There Is No "I" In Team

Summary: Tag to "The Wedding Job". It takes time for a lone wolf to get used to being part of a team. For Eliot it might have taken too much time to learn that there is nothing wrong with getting help from the people you work with.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything connected to Leverage, and am not associated with the people who own the show. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made with this story as it was written for entertainment purposes only.

Rating due to some language and violence.

This is my first shot at writing Leverage. I absolutely love the first season, and the fact that the characters and their dynamics are still developing is great for getting story ideas.

Hope you enjoy!

There Is No "I" In Team - Chapter 1

The Butcher of Kiev.

Of all the people who had to show up at this wedding while they were working a job it had to be the Butcher of Kiev.

Eliot should have known that hiding out in the kitchen while the rest of the team tried to finish the job wasn't going to cut it. With all the jobs he had worked over the past years, it was a small wonder something like this hadn't happened before. You always met twice in life. Well, at least those who had left their first encounter with him still breathing.

Which unfortunately included the Butcher of Kiev, though it hadn't been for a lack of trying on Eliot's part to make sure that the man wasn't going to ever surface again. But that job eight years ago had been a disaster from start to finish, and in the end he had been lucky to get out of it alive. Get in, retrieve the money, get out. That had been the plan.

As with all Russian mobsters, the Butcher hadn't taken the part about taking the money too kindly, and a simple in and out-job had suddenly involved a burning warehouse and a maniac with a knife who was trying to skewer him. A maniac who was now advancing on him, butcher's cleaver in hand, and with two henchmen backing him up.

Eliot wasn't too worried about the numbers. He had the henchmen in his peripheral vision all the time, and it didn't take more than one look for him to know that he could drop them in a few seconds. The Butcher was going to be a bit more difficult to handle, he still remembered that part vividly. And the guy didn't look as if he had stopped working out over the past couple of years.

But what really worried him was that the house was filled with people, the wedding was just about to happen, and the team was trying to work a job. If he lost control of the situation here in the kitchen, it was going to blow their cover and bust the job.

Eliot felt more than he saw one of the henchmen make a move on him, and he stopped contemplating and let his instincts take over. He spun around and blocked the blow aimed towards him, using his opponent's momentum against him to throw him off. Of course the second henchman took that as his cue to storm forward, but Eliot had expected that move. The problem with most hired muscle was that they were exactly that – muscle. Nothing else. No brain, no plan, no finesse. That was why clever people hired Eliot as their muscle, not some brainless bodybuilders like these two.

It took maybe three seconds for henchmen number two to slide down the back stairs and number one take a longer nap on the kitchen floor, and Eliot quickly turned back so that he was facing the Butcher again. This had only been the prelude, one that stood in absolutely no relation to what was still to come. The Butcher was another league entirely than those two goons.

During those couple of seconds that it had taken to drop the henchmen, the Butcher had somehow acquired a knife in addition to the meat cleaver, and seeing that Eliot noticed this, he grinned at him.

"And now, I will kill you."

Eliot lived on the premise to never say something you weren't prepared to do, but he didn't doubt for one second that the Butcher meant what he was saying. Which still didn't worry him overly much. Of course, in this case he was facing an opponent whose bite definitely was much, much worse than his bark, but still. No, what worried Eliot was that he had ended up on that side of the kitchen where there were no knifes or meat cleavers lying around. Heck, there wasn't even a potato peeler anywhere in sight.

So Eliot grabbed the first object he could lay his hand on, which turned out to be a small frying pan, and met the Butcher's attack. Parrying the blows of a knife and a meat cleaver with a frying pan was less than optimal, but at least it was the kind of fight Eliot preferred. As soon as guns were involved, things got a whole lot more unpredictable. But knives meant close contact combat, and if there was one thing Eliot Spencer was a master in, then it was fighting all kinds of opponents on close range.

A few hits with the pan, then Eliot saw his chance and immediately latched onto it – one well-placed hard blow with the pan against the Butcher's hand and the meat cleaver was gone, and Eliot made a grab for the knife. The Butcher was no slacker when it came to hands on hands fighting either, Eliot knew that. Wrestling the knife out of his other hand was only one thing, but before he knew it the man had a firm grip on his wrist and was twisting the knife towards Eliot's face.

It was a dangerous dance. Eliot could hold his own against almost everybody. He had plenty of training. But it was always most dangerous to go up against an opponent who was just as well-trained and experienced as yourself. It was as if the Butcher anticipated his every move, ready to block and deflect every blow Eliot tried to score, every slash of the knife. And always, always he tried to turn the knife against Eliot by sheer force.

And that was the one thing in which the Butcher probably had a slight advantage over him. Eliot was strong, but not as brutally strong as the other man. So in the end, it probably was his own fault. He should have known better than to let the Butcher maneuver him into a position where there was no quick way for him to move aside, no chance to use the Butcher's own momentum and force for his own advantage. Suddenly he found himself pressed up against the counter, and before his instincts could let him step to the side and free his range of movement again, the Butcher had a firm grip on his wrist and pressed the knife towards Eliot's body with full force.

The only movement Eliot was capable of in his trapped position was a slight shift to the side, but it wasn't enough.

A searing pain shot through his left side as the knife cut into him, and as his eyes narrowed reflexively he saw a triumphant grin spread over the Butcher's face. The pain was bad. Bad enough for his vision to blacken for a moment, but that split second was all the slack Eliot allowed himself. If he gave in to the pain now, he was dead. And his survival instinct was too strong to let that happen. There'd be time to deal with that later, for now he had to use the fact that the Butcher thought he had him beaten. That was always the moment when an opponent's defenses were down.

Tapping into his last adrenaline reserves, Eliot stomped on the Butcher's instep as hard as he could. Thick-soled boots did their job, and while it wasn't going to incapacitate the man for long, it was enough to throw him off balance for a second. All Eliot needed to push the man back, throwing him further off balance.

The knife hurt even more going out than it had going in, but there was no time for that now. Later. After the job. Before the Butcher had the chance to fully recuperate from the fact that an opponent he had believed already beaten was still fighting back, Eliot landed a hard punch in the man's scarred face. The Butcher tried to go for the knife again, but it slid from Eliot's grip even though he could have sworn that he had a firm hold on the handle.

With a roar of rage the Butcher threw himself at Eliot, spinning them around and pinning Eliot against the kitchen's middle island. For a second, Eliot wondered how far the wedding had progressed. If they were already done with the vows and people started mingling about, somebody was soon going to notice what was going on here. This needed to end.

But that was all the time he had for contemplation. Obviously, the Butcher was thinking along similar lines because he kept Eliot firmly pinned against the kitchen island, grabbing for a knife on the counter beside him. Eliot knew that he had left no knife lying on the middle island, but there was something else that might work. And admittedly, right now he was desperate enough to try.

While the Butcher was still fumbling around for the knife, Eliot reached behind his head for the tray he knew was lying there. The movement sent a searing pain down his entire left side, but he bit his lip and stretched further, and yet another bit further, until his fingers closed around the first small, soft objects that were lying there.

With every ounce of strength he had left, Eliot brought the hand holding the mushrooms forward and pressed them into the Butcher's eyes. Fresh lemon juice wasn't going to kill anyone, but if it got in the eyes, it burnt like bitch. The Butcher screamed and reflexively dropped the knife, bringing his hands up against his eyes, wiping and rubbing at them as if this was going to make it better. It had to be a blow to the man's ego, Eliot thought, getting burnt by him twice – once with fire, and once with lemon juice.

As the Butcher leaned back in pain he also loosened his hold that kept Eliot pressed against the kitchen island, and before the Russian had any chance to get past the stinging pain in his eyes, Eliot reached for the nearest tray and brought it down on the man's head, hard.

There was one thing to say about rich people, they didn't go halfway about anything, not even the details. The tray was solid silver, and with a resounding clang it sent the Butcher crashing to the floor.

Eliot sank back to lean against the counter, his breaths coming in harsh, pained bursts. His whole side felt as if it was on fire, and the Butcher had landed one or two hits that really made his face smart.

Just as Eliot brought up a hand to see if his nose was bleeding, Nate came into the kitchen. Eliot didn't have the strength left to push himself off the counter or even pull up into a straight position, but Nate didn't seem to think anything of it as he took in the damage and destruction the fight had left all over the kitchen. He was standing slightly behind Eliot and to his right, peering around the corner of the kitchen island at the fallen Butcher, the mushrooms and the tray lying beside his head.

"Did you just kill a guy with an appetizer?"

Eliot didn't know whether to laugh or scream. Of course the Butcher wasn't dead – again – but he wasn't in the mood for joking right now. He needed to make an inventory of his injuries first. And his first instinct was to tell Nate about the knife wound, but he shook that idea off. It hadn't stopped him from taking out the Butcher, so it couldn't be that bad. It only hurt like hell, but there was nothing the other man would be able to do about that, either. Besides, the job wasn't done yet, and from his position Nate couldn't see the wound or the blood, if there was any. Eliot would take care of it himself after he had caught his breath. It wouldn't be the first time. Definitely not.

So all he did was shake his head.

"I don't know. Maybe."

Nate smiled and shook his head with a slightly disbelieving raise of his eyebrows.

"Okay then. We're wrapping this up, get ready to leave."

Eliot nodded, and Nate left the kitchen again. For a few seconds, Eliot simply stood there and tried to breathe. Damn, that had been close. He had nearly blown the whole job by letting the Butcher get the better of him, and he should have known better than to let that happen. But there'd be time to worry about that later, right now he needed to start cleaning up.

Kitchen twine made for great impromptu rope to bind the Butcher's hands and legs. Once that was done, Eliot grabbed his bag and slowly made his way towards the small bathroom down the corridor from the kitchen. He needed to check on the wound and make sure that it wasn't going to stop him from wrapping up the job.

Once in the bathroom and with the door firmly locked behind him, Eliot opened the front of his shirt and carefully shrugged out of it. There was a gash in the fabric where the knife had entered, and a liberal amount of blood was staining the blue shirt. Good thing that Nate had not been able to see his left side earlier. Dried blood was making the fabric stick to the wound, and with his teeth grit Eliot pulled it away.

Looking at himself in the bathroom mirror, Eliot tried to judge how bad the injury was. The wound was still bleeding, which was bad. It was going to need stitches, and sooner rather than later, but even sooner would have to wait for a little while. Once the job was done and they were somewhere where he could take an hour with a mirror and some surgical thread he was going to patch himself up. It wouldn't be the first time.

For now, Eliot tore his bloodstained shirt into pieces. The largest piece he rolled up and put over the wound, then he took two long stripes of fabric and wrapped it around his torso, pulling the makeshift compress tight against the wound. The pain when he applied pressure was agonizing, and Eliot bit his lip nearly hard enough to draw blood to keep from screaming. The bathroom tilted around him, and he had to steady himself against the sink for a few seconds until his vision cleared again and he could move without toppling over.

On any other occasion he would have rifled through the cabinet behind the mirror in search of some painkillers or other medication, but this was a guest bathroom he had been told he could use, and Eliot was sure that he wasn't going to find any medication in there. For now, the bandage would have to do.

Eliot opened his bag and pulled out the second chef shirt he had brought. He hadn't planned on using it for that purpose, rather his thoughts had been that one shirt would get dirty while cooking, and posh people generally didn't like a chef with stains on his shirt running the buffet. But his reasons for bringing the second shirt aside, now it would help cover up the damage. And if he kept his left arm hanging beside his body – not a big feat considering that moving the arm hurt – the bandage underneath the shirt was barely visible.

Eliot took another few seconds to brace himself, then he wiped the blood off the porcelain sink, washed his hands and went back into the kitchen. Nate came back into the kitchen just a few moments later, a black leather bag in his hands. He put it onto the kitchen island and opened it. For a moment, Eliot forgot about the pain in his side as he saw all the dollar bills lying inside the bag in neat stacks. It had worked. The job was done, they had the money. That was the main thing.

Nate closed the bag again and tossed Eliot a pair of keys. They were angling for his left hand, but in a last split-second Eliot forewent his reflexes and grabbed them awkwardly with his right. If he had tried to catch them with his left hand, he wouldn't have been able to stop the pain from showing.

"Put that in the trunk." Nate said, pointing at the bag. Eliot eyed the keys to the car suspiciously, not really understanding what the other man was driving at.

"Of that car?"

Nate only nodded, then he started giving orders to Hardison over the in-ear piece. If Nate had noticed anything about Eliot's condition, he didn't let it on. But then again, Eliot had a tight reign on what he was showing on the outside, and he was sure that he had been able to keep most of the pain from showing on his face.

So while Nate was busy having the team wrap up the job, Eliot took the bag with the money and started towards the garage. If Nate wanted the money in this particular car, he was going to put the money in that car. Nate was the one with the plan, after all, and right now Eliot didn't have either time or strength to waste it on discussions. The sooner they got out of here, the sooner he could tend to the stab wound and forget all about this cruddy job.

The car he was looking for was not in the garage but standing outside, ready to take the newlywed couple off into the honeymoon. Eliot unlocked the trunk, put the bag inside with all the other suitcases that had been prepared for the honeymoon and slammed the lid shut again. Knowing Nate, the man had given him the spare keys for the car. But better safe than sorry. He'd get back inside, give Nate the keys back and then they could get out of here.

There was a small door at the side of the garage through which he'd be able to get back into the house, and Eliot made his way over towards it. But his feet started feeling strangely numb, and his legs didn't seem to follow his command properly anymore. He had been injured often enough to know that the blood loss was getting to him, but he grit his teeth and opened the door to step inside. The job had to be finished first.

The garage was huge, but what else could you expect from a rich guy like Moscone? Those people had money, and they showed it. There were maybe six or eight cars parked in the huge garage. Eliot had barely noticed it walking out to drop the bag in the car, but right now the distance through the garage seemed huge. Cold sweat broke out on his forehead, and Eliot had to support himself with his hand against a wall for a second to stop the room from spinning.

His face was cold from sweat, his vision was getting blurry, and his side was throbbing in agony. He needed to get out of here and somewhere where he could stitch himself up, fast. Some fluids, some rest and a few pills, and he'd be fine again in no time.

No time.

Right. That was it. He didn't have any time to waste. The job had to be wrapped up, then they could get out of here.

But the room continued to spin around him as soon as Eliot took his hand away from the steadying wall. Navigating the small passage between the wall and the parked cars, Eliot took laborious step after step towards the door that would bring him back into the house, but he hadn't even gotten halfway through the garage when he realized that he wasn't going to make it. His vision was blackening at the edges, his own heart was pumping loudly in his ears, and even without looking he knew that his wound was still bleeding, blood seeping through the makeshift bandage and his shirt.

Well, wasn't that going to be buckets of fun trying to explain to Nate and the rest of the team why he was bleeding like a stuck pig. If he wasted any more time, Hardison and Nate were going to have to carry him out of here. And wouldn't that put a damper on the whole wedding planner disguise?

Eliot blinked against the sudden fuzziness of his vision. The shapes of the cars blurred in front of his eyes, and as he reached for the wall to steady himself his hand suddenly reached into emptiness.

Eliot tried to catch his balance, but his body was already falling, his feet wouldn't follow his command, and the last thing he was aware of was a stab of agony through his side as he fell to the ground. He had a flash of insight then that he was equipped with an earwig and a mic, and could have called for help at any time. If he had thought about it. But after years of working alone, calling for help hadn't even occurred to him. He had only ever learned to rely on himself, not on others.

But now he could have, while he still had the strength.

Too late now.

Everything turned dark.




Thanks for reading. As always, please let me know what you think. Thanks a lot.