Title: Six Months, Maybe Longer

A/N – A series of connected drabbles and missing scenes revolving around The First David Job because it was just too short. Mostly from Eliot's perspective with a touch of h/c because I love it!

Rating: PG-13 (swear words!)

Spoilers: Anything in the season is fair game, pretty much the entire First David Job.

Summary: When their cover is blown during the First David Job, Eliot contemplates his place on the team and where they went wrong.


Part 1: Eliot was angry.

Eliot was pissed. His ribs were broken and he had a concussion that was making it hard to see straight, so it was understandable that he was angry about that, but truth be told that's not even what pissed him off the most. It wasn't even the fact that that bastard Sterling had managed to catch two-fifths of their team, though of course that was upsetting.

No, mostly Eliot was pissed at himself for letting it happen.

He had been the first one Sterling had tried to take out, and for good reason. The rest of the team was the best at what they did, but Eliot was the truly dangerous one, the one that had to be contained. He was mildly insulted that Sterling had only sent one man, no matter how good he was. And that was another problem, the guy hadn't even been that good. Sure, he could throw a punch, but he had also been cocky, too talkative, got winded easily and couldn't really take a hit, which made it even worse that it took Eliot so long to take him out. All because of that stupid earpiece, Eliot thought to himself.

It was easier to blame the earpiece rather than his own need to keep the team safe.

The guy, Quinn, had managed a decent sucker-punch, Eliot would give him that, but what really made Eliot angry was that as he had fallen to the ground and felt his comm slide across the floor his first thought hadn't been to get up and defend himself, it hadn't been to save his own skin, no, the only thing Eliot could think at that moment was "warn the team". Their covers had clearly been blown and he had to let the others know, which was the only thing he had been thinking as he had started to crawl towards his earpiece leaving himself completely open to another attack from Quinn. He hadn't even brought up an arm to deflect the kicks that broke his ribs. And those kicks had hurt, he remembered his vision fading briefly from pain when those ribs snapped and that was when he truly focused on the fight but then it was too late to end it quickly. No matter how much better he was than this guy broken ribs were a major debilitating factor. Luckily, Eliot was almost impossible to knock out, he took some heavy blows to the face before Quinn got winded and distracted enough for Eliot to do some rib breaking of his own and put the guy down. By the time he reached his earpiece it was too late, Hardison and Parker had been grabbed and he had to go lay low while Nate and Sophie met with Sterling to find some way out of this for all of them.

So that was how he found himself in a cheap hotel room, paying cash to a clerk who wasn't going to ask any questions or call the police about a bleeding, bruised and angry man storming through the hallways. As soon as he got to his room he took out his earpiece and chucked it into a wall, not sure if it would break or not but assuming it had.

"Damn things," he muttered, knowing he couldn't use it again to contact Nate and Sophie now that Sterling had one of them.

No, Sterling had two of them. Two members of their team, their … family.

Aimee had called them that, he never had. And right now they definitely weren't his family, they were a god damn liability because when he should have been thinking about keeping himself alive all he had been able to think was "warn the team". Eliot Spencer worked in the harshest area of all of them. People knew he was good at what he did simply because he was still alive and walking. He was vigilant, aware and cautious. He always had an exit strategy and always looked out for himself, except now, he was looking out for other people.

Slamming open the bathroom door of the little hotel room and angrily wiping at the blood on his face Eliot had to admit to himself that he had agreed to be the protector of this little troupe, even if he had never said it out loud. It was a silent agreement between them all, Nate would come up with the plans, Parker would crawl through vents and pick locks, Sophie would con the mark, Hardison would hack the systems and Eliot would keep them all alive if things went wrong.

But things had gone wrong, and though everyone was still alive as far as he knew, he hadn't protected them. And maybe that's why he was really angry, because if he had thought about himself first, if he had stood up and took Quinn out with his usual quick combination of strikes then he could have gotten his earpiece back sooner and maybe warned the others in time. But in a cruel twist of fate his priority had been to warn the team and that is what had made him completely unable to do so.

He was too attached, they had all grown too close. He had known it for a long time now, had been denying it in a way by pushing the others back, arguing with Nate about the drinking, bickering and bossing Hardison around, telling Parker she was weird at every turn, but they just kept coming. Kept trusting him and confiding in him, they shouldn't have but they did, and he did too. No, they were all too close, soon he would be trapped, he wouldn't be able to walk away and at this point he had become so drawn in that he wasn't any good to them, wasn't as vigilant as he should be in the right ways and that could get somebody killed. It would be best for all of them if he left, make the others be more careful, watch their own backs and not let their guards down again with the expectation that Eliot would be there to save them.

He had to let them go for their own good.

His cell phone vibrated in his pocket and he fished it out. It took a moment for him to focus on the caller ID.

Nate.

But before he could let them go, he had to get them back.


Part 2: Nate's Plan

"Yeah," Eliot answered.

"Where are you?"

"Do you really need to know?" Eliot replied, not wanting to give out the location over the phone.

"No, I don't," Nate agreed. "How are you?"

Eliot started to open his mouth to answer "fine" but Nate continued quickly.

"And don't just tell me you're fine, I heard most of that fight go down. I have a plan to get Parker and Hardison but I need to honestly know if you're up to it. So, how are you?"

Twitching in annoyance Eliot knew he had to be honest or risk jeopardizing the whole team again, "Medium concussion, couple broken ribs. I'm functional and I'm pissed."

"Well we can use that," Nate replied. "Pissed enough to take out about half a dozen distracted men with Hardison and I?"

"Yeah, I can do that," Eliot promised.

"All right, patch yourself up, meet me at that pizza parlor down the street from our office in an hour and I'll explain the rest."

"Got it," Eliot said and hung up.

One more job, he said to himself. Get them back, make sure they're safe and that was it. He'd walk away and forget their names just like he'd promised himself all those months ago.

But first, he cleared away the rest of the blood from his face so he could walk down the street without drawing attention to himself, though he couldn't do much about the bruises. He was pretty far away from the office so knew he should leave soon, no time to buy a wrap and bandage his ribs, they would just have to wait and he would have to hope not to puncture a lung.

Jumping in his jeep his anger was not helped when he found that he had to drive through rush hour traffic to get back to the office. However, since his vision was blurry and his head was pounding he supposed it was a good thing that traffic was slow, meaning he had less of a chance of causing an accident. When Eliot reached the pizza place Nate was already there, subtly checking around corners for any of Sterling's men.

"Nate," Eliot greeted without ceremony.

"Eliot, good to see you about. We're lucky you got out or this probably wouldn't work," Nate admitted as he fished in his pocket.

Eliot chose not to respond to this, though he was tempted to mention that the others might not have gotten caught at all if he'd done his job better, "Where's Sophie?"

"She's getting Parker, they'll be fine. As for me, I'm about to turn myself in to Sterling's men, they're up in the office with Hardison. You follow me up in about five minutes, let yourself in," Nate instructed.

Eliot smirked and thought to himself, so basically, bust some heads and get us out of there.

"Can do," Eliot promised but Nate held up a hand.

"Well, without the injuries I know you definitely could do it, maybe even with, but for now, take this."

Eliot took the offered cell phone and looked at the display seeing there was some kind of program built into it.

"And what do I do with this?"

Nate smirked, clearly proud of himself, "Sterling knows how I think, so we're thinking like Hardison on this one. You remember our very first job? Hit this button when you get inside, it'll squelch the earpieces Sterling's guys are wearing. They yell in pain, you take them out. I'll see you in a few minutes."

And then Nate walked away towards their office, prepared to turn himself in as promised and content with the knowledge that he had a plan to get them out. A plan that relied entirely on Eliot following him into the building and doing as instructed. Clenching his fists as he realized this, Eliot felt his anger boiling again as Nate's plan only solidified his earlier concerns. The team did rely on him too much, in this case completely, to keep them safe, to keep them alive. He knew for a fact that it hadn't even occurred to Nate that Eliot might not follow him in, might not be willing to risk going to jail for his teammates, might not want to risk getting the shit kicked out of him for the second time that day. No, Nate had just assumed Eliot would be there, like they all assumed he was always everywhere and that shouldn't happen, not to professionals like them. They should all always be alert, watching their own backs. Eliot knew his presence should be a last resort, not a first line of defense.

But these were things to think about later. Maybe he'd explain them to the others, maybe he would just leave and let them figure it out themselves, but this had just proven it, for their own safety, he had to go or they might just stop watching their backs altogether.

For now though he shoved the cell phone in his pocket and followed Nate towards the office. For now, he was pissed and sore and wanted to hurt people. He also had to make up for his earlier mistake, he had to get his teammates back and then he had to leave.


Part 3: The Ridiculously Easy Escape

It had been embarrassingly easy. Sure, there had been six men and Eliot was injured, but the cocky bastards hadn't even bothered to tie Nate up when he turned himself in and Hardison's hands had been cuffed in front, leaving him completely mobile. Amateurs, Eliot mused to himself as he cut the plastic cuffs around Hardison's wrists.

"Thanks man, you are all kinds of awesome, just walking in here like that all angry," Hardison told him, barely able to contain his delight that he would not be going to jail now. In his excitement the hacker then made the mistake of slapping Eliot on the back to show his gratitude. This however caused his broken ribs to shift and Eliot hissed and pulled away. "Oh shit, sorry, your ribs, right, I forgot. I'm sorry, usually you know, no one can touch you so … how many guys they send after you anyway?"

Eliot growled, not prepared to get into explanations at the moment, "Just do your thing while I tie these guys up."

Hardison dropped the question but a dark expression passed over his face and he looked up at the hitter imploringly, "You sure we gotta blow it up?"

"I don't like it either but we got too much information here, about us and our clients. Our clients are good people, they don't need that kind of attention," Eliot replied, though he thought he would miss the place as much as Hardison. Then again, he reminded himself, it didn't matter if it was blown up or not, he was leaving and would never see the place again.

"All right," Hardison answered, not having truly considered what would happen to the people they had helped if it had been discovered that they had hired thieves. As Hardison typed Eliot tied up the IYS guys and Nate made a phone call, then they were good to go, and dammit, Eliot couldn't believe he actually helped Hardison carry that weird-ass portrait out of the building.

When they got to the bottom floor Eliot's ribs started protesting so he let Hardison carry the thing by himself and held the door for him instead.

"Where's you car?" he asked Nate who gave him a look.

"Didn't you drive yourself here?"

Eliot chuckled humorlessly, "Yeah with a concussion. You're lucky I didn't crash."

"Ah," Nate replied in understanding leading the way. He wasn't parked far and as Hardison shoved his painting into the trunk Eliot took a seat in the back wanting the extra room as he leaned back, one arm still cradling his ribs. After Hardison jumped into the passenger seat they took off with the hacker immediately turning around to face the backseat.

"Hey, I totally used that thing you showed me, about fighting," he said excitedly.

Eliot's brow furrowed, "You mean throwing a punch with your fist closed properly?"

Hardison's eyes lit up, "Yeah, that thing, I totally took one of those guys down and didn't even hurt my hand. I mean I didn't bruise him or nothin' but I'm sure you saw the guy whose cheek was all red, like bright red. That was all me."

"I'll take your word for it, good work," Eliot replied without enthusiasm as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. His body hurt and the adrenaline and anger was wearing off, leaving only pulsating pain through his head and body and an empty feeling he didn't want to examine right now.

"You're not looking so hot, you all right?" Hardison asked.

Eliot waved him off, "I'll be fine, I've had way worse."

"Did you get your ribs wrapped?" Nate added, finally showing concern for the first time that day.

"Nah, didn't have time."

Nate made a note to stop at a pharmacy when they were far enough away from the office but for now he had to bring up what they all seemed to be avoiding.

"So, we're blown, Sterling and Blackpoole know all our faces and where we work. We're meeting up with Parker and Sophie now but then we'll have to scatter."

As much as Hardison was a professional he was also the least experienced on the team and after a moment of contemplative silence asked, "How long?"

"To be safe, six months, at least," Nate replied.

"Maybe longer," Eliot muttered to himself in the back.

"I understand that we have to run, but do we have to scatter? I mean, we can all hightail it together, can't we? Seems like it'd be safer," Hardison pushed.

"We're too easy to find that way. Cops are looking for a specific group of people. Individually we can make it through security points, work unnoticed, but together, no, way too obvious," Eliot countered, mentally noting how Hardison wanted to be with the team to be safe. Just one more example of his teammates needing to be alone, to watch their own backs.

"All right, six months then, I can do that. Then what, we just meet up somewhere?"

"I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding us," Nate smirked, having faith in the hacker's abilities. He then pulled over in front of a small strip mall. "You got any cash?"

Hardison nodded and handed Nate the sixty bucks he had.

"Be right back," Nate promised and disappeared into the store. In the front seat Hardison opened his mouth to say something but when he turned around he found that Eliot had his head tilted back again, eyes closed and clearly trying to rest. They had all been screwed over on this job but Eliot was the only one who took a physical beating, unless Hardison wanted to be a wimp and count the cut over his eye. They were all going to be disheartened, upset and Eliot had physical pain to deal with on top of that so Hardison shut his mouth and decided to let Eliot rest. Nate returned a few minutes later and threw his bag into the backseat with Eliot who had snapped to attention when he heard the car door slam close.

"Hope you didn't have a favorite brand," Nate said as he took off again.

Brow furrowed, Eliot rifled through the bag to find a bottle of water, painkillers, an ACE bandage for his ribs and a bag of skittles.

"And the candy is for?" Eliot asked as he popped open the pills and took two with a swig of water.

"You eat them, it releases endorphins, makes pain less painful," Nate explained with a shrug.

"Isn't that what the painkillers are for?" Eliot pointed out.

Huffing in agitation Hardison reached behind him and grabbed the bag of skittles, tearing it open, "It's candy, in all the colors of the rainbow. You really need an excuse to eat candy? They're delicious. Here take some of these."

Eliot did not offer his hand.

"Just take some!"

Sighing, Eliot put out his hand if only to make Hardison leave him alone and ate the handful of candy that was poured into it.

Okay, they were pretty good, but that would not be admitted aloud.

"Can I get two of those painkillers, man?" Hardison pointed to his head to indicate he had a headache as well and Eliot tossed him the bottle.

"How'd we get made? Do we know? Did Sterling recognize one of us or something?" Eliot asked, never having enquired before now just why the job had gone south.

Hardison didn't know either so they both looked to Nate whose jaw tensed, "I'll explain back at the hotel or rather, Sophie will."

Eliot growled, he had known she had been too excited about getting that damn statue, and the whole job had been her idea from the start. They had presumed she just wanted Nate to get his revenge, but looking back now he thought she had probably wanted something else too – the payoff for herself.

"Did she con us?" Eliot demanded. Hardison seemed to be in shocked silence.

Nate however was playing Switzerland, "You can talk to her when we get to the hotel."

Too angry to rest anymore Eliot fumed in the backseat until they got there.


Part 4: Scattered But Not Forgotten

When they reached the hotel room they found Parker and Sophie had already arrived. Parker answered the door cautiously and briefly looked relieved to see them all alive, but the somber mood of the group kept her happiness levels from spiking too high.

"So, none of us went to jail, that's something," Parker pointed out, going for optimistic.

"Yeah, not yet. You talk to Sophie yet about what went wrong?" Eliot asked, steam practically coming out of his ears as he scoured the room. Sophie emerged hesitantly from the kitchen around the corner but approached more quickly when she saw the bruises and cuts that covered both Eliot and Hardison.

"Are you all okay?" she asked the group but her eyes didn't miss Eliot's arm wrapped around his ribcage indicating his hidden injuries.

Teeth grinding Eliot moved into her personal space and hissed, "You don't get to ask that. What the hell happened?"

"Eliot, back off," Nate requested but did nothing to physically move the man away.

"No, you said Sophie would explain what went wrong, I'm waiting."

All eyes turned to the grifter who looked to the floor and everywhere else except the eyes of her teammates. Eliot wondered if she was acting or actually ashamed.

"I had the Second David the whole time. The real Second David, I stole it ten years ago," she finally admitted. "Sterling was the one who investigated the robbery, he knew I had it. He's been waiting for us to go after the other one."

"What?" Parker asked, having had no indication before that Sophie was to blame for the job failing.

"And you just couldn't pass up the opportunity to get your hands on the first one," Eliot accused with a feral grin. "You conned us! You conned your own team to get your hands on some statue! We could have gone to jail!"

"And I got caught! I don't get caught," Parker piped in.

"And I got a headache bigger than my hard drive from getting smacked around and you don't want me to even mention Eliot here," Hardison added.

Eliot shook his head, smiling mirthlessly as he kept up the onslaught, "And what about Nate, that whole thing about wanting revenge for Nate, that was a nice touch."

"I did want this for Nate," Sophie defended herself finally. "Blackpoole would have been ruined, he would have been out millions of dollars, it was a good plan."

"A good plan for you, a plan that ended up with you having both the Davids," Parker added from atop the couch, her arms crossed.

"I had no idea that Sterling knew I took the Second David or I never would have risked everyone," she promised but her audience was rather unforgiving.

"Well maybe we could have figured it out if you'd told us!" Eliot exclaimed, pacing to keep himself from punching a wall.

"Why didn't you just tell us?" Hardison demanded.

"I'm a thief. We're all thieves. I really don't think I have to explain that," Sophie said simply, hoping that would be enough.

"Yeah, well I just had to blow up the office, a place I put a lot of work into, so I think it wouldn't kill you to try to explain," Hardison shouted, the normally laid back hacker letting his anger seep into the conversation.

Near the door Eliot stopped pacing and put a hand on the wall when his vision started going double and he finally realized that the hard knot in his stomach wasn't just anger and betrayal.

"The office? We … we blew up the office? I had things in there. Harry, no! Did you save Harry?" Parker asked desperately; they all knew that was what she had named her plant and suddenly Hardison felt very guilty for saving his picture but not her germanium.

"Sorry Parker …" Hardison began but was cut off as Eliot pushed through the two of them to walk unsteadily towards the bathroom.

"Eliot?" Nate questioned, trying to get an answer. He assumed Eliot was going to let off some steam, maybe break a few things in private, but they really didn't need security or the cops showing up just now. Nate reached the bathroom door just as it was slammed in his face. He was about to barge in anyway when he heard retching on the other side of the door instead of the angry destruction he had expected.

Walking away he turned back to the group who heard the same thing, "He's going to need a few minutes."

"Did he get so angry he threw up?" Parker asked Hardison in a whisper.

The hacker rolled his eyes, "No, he got so concussed he threw up. I don't know how it works but head injuries can make you sick."

"I totally forgot," Nate admitted, angry at himself for letting down a team member in yet another way. "I should have gotten him something for the nausea."

Suddenly the retching sounds were replaced by an angry, choked moan of pain and what sounded like a fist hitting a wall.

"You did that," Parker felt the need to remind Sophie, the only way she could figure out to get her point across that the grifter had hurt them all, in more ways than one.

"Oh god," Sophie exclaimed quietly with horrified guilt as she realized what was happening. "His ribs are broken aren't they?"

They all cringed. Puking was painful at the best of times, but add excruciating stomach contractions to already broken ribs and you got a whole new level of pain.

"Maybe someone should check on him," Sophie suggested. She would have done it herself if she knew she wasn't the focus of the hitter's rage at the moment.

Hardison stood up to volunteer but Nate grabbed his arm, "I got it. Why don't you check the police chatter and see if anyone's looking for us yet."

Hardison nodded and picked up his laptop while Nate grabbed the pharmacy store bag and ventured cautiously into the bathroom, closing the door quickly behind him. Eliot was just pushing himself back from the toilet to lean against the wall, eyes clenched shut, breathing heavy as he tried to recover from the agonizing bout of nausea. Nate knew Eliot was aware that he had come in so sat on the edge of the bath tub and handed him the half full water bottle. Eliot took it, rinsed out his mouth, spit and then took a small sip, not wanting to upset his stomach anymore.

After a few moments his breathing evened out a little, clearly the worst of the pain had passed, and Eliot cracked open an eye to smile mirthlessly at Nate, "In retrospect I think we can agree the candy was a bad idea."

"I won't argue you with you there," Nate agreed, watching as Eliot tried to relax but clearly couldn't let go of his anger. "You all right?"

"Yeah, I'm done," Eliot said, closing and flushing the toilet. He took a deep breath as he prepared to push himself to standing but Nate grabbed one of his arms and helped lift him so he could keep the pressure off his ribs. Instead of standing though he sat the hitter on the edge of the tub beside him.

"Want those wrapped in case this happens again?" Nate offered.

Taking another sip of the water Eliot's eyes seemed to be somewhere far away but he nodded his head in acknowledgement, "Sure."

Eliot unbuttoned his shirt while Nate unrolled the bandage he had bought and handed one end to Eliot.

"Hold that there," he instructed as he began wrapping it tightly around Eliot's ribcage. The hitter was too tough to complain but Nate could feel him tense whenever the binding got tight or jostled something out of place. But Eliot didn't care about the physical pain at the moment.

"So that's it, huh? We're done? No more office, no more team … this was it," Eliot said slowly, the normally reserved thief surprising Nate with his openness.

"For now. There are other offices and we still have the team, we can rebuild," Nate countered but Eliot shook his head.

"Yeah, cause the team's not broken or anything, we're all just right as rain," Eliot growled sarcastically, pushing himself to standing when Nate was finished. He leaned over the sink, shoulders tense with anger before he spoke again, carefully, clearly, "I would never hurt any of you guys but I swear if she's still out there when I leave this bathroom there's going to be hell to pay."

Nate stood up quickly, "Okay. I'll take her to the park across the street for awhile if you want to talk to Parker and Hardison."

He nodded that he did and Nate left to find three expectant faces looking at him.

"He's fine," he promised them then turned to Sophie. "I told him you wouldn't be here when he came out though."

She was a great actress but they all saw what a slap in the face that was, how much it hurt as tears threatened to spill from her eyes, but she nodded nonetheless. As she and Nate grabbed their coats Parker stood, her anger turning into desperation.

"Wait! Don't … we can't …"

"We're just going across the street Parker. You three talk, come and find us when you're done," Nate said, perpetually playing the father of their little family giving his kids time to say their good-byes.

"Okay," Parker nodded and sat down slowly next to Hardison once more. Eliot could hear the two of them leave and waited a few moments to open the door, still buttoning up his shirt. Nothing was said as he crossed the room and slowly lowered himself into a chair.

Silence.

They worked alone, they used to always work alone. Now they were on a team.

They worked alone so they didn't know how to say good-bye.

"How's that concussion treatin' you?" Hardison finally asked after a moment, putting his laptop aside.

"I've had better," Eliot admitted but didn't elaborate.

"Where will you guys go?" Parker questioned silently, seemingly probing for ways to retain contact.

"I hadn't thought about it. Somewhere, I guess," was all Eliot could answer. Hardison just shrugged, none of them had been thinking about leaving.

Parker nodded, "Yeah, me too."

In an attempt to force the gloom away from them Hardison seemed to shake himself and force an optimistic tone into his voice, "You know six months, it's not that long. I mean, we all do our own thing for awhile, we come back stronger, it could be a good thing."

Parker was more than willing to pick up his thread, "Yeah, there's been a couple things I've been eyeing to do alone. And come on, six months that's like …"

"Just about how long we've been together," Eliot finished for her, bringing down the mood. "A lot can happen in six months."

"We'll be okay, right?" Parker asked quietly, leaving 'we' open for interpretation.

"The team, if it does get back together," Parker and Hardison both cringed on Eliot's emphasis of 'if'. "It's not gonna be the same. We can lie to ourselves and pretend it is, but it won't be, you just, you should know that going in. Don't hold on to some ideal for half a year that isn't going to happen."

The somber mood returned and Parker and Hardison both downcast their eyes. But after he spoke Eliot stood up in front of them on the couch, the barest smile hinting at his lips, "The team might not ever be the same, but us, all of us, as friends, we'll always be okay. We gotta scatter, it's the only smart thing to do, but if we really need each other we call. Being scattered doesn't mean being strangers."

The grin on Parker's face could have split the sky. She jumped to a standing position and wrapped her arms around Eliot's shoulders in a tight hug. It was sincere and nice, but painful.

He allowed her to squeeze him for a second and though he easily could have thrown her off simply reminded, "Ribs, Parker."

She pulled back, still grinning, "You can handle it, Sparky."

Hardison stood as well and spread his own arms out with a grin, "Come on, it's worth the pain, right?"

Eliot couldn't believe it when he actually nodded and let Hardison hug him, both ending it with the obligatory back slaps that made it manly. Knowing his place Eliot took a step back to allow Parker to jump onto Hardison like she had him. He wasn't blind and was more than aware that their hug lasted a few seconds longer than his own had and he idly wondered if they would in fact stay apart for so long.

As they broke apart the three looked at each other, finishing it.

"So, you guys take care of yourselves, I don't want my first job back to be busting anyone out of prison," Hardison joked, but there was always that little bit of seriousness in them all when they made prison jokes.

"Like I'd need your help," Parker quipped.

"Remember, calling for help means you need real help, not 'I can't find my keys' or 'Eliot, how many eggs go in a cake' kind of help? My life is in danger kind of help, got it," Eliot reminded them.

Parker nodded her understanding but Hardison had to ask, "Who called you about eggs and cake?"

"Nate," Eliot replied with a look that said he was clearly confused by that one as well.

"Speaking of which, let's go find them," Hardison suggested.

They filed out of the hotel room slowly and walked to the park in silence.


Part 5: Miracles and Maybe

Separating at the park was smart. It was public which made it easier to resist the urge to be emotional. They had found Nate and Sophie sitting quietly on a bench. Eliot wouldn't look at her and she didn't try to maintain eye contact. Nate shook everyone's hand, told them to stay safe. Sophie said she'd miss them. The 'kids' had already said their good-byes so they stood for a moment and just like a gunfight they felt the moment they all had to move. Had to turn around and not look back. The rest of them were going to wait six months, or so they said, Eliot told himself he was not looking back ever.

His past was too dangerous, as proven by the Butcher's presence at the wedding. Their reliance on him, or just his presence was going to get them hurt, or killed. In six months they might look for him, but he was a master at living off the grid. Even Hardison wouldn't be able to track him down. As he walked down the park path though he noticed that Hardison didn't seem willing to wait six months to find him as the hacker was currently making his way across the grass to converge on Eliot's position, which wasn't hard as Eliot was limping slightly in pain.

When he took up stride with the hitter Eliot simply continued to look straight ahead as he grumbled, "Hardison, you better only be here because you're scattering in the same general direction."

"Well if by general direction you mean exact same direction, then sure," Hardison replied casually, easily keeping pace, that is until Eliot stopped.

"That's not how scattering works now get out of here. If you were going to try to latch on to someone I expected it to be Parker."

Hardison was not intimidated by Eliot's scowl and lifted an eyebrow, "I'm not here to latch on, I'm here because I seem to be the only person who knows you're not supposed to leave someone with a concussion alone for 24 hours."

Eliot rolled his eyes and walked away, "I'm fine Hardison, go away."

"Who's talking about you?" Hardison defended himself, then pointed to his forehead. "I got hit in the head with this baton thing and I've got a headache, there could be dangerous internal things going on in my head, you're just here to make sure I don't die."

He wouldn't let Hardison see but Eliot's eyes actually shone with amusement, but that didn't change the rules of the game, "Your pupils aren't dilated and I can tell by the way you're walking that your vision's fine. You're not concussed. Now scatter."

"All right fine," Hardison said, dropping the act and stepping in front of the hitter to block his way. "You know this real danger crap scares the shit out of me, and when Sterling guys came after me, that scared me a hell of a lot too. And I know you didn't have to come back for me but you did, saved my ass in more ways than one, so I'm feeling a little guilty here, little like I got some debts to pay and to be totally honest I'm a little worried cause this seems like a bad head wound thing from what I saw. So I don't know about you, but I'd feel better if I stuck around. Please."

Eliot didn't know what it was about these people that made him actually care about anything but he hated himself when he replied curtly, "Fine. One day, then you're gone. Make yourself useful and get us a cab."

"Cool, can do," Hardison promised and jogged ahead to the street to hail them a ride. When Eliot got there a taxi was just pulling over and Hardison held the door for him.

Climbing in next to the hitter he asked casually, "My place or yours?"

Eliot growled at the innuendo and gave the cabbie the address of the hotel he got the room in earlier. It wasn't what Hardison would have picked, he had probably planned to hide in a fancy place with a spa and everything, paid with fake credit cards, but Eliot enjoyed the assurance that cash was totally untraceable so stayed at the smaller, seedier places. Which left Hardison very unimpressed when they pulled up in front of the Morada Motel. Eliot didn't care, he had asked to tag along, so paid the cabbie and led the way to his hotel room.

As he opened the door he was thankful that for some reason these rooms always had two single beds since it appeared Hardison was going to be spending the night.

"It's … it's nice," Hardison mumbled as he stood at the doorway, seemingly scared to go any further into the room.

"It's safe and untraceable. The bed closer to the door is mine," Eliot warned him as he made a beeline for the bathroom. He had started feeling nauseous again in the cab but had managed to keep it down until now.

Cringing at the painful retching sounds coming from behind the door Hardison wasn't sure whether to check on Eliot or just stay where he was and set up his laptop. He was worried about his teammate but also knew the hitter might want his privacy at the moment. His choice was made a few seconds later when he heard Eliot yell out in pain followed by the distinct sound of something breaking. Hardison rushed into the bathroom worried that Eliot had passed out from the pain but he found the hitter sitting on the floor, panting as he threw the broken toilet seat cover aside.

"Was that really necessary?" Hardison asked, indicating the fact that Eliot seemed to have cracked the plastic cover to expel the pain that had been tearing through him as he threw up.

"Yes," Eliot replied simply, holding out a hand to indicate Hardison should help him up, which he did. After rinsing out his mouth Eliot turned to the hacker, "All right, you really want to help?"

"Yes, most definitely," Hardison assured him enthusiastically.

Eliot shot a look of disgust at Hardison's energy but nodded nonetheless, "All right, grab a pen. Go to the store and get me some water and whatever they have for nausea and some ice packs. Then go to another store and get me a new shirt. If it's got anything geeky written on it no one will ever find your body."

Hardison saw that Eliot's current shirt had drops of blood on it but then brought his attention to the list Eliot was spouting as he pulled out a key-ring.

"Then take this, go down to the bus station on Kent and Fourth, locker 12. There's a bag full of cash inside. You can help yourself if you need some."

Hardison took the key with a bit of disbelief as Eliot flopped himself down on his bed, "You're just giving me the key to your locker full of money?"

Eliot huffed, "It's not like you're Parker. You don't steal cash, you steal 1's and 0's from banks. Besides, only reason I have that cash is because of you manipulating the NASDAQ or whatever you did on the Pierson Job."

"That was a beautiful thing," he agreed, smiling nostalgically and easily able to read into what Eliot hadn't said by giving him the key – I trust you.

"All right, I'll be back soon," he promised, heading for the door.

Eliot opened his eyes, "I might be asleep when you get back. Do not try to sneak in or I'm liable to hurt you … accidentally."

"Don't try to sneak up on trained killers, yeah, that's a pretty easy lesson to learn, but thanks, I won't," Hardison promised and then he was gone, rushing out the door, eager to be helpful to the guy that had saved his life that day because Hardison had a feeling he wouldn't have done well in prison.

When the door closed Eliot let his head fall back with a sigh, glad for the quiet so he could get some rest and hopefully wake-up without the pounding headache. He did have to admit, with the throwing up and all this was a pretty severe concussion and it was smart to have Hardison here. The irony wasn't lost on him that he had been mentally chastising the team for relying on him too much when he was here letting Hardison play nursemaid and errand boy while he nursed a concussion. Maybe the truth was he was relying on them as much as they were relying on him and maybe it wasn't so bad. He could watch their backs and his own, as long as no one betrayed them again, which he doubted would happen.

But what they had was gone. Sophie had broken it, the fragile trust that four thieves and an honest man had been sharing for the past six months. He would admit that her guilt seemed real and he almost understood her compulsion to steal both the Davids, it's what motivated people like her through life. Eliot never stole for himself, he stole for clients, but they had all promised to change when they joined this team, Sophie's promise seemed to have been conditional on circumstance though. But he had said it himself, a lot can happen in six months.

He smiled as he laid back down and thought maybe he could come back, maybe it would be all right in six months, it would be the same, or better for knowing what they had lost for awhile. There was no reason it couldn't be, after all, they had worked miracles before.

The end.

This started out so short and just wouldn't end. Hope you enjoyed, I just found there was so much left to explore about the First David Job, hope this filled in any blanks for anyone who agreed. I'm pretty sure it's done but who knows if something else might strike me. Thanks for reading! Goody!!!