forest when a glimmer near the far edge met his eyes, and the decision was made for him.
He had to go. Water was his survival, and with no sign of the hunters for almost a full day, he had to take the chance.
Feeling the hairs on the back of his neck quiver and his instincts scream at his foolishness, he left the relative safety of the woods and shot out into the open. He ran hunched over, trying to keep as low as possible and changed course unpredictably, slowing and speeding up in case they were trying to catch a bead on him.
Finally he reached the small watering hole. Falling to his knees at the edge, he shoved his hand in and drank a few handfuls before he realized his surroundings. On the far side of the small pond was a skeleton of a raccoon, and nearby, the decaying carcass of a fox. He looked closer and saw the absence of animal tracks, and then he noticed the oily sheen of the stagnant water itself.
He stumbled to his feet and staggered a few steps, then knelt again and shoved his finger into the back of his throat, inducing his gag reflex. He vomited up most of the brackish water and meager remainders of his last, far away meal. He forced himself to vomit again, knowing that, as weak as he was becoming, he couldn't afford to let any possible poisons remain if he could help it. It was a lose/lose situation, however. When he was finished, he covered it with dirt and erased his tracks at the edge of the pond.
Nauseous, he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, wrinkling his nose at the horrible taste in his mouth. The water pit was close to the edge of the forest opposite the one he had fled from, and he crossed into the dubious cover of the trees and looked for a plant, any plant, with leaves to wipe his tongue off with.
Frustrated for dropping his guard, he breathed deeply and forced himself into a lope again, giving up hiding his tracks, choosing instead the advantage of merely placing distance between himself and the hunters on his trail.
Eliot stumbled over a branch and fell to his knees. His bare feet were torn and bleeding, his knees ached, and the palms of his hands were painfully abraded from slamming into the ground time after time. He was leaving a trail even a blind man could follow, and he knew it. He only hoped he had been cunning enough at the beginning to completely throw off his pursuers.
Night was falling again, and with it, his strength. He had been without water for two days, and the last day had been spent in exhausting flight.
Cursing himself for a quitter, he forced himself to his feet, knowing he had to find somewhere to hide for the night. He wobbled forward and almost instantly fell again, this time into a well hidden depression at the base of a large tree. Backtracking on hands and knees for a few yards to cover the blood from his feet, he swept the scuff marks off his trail and retreated back to the tree and its secret nest. He used a few pine boughs and a pile of leaves to cover himself, then finally relaxed a little and slipped into a light doze.
Hours later he was awakened by his body shaking. The temperature had dropped drastically, and even the blistering heat from his burned back couldn't keep him warm. Shivering, he gathered more leaves and pine boughs closer to himself, hoping the added foliage would insulate him a little. He clenched his teeth to keep them from chattering, and wrapped his arms tightly around his chest, exhaustion finally dropping him into a fitful sleep.
Dawn rose a short time later, but Eliot was unaware. A fever had risen from a combination of lack of water, sunburn, and the bad water he had consumed the day before. His body shook with chills, just to give way to burning heat as he writhed weakly, trying to find a cooler respite, then to tremble again with cold.
When Eliot next awoke, hours had passed and it was approaching midday. He was still feverish, but the worst seemed to have passed, if only for the moment. He was distressed to discover that half of the day was already gone, his hard fought for lead dwindling.
But almost as soon as it came, his distress changed to elation. He could hear a river.
Driving himself to his feet again, he followed the sound of the water. He was annoyed at himself for not hearing it the previous evening, but he refused to dwell on it. That was in the past, and to dwell on it might cloud his thinking and he need to be thinking clearly, especially now. He figured that since this was the first reliable water source he had encountered, the others might have forgone tracking him and merely advanced ahead of him to set a trap.
With that in mind, he crept slowly through the brush, fighting with himself against charging into the water. He forced himself to wait, hiding behind thick ferns, scanning the opposite bank for signs of the hunters. He lay on his stomach for at least 20 minutes, watching, when he finally decided to go to the water. He hadn't heard nor seen the others since they had left him, and he was too thirsty to wait any longer. Eliot crept slowly forward on elbows and knees toward the rushing current, keeping mostly behind a large boulder that sat half submerged in the river.
Finally reaching the life sustaining liquid, he plunged his entire head into the river and drank a huge swallow. He almost moaned in pleasure as the water ran past his cracked lips and down his dry throat. Lifting his head above the water to breathe again, he splashed some of it onto his blistered back, sighing at the soothing feeling. Waiting a few moments to make sure his stomach would handle its new contents without rebelling; he again drank, this time longer and more slowly.
As he raised his head again, he heard a rifle shot ring out from across the river. At almost the same time, a bullet smashed into the boulder beside him, sending shards of granite flying. A few of the rock chips flew into Eliot's cheek and neck, and one particularly large one embedded itself into his right shoulder. Too startled to react to the pain, he reacted to the danger instead, throwing himself backward into the ferns again and rolling to his feet to race behind a tree as more gunshots erupted.