Leverage fanfic, not mine, no money made, same old, same old. Rats. .

Crimson Regret

Eliot struggled back to consciousness again as they lifted him onto the floor of the chopper, Parker and Sophie waiting there with medical supplies. They slid the door shut on the massive helicopter and it immediately lifted off, its lights flashing red and blue.

Hands held him steady as the chopper swayed in the wind gusts, and as soon as they leveled out, Parker and Sophie began their triage. They began with the knife still lodged in his thigh. Hardison held his leg still with a mumbled 'sorry, man,' as Nate gripped the handle. Eliot was aware enough to not attack them with clawed hands as Nate pulled the blade free, but the carpet of the helicopter was not so lucky as his fingers ripped it to shreds. He bit his lip as he felt the blade slice him again when it slid out, trying not to make a sound.

Parker held his head in her hands as she whispered in his ear and smoothed out the creases in his forehead. Panting, he tried to concentrate on her touch instead of the burning in his thigh as Hardison and Nate dressed the wound, wrapping a bandage snugly around his leg over his jeans.

"Not to insult ya or anything, man," Hardison interrupted over the din of the rotor blades. "But y'all need a bath. Bad."

Eliot's reply was a single finger raised shakily in the hacker's direction. The rest laughed nervously as the tension in the air slightly lessened.

The hitter let himself relax a little as they nursed his cuts and bruises, 'tsking' as another wound was found and summarily taken care of. The deep bruising that marred his chest they could do little about, except soothe with hot packs when they got home, so they continued treating the cuts and gashes with clean cloths and antibacterial ointments. His head was lifted and a folded jacket put on the floor, then gently laid back onto its softness. Someone lifted his legs carefully and put a folded up blanket under his knees, and he sighed at the relief in his back.

He heard metal clinking beside his ear and cracked open his eyes, seeing Parker sitting cross legged next to him with a bunch of lock picks in her hand. Her mouth was pursed and her tongue was sticking out a little in concentration as she lightly fingered the collar around his throat. Choosing a tool, she carefully inserted it into the lock of the collar and started turning, her eyes far away as she felt the inner workings of the tumblers.

The lock clicked open with a 'snap', and Eliot sighed as she eased the offending metal out from under his neck.

"See? Just gotta be fiddly with it." She smiled gently at him, pleased to be able to remove the hated object. Her hands wiped a cloth gently across his neck, cleaning the dirt away and revealing the bruises and cuts created by the metal. With soft fingertips, she applied an ointment to the cuts, working it gently into his skin as she frowned.

The helicopter shook as it encountered turbulence and Eliot moaned at the vibration in the creaking metal. Hands were placed on his head, shoulders and legs as the team tried to soothe him, knowing that they couldn't do much to alleviate his pain. Whispers in his ear again: that was Parker, her hand lying on his forehead and her thumb brushing his temple softly.

When the chopper evened out they all sighed in relief, but his was longer coming. Slowly the pain receded until it was manageable again, and he blinked open his eyes. The 'thwop' 'thwop' 'thwop' of the rotors nearly drowned out all conversation, and he was content in not speaking, since his throat was raw from screaming.

Coldness surrounded his bad shoulder and he found himself opening eyes he didn't know he had closed, and he saw Sophie tucking an ice pack onto the joint. She smiled gently at him when she saw his eyes open and stroked the side of his face softly.

"It's alright," she said, or at least, her lips moved in that formation. The steady beat of the rotors drowned out most sounds, and his head was pounding with the rhythm. Nate came up behind Sophie and yelled something in her ear and she nodded, bending down to put her mouth next to Eliot's ear.

"We'll be landing soon," he heard. He looked up as she straightened and nodded to indicate he had understood. At that moment he remembered something. He gripped her wrist and she looked back at him, questioning. She bent down again and he yelled, "Jack...Jessie!"

She backed up a little and shook her head, the question still in her eyes.

"The prisoners!" He yelled again, his voice breaking and ending in a cough which started the pain in his ribs to escalate. He wrapped an arm around his chest as his brows creased, but his eyes never left hers.

She nodded in comprehension. "They're fine!" she had to yell again. "We've handled it!"

Until they were on the ground and could speak in normal tones, he would just have to trust her.

Eliot felt the helicopters' skids thump lightly down onto the surface and he struggled to sit up. Brushing away the hands that tried to keep him lying down, he looked out the side of the chopper and saw that they were on the helipad of a building in the downtown Boston area. He recognized some of the buildings and closed his eyes briefly, sighing in relief.

During the flight, true night had fallen and they were able to land on the helipad with little notice. The pilot simply waited until they had gathered Eliot up and exited the chopper and then he was in flight again, taking off for parts unknown without a word or backwards glance. Nate and Hardison each had one of Eliot's arms across their shoulders, and they walked slowly to the door to the roof access, which Parker held open for them, never going faster than the wounded hitter could handle. Eliot didn't know which building they were on, but knew that there must have been some major strings pulled for the clandestine use of the helipad and unquestioned access to ground floor. They entered the top floor and made their way to the elevator banks, one of which was held open by Sophie. They stepped inside and Parker bounced in behind them, then pushed the button for the garage level.

If Eliot sagged against Hardison and his head rested on the taller man's chest, there were no comments made, just worried hands to hold him upright.

The elevator 'dinged', and the doors swished open. Eliot blinked and raised his head slowly, then struggled to put one foot in front of the other.

"Easy, Eliot," Nate said into his ear. "Just go easy."

"Yeah, man, don't rush yourself." That was Hardison.

Eliot stumbled and swayed a couple of times, and when he did, both Nate and Hardison paused until he was ready to go on. Exhaustion pulled at him, digging its fingers into his consciousness, but he pushed it away with effort. The dark van came into focus, which worried Eliot a little because he didn't remember his vision graying out.

The back doors were open, and they had made a bed of sorts on the floor with piles of blankets and pillows, and Eliot really looked forward to falling into it. They paused at the doors while the hitter looked down, trying to remember how to lift his foot to put it on the step. Finally able to get his sluggish body to follow his brains equally sluggish commands, he planted one foot, then the next, and managed to get up into the van, grunting when the pain flared up again in his leg. Now he looked down and the bed looked far away, and he wondered how he was going to get down there. Nate and Hardison must have understood, because they both knelt at the same time, and without their help holding him on his feet, Eliot's knees sagged as well.

Agony shot through his injured leg and he stiffened, his hands gripping their shoulders. Not in any rush, both men waited until the spasm passed, and then eased him down onto the blankets. He lay there panting as sweat dripped from his forehead, running down his face to disappear into his hair. Nate straightened his legs gently as Sophie pulled a blanket over him, making sure he was as comfortable as he could be.

"Let's get him home," he heard Nate say softly before he slipped into unconsciousness, and the last thing he felt was the reassuring vibration as the van started up and shifted into drive.

The next time Eliot woke they were just laying him down on the bed in the extra bedroom at Nate's; he recognized first the smell, then the sounds, even before he opened his eyes and recognized the interior of the room.

"He's awake," Sophie whispered, and the hands on him were even more gentle, if that were possible, as they eased him down onto the mattress. Parker brought the heavy duty first aid kit into the room, setting the duffle on the bed by his feet. Opening it, Nate took out the scissors and cut up the sides of Eliot's jeans, not wanting to move him more than necessary. As he worked to remove the hitter's jeans, Sophie and Parker worked on washing Eliot's chest and arms as well as they could. He let himself relax into their touch, stiffening up every once in a while when they skimmed over a cut or bruise. Hardison lifted Eliot's hips as Nate tugged the rest of the denim from underneath him, leaving him in only his boxer briefs. No one commented, and Eliot was unconcerned with modesty at this point, wanting only to forget what had happened. Nate inspected the wound on his thigh, which was still bleeding sluggishly.

"We gonna call Daniels?" the hacker asked him, referring to Eliot's unofficial personal miracle worker, the man who had put Eliot back together after many of his more bloody entanglements.

"No..." Eliot announced gruffly as he looked over at the bedside clock. It was 2:52 in the morning, let the man sleep, he thought.

"Eliot, this gash needs stitches," Nate replied, his hands still unwrapping the bandage gently.

"I know...just, hand me the kit..." he struggled to sit up.

"Eliot, what...?" Sophie started to ask, before her eyes got big. "Eliot, you can't be serious."

"Done it before," he muttered, successfully maintaining his seated position and reaching for the kit.

"Dude, that's hardcore," Hardison whispered as the hitter rummaged in the first aid bag, finding the suture kit and pulling it out.

"Eliot, do you really think that's a good idea?" Nate asked, hesitation evident in his voice.

"It's the middle of the night, Nate," Eliot growled. "By the time Daniels gets here, I can have done it three times over." He opened the Velcro tabs and laid the kit beside him as the rest of the team watched in fascination. Sophie, having watched him when Nate was shot, took the sterile saline bottle and looked at him, a question in her eyes. Eliot nodded and sat back as she flushed the wound, then cleaned it with sterile towelettes. Eliot sat up straight again and inspected the wound; the edges were clean, indicating that he wouldn't have to trim any excess skin, so he picked up the pre-loaded syringe of anesthetic and injected it around the site.

He heard Hardison gulp and looked up to see the hacker's hand over his mouth.

"Hardcore..." he muttered again, and Eliot swore the skin around his mouth was green.

"Go hurl somewhere else," Parker said, coming up to sit behind Eliot and steady him, and also so she could watch over his shoulder.

Eliot returned his attention to his leg, picking up the needle and forceps and beginning to stitch, drawing the needle through his own flesh without a twitch. The only indication of pain or stress was in the sweat beading on his forehead, which Sophie patted away with a washcloth like an experienced nurse. A few times Eliot paused, his hand shaking too much to go on, and then he'd sit back against Parker, breathing deeply and flexing his fingers until he was ready to continue.

Finally the wound was finished; the neat row of tiny stitches a testament to too hard a life, though Eliot didn't notice the concerned looks on his teammate's faces. When the last stitch was tied off, he reached a shaking hand toward the gauze pads, but was stopped when Parker took his hand and Nate took the gauze.

"Relax, Eliot," he said. "We can take it from here."

Eliot swallowed and sat there for a moment, broken out of his routine and floundering for direction as Sophie and Parker eased him back down onto the bed. When his head hit the pillow his body realized how worn out it was, and prevented his further movement. Nate held the dressing on the wound while Hardison wrapped his thigh, and when they were done they pulled a blanket back up to cover him.

Without warning, sleep jumped up and dragged the hitter off into dreamland; Eliot surrendered without a fight.

Eliot slept for eighteen hours, during which one of the team always sat with him, watching from the safety of the chair beside the table. Hardison had attempted to wake the hitter about fourteen hours into his rest and was now paying the price, trying to play his video game one-handed while the other hand held an ice pack to his swelling cheekbone.

"I told you that was a bad idea," Parker chirped from her perch on the back of the couch, startling the hacker so much that he dropped the controller on his foot.

"Dammit, Parker! How many times I gotta tell you, don't do that!"

The blonde just looked at him unconcerned; it wasn't her fault that he didn't hear her coming. Eliot always heard her just fine.

"He still sleeping?" Hardison asked. Parker nodded.

He shrugged as he picked up the controller, not noticing her finger until it was too late and had poked his cheek. He jumped again.

"Shit! Now I know why Eliot always growls at you!" He glared at her and batted her finger away as it came towards his face again. "Go away, dammit!"

She pouted, sticking her bottom lip out, then stood on the cushion and stepped onto the floor. "You're no fun," she huffed, walking towards the bedroom.

"Do that to Eliot, I dare ya," the hacker muttered to her retreating figure.

"That's no fun either, he's sleeping," she said without looking back.

Walking into the room where Eliot was, she stood at the door until Sophie noticed she was there. Raising her head from the book she had been looking at, she waved her hand towards the man in the bed.

"He's still asleep." Parker nodded at her obvious statement.

"...m 'wake.." Eliot murmured, opening his eyes to slits.

Sophie sat up and Parker moved forward, both eager to see him conscious and lucid again.

"How are you feeling?" Sophie asked as she brushed his hair back from his forehead.

"Tired," he said, his body aching and oddly, craving more rest.

"That's to be expected," she replied, her fingers fussing over the blanket, smoothing out non-existent wrinkles.

"Are you thirsty?" she asked, noticing him swallowing against the dryness in his throat. He nodded.

She reached for the glass of water on the table beside the bed and handed it to him, steadying it with one hand as her other arm supported him under his shoulders.

He took a few sips, waiting for it to settle before drinking more. Slowly, he finished the glass and let her take it back after easing him back to the cushions.

Parker stepped up onto the other side of the bed, walked over and sat down cross-legged on the pillow next to his head where she usually perched, unconcerned that he might haul off and smack her in his sleep.

"You'll be better in no time, Sparky," she said brightly, her fingers capturing strands of his hair and playing with them. She watched as she closed his eyes again, seemingly soothed by her touch, but then they flew open again.

"Sophie, you said...Jack, Jessie...You said you got them out?" he stammered, his thoughts still a little disjointed.

"Yes, they're fine. Jack has been taken to Our Lady's Mercy in Las Vegas, and Jessie is with him. They both will be just fine." She watched as Eliot relaxed again upon hearing the news. "How did you know them?"

"Jack...he was one of the fighters, in my cell." Eliot remembered the man who had helped him focus, however small, on staying alive, and was grateful that the man was going to be okay. He was also extremely happy that Jessie was receiving treatment as well, and hoped that the scars, both physical and mental, would be healed. He didn't want the young man's life to be wasted because of this incident, however horrible it might have been. "Did you find anything out about Jessie?" he asked.

"Yeah, I did." Hardison had heard the conversation from the living room and his curiosity led him to the room. "Apparently Jack Framingham, 'Jack' to you, had been abducted about a week earlier than you were. From Las Vegas, of all places, riddle me that," he said sarcastically. "His son, Jessie, was the only one with the balls to go out into the desert to try and find him, but unfortunately, was found by the guys who ran this illegal gaming operation first. They didn't know the kid's relation to Jack, and so they had him held at one of the other four compounds around the desert. Unfortunately, he was knocked around a bit..." Hardison skirted around the subject of 'abuse', and continued. "The kid was a pretty good source of information for the local LEO's, and they managed to find all of the underground holding cells, as well as the mastermind behind it, and took them all out. Pretty slick system, I have to admit," said the hacker as he sat on the edge of the bed. "Kept 20 fighters at a time, four in each of the compounds. They'd drive two out to a prearranged spot that changed each time to random longitudes and latitudes. Those coordinates were given to pre-approved customers via encrypted email only one hour before the event, so authorities wouldn't even have had time to mount a bust. The fights were recorded, then bounced off of a dozen foreign and domestic feeds that even I had a hard time hacking."

Nate joined them in the room. "But he did manage to find you, so we went with the 'Bored-and Pampered-Royal' scam, created Lady Danube-Rothfort and her cadre of fighters who was eager to add to her collection. Hardison insinuated her into the list of 'clients' on their roster, and she was able to charm her way into the ranks to inspect the fighters. It took a while to find you. We're sorry we didn't get to you sooner, Eliot."

Eliot merely nodded; his brain had started to shut down soon after the concepts that 'Jack is safe,' and 'Jessie's safe,' had processed. The rest of the long winded explanation could wait, it insisted, and began shutting off the lights.

Nate saw that Eliot was fighting a losing battle against his exhaustion, so he stopped.

"We'll tell him again when he's more awake," he said to the rest of the team as Eliot's eyelids slid shut.

For now the team was satisfied that their number was once again five, and they were content with that.

The End

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