The Last Man
This is set after the Second David Job and focuses on the team as they attempt to move forward with their lives after helping Nate to take revenge on Blackpoole.
As always this is not intended for profit and I do not own any of the rights to Leverage or its characters.
It was Eliot that stopped first.
As the thief, hacker, grifter, and honest man all walked towards their planes the hitter, the one member of the team that had been hurt the worst by Sophie's betrayal, paused from taking the final steps towards his beautifully restored Harley. It may seem odd that the one member of the team that seemed to have the least tying him to the others would be the one to be the most upset by the end of Leverage Consulting Inc., but Eliot found something with that eclectic group of criminals that he thought that he had forsaken years ago when he first left his family's small horse ranch in the middle of nowhere. He found a place that he belonged.
He noticed immediately when the other's stopped making their exits – the concrete floor of the hanger made it easy to identify each of the thieves by the type of shoe that they were wearing.
Parker was the next to stop after Eliot. She barely made any noise as moved, but to Eliot's trained ears it was as loud as a gunshot when her Chuck Taylors stopped moving. Eliot wasn't surprised by her hesitation to leave; after all, he knew that she loved the challenges that the team provided her. With the team she was forced to push her comfort levels and experience different aspects of thievery that were completely foreign to her. At the same time she got the chance to interact with people who understood and accepted her. And that was something that she wasn't ready to give up yet.
Hardison's basketball sneakers squeaked slightly as he paused. Eliot knew that Hardison stopped for parker – sure, he saw the team as one big happy family – but Parker was the reason that Hardison couldn't leave behind. It was obvious that the hacker cared for the thief to everyone accept Parker, which made the situation even more ridiculous in Eliot's mind because he knew that Parker felt the same way about Hardison.
It was obvious when Sophie stopped walking, since the heels of her Manolo Blahniks clicked loudly against the concrete of the hangar. Eliot knew that leaving would be hard for her because of Nate. Sophie loved Nate. Everyone knew this – in fact Sophie had even confided this to the retrieval specialist one late night after she had attempted unsuccessfully to convince Nate to put down his glass of scotch and go home to rest. She had tearfully confessed to Eliot that watching Nate slowly falling apart was killing her inside. And the fact that she couldn't seem to convince him to stop only made things worse. Eliot hadn't known what to say to her at the time. He wanted to tell her that everything would be okay and that Nate would eventually sort out his issues, but he couldn't bring himself to lie to the distraught woman. The truth was that Eliot had seen firsthand what would happen to a man that drowned his sorrows in alcohol before - and he knew that the results were rarely positive. He still had the scars from his step-father to prove it.
Then there was Nate. Nathan Ford would have to be conflicted by the events that had unfolded before that very moment. His entire life had been changed by a single action – an action that wouldn't have been possible without the four criminals about to walk out of his life forever. Eliot wondered what would become of Nate after that day. Nate had taken his revenge on the man that allowed his son to die, so what was he going to do now? Without revenge to fuel him, or the Leverage team to give him direction and a sense of purpose, what was left for Nate except the bottom of a bottle?
It seemed Nate didn't know the answer to that question either because he was the one that broke the tense moment that was quickly approaching the point where it would become awkward.
"Everyone wait," Nate stated quietly, but with enough conviction to carry across the hangar to the rest of the team standing with their backs towards him.
Almost as one the others turned to face him – the expressions on their faces a collection of guarded, hopeful, and anxious contemplations as they waited for the former insurance agent to say what could possibly be a life-altering statement for the group. Nate looked each member of his former team in the eye starting with Sophie, who gazed at him with hopeful, tear-streaked eyes, before turning to Parker's slightly confused expression and Hardison's anxiously optimistic face, and finally setting on Eliot. Eliot trained his features into a completely neutral expression, gazing back at Nate with a guarded and calculating expression, but internally he was just as anxious to hear what Nate was about to say as the others around him.
"The way I see it," Nate began, while tearing his gaze away from Eliot to address everyone who was present there, "There is no reason that we should all disband. After all, we work well together and we truly did make a difference. There are still others out there that need help and will have nowhere to turn without us."
Then he caught Sophie's eyes with his own - and staring directly at her he stated, "And the truth I don't know what I'm going to do without you."
When Sophie heard Nate say that she immediately broke into radiant smile and looked as if she might begin to cry again. Without a moment's hesitation she ran as fast as she could possibly manage in her impractically stylish shoes and threw herself into Nate's arms. When Parker saw Sophie and Nate embrace she turned to Hardison with her sweet impish smile and told him, "I guess your not going to have to look that hard for me after all."
"I guess not," Hardison replied happily with a giant goofy grin on his face. He encased himself in a moment of relieved happiness as he and Parker continued to stare at each other, lost in their own worlds.
Eliot, for his part, hung back from the others and observed the interactions occurring between the people that he had come to care about more strongly than he had believed was still possible for him. Nate and Sophie were talking quietly to each other, while Hardison and Parker were standing incredibly close to each one another and seemed to be just staring at each other, as if they were trying to convince themselves that this was real, and not just a fantasy. Eliot couldn't help but allow a small smile to appear on his lips as he watched the others revel in the happiness and relief that was so blatantly apparent on each of their faces. However, Eliot had always been a realist. He knew that things would change for the team forever after that point. They had to.
As Eliot took in the joyful expressions of the others he could only hope that they changed for the better. He was relieved that the team was remaining together, in fact it seemed to soothe the dull ache that had resided in the pit of his stomach since the team had decided to disband for good after ruining Blackpoole, but he still couldn't find it in him to allow himself to revel in the moment, as his teammates were doing. Maybe it was due to a lifetime of paranoia and betrayal that was common for someone living in the cruel reality of the retrieval business, or maybe it was due to watching every one important to him in his life turning their backs and leave him in the past, but Eliot couldn't help but feel that there more problems for the Leverage team that had yet to occur.
He became so preoccupied by his silent musings that it took him a moment to realize that the others had formed a small group in the middle of the hangar. Having finished venting their pent up emotions, the rest of the team turned to Eliot expectantly, waiting for him to join them. Eliot took a moment to shake the feelings of uncertainty and foreboding out of his head before taking the first step towards the center of the hangar.
It wasn't until he reached the others and the team was once again complete that Eliot realized it.
He was last once again.