That's What I Do Ch 8

Leverage is a fun world to play in but it doesn't belong to me.

Eliot cocked an eyebrow at Parker. She might know the location of where the thugs were headed.

"Safe," she mouthed. She hadn't had a chance to find it before Eliot had shown up but it was a good guess. Unless they had been spotted. Tugging his sleeve, she pointed to the right and they moved off.

A clanging sound preceded Rios and Avalos as they began to climb the stairs.

"Move faster," Eliot hissed.

Parker reacted without thinking and spun away towards the roof access. Escape was foremost in her mind. Then she stopped as she remembered that Eliot couldn't follow. Four months ago, she wouldn't have paused for a moment. But now she was part of a team, a …family of sorts as she had learned in Serbia. Plus, she'd promised Nate. Knowing Eliot was right on her heels, she swerved into an office off the main hallway. A quick glance around showed her that they'd lucked out. It was a storage room with 7' high cabinets and stacks of crates and boxes.

Eliot figured that they would both hide within the stack but Parker headed towards one of the cabinets. Realizing what she intended he gave her a boost. With her hair stuffed inside her leather cap, only her face and wrists showed at all in the dusty shadows near the ceiling. She would be hidden well enough.

The crates would have to do for Eliot's hiding space. Shoving one over, he created a narrow space for him to crawl through and soon he folded his much-abused body into as small a shape as he could. It was a tight fit and his ribs protested mightily and his breath came in short pants.

Back at the hotel, Hardison increased the gain on Parker and Eliot's comms. Only the three outside were visible to any camera. He wished he had a visual on the goons so he could warn the others.

"Are you safe?" asked Nate.

" 'afe," replied Parker softly.

"Huh?" Nate couldn't figure out what she said.

"She means they're safe. The "s" sound travels pretty far so she omitted it."

Nate's expression showed respect for both Parker's judgment and Hardison's knowledge of the fact.

"Mmmhumm," said Parker. She smiled slightly. At least Hardison had understood, both what she'd said and why. They were becoming parts of a whole new thing.

Her smile vanished as the room's door opened. She hid her face into her arms, covering her exposed wrists at the same time.

Eliot closed his mouth and slowed his breathing down as much as he could. He didn't want to warn the goons of his presence any more than Parker had.

The three at the hotel listening couldn't discern what was being discussed but the addition of new voices clued them in that Parker and Eliot weren't alone.

Eliot need not have worried about the goons hearing him. Vasquez' broken nose mouth-breathing covered any sound Eliot might have made. The man was wheezing from the climb up the stairs.

Parker peeked to see Rios going to a cabinet, opening it, and then opening the safe concealed inside. She leaned out a bit more and had to bite back a squeal. Her avaricious nature was being taxed to the limits with this job. The money she saw stacked inside would have felt sooo good being rubbed against her face. But these men had stopped Eliot. There was no way she could tussle with them. Sure. Eliot would help her but he shouldn't have to. She almost snorted. She did have some sense.

Being essentially blind to what was going on in the room, Eliot listened with every fiber in his being. He needed to know if it was just those two. He was hurt but so were they. He didn't hear footsteps approaching his hiding spot which was good. But Nate would want a report of what he did learn.

Rios slumped into the chair behind the desk. He had no idea that the bastard that he wanted to crush was no more than five feet away from him. Nor was he aware of the agile thief above and behind him. His cell phone rang and Rios pulled it out. There was a lot of "uhhuhs" and "yeahs" before he finally hung up.

"So what's the plan?" snuffled Vasquez.

"We're to leave the money in the safe until Friday right before the meet."

The two men smiled at each other. Things were looking up for them. Fifteen years ago they had been working in Avalos' chop shop. When the shop had been raided, the whole garage had gone to jail. But the three of them had known each other since 7th grade. If anyone ever unsealed their juvenile records, they'd have a long list of infractions and other delinquencies to read about. Avalos warned them to stay clean in jail and all three had been released early for good behavior. Released with some new skills…and some new contacts. Now, they had more money than ever before. Never mind that some of their new friends would plant them in the ground if they screwed up. It was worth it.

Vasquez' lip curled. If only he didn't have a broken arm. He'd hunt that bastard down and try out some things he'd heard about that caused major pain before death. Maybe he'd get lucky someday. The perks they had included the opportunity to beat the shit out of someone who pissed them off. Vasquez closed his eyes to remember and relish the sound of his bat striking that cowboy's head and the feel of flesh giving as his boot stomped down on his back. He remembered the horrified look on the brunette's face when her friend had fallen. He didn't think they were an item; she hadn't reacted as if they were. He'd also like to get to know her a lot better. He squeezed his left hand into a fist and grinned.

Rios watched his partner warily. Sometimes he scared him. Who knew what was going through his mind? He just knew he would never want to be on the receiving end of those thoughts. He could always tell when violence was uppermost in Vasquez' mind. He reached up and touched his nose. It still hurt. Looking in the mirror this morning he'd not been surprised at the huge black eyes he'd developed. He remembered his vision turning white after being struck by that guy's elbow. He knew that Vasquez would kill that dude if he ever saw him again. Vasquez had shown Rios his gun this morning. No more hand to hand.

A cough broke the men's contemplation.

Vasquez opened his eyes and looked up at his partner. He cocked an eyebrow and smirked. Getting an answering nod, he pushed himself up and walked around the desk. They both had some place to be. The Cat Scratch Club would be a good start.

The real culprit of the cough was Eliot. It was dusty within the stack of crates and his throat was dry. A deep inhale had finished the job, and he could only half-suppress the cough. Parker realized that Eliot had made the noise and shifted to make it easier to leap down and do what she could to help. But they didn't seem to realize it hadn't been either one of them. They were stupid. They needed to leave now.

They must have heard her. Vasquez closed the safe door; she heard the lock engage with a beep. Both left the room and she could hear their footsteps receding down the hallway. Being experts in subterfuge, neither Parker nor Eliot moved.

"Hey, you guys still there?" Hardison asked. He received twin grunts of affirmation. "Those guys are all leaving."

"You sure," asked Nate. He didn't want to have a loose end bite them in the butt again.

"Yeah. The two who were with Avalos and the two from inside just drove away. The other group had already left."

"Alright," said Nate, "you're clear. Get out and get back here.

For a moment, Eliot wasn't sure he could stand. He'd cramped up while in hiding and wasn't sure he could find the leverage he needed to pull himself upright.

"Pssst. Eliot?" asked Parker.

Back at the hotel, all three winced at the shout. About to chide her, Hardison realized it was his fault. He'd forgotten that he'd increased the comm's gain and the volume was still set extremely high. With a self-deprecating grin, Hardison turned the volume to normal.

At the warehouse, Eliot had finally maneuvered one leg underneath him and rose to a crouch. Inching his way through the stack, he came out into the dimly lit room and headed towards the door. Realized that he'd walked through the door alone, he looked back.

Like a flower towards the sun, Parker had drifted back towards the cabinet that concealed the safe. Growling, Eliot went back and yelled, "Come on!" He was tired and hurt and pissed off. He was as tired as Nate was of these loose cannons. These people still did their own thing too much of the time. He understood orders and understood that successful missions happened when orders were followed. When they weren't followed, people got hurt…or killed. No one was dying on his watch. At least no on on his team.

Reaching back a hand, he snagged her arm and towed her along behind him until she caught up. She pushed past him and headed towards the roof access.

Eliot grimaced as the metal frame around the window caught at his shoulders. He hadn't felt it when he'd entered; he'd been too worried about Parker then. When he was through and standing on the roof, Parker was already at the edge of the roof looking over.

Everyone heard her say "Hey!" as Eliot pulled her back. "No one looks up," she said while swatting his hand away.

"I do." said Eliot.

Hardison saw one of the men look up. All three clustered around the laptop held their collective breaths. A whoosh filled the room as he turned back towards the car and got in. Hardison crammed three gummy frogs into his mouth at once, chewed furiously, and washed the gooey mess down with some orange soda. Nate clapped Hardison on the shoulder as he stood up. He was relieved. Parker and Eliot were safe for now. Now he could plan.

On the roof, Eliot watched until the car had driven away. Turning around, he headed towards the ladder that led down to the ground. Parker had already reached the ground and was headed towards the van.

I hope to finish this story very soon. Thank you to all those who've patiently waited. I appreciate your patience. Please let me know what you thought about this chapter or the story so far.