Title: Unleashed 2/2
Rating: PG-13 (violence!)
Summary: What if the team had no back-up plan and things had turned out much, much worse?
Spoilers: The Tap-Out Job
Author's Note: Thanks so much for all the encouragement guys, your words made this chapter better than I had hoped it could be!
The hotel was as off-the-radar as promised. Sophie went in to pay for two rooms while Nate and Holworth moved Eliot as discreetly as possible. He was still unconscious and they had one of his arms draped over each of them. Hardison and Parker came around the corner just as they reached their hotel door and the hacker shook his head.
"You guys look like you're trying to hide a dead body. Badly," he commented. Parker punched him in the arm. "Hey, what?"
"Don't compare Eliot to a dead body," she demanded tightly. He nodded apologetically as they all filed into the hotel room. Sophie came in last and watched as they laid Eliot out on the closest bed.
"God, he's a mess," she sighed sympathetically. "Do we have …"
Hardison proudly held up the first aid kit before she finished her sentence, "Right here. Eliot packed it so it should have everything we'd need."
"Give it here," Nate ordered as he pulled a chair up next to Eliot's bed. He took the kit and started rifling through it, then asked, "Parker, can you get some ice."
"Yep," she promised and disappeared quietly.
"Sophie, hot water," Nate continued, easily handing out jobs like always. "Hardison, find out if anyone's after us, legal or otherwise. Mr. Holworth, thank you for help, but it's not safe for you here and people are going to be wondering where you are. You should go be with your son."
Mr. Holworth looked reluctant but nodded, trusting that the team knew what they were doing.
"All right, I'll get a cab home. Please, call me if you need anything and let me know how he's doing," he requested and Nate assured him he would.
As Holworth left Parker came back with the ice that Nate told her to put in the ice pack from the first aid kit. When Sophie brought the hot water out Nate cleaned the blood off the hitter's face to better see the damage – the cut on his temple didn't need stitches thankfully but his left eye was already starting to swell.
"Parker, hold the ice pack on Eliot's eye for now, we'll try to keep the swelling down," Nate instructed as his hands moved down Eliot's chest, prodding at the bruises to check for broken ribs.
Nate's fingers pressed against the worst bruise on Eliot's right side and they were all surprised when the hitter grunted in pain and opened his eyes. The sedative had been mild as Holworth had said but whatever it had been mixed with wasn't out of Eliot's system, his mind was still reacting on survival instincts alone. Feeling pain on his right side Eliot sat up and swung wildly in defense of whoever was trying to hurt him.
Parker backed away and Nate narrowly managed to avoid the blow but fell out of his chair and onto the floor.
"Nate!" Sophie cried, unsure if he had been hit but Nate quickly held up a hand and crawled away from the bed.
"Everyone stay back, don't try to restrain him," he instructed as he stood up and they all watched Eliot look around the room with wide eyes, huffing in confusion as his flight or fight response was kicking in but he couldn't quite detect the threat.
"What if he hurts himself?" Hardison whispered from the back of the room.
"We'll worry about ourselves for now. Everyone stay calm and get close to the door just in case."
The team nodded and backed away slowly from the bed, trying not to draw Eliot's attention. It was a surreal moment for all of them, like being trapped in a room with a rabid dog that used to sleep protectively at your feet.
Nate lingered the longest, staying just out of reach. He needed to figure out how much the drugs were still affecting the hitter so asked softly, "Eliot. Can you hear me?"
Eliot's head spun towards the voice and they could see his eyes blinking rapidly. Everyone held their breath, waiting to see if Eliot would attack. When he didn't move Nate tried again a little louder.
Eliot's breathing was coming more like gasps now and he clenched the sheets beneath him like an anchor.
"Nate?" Eliot asked in a breath, voice tight with uncertainty.
"Yes!" Nate replied enthusiastically but still kept his distance. "Yes, it's Nate. I'm right here Eliot."
"Where?" Eliot questioned next, eyes still scouring the room in confusion.
"You're in a hotel in Nebraska," Nate explained slowly, trying to jog the hitter's memory. "You're safe, it's all right. You took a few hits but you're okay. The whole team's here. There's nothing to worry about. You're safe."
Nate's plan was to try to ease Eliot's instincts for self-preservation by assuring him of his safety but so far the hitter wasn't relaxing, though he wasn't attacking either which Nate was thankful for.
"The team … safe?"
Eliot's question was asked breathlessly and Nate almost misunderstood and told Eliot again that he was safe but then his features softened and he nodded, "Yeah Eliot, the team's safe. We're all here. We're safe. You can go back to sleep."
Eliot's eyelids were losing the battle with consciousness so he nodded almost imperceptibly and then promptly passed out yet again, falling silently onto the pillows behind him.
Sophie instinctively rushed forward to check on him but Nate grabbed her arm.
"He's still pretty out of it," he warned them all. "We should probably keep our distance until it's worn off some more. If he has a nightmare or a jolt of pain it could set him off again and we'd have no warning."
As the team nodded silently in agreement with Nate's assessment, the mastermind cringed when he saw fear reflected in all of their eyes, a kind of fear he had never seen in any of them before. It was fear of Eliot and what he might do to them, fear that he could snap and hurt them at any second. Nate knew that it was rational to feel something like that in a moment like this, when Eliot truly could lose control, he could only hope that that fear would disappear the next day when Eliot was himself again. Probably the worst part was that Nate knew right now the same fear was reflected in his own eyes for which he silently apologized to Eliot and sat down far across the room.
The next time Eliot groaned and shifted was hours later. The room was bright and hot, not having decent curtains or air-conditioning. He blinked his unswollen eye through an incredibly painful headache and flinched at the harsh lighting then turned slowly when a voice sounded off beside him.
"Eliot, are you okay?"
Eliot's eye wouldn't focus properly but he could make out the shape of a person across the room that sounded like Nate.
"Nate? What the hell's going on?" he asked, his voice even deeper than usual.
He heard Nate sigh deeply and take the chair next to the bed, then hand him a glass of water and some aspirin, knowing that Eliot wouldn't take anything stronger than that, "It's a long story. How you feeling?"
"Like a bomb went off inside my head."
"What's the last thing you remember?"
Eliot gulped the water greedily, the drugs had dehydrated him, and pushed himself slowly into a sitting position, "I was supposed to fight Tank, right? We still in Nebraska?"
Nate nodded, taking back the glass and handing Eliot an icepack instead. The hitter took a second to assess himself and decided his eye needed it the most.
"Yeah, Parker and Hardison are in the room next door, Sophie went out to get some food," Nate said in response to the unasked question.
"So what happened?" Eliot asked. "I feel like shit but I don't feel like I got my ass handed to me all that bad."
"That's because you won, technically," Nate informed him. As Eliot's eyes widened he explained, "Rucker drugged you, it hit about halfway through the fight only it didn't knock you out it just kind of messed you up. You didn't know where you were and …"
Eliot's jaw clenched, easily reading the hesitance in Nate's reply, "I hurt people didn't I?"
"Yeah, a couple," Nate told him apologetically. "They were all fighters though. In a lot of ways they started it. You were just defending yourself."
Eliot looked away and stared at the wall, then asked flatly, "I kill anyone?"
Nate's answer was slow, calculated, "We're not sure. This isn't the most high-tech town. According to Hardison neither the police or hospital reports have been entered electronically yet. From what I saw I don't think so but we got out of there pretty quickly after you passed out. Anything could have happened."
Eliot's lip twitched and his eyes hardened. With a growl he threw the aspirin bottle he was still holding across the room and pushed himself out of bed. With his eye swollen he didn't notice that Nate flinched noticeably at the outburst, bolted out of his chair and backed away.
Pacing the room, Eliot growled, "I'm gonna kill Rucker, that son of a bitch."
"Eliot calm down," Nate requested, his hands held out in a calming gesture.
"I'm not gonna calm down Nate, that bastard drugged me, he made me hurt people, he practically turned me into a murderer, he took …"
Eliot stopped his speech, and turned away from Nate to face the wall, a hand going over his mouth as his breathing sped up.
Even though he hadn't said it, Nate could fill in the end of that sentence.
He took away my control.
Eliot's most precious commodity, his greatest demon – the control he had over the violence inside him. In all their time together this was the only time Nate had seen Eliot lose control in any way. The hitter's attacks were always calculated, precise, just the needed amount of force and violence to get the job done. But last night Eliot hadn't lost control, he had it torn away from him. It was a violation of everything Eliot had worked for in his life and Nate could see that it was eating him up.
Mostly Nate hated that he was too scared to move any closer to offer comfort.
"I just meant there's no point in going after Rucker, you took care of him last night," Nate told him softly. "He was stupid enough to jump in the ring with some of the fighters trying to stop you and he got in your way. He was in pretty rough shape when we left. He basically shot himself with the gun he loaded."
"I hate gun metaphors almost as much as I hate guns, Nate, especially when they're about me," Eliot replied then started pacing once more. They both jumped when the door suddenly burst open with Parker and Hardison practically falling over each other as they rushed inside. They both stopped short when they saw Nate and Eliot staring at them, confused.
"Um, we heard … like … noises," Hardison tried unsuccessfully to explain.
"We heard snarling and figured Eliot woke up. Morning," Parker added cheerfully, covering up their true motivations with a quick smile. Eliot still looked confused but Nate knew that they had really rushed in here because they heard shouting and thought Eliot might be attacking him.
"How are you feeling?" Hardison asked quickly, as if that was the reason for their visit.
With most of the team here now Eliot let the earlier issue drop, deciding to deal with it himself when he was alone. He slowly sat back down on the bed, finally feeling the full aftereffects of the beating and the drugs he had taken. Looking down he saw his bruised, cut knuckles were bleeding slightly and he also felt moisture on his forehead – when he touched his temple his fingers came back red.
"How long have we been here?" Eliot asked suddenly.
Hardison looked at his watch, "You been passed out about six hours I think."
Eliot turned and saw the first aid kit was open and laid out on the table beside his bed yet none of his injuries were cleaned or bandaged. His brow furrowed. He didn't expect the team to patch him up or anything but it seemed an odd thing to prepare and not use, unless …
His eyes dropped to the floor as realization struck.
"You didn't want to come near me last night. Y'all thought I would hurt you."
It didn't come out as an accusation, just a sad fact, a fact that made the others shift uncomfortably with guilt.
"Maybe, a little. I mean, it was possible, but you … you weren't yourself man," Hardison said sympathetically. "I mean, normally you know, and we know, that you got our backs, one hundred percent."
"Yep," Parker chimed in. "Backs. All yours."
"You didn't recognize us," Nate added. "You didn't even know where you were, we had to keep our distance."
Eliot ran a hand down his face and nodded, replying tightly, "Yeah, I get it."
Then he stood up.
His team thought he could hurt them.
But worse, he could have hurt his team. His family.
These realizations suddenly suffocated him and he had to get out, get some space but he couldn't go outside bloody and still wearing his boxing shorts so he headed for the only visible retreat in the small space.
"I gotta get cleaned up," he said, walking hastily to the bathroom, quickly righting his balance through the pain that exploded in his right side.
"Do you need a hand?" Nate asked quickly.
Eliot shook his head and didn't turn around, "I'll manage."
They flinched as the door slammed and they stood in silence, looking at the floor in shame until they heard the water start in the shower.
It was Parker who spoke first, having assessed the situation uncharacteristically well, "I know he wouldn't hurt me but after last night I just feel … tense around him."
Hardison nodded, "I hear ya. I've seen Eliot take guys out before but last night, that was … that was crazy. There was no holding back."
"That's why Eliot needs control, he always has it," Nate told them, neglecting to mention the reports he had read of Eliot's earlier career before he had found a way to control the violence inside him. "He's back in control now but it's going to be important for him to know that we still trust him. That this doesn't change anything."
Hardison and Parker nodded their understanding but inside they all knew that this had changed things. Eliot had always been seen as their protector, like an angry older brother looking out for his siblings that always got into trouble. It was part of what had made them a family. But knowing how big a part of Eliot the violence truly was and seeing the things he was capable of, even if he had been drugged, well, all their worlds had shifted a little that night.
When Eliot came out of the shower half an hour later he found the team waiting for him silently in the main room, absently munching the food Sophie had brought.
"Sandwich?" Parker asked, holding up a bag. "Chicken salad, tuna or ham?"
"Give me whatever's on top," he requested, easily catching Parker's toss.
"How are you feeling?" Sophie asked, unaware it was the third time he had been asked all morning.
"Spring fresh," he replied evenly, running a towel through his hair. They could all see the bruises and cuts on his torso, they spoke for themselves. The fact that he was up and moving around should have answered the question. Spotting Hardison typing furiously at his laptop Eliot asked, "We know anything yet?"
"Yeah, the hospital reports finally got inputted. It's mostly bruises and broken bones for the guys who jumped in to stop you, nothing too serious," Hardison told him.
It didn't escape Eliot's notice that he stopped before the whole story was done, "What about Tank and Rucker?"
Hardison gulped and kept his eyes on the screen as he answered tightly, "Tank's got a skull fracture and inter-cranial swelling. He's going into surgery to ease the pressure. Rucker's in a coma."
"Jesus," Eliot mumbled, distraught at the destruction he had caused.
"It's no worse than he deserves," Nate told him seriously, not lamenting the pain Rucker had been dished out because of his own sleezy tricks.
"Yeah, well what happens to the Holworth's when he wakes up from that coma? Guy's still a bullying dirtbag who runs this town," Eliot pointed out.
"If," Parker said.
"What?" Eliot asked.
" 'If' he wakes up from the coma. Not 'when'," Parker explained. "And he might be a dirtbag but he's not going to have anything to bully them with."
"Rucker bet all his money on Tank and you won the fight," Sophie pointed out. "He liquidated the credit on the gym to make those bets, he's completely dried out."
"Not to mention the fact that the IRS is going to be waiting with a pair of handcuffs if he ever tries to get out of that hospital," Hardison added. "I finally managed to make sense of his financials last night. The thing is, they don't make any sense. He never claimed the income he made from the fights he promoted. A fact that some good, honest citizen may have tipped the IRS off about."
"The Holworths are going to be just fine. We've got the money from Rucker's bets to give them a new start," Nate explained further.
"Maybe they'll even buy the gym," Sophie theorized. "Help some other fighters avoid suffocation."
The rest of the team didn't understand what she meant but Eliot nodded in appreciation of the plan. The fact that Rucker was going to be away for good, whether in jail or a coma, and their clients had gotten what they deserved, revenge and a fresh start, helped ease the chaos in Eliot's mind. He felt more in control of what had happened now that he knew the outcome had been what they wanted. He still sighed though, knowing he had a lot left to work through.
"Well that's something at least," he commented, then cleared his throat. "Hey guys did you say we had two rooms, I'm still feeling kind of beat."
Eliot was pointing to the bed like he wanted to get some sleep and they all nodded and rose to leave.
"Yeah, we'll go next door. You get some sleep. Glad you're okay," Sophie said sincerely, placing a hand on his shoulder before she stepped out.
"Let us know if you need anything, seriously," Hardison added, following Sophie's example and getting close to Eliot, even punching him lightly on the arm.
"Aspirin's in the drawer," Nate told him, assuming he would need it and patting him on the back as his own display of trust.
"Got it," Eliot said in thanks, appreciative of each small gesture.
As they filed out of the room one by one Eliot followed them to close and lock the door behind them. Parker was the last one to leave, only, she didn't leave. Instead she walked to the doorway and stood for a moment, staring out into the hallway beyond until she was sure Eliot was walking up behind her.
Then she started to fall backwards into the room.
"Parker, what are you … Parker!"
Moving faster than his sore muscles would have liked Eliot reached out and caught the thief beneath the shoulders, halting her fall just two feet above the ground.
With a groan he pushed her back up to standing, "What the hell was that? You all right?"
"I'm fine," she said with a grin. "It was just a test. I had to prove something."
"Prove what? Gravity?"
She shook her head, her smile shrinking into something more personal.
"You always catch me. Thanks."
Then she disappeared down the hall after the others. Eliot shook his head because there was something wrong with her, but he also smiled as he shut the door.
Hope you enjoyed. Drugged and consequently guilty Eliot is a lot of fun! Thanks for the prompts and proddings to write this, all of you!