The story is still alive! I have been bogged down by the issues of real life for the longest time but I have not forgotten this story those of you have been so patiently waiting for it to continue. I want to thank all of you who have reviewed and asked for more. It was your positive words that have allowed me to continue.
The others watched quietly as Parker followed Eliot into the garage, waiting to see what would happen. A part of each of them wanted to follow the young thief down, but none of them could seem to force themselves to move from where they had remained frozen after seeing Eliot appear before them.
Luckily, they didn't have to wait long.
Parker walked quietly back into the apartment, apparently lost within her thoughts. She made her way over to the group and sat down silently next to Hardison, not making eye contact with any of them.
Curiosity mingled with apprehension in Sophie as she watched the young thief, who simply continued to stare at the back wall, not really focusing on anything in particular. Curiosity at what Parker and Eliot had discussed... and apprehension at what Parker may have learned.
Eventually, curiosity won.
"Parker," The British woman began hesitantly, "Where did Eliot go?"
At being addressed, Parker suddenly looked to the group around her, as if she was just then realizing that they were there. "He said he was going to take care of things," She answered simply, offering no elaboration. That statement seemed to confuse the rest of the crew, except for Nate, who simply gave the rest of them a sad, haunted look before heading into the pantry in search of a bottle of... well of anything at this point.
"Take care of things?" Hardison exclaimed frantically, "What the hell does that mean?"
The ride back to the offices was made in silent contemplation, as Eliot focused most of his energy on remaining conscious. He attempted to use meditation to center his concentration, but serenity seemed to elude him as he stared out into the endless darkness that was only marred by the occasional street lamp. The wound in his side throbbed painfully in time to his heartbeat, while every imperfection in the poorly paved road sent a sharp row of thorns deeper into his torso. However, he barely acknowledged the pain, instead fixating on the images from earlier that assaulted him at every turn. Whenever he sought the void within his mind he would see Sophie's look of horror as he untied her. Hardison would stumble away from him, flinching and shaking in terror.
Dammit, he knew this would happen.
He had thought that he could leave all of this behind him; that he had finally found a place where he could begin to make amends for all the pain that he had caused in his life. But he had been wrong. Instead he had committed a sin far worse than all of the violence that stained his past. He had hurt the only people left in his life that still cared about him ... the only people that he had ever come close to trusting. He had thrust them into the dark world that he had crawled out of bloody and damaged. And once you've experienced that Hell, it leaves you tainted. He had cost the team their innocence. There was no greater sin than that.
Thankfully the building of their offices was empty when he arrived – being still far too early for most normal people to be awake and out. Parking the procured van behind the building, near the garbage shoot, Eliot killed the engine and slowly made his way towards their offices. His body protested each movement – his joints now stiff from the van's uncomfortable seat. Reaching the destroyed front door, he walked into the area he thought of as home and swept his eyes across the carnage that he had inflicted.
He felt no remorse for his actions, only for what he knew had to happen next.
After 137 minutes, (not his best time, though acceptable, given the circumstances) the office had been restored to a version that could be considered passable. There was nothing that could be done for the destroyed doors, but by removing the evidence of the bodies and carefully rearranging the furniture to help minimize the appearance of bullet holes, the office now looked as if it had been ransacked by thieves, rather than the site of a small-scale war. The bodies, as well as the blood-soaked chair in the conference room had been wrapped in plastic wrap that Eliot had brought from his apartment and then thrown down the garbage shaft and into the back of the van.
Eliot's side burned unbearably and sweat coated his body from the effort, but he wasn't finished yet. Turning to his office, he removed every personal item that he had left there. That didn't take long. Besides a few knives that held special significance to him and the box that he had used earlier, there was nothing there that he couldn't afford to lose. Finally he sat down and wrote a quick letter to the team. Sealing the envelope and placing it on the conference table with a stack of documents, Eliot took one last look at the space surrounding him. His chest ached in a way that he hadn't felt since he left Aimee for the last time.
He knew that this would happen one day. It was inevitable. This is why he always worked alone... why he had always been alone. No attachments, that was the rule. He thought that he had learned his lesson after Aimee, but apparently he was a masochist at heart, craving human comfort that he had no right to... not after what he had done. In the end, he had again ended up hurting the people close to him.
He left the offices without looking back, instead focusing on the rest of the mission at hand. The objectives hadn't yet been completed. Thinking of his actions as a job helped him to compartmentalize his thoughts and focus on what he still had to do.
Climbing painfully back into the van, Eliot started the engine and began to drive the vehicle out of town. His eyes were starting to dull as the exhaustion and pain from the last 12 hours started to take precedence, but he refused to give in just yet. He kept driving, focusing on the white lines of the road as he silently passed through them.
Dawn was just breaking as Eliot pulled into an old, run down junkyard just outside of Boston. The owners of the property had retired a year ago, but the equipment was still there and still functioned. Eliot practically fell out of the driver's side, the dirt coating his knees as he struggled to stand and make his way to the van's back doors. There he opened one of the canisters that Parker had watched him place in the back. The pungent smell of gasoline assaulted him and he quickly went to work coating the interior of van. Eliot silently struck a match, watching the flame twist in the breeze for a moment before tossing it on the now gas-soaked pile of dead thugs. The flames immediately spread across their torsos, the plastic wrap crinkling and smoking as the fire burned through it to the flesh below. Eliot turned away from the very distinctive smell of burning flesh and slowly made his way to the control hub of the car crusher. With a practiced ease, Eliot swiftly grabbed the van with the machine's loading claw and lifted into the air, dropping it into the mandibles of the crusher. He hesitated slightly, entranced by the flames dancing around the burning vehicle – the flickering light drawing shadows across his face as the sun slowly made its way into the eastern sky behind him.
Shaking himself out of his reverie, Eliot started the crusher and turned to leave, ignoring the screeching sounds of metal and plastic being twisted beyond recognition. Limping away from the explosion that would inevitably occur, he made his way to a small shed in the back of the junkyard. There he made quick work of the heavy lock on the door, pushing it open and stepping inside. The light from the door cut through the dust that coated the entire interior. Rusting car parts mingled with debris, forcing Eliot to tread carefully through the decaying minefield that comprised the shack's floor. In the back of the shed, partially obscured by an old golf cart, there was an old tarp covering his goal. Pulling back the tarp, Eliot was relieved to see that the Harley-Davidson Touring Ultra Classic Dyno that he had hidden a year ago was still there. It wasn't he didn't trust the team, far from it, but his life was comprised of rules – rules that had kept him alive for so long that they had ingrained themselves into a part of his core. Rules that included always having an exit strategy. This bike was just one of several emergency exits that Eliot had planned in case things went south.
And things had gone south.
Pushing the bike out of the shed, Eliot winced as his actions pulled on the stitches in his side. He had double-stitched the wound, as usual, to help prevent it from reopening, but it seems that the exertion of disposing of the bodies proved to be greater than his surgical dexterity. Eliot could feel a line of heat trickle down his torso as the fresh stitches stretched under the stress of his recent activities.
'Figures,' he thought as he felt the blood pooling at the waist of his jeans.
Ignoring the slow leaking wound in his side, Eliot quickly transfered his few possessions into the bike's saddle bags before carefully mounting the seat. As the engine purred to life, Eliot gave one last thought to Nate and the group of thieves that he had turned into an unconventional family. A family that he was now forced to leave. It was nothing new to him. Eliot had always been a loner. Whether it was a farm in the middle of the deep Kentucky south, a Special Forces unit in Somalia, or a Robin Hood crew in Boston, Eliot had experience in watching those around him suffer because of who he is and what he does. That's why the nomadic existence of a retrieval specialist had suited him – no one around him to be hurt in the collateral fallout that followed him at every turn, and no one place for the monsters that hide in the shadows of his world to find him. He wasn't meant to remain stationary.
That is why he had failed.
He had tried to become better than he was – to play the hero that he had always dreamed to be as child. But it became painfully obvious that it wasn't meant to be. Only the good guys got to be heroes. White hats like Nate, who spent his entire life trying to help people. Or Hardison, Sophie, and Parker – thieves that may not have lead honest lives, but they only stole possessions. He stole lives.
It was time to stop pretending.
With that last thought, Eliot gunned the engine and tore out of the dying junkyard, heading towards the open highway. He may be the last man of Leverage Inc., but he was the first of the last to leave.