Caught in the Rain

Summary - Eliot made sure the rest of the team were able to escape to safety, now he's just got to make sure he keeps them safe.

Disclaimer - Neither the characters nor Leverage belong to me. No ill intent is intended by my borrowing of them for this story and no profit is being made.

Author's Note - this story was written for the March Challenge 2 at the nate_eliot community on livejournal. It ended up being a rather long comment fic!

Eliot swung his fist one last time, putting all his hope and fear into the punch as he shouted, "Stay the fuck down!" The man keeled over, head bouncing off the asphalt, splashing up the water that had gathered in a puddle from the rain pouring down around them as he finally hit the floor. Eliot slumped against the wall with a half-sob of pain. It hadn't been supposed to go down like that. He pulled himself more upright and started to stagger away from the dim alley, hand clenched over the worst of the injuries to try and staunch the blood flow but he knew he didn't have long, knew he needed to get as far away from here as possible. The rain was leaving the sidewalk slick making it harder to stay on his feet.

He owed it to Nate. He didn't want to be drawing Nate or any of the others back in to the trouble that would surface when his body turned up. He needed to get away from here, so his body wasn't linked with what had happened inside and he needed to get rid of everything he had on him that linked him with Leverage Enterprises. He would be a nameless body when the police first found him. They'd probably be able to work out who he was, but there were enough people wanting to kill him from before his alliance with Nate and the others that the police wouldn't waste time trying to figure out which bad guy'd caught up with him in the end.

"Eliot!" Nathan shouted again, hoping that this time Eliot would respond. "Hardison, what the fuck is happening? Why isn't Eliot answering?"

Hardison looked across at Parker. What was he supposed to say? He figured even Nathan should have been able to work out what had happened just before Eliot's comms had gone silent. "He's lost his earpiece and it's broken, that was the squeal," Hardison answered eventually.

"Well, where is he? What's happening now? Get on it, I want an answer! We've got to find him!" Nathan snapped. Hardison and Parker had already been poring over a map trying to work out Eliot's exit strategy. They knew his comms had gone off while he'd been in the alley behind the building, but neither of them were sure which way he'd have gone from there or even whether he'd made it out of the alley alive.

It was Sophie's voice that prompted a response next. "Where was he last? Is it safe for us to go back there and try to get him out?"

"Last known location was the alley behind the building you were in. The final thing we heard there were at least two assailants . . . Sophie, we don't know if he's there or if he's escaped. We've no way of knowing whether it's even safe to go look! Once his comms were knocked out, well. . . you heard the same as we did. . . that's all we know."

"Fine, so the alley behind the building. How do we get to it from our location? Safest route?" she said, voice calm and collected. "What can you tell us about it that you know for sure? Number of ordinary exits, number of exits Eliot might try for, what, assuming he's okay is his likely exit? We need as much intel as you can give us, as quickly as you can."

Hardison and Parker outlined all the information they'd been able to ascertain from the maps and visuals they'd picked up of the area, relaying it as quickly as they could to their colleagues in situ. Nathan's responses were minimal, snappy at best, frustrated for the most part. Nothing was going to be good enough until he had located Eliot and had him back at the office to lecture or fix up or more likely both, given that he had rashly thrown his cover to enable Sophie and Nathan himself to escape unhindered and unharmed.

Hardison looked across at a note that Parker had scrawled for him, I'm glad I'm here with you and not trying to keep him from killing everyone in sight! He nodded, eyebrows lifting as his eyes rolled in agreement.

Eliot staggered on as fast and far as he could, thankful for the dark and rain that was keeping everyone else off of the streets. No one to watch him, no one to see as he emptied his pockets of everything that could identify him, everything that could link him back to Leverage. He had to protect Nathan. He couldn't have this bring down Nathan. It was the last thing he could do for him.

One card or license or piece of paper into each bin he passed; hopefully not enough to draw attention, not enough to have anyone even noticing. He sent a silent prayer heavenward that nothing would be found, nothing would be noticed. He staggered on further away from help, every step leaving him more and more secure in the belief that this was right and the others would be safe.

"I'm sorry, Nate, it's the best I could do," he murmured aloud.

Back in the alley, Sophie watched as Nathan searched for anything that might give them a clue as to where Eliot had gone. They'd found the bodies of the four security guards who'd attacked them. Nathan had seen the knives and guns they'd been carrying, suspicious that there was, by his reckoning anyway, at least one knife and one gun short. What did that mean? "Okay guys, these guards are armed with knives and guns but there's one guy with no gun and one with no knife to hand. He's got a couple of concealed knives but . . . you think it means something? You think one of them would have been here without a gun, you think another wouldn't have bothered getting a ready to use knife?"

It was Parker who answered, "No I don't think they would, but I can believe someone else could have taken them already. I guess the question is if the someone was Eliot, why? He doesn't like guns."

"The trail, that's why he's taken them. If . . ." Hardison fell silent, second and third thoughts about what he was going to say crashing over him.

"If what?" Nathan demanded. "Hardison, if what?"

It was Parker who answered, the blatant truth blurted out in her usual manner, "If he's trying to cover where he's been. If he thinks he's hurt enough to need a hospital, he's trying to make sure there's no way of tracing him back to the incident, that probably also means he's trying to get as far away as possible quickly."

"Hurt enough to need a hospital. . ." Nathan's voice was quiet, suddenly uncertain. "We have to find him and we have to find him quickly." He trailed to the end of the alley. They hadn't passed Eliot on their way to it which meant, at least as far as Nathan was concerned, he must have headed to the opposite end. Reaching the junction between the alley and the main road, Nathan turned, hoping to catch sight of something, anything that would lead him to Eliot.

He flinched at the feel of Sophie's hand on his shoulder, turning him so she could meet his eyes. "We've got to be logical about this, Nate. You run off half-cocked into this and you'll achieve nothing!"

"So what do you suggest?" he growled in annoyance.

She sighed. "We walk a block that way looking for anything that might tell us whether he went that way, if we don't find anything we come back and try the other direction."

"Wasting time! He hasn't got time for us to waste! You go that way and I'll go this, stay in comms contact and anything call, and we join up and keep hunting."

She'd known what he was going to say, it was more coherent than just heading out. "One block then."

"Two – two, he's not going to want to risk leaving any trail close, we're going to need to go further to try and track him!"

"But Nate! Every block we search gives him another choice of direction. You get to the end of the block and there are three choices for where he might have gone next! I know you want to find him but. . ."

"Hardison! Parker! Get down here and help Sophie! I'll do the other direction," he snapped, not waiting for a response before setting off in his chosen direction.

"NATE!" Sophie called to no avail, as she watched Nathan's pace increase, taking him rapidly further away from her.

Eliot knew he was in danger of losing track of where he was, how many corners he'd turned. He leant against a trash can as he tried to collect his thoughts, tried to remember where he'd been, was he still moving further away from where he'd been? He knew his brain and thought processes were fogging, it was getting harder and harder to move let alone plan where to go. He dragged a few more uneven breaths in before pushing himself upright and dragging himself further away.

He fell forward to the ground, barely holding himself up from a complete faceplant. Another sob escaped as he hauled himself back to his feet with the help of a lamppost. He felt the dull weight of his phone tap against his leg and pulled it from his pocket, turning it back on for a moment, lured by the temptation of Nate. He heaved breaths in and out, trying to figure it out for himself. A phone and a signal, he could say. . . he could say the words that he should have said before. The words he should have said the night before when they were together. The words he'd never get to say face to face now.

Hardison was just about to leave the dry shelter of the van to join Parker and Sophie, when his monitoring equipment suddenly bleeped loudly. He turned back, ignoring the women's disgruntled disapproval. A moment later and he's saying enthusiastically, "It's Eliot! He's turned his phone on! Thank God, just a minute more, a minute more and it's tracking his position. Nathan! Nathan! Did you hear that? Eliot's turned his phone on, I'm tracking it, just a moment or two more and I'll be able to give you his location!"

He heard a growled 'hurry' over the comms and bit his lip rather than retorting. Instead he felt relief wash over him as the computer beeped again. This time a mark was flashing on a map of the area they were in. He quickly barked Eliot's location to Nathan.

What was he going to say? He looked at the phone as if it held answers, the answers he needed. 'Goodbye', dramatic but given the current situation pretty much true! 'It was good', understatement and he wasn't even going to contemplate 'I loved being with you'. He finally hit the combination for Nate. As the phone rang and he waited for a reply, he knew his time was running out. What he ought to be doing was destroying the phone, getting the sim card out and losing it. He didn't ought to be stood here, letting blood in the rain puddles at his feet. He didn't have energy left. Pain was the one overwhelming presence in his body and it was vying with 'Nate' in his mind as he waited for Nathan to answer.

"Eliot." He could have cried at the sound of Nathan's voice in his ear. He couldn't deal with the devastating rush of emotions that that one word, that voice had evoked. He felt himself sob, a hitch of breath.

"Eliot, just hold on. Hold on for me a little longer, El, I'm coming to get you."

"No! No, Nate, you mustn't. Too late, but it's okay, it's okay. I'm sorry, I'm sorry I let you down, I'm sorry for . . . for not being better." Eliot coughed, spitting blood, barely staying on his feet. "Nate, I – I . . ." he fell silent, struggling for air, struggling for words, clinging desperately to the support.

"Hold on, El. There's nothing to be sorry for and I'm coming. I'm coming for you. I'm not going to let you go." Nathan assured, his voice coming in shorter gasps as he ran through the rain in the direction that Hardison had given him.

"Goodbye, Nate." Eliot's voice was quiet, full of despair and loneliness.

"No! Eliot! Don't you dare say goodbye! You don't get to say that not right now. I'm gonna get you and you're going to be fine, I promise, babe, I promise. You're not on your own, I'm coming and we'll fix you up. Just hold on for me, El, just hold on."

The phone went dead and Nathan paused long enough to catch his breath and bring up Eliot's number. He started to move again as soon as he'd pressed Call running with the phone pressed to his ear hoping that Eliot would pick up. There was nothing. "Hardison! What's happening? I was talking to Eliot, we got cut off and I can't get through now."

Hardison's voice came through, "We've turned the van round, we're following you. We'll be with you in a minute. There's no signal from Eliot's phone know. It hadn't moved from the last location, he must have turned it off again."

"Fuck!" Nathan picked up the pace again, rounding a corner.

Hardison spoke again, "You should see him soon I think. Last known location was about a block ahead of where you are now." The news gave Nathan the incentive he needed to give one last burst, even as the thought that next time Eliot suggested they work out together, he should say yes, he needed to be fitter, because they couldn't go through this again. He couldn't leave Eliot uncounted for this long in future.

Eliot fumbled with the phone forcing the back off and the battery out. He flicked the card out, staggered to the edge of the kerb and let it fall into the drain. He took a few more unbalanced steps to the trash can and dropped his phone inside, holding himself upright with a tight grip on the top as he surveyed the directions he could take now.

He saw a dimly-lit alley and pushed himself upright on legs that no longer wanted to cooperate. He kept his head down, focused on placing one foot in front of the other.

His vision dimmed, narrowed, the alley seemed to be getting further and further away, the light around him fading. He shivered, a slow, painful shudder that encompassed the cold chill that had settled inside him, the pain that was throbbing with every pulse of blood that was escaping, the rain that was bleaching away everything, blurring it all. His eyes slid shut and he knew he had to force them back open again. He was losing track of time, he didn't know how long it took.

He pushed himself with thoughts of protecting Nathan making himself stagger a few more steps towards the alley, managing to reach the wall and brace himself for a moment. His legs were giving out, his eyes could see almost nothing, but he felt the rain on his skin.

His knees buckled and he felt himself pitch forward, only to have warm solid arms lock around him, holding him up. He sobbed, so little energy left, he knew he couldn't fight off this assailant.

Nathan saw Eliot ahead in the distance, figure hunched over, smaller than he'd ever seen him before, saw as he pushed away from the trash can he was leaning against and staggered a few steps further. He called out his name, but Eliot didn't react, so he ran faster, instead calling for Parker to drive faster and get the van here Now!

Nathan slowed so that he wouldn't plough into Eliot, reaching him just as his knees buckled and wrapping his arms around his younger lover and holding him up from the floor. "I've got you, El. I'm here, baby. It's going to be alright now, I promise."

Eliot struggled to turn, "Nathan?"

"Yeah, I'm here, Eliot, I'm here. We're going to get you all fixed up. Just hold on a little longer for me."

"You caught me again!" Eliot gasped, eyes fluttering as he tried to open them as Nathan lowered him slowly to the ground.

"Yeah, I caught you again," Nathan murmured, leaning in to plant a gentle kiss on Eliot's forehead. "You know you'll have to stop running away from me in the rain, that's when I catch you. Maybe you should stop running away and just let me take care of you."

Eliot's hand grasped futilely in the air seeking Nathan. As Nathan took hold of the hand, Eliot seemed to relax with relief. "I'm here, El. I'm here."

Eliot's eyes were closing for longer each time he blinked but he muttered, "Thought – thought I was imagining you. It's raining, Nate."

"I know it's raining," Nathan replied gently.

"Ruining your suit again. I'm sorry," Eliot's eyes didn't open, but he sounded remorseful.

"And I don't care about the suit, babe, I care about you. I don't want to lose you. Just hold on a little longer for me and we'll get you all fixed up."

He heard the van stop behind him and the others jump out. They carefully lifted Eliot in and Parker put the truck back into drive heading for the nearest ER.