Disclaimer: I don't own them. Dammit.

A/N: Did ya'll see how smokin' Eliot was in "The Wedding Job"? Man, I wish I looked half as hot in my chef's coat. And when he went after Mafia lady with the knife I was totally cheering him on….I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to brain someone with my spatula!!!

I'm thinking that this may be just a series of one-shot vignettes, added to whenever I feel the need for shameless Eliot-whumping. Suggestions are greatly welcomed *hint hint* ;P

Chapter One dedicated to xxDevil9xx for the idea: Eliot takes a bullet for a teammate.

Sacrifices We Make : Dance with the Devil

Oh, this was going south. Really south. Like ant-freaking-arctica south. Why was it that whenever something seemed to be going as smooth as silk, someone felt the need to unravel it?

"Murphy hates me. He really frickin' hates me," he mumbled.

"What was that, man?" Hardison asked. "Didn't quite catch all that."

"Nevermind….." Eliot said a little louder, then returned to his grumbling. "One job, no sweat, in and out before they know what's happening…mrff."

Inside the van, Hardison and Parker smirked at each other. Although the job wasn't going down quite the way Nathan had planned, things weren't yet to an unsalvageable impasse.

Nate and Sophie were inside the courtyard of a rather impressive mansion waiting to meet the 'daughter' of the millionaire who lived there. In reality, the young woman they were waiting for was the sister of the woman who had hired them, one Natalie Dayonne. Ms. Dayonne's youngest sister, Monica, had disappeared from home a few months ago. Having discovered that she had fallen in with a religious cult that required members to 'donate' all of their worldly possessions, she hired the Leverage team to get Monica back.

Eliot was currently stationed across the street from the mansion, hiding behind a low rock wall, watching through a pair of binoculars. Their previous intel had uncovered hired muscle, but none of them had carried weapons. Until now. And Eliot was getting worried. Four men stood at regular intervals on the roof of the manse, armed with what looked like high-powered rifles. His eyes continuously roved over the entire scene, watching the armed men, Nate and Sophie, and the rest of the courtyard that he could see.

A quarter of a mile behind Eliot, Hardison and Parker sat in the van, listening in to Nate and Eliot's mikes. The leader of the cult, Seth, seemed to be on a roll as he tried to distract Nate and Sophie from their goal.

"Certainly I understand that our Mary must…"

"It's 'Monica'," Sophie stated for the third time.

"Yes, yes, like I was saying, I understand she must have financial advisors for her accounts, as she is only fifteen, but I don't understand why she must be present for this. After all, we are all adults, and…"

"We will not be able to sign any of the documents for her without her express approval, I'm sure you understand," Nate was saying.

Eliot tuned out the words and continued to watch.

A few moments later, Seth seemed to finally agree, and sent one of his butlers for the young girl. He returned with a thin, dark haired girl dressed in a brightly colored shirt and linen pants.

Looking through the binoculars, Eliot could see that the young girl was jumpy. Apparently the 'doctrine' had not been fully instilled, as she seemed less brainwashed than the others he had seen. Sophie said something about Natalie, and then all hell broke loose.

oooOOOooo

Monica's eyes widened as she heard her sister's name.

"Natalie?!? Natalie sent you??" she asked wildly.

"Well, she sent us on your behalf," Nathan started to say.

"I want to see her! Where is she?"

"Mary, dear, calm yourself," Seth said as he placed both hands firmly on her shoulders, blocking her view of Nate and Sophie with his body. "You know that you are unable to see anyone until…"

"No! I want to see her now!" Monica stated again, ducking around him wildly.

"Parker, get the van ready. Hardison, jam them now!" Eliot barked into his headset, knowing that it was only a matter of moments before Monica broke free, and Nate or Sophie would grab her.

Hardison hit the switch to send feedback into the headsets of the mansion staff, and grinned as he saw the guards wince and yank the wires from their ears.

Eliot was on his feet and running across the street in seconds, taking the two gate guards by surprise as he plowed a fist into one man's face and knocking him out cold instantly. He was tackling the other as Nate and Sophie fled past, Monica in tow. Seth started to race past him, but Eliot snaked one foot out and tripped him, sending him tumbling onto the pavement.

The rooftop guards hesitated to fire, knowing their boss was in their line of fire, and that gave the others time to make it to the van. Hardison threw the side door open and Sophie and Monica jumped in while Nathan raced around to the front, getting into the driver's seat as Parker slid over to the passengers side.

Eliot danced his dance of pain and anger as he blocked punches, kicked, spun, and slammed his fists into his opponents' flesh. A matter of minutes and the second guard and the leader were lying on the cement, unmoving.

The rest of the team watched as Eliot raced across the street and leaped over the low rock wall. He made it a few steps farther when the first bullet slammed into his back.

He screamed as the pain exploded just above his right kidney. He crashed into the ground as more bullets ripped into the grass on either side of him.

"GO!!" He bellowed into the mike. "GO!!!"

Nate shifted the van into gear, automatically locking the doors just as Sophie and Alec jumped towards the doors.

"Nate! NATE!" Sophie screamed. "We can't leave him!!"

She watched helplessly out the back of the van as Eliot struggled to get back onto his feet. His back arched as two more bullets hit him, his face twisted in agony. He managed to get to one knee when a fourth bullet threw him back to the ground.

"…get out of here…..go…" he whispered as he lay on the grass. Then nothing.

Nate rammed his foot further down on the gas as the van rocketed forward, knowing they had to get Monica as far away as fast as they could.

oooOOOooo

Reuniting Monica with her sister had been a bittersweet victory. The team smiled on the outside as they cried on the inside, each trying to erase the horrible pictures that seemed seared into their brains.

Hours later, Hardison monitored the radio traffic as they drove back to their offices and listened as the state and local authorities were called, one by one, to the scene at the mansion by a neighbor who had heard gunshots. Knowing that precious little information would be given out over the radios, he still listened intently for any mention of the body of a young man that lay on the green grass opposite the mansion. He could picture it in his head, Eliot lying in a pool of blood, the pain that Alec had last seen marring his face erased in death.

Sophie sat beside him, wondering if she could have stopped Nathan from driving away. If only she had kept the door open, if only she had grabbed Eliot as she ran past him, if only she had said something to Monica to calm her a little. If only, if only, if only. Now all she could see was the look of raw agony marring Eliot's handsome face as he fell into the grass.

Nathan drove in silence, his hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly he was mildly surprised that he didn't break it in two. He had left Eliot. No matter that it was what Eliot had demanded. Monica's safety was the only thing that mattered at that moment, and Eliot knew it. He knew that he couldn't get back to the van, and had demanded that they accept his sacrifice and get the little girl to safety, even if that meant leaving him. Nathan knew he would never forget that last whispered, "..go.."

Parker sat in the passenger seat, remembering Eliot's grumbling about the little things that weren't quite to his satisfaction. Everyone thought that Eliot was so quiet, but she heard everything he didn't say. She heard him growl inside every time he jumped into a fight, she heard him silently yell in victory as he stood over an opponent, and she heard him sigh contentedly after every job when they all came back safely. Everyone thought he was so silent, but she heard him cry as they drove away.

oooOOOooo

Lost in their own thoughts, the four team members silently filed into the dim conference room, then stopped in shock.

On the conference table lay a black Kevlar vest with tufts of stuffing poking out of it in places. Four flattened bullets lay on the table beside it.

"Nate," Sophie whispered, placing her hand on his arm. He looked at her, but her eyes were fastened on the back of the room.

He followed her gaze.

On the couch that sat against the far wall lay a prone figure in jeans and t-shirt, his back to them. The well muscled form and long chestnut hair left little doubt as to the identity of the man.

Nate walked softly to the bench and gingerly sat down. Gently he raised Eliot's shirt and they all gasped at the deep bruises that covered his back.

"Nothing's broken," rasped a soft voice. "Cracked, maybe. Just hurts like hell."

Nate looked up at Eliot's face. Closed eyes slowly opened.

"What made you wear the vest?"

"Usually do when I think someone's gonna be shootin' at me," the sardonic look on his face deepened, one brow raised. "Ain't stupid, you know," he growled.

"No, I didn't mean…"

"We'd never think that…"

"We were so worried…."

"When you were hit…"

Voices rushed to negate his statement and fill the awkward void, only to trail off. Eliot only grunted and closed his eyes, suddenly exhausted.

Hardison and Parker swiftly ran from the room, and after a moment, so did Sophie.

"Scared them off, didn't I?" Eliot sighed.

"Well, your bark is rather as bad as your bite, but I don't think you scared them at all. They're rather familiar with this particular dog's growling," Nate said, almost affectionately, his hand resting on the younger man's shoulder.

One by one the others returned. Hardison had brought a heating pad, which he plugged in and laid against Eliot's back. Eliot tensed a bit at the pain, hissing through his teeth. Hardison ran his hand along the warming pad, making sure it covered the worst of the bruising.

Sophie sat in the spot Nate vacated, handing a couple of pain pills to Eliot, then a glass of water, making sure he swallowed them.

Parker moved in next, covering him with a soft blanket and tucking it around his shoulders.

Eliot was silent, unsure of this display of care and tenderness from his teammates.

"Rest, Eliot. We'll be here if you need us."

Surprised to realize that they meant it, he surrendered to his body's demands, and he slept.