They were all reluctant as they turned away from each other. You could feel the tension in the air between them, hanging as though it was something tangible, holding them all back. They took a few steps, stretching the tension tighter, and they all stopped as it reached its limit. Eliot listened, his trained ear catching as Hardison's sneakers stopped, then Parker's footsteps, which were so quiet it was more vibration than sound, and then Sophie's stilettos came to a stop, and finally, the soft padding of Nathan's dress shoes ended. They stood, facing away from each other, each unwilling to be the first to turn, but each unable to take another step. They should scatter. It would be the smart thing to do. The only problem was that they couldn't. Aimee's words ran through the retrieval specialist's head. I'm glad you found a family. I just wish it could have been mine. At the time, he had tried to deny it, but now, he knew it to be true. It had been easier to turn his back on Aimee. To leave, and not want to return after she had gotten married.
His instincts, thanks to his career choice, led him to leave when he thought that things were getting too hard, or that he was getting too attached to something. So he had left Aimee, and he had still been able to function. But this was different. He couldn't walk away, even though he was in more danger of being hurt working for a team that by himself. He thought of Sophie, who had conned them, betrayed them all, and how, as soon as she had delivered her almost-but-not apology, he had forgiven her. He thought of Nate, whom he hadn't wanted to work with at all in the beginning, who had put him in jail not one, not two, but three times. One of the highlights of agreeing to work with Nathan Ford that first job was revenge. He had planned to leave the ex-insurance investigator with a few nice injuries. He had started working with him instead. He thought of Hardison, whom he had hated at first, but in that first job, had turned and helped save as they fled a building about to explode. Precious seconds had been used up, but he hadn't had the thought to leave Hardison. He thought of Parker, and how he had told her that there was something wrong with her, but now he felt almost safe knowing that she was stealing something.
How had he come from disliking the others to considering them friends? When had he started feeling safer when he was around them than when he was by himself? He hadn't really acknowledged the fact, but now he couldn't deny it any longer. They weren't just a team of criminals. They had formed a little tight-knit family of misfits. They were the people whom reality had cast out, and they had banded together to help the other people that the world had turned its back on. That was what they did.
Eliot thought of his old jobs, the ones that had gotten him money for himself. The jobs when he had hurt innocent people, and realized that he couldn't go back to that. He hadn't ever considered it from the point of view of the people he had hurt, but now he had seen both sides, and he knew that he felt a hell of a lot better after these jobs. He thought about how they had saved the lives of everyone on a plane, and how they had saved the children of that Serbian orphanage. He remembered saving that kid's mom from the meth dealers, and how worried the team was about Nathan, shot and bleeding in that bank in Juan. There was no substitute for those feelings.
"I can't do it." Sophie finally broke the silence. He heard her turn around. "I can't just walk away."
"Neither can I." Hardison admitted, turning around as well. "We've got a good thing goin' on here. I don't want to go."
"I like stealing to help people." Parker said. "It's fun, and it makes me feel good." She turned around too, facing her team.
Nathan and Eliot were the only two who hadn't turned. Eliot was battling himself. With any other job, with any other person, he would walk away before he got too attached. With these four, it wasn't that easy. If he turned around, then that would mean that he was a team player. Forever. Could he leave behind his solitary nature to work with a team? His friends? His family? He didn't know.
"Eliot?" Nate's voice brought him out of his reverie. He hadn't realized that the mastermind had turned. The team, almost formed, was waiting for him…
His choice had come. It was now or never, and would it be easier to turn around, or walk away? If he turned around, he would have to work with them. He would be put in danger at their hands, and have to submit to Nathan's rules. If he walked, he wouldn't see them again. He could see their faces in his mind. Parker, with that grin on her face that told you something was about to explode, Hardison was wearing the easy smile he got when he accomplished a great electronic feat. Sophie had that almost motherly look on her face, and Nate, with his ever present calm. They were all watching… waiting…
He turned around.