Title: Not Alone Anymore

Rating: T (violence)

Summary: Just something that I couldn't get out of my head. Eliot/Sophie whump, one shot.

Authors Note: I haven't written anything in awhile and this is my first story I've published here . So be a little kind, please! This is un-beta'ed, so all mistakes are mine. This is set in the second season, with the assumption that Nate's apartment has ben turned into a residence/office, and the others live in apartments connected to it, which is my thought after seeing Eliot take down that wall at the end of "The Beantown Job". Also, I'm not a doctor, and don't even play one on TV, so all medical mistakes are mine.

Disclaimer: The Leverage guys aren't mine. I own nothing, except maybe a little belly button lint.


They had underestimated the guy they were setting up. At first glance he, Michael Collins, was just the stereotypical bad guy who conned the elderly into giving him their money in exchange for work that he promised to do, but didn't. He seemed to like women and gambling, and it seemed a simple job to con the guy out of his money.

What they hadn't taken into account was the guy's half-brother, Lyle Jackson, who didn't appreciate it when Michael got conned. They hadn't even realized the guy had a half -brother, as they went by different last names, and didn't contact each other regularly, not often enough for Hardison to realize the pattern and look closer at the guy. So they hadn't taken a closer look at Lyle Jackson, and they hadn't realized that this guy was a mean SOB, who didn't care who he hurt, or how he did it.

So when Sophie suddenly didn't show up at the office, the team at first didn't know what had happened. At first Nate thought she was out with her boyfriend and just hadn't bothered to check in, but after being six hours overdue and repeated calls to her cell phone, they knew there was a problem. They got lucky though. Her kidnapper hadn't turned off Sophie's cell phone, and Hardison was able to track her general location through its connection with cell phone towers. At this they discovered they were dealing with the stereotypical bad guy that took his prey to abandoned warehouses. They sent in Parker and Eliot, as there were several square miles of warehouses to cover and Sophie had been missing far too long.

It was Elliot that found Sophie, but unfortunately Lyle Jackson found Eliot at the same time. Eliot didn't like guns, but Lyle Jackson didn't have the same feelings, and shot Eliot in the left thigh, hampering his fighting ability. They still managed to trade blows, Eliot being able to block out the pain in his leg when he saw Sophie tied to a chair, bleeding, bruised and crying. But then Lyle kicked Eliot in the thigh, causing Eliot to double over in pain, and then Lyle brought the butt of his gun down on Eliot's head, sending him sprawling to the ground, unconscious.

Lyle had talked to his brother after Michael had gotten conned, and from his brother's description of the con, knew that the team used ear pieces to communicate. He found the ear piece Eliot had pretty quickly, and inserted it into his own ear.

"This is Lyle, and I have your man - and your woman. Send anyone else and they both die."

Nate took a deep breath when he heard this, gathering his thoughts before replying, "What do you want?"

"I want my brother's money back. And maybe a little extra, just for all the trouble you've caused."

"Who is your brother?" Nate asked, looking over at Hardison from where they sat in the panel van, 'Lyle?' he mouthed. Hardison shrugged his shoulders, waving his hand as if to say 'get more information'.

"Michael Collins - he's my half brother, and you conned him out of nearly half a million dollars last month. I want it back. Add in another two hundred thousand - all cash - and make sure I have it within the hour and maybe I won't hurt your people any more than they already are."

Hardison began typing furiously into his computer, trying to find out more information on this guy, while Nate replied, "It's going to take me more than an hour to get seven hundred thousand dollars in cash to you."

"Yeah, I know, so I figured I could amuse myself with torturing your friends while I waited." Lyle replied.

Nate squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to think about Sophie and Eliot getting tortured by someone who had obviously set them up to fail. "Don't hurt them and I promise I'll get you the money as soon as I can." He looked at Hardison and nodded. Hardison set to work on their accounts. The money wasn't the problem - they had enough.

"I figure you can trace my location through these ear pieces, so you've got 58 minutes now to get the cash to me, or I'll let you listen to your friends scream." They heard a scraping sound, and then Nate knew that the ear piece had been taken out and that they had less than an hour to get the cash or listen to their friends get tortured.

"Parker, get back here," Nate said, "I don't need you getting caught too. This guy doesn't seem to care who he hurts, or how he does it."

"Yes boss, be there in a minute." was her only reply.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

At 50 minutes they knew they had a problem. Even with Hardison's computer genius, they couldn't arrange for seven hundred thousand in cash in an hour. "What about calling the cops?" Parker asked. "Being in jail has gotta be better than being in the hands of that madman. I'm sure we can break them out later."

Nate shook his head, "He sees anything but one of us showing up with the money and he'll kill them both. Hardison figured out who he is and I've heard of him. He's a killer, no conscience. I had no idea he was related to Michael Collins or I never would have taken the gig. He tortures for fun, kills for thrills. We need to get him the money and hope he doesn't cause too much damage in the meantime. We can afford to take the hit."

"Hardison, you able to get a video feed?"

"No. I don't think he's got one going. And if this guy is as bad as you say he is, we probably don't want to see anything."

"Keep working on getting the money then."

Eight minutes later they heard another voice on their ear pieces, "I don't see anyone with a whole lotta cash. Guess you didn't take me seriously." They heard laughter, harsh and cruel sounding.

"Listen," Nate said, "We need more time. I told you from the beginning we need more than an hour to get that much cash. We'll get it to you, I promise. Now, please don't hurt them."

Laughter again, "I know you'll get me the money. And I know you can't get it all in an hour. I just wanted something to do in the meantime. The longer you wait to get the money to me, the longer your friends will hurt."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Guess your friends don't care about you," Lyle said to a still dazed Eliot and a scared Sophie.

Eliot looked at him with a face that was covered in blood - Lyle hadn't waited the full hour before knocking Eliot around a little, "Hurt her and you'll die."

"Ha!" Lyle laughed, "You can't do anything, you impotent little man. You're hanging by your wrists like a pig waiting to be slaughtered."

"Please!" Sophie cried, "Leave him alone. My friends will get you the money." Sophie pleaded with her captor from the chair she was tied to. She struggled against her restraints, bleeding from her wrists and legs. Lyle was a cruel man, and had used barbed wire to tie Sophie to the chair. Eliot was tied with barbed wire by his wrists too, but he was hanging from a pipe, and strung far enough off the ground that he could just barely touch the ground if he extended his legs and toes all the way down. The barbed wire cut cruelly into his wrists, and blood streamed freely down his arms. His wrists were swollen from the damage, creating a chain reaction as the swelling caused the wire to cut even deeper into his wrists. Eliot knew that if he didn't get loose from this soon he could be facing permanent damage to his arms. His legs were free, but with the bullet wound in one thigh he knew Lyle was right, there wasn't much he could do but hope the team came through.

"So what to do first," Lyle mused, "I've got so many plans." He ran a finger along Sophie's cheek, leering. Sophie pulled away, her face turning pale, and Eliot snarled and bucked from where he hung, heedless of the damage he was doing to himself. "Leave her alone you bastard!"

Lyle laughed and grabbed Sophie's chin, holding her head still while he looked her in the eye, "But I'm pretty angry at what you did to my brother and you won't last for what I have in mind." He stepped away and looked over at Eliot, "But you will."

He stepped behind Eliot, grabbing him by his waistband with one hand to hold him still while ripping his shirt off with the other. He moved away and grabbed a long piece of barbed wire from where it lay on an old crate. It was actually several pieces of barbed wire, tied together at one end where it was covered with a thick piece of leather. He shook it out, "Not as pliable as a 'cat o nine' tails, but I think it will do. If not, well, I have other gadgets." He laughed again, and Sophie shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut, "You're mad!" she said, "Are you trying to kill him?"

"We'll see what happens," Lyle stated simple, then drew his arm back and lashed out with the wire, aiming it at Eliot's unprotected back.

Eliot tried to bite back the scream that tried to escape through his lips, but was only partially successful, his face contorted with the effort. He bucked against the pain, bringing his legs off the ground, causing him more pain as the wire tore into his wrists. Sophie was unable to hold back her scream, "Please, no! Stop!"

Lyle only laughed, and whipped Eliot across the back several times in succession. Then he stepped forward and delivered a roundhouse kick into Eliot's ribcage, causing Eliot to swing back and forth. A pained grunt got thru Eliot's lips; it felt as if his arms were going to be torn from his body. He felt blood running freely from his arms and from his back. He was pretty sure the guy had shredded more than skin off his back, as several times as he was getting whipped he felt the barbs catch into his vertebrae and he was sure a few slivers of bone were sliding down his blood and sweat streaked skin. Lyle laughed and stepped back a few steps before raising his wire whip again. "Can you last for fifty lashes?" he taunted before lifting his arm and beginning to strike Eliot again across the already torn flesh on his back. After twenty lashes Elliot wasn't able to stop the sound of pain that escaped through his lips and he cried out before his head rolled forward and he went limp.

Lyle laughed again, "Didn't last as long as I wanted. Did you hear that Mr. Ford? Your man passed out. Guess I'll have to start in on your pretty woman. What was her name - Sophie? That name sure rolls pretty from my lips."

It was only then that Sophie realized that the ear piece was laying on the ground only a few feet from them, and Nate, Hardison and Parker had probably heard the whole thing. She couldn't imagine what they were thinking, but hoped that they had a plan, and got it done soon.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Nate bit his lips in an effort to keep quiet as he listened to Elliot getting tortured. He didn't know what was being done, but knew it was bad if the sounds Elliot was making was any indication. He ducked his head, rubbing his hand across his eyes to wipe away the tears he knew was forming there but that he didn't want the rest of his team to see. Hardison's dark skin had turned to light brown as the man typed away furiously at his computer, trying to arrange for the money to get wired to a bank that they could make a withdrawal from. Parker was gone, heading towards the bank, her ear piece left in the van where Nate had made her leave it, saying that he needed one person able to concentrate. She knew that he was only trying to protect her, but he also knew that she would be the one to drop off the money and the first one to deal with the damage, so she knew the respite was only temporary.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"So this is what's going to happen, Sophie my dear." Lyle purred in her ear as he rearranged her position. Now she was tied up against Elliot's back, a piece of barbed wire stretching between her wrists and around both sides of Elliot's neck. He had been raised higher off the ground, and now his feet could no longer touch the ground. He was still unconscious, a fact that Sophie was grateful for, but was sure wouldn't last. She dug her fingers into Elliot's shoulders to keep from putting pressure against his neck and strangling him to death. Another piece of wire was strapped around both their waists, tying them together.

Suddenly she felt cold water splash over her head and Elliot began to rouse. "How nice of you to join us again. Your other friends haven't shown up with the money, so our fun will continue. I thought Sophie could join us for a bit of the festivities. Here's the newest plan. I continue with the whipping, and now Elliot, you have a choice. Your lady friend is tied to your back - you turn your back and she gets to take the punishment, giving you a break. She's also tied to you by a wire that is wrapped around your neck. Right now she's being strong and holding herself up with her arms so that she doesn't strangle you. Pretty soon she'll get tired, and then she'll probably strangle you to death. Or, maybe you'll get lucky and your friends will show up with the money."

Lyle looked away from them then, and looked at the floor to where the ear piece lay, "What do you think of that Mr. Ford. Sound good?"

He didn't wait for a response from anyone before he took his wire whip and struck Elliot across the chest, causing Elliot to whip his head back and knock Sophie's grip loose from his shoulders. Sophie cried out - she hadn't been struck by the whip but now was hanging by her wrists while she choked her friend. She scrabbled quickly to regain her position on his shoulders, easing the pressure on his throat, but not before a thin red weal had been cut across it and blood flowed freely from it.

Lyle laughed before striking again, this time stepping to the side to try to hit Sophie. Elliot was prepared for the trauma now, and maneuvered his body to try to take all the punishment. He bit his lip and felt Sophie tighten her grip on his shoulders and bury her face into his back and hair in an attempt to muffle the cry of pain that escaped thru her lips when part of the wire connected with her side. Elliot felt more blood drip down his back, and knew this was Sophie's blood. Thru the pain and fear he began to feel anger that this lady who loved him and the whole team in her own special way was being caused to hurt.

Elliot snarled at Lyle, "You afraid to get your hands dirty? Too chicken to get too close? Scared huh?" Elliot taunted.

"Elliot, what are you doing?" Sophie whispered frantically in his ear.

Lyle growled and snapped the wire into Elliot's chest again. But now Elliot was mad, and in his adrenalin didn't feel the barbs cut cruelly into his body. He laughed at Lyle, "Guess so."

Lyle snapped the whip again and again, moving around in an attempt to hit Sophie. He was thwarted every time by a cruelly grinning Elliot who spun his body around and took every blow. Lyle came closer, reaching forward to grab Elliot and hold him still with one hand while attempting to use the whip on Sophie. This was the opening Elliot was waiting for. Lyle had been overconfident, leaving Elliot's legs untied, assuming that a gunshot wound would be enough to cripple Elliot. But now Elliot was mad and, and with a loud cry he jerked his legs up, pulling Sophie with him, and wrapped them around Lyle's neck and began to squeeze.

Lyle grabbed Elliot's legs, attempting to pry them apart, but his attempts only made Elliot squeeze tighter. Lyle became frantic now, and started flailing around with his wire whip, hitting both Elliot and Sophie. Sophie squeezed her mouth shut, making no cry, not wanting to break Elliot's concentration. Elliot grunted and squeezed tighter and the blows began to get weaker as Lyle's face turned purple, then a shade of blue as his airway was squeezed shut. With a final jerk of his legs Elliot broke Lyle's neck and dropped his legs, watching as Lyle fell to the ground like a stone. Elliot bowed his head, his body trembling with the effort as the adrenalin rushed from his body, leaving him limp.

"Elliot!" Sophie cried, "Elliot, you did it!" When she got no response from the exhausted man she tried to manipulate their position so that she was closer to the ear piece that was on the ground, hoping that Nate was still listening, "Nate?! Nate! Can you hear me? Elliot did it! He killed him! But we can't get free! You need to get here and get us loose! Elliot is hurt! Nate!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Nate had been listening to the torture, hearing Elliot's grunts and Sophie's cries of pain. Tears were streaming freely down his face as he listened mutely, not wanting to say anything in the fear that it would only spur the cruel hearted Lyle to even more pain and torture. Hardison had long since taken his ear piece out and was talking quietly to Parker on her cell phone, guiding her to the correct warehouse after she had finally collected the money.

He heard Sophie's cries and squeezed his eyes shut tighter, not hearing what she was saying at first. But then her words began to penetrate his brain, and he knew that Elliot had done the impossible. "Hardison!" he yelled, "Elliot did it and I think Lyle is dead. Get us there now!"

For a moment Hardison didn't move, Nate's words not penetrating, "Hardison! Did you hear me?! Go!" Nate reached over and grabbed the cell phone, "Parker! You're closer! Elliot managed to kill Lyle but they can't get free. Get in there!"

"I'm on it!" Parker yelled into the cell phone, and throwing the briefcase of money into a darkened corner, began to sprint towards the warehouse.

Nate's words finally penetrated into Hardison's brain and he leaped into the driver's seat of the van, "The man's a machine."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Parker was first into the warehouse and the sight that greeted her made her pause. There was a body on the ground - she assumed this was Lyle. Above him hung Elliot and Sophie, tied together. She could see that they had been tied with barbed wire, and both Elliot's and Sophie's arms were swollen, Elliot's more so. Sophie was clutching desperately to Elliot's shoulders, and Parker saw that barbed wire was wrapped around Elliot's neck and tied to Sophie's wrists, preventing her from changing positions to relieve the pressure on her arms without damaging Elliot's neck, possibly even killing him.

Elliot was shirtless, and blood dripped steadily from numerous wounds on his chest and back. Parker saw the pieces of wire on the ground next to Lyle's dead body and knew that Lyle had used the wire's to torture Elliot. Sophie saw Parker enter and she smiled tearfully but didn't say anything. Exhaustion from trying to hold herself still was wearing at her, and she knew she couldn't hold out much longer. Elliot was hanging limply and hadn't so much as lifted his head when Parker arrived. Parker saw the ear piece on the ground and inserted it into her ear. "Nate, Hardison, I need you here now. They're still alive but hurt bad."

Parker saw a crate and pushed it underneath Elliot and Sophie. Elliot made no move to stand upright, but Sophie took advantage of it and stood up, sighing with relief as she was finally able to relieve the pressure from her arms. Sophie began to cry, the relief and exhaustion finally catching up with her, "Oh God Parker - Elliot - is he even alive?"

Parker climbed up on the crate and began to unwrap the wire from around their waists. She found the knot, and not having any tools to cut the wire, began to untangle it with her bare fingers, heedless of the fact that she was now cutting herself. All she could see was the image of Sophie and Elliot hanging from the ceiling and the puddle of blood beneath them.

Nate and Hardison ran into the warehouse at that time and skidded to a stop, eyes wide in shock at the sight that greeted them. They only paused for a second before jumping up onto the crate to help Parker. Hardison grabbed Elliot about the waist and lifted him, trying to take the pressure off of Elliot's now cruelly damaged wrists. Parker turned to Nate, "Find me something we can use to cut the wire. That guy tied it into knots and I can't get it loose. Maybe he's got a set of pliers on his body or something."

Nate jumped down and rummaged thru Lyle's pockets. They were in luck, and he found a set of pliers on Lyle's dead body. "Here!" he yelled, jumping back up onto the crate. He reached up to where the wire was wrapped around Elliot's neck and Sophie's wrists and cut the wire between the two, then cut the wire around their waists, separating them. He held onto Sophie's wrists and inserted the pliers between the wire and the damaged skin, knowing that it was hurting her but wanting to get the job done. He cut the wire from around her wrists before letting Parker help her off the crate. "Get her into the van Parker and help her clean up, Hardison and I will take care of Elliot."

He waited until Parker had gotten Sophie off the crate before turning to Hardison, "Hold him a little tighter and push him up a little more will ya." There was so much blood and he struggled to keep a hold on the wire and the pliers. Finally he was able to cut the wire that tied Elliot to the ceiling and he grabbed at Elliot's arm to help Hardison hold him up. "Let's get him off this crate before I try to get this wire off of his wrists."

Elliot began to wake as they lifted him off the crate. He began to fight against them, remembering only that the lasts hands that touched him had been full of hate and pain. "Elliot, easy man, you're safe now," Hardison told Elliot as he gripped him tightly about the arms in an attempt to keep the man from doing more damage to himself. "You got the guy, he's dead, and Sophie is safe." Elliot continued to struggle against the two men, and Nate began to speak, "Elliot, stop struggling, you killed the bad guy and we're just trying to help you. Parker has Sophie and they're in the van. Everyone is safe." Finally the words began to penetrate Elliot's pain fogged brain and he began to still. He picked his head up, looking wearily at first Nate then Hardison, "Real?" he slurred.

"Yeah man, it's true. Everyone is safe, Sophie's is going to be okay and we'll patch you up and you'll be fine."

Finally they were able to lower Elliot to the ground and Nate got a good look at the wire that was embedded deeply into his wrists. He shook his head, looking at Hardison, wondering how they were going to cut the wire that he could barely see, so heavy was the swelling. Elliot looked up at Nate as he slumped against him, hands cradled gingerly in front of him. "Just cut it." Elliot said.

"Elliot, we need to get you to a hospital, this is more than we can treat."

"No, no hospital, they'll ask too many questions, and we can't afford those, not in our hometown. Just get in there and cut it before it gets any worse."

Nate put an arm around Elliot's trembling shoulders and leaned in close, "You sure? It's gonna hurt. You've been hurt enough." Elliot nodded, not trusting himself to speak anymore and slumped more against Nate's chest, trusting the man to hold him up when he didn't have the energy to do it himself anymore.

Nate looked over at Hardison, gesturing for the man to take his place and hold Elliot still while he attempted to cut the wire away from Elliot's swollen wrists. Fortunately the pliers had a relatively narrow end, making it easier for him to dig it under the wire and into Elliot's wrists. Elliot grunted, but Hardison held him firmly, grabbing Elliot's arm below the wire in a tight grasp. Nate bit his lip and decided to dig in, figuring he couldn't make it any worse. Elliot grunted in pain but finally Nate was able to get the pliers under the wire and cut it, pulling it away from one of his wrists. He quickly did the same to the other wrist, not giving Elliot time to protest. When he was finished he flung the wire and the pliers away from him and gestured to Hardison to help him pull Elliot up and get him to the van.

Although the van was only just outside the door, it took several minutes for Nate and Hardison to assist Eliot across the room and out the door. They were afraid to put their arms around his back, so shredded was it that they could hardly see any unblemished skin. His forearms were swollen, and while his shoulders didn't appear to be dislocated, it was obvious there was damage there as well. With all those injuries and the bullet wound in his thigh they were hardpressed to get him the fifty feet across the warehouse and out the door. It was by sheer willpower that Eliot was able to remain standing - blood loss alone would have felled any other man. How it was he was able to walk to the van left Hardison and Nate shaking there head in wonderment as they each took a hold of one arm and one side of Eliot's waistband in an attempt to assist.

Parker had slid the van door open and was waiting for them when they got out of the warehouse. Nate went in first and turned back to help pull Eliot up. Here it was that Eliot paused, pain and exhaustion finally getting to him. He looked at the step up into the van; under ordinary circumstances a simple step up that was hardly noticed, but now, it seemed as insurmountable as trying to climb Mt. Everest in shorts and a t-shirt. Blood loss had made him weak and dizzy, the pain from the wounds causing the edges of his vision to go black as he fought against the urge to lay down and pass out. He lifted his head to look at Nate, and Nate could see the weariness that Eliot was fighting against. Not giving Eliot the chance to protest, he leaned forward and grabbed Eliot under his arms and pulled him upward into the van. Hardison hopped up quickly behind, and Parker jumped forward and they helped Nate stabilize Eliot and between the three of them they were able to gently support him as he slid down to sit ungracefully in a heap against the wall.

Eliot was so tired he didn't even protest at the manhandling of Nate pulling him unceremoniously into the van. The only thing he concentrated on doing was remaining conscious as each movement pulled at the wounds that covered his body. He felt Nate attempt to lower him gently to the floor of the van and he hissed when he felt his unprotected back slide against the metal wall of the van. He let his left leg go straight in front of him and bent his right knee up and leaned his elbows against it as he leant forward to get his back away from the wall. He held his forearms out in front of him, careful to avoid any contact with his wrists.

Nate knelt down in front of Eliot, "Hardison, drive." He turned to Eliot and gently put his hands underneath Eliot's hands, "Eliot, can you squeeze my fingers?" Eliot didn't respond, his head between his arms as he breathed harshly, "Eliot, can you squeeze my fingers? You don't need to squeeze them hard, but if you can't move them I'll need to get you to a hospital whether you like it or not. There could be permanent damage."

Eliot raised his head to look up at him wearily. Nate could see that Eliot was holding on to consciousness by a literal thread., "Eliot, please, just a little bit longer." Eliot gave him a half nod and Nate watched as a grimace of pain spread across his friend's face. But then Nate smiled when he felt a light pressure against his fingers, "That's it Eliot, good job, you can relax now." Eliot didn't say anything and just let his head roll forward against his arms as he tried to fight against the pain that was rolling thru his body.

Nate rolled back onto his heels and looked over at where Sophie was huddled against the wall with a blanket wrapped around her body and bandages on her wrists, "Sophie?"

Sophie looked up at him and Nate could see the tears in her eyes, "Nate?! Eliot? Is he..?"

"He's alive, and he's tough. He'll be okay. How are you?"

She gave him a half-hearted smile, "I'll be okay. Parker bandaged my wrists and I can still move my fingers okay. Eliot protected me from the worst of it."

Nate smiled, "Yeah, he's good at that." He looked over at where Eliot sat unmoving, "He's real good at that," he whispered.

Nate stepped around to get a closer look at Eliot's back. Blood and dirt and shredded skin were mixed together, and he couldn't see the individual wounds through the mess. He reached over to the other side of the van where there were bottles of water. "Eliot, I'm going to pour some water over your back to try and clean it up a little. I'm really worried about infection." He paused, "This will probably hurt."

He heard a snort from Eliot and then Eliot picked his head up to look at him, a half smile partially formed on his lips, "Yeah," Eliot replied in his soft southern drawl, "I imagine it might. Get on with it."

"Okay, I'm just going to pour this water over your back and try to wash some of this mess off. Go for the drenching affect" He nodded to Parker who sat down next to Eliot and reached across him to grab a hold of his upper arms to try and hold him still. Nate uncapped the bottle and began to drizzle the water across Eliot's back. As the water hit his unprotected back and pain burst across the raw nerve endings Eliot bucked forward and even in his weakened state Parker was hard-pressed to hold the man still while Nate continued to pour water across his back and watched helplessly as the water washed away the blood and pieces of flesh to reveal raw open wounds and flesh that hung across his back in strips.

"Okay, without some good drugs for you this will have to do. We practically have a hospital in the office with what you and Parker have stocked.

Parker smiled, "What about his leg and the bullet wound?"

Eliot picked his head up, "It went all the way thru my leg, thru the soft tissue, and it was only a nine mil at close distance. Hole's not too big. Clean it out and wrap it up and it should be good."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It was a half hour van ride back to the office, and somewhere in the middle of it exhaustion overcame Eliot. Whether he'd fallen asleep or passed out Nate didn't know, but he was glad for it either way. The man stayed out while he and Hardison carried him gently out of the van and thru the back service elevator. Parker helped Sophie and soon the team was in the safety of their office.

"Sophie, you sit down and rest, we can handle this. Hardison, help me lay him down on the table. We'll clean him up before we put him to bed." Nate ordered, "Parker, get me several bowls of warm water, towels, gauze and antibiotic ointment. Do we have saline for an IV bag? He's pretty dehydrated."

"We got all of that boss. I'm on it." Parker replied. She left to retrieve the items without the bounce that was usually present in her steps.

Nate instructed Hardison to hold the injured hitter upright while he began to clean up Eliot's back with the supplies Parker had retrieved. Nate had set up the IV and injected some pain medication into it to help minimize the pain the hitter would feel while he set about cleaning up his wounds. He packed ice around Eliot's wrists to try to alleviate some of the swelling before he set about cleaning out those wounds. It took almost two hours, thru which at times even the pain medication was not enough as Eliot fought against the hands holding him down while Nate cleaned his wounds. But finally the deed was done and Eliot was bandaged, medicated and put to bed. Sophie's wounds were cleaned and readied before she went to bed. Parker and Nate rotated between the two convalescing members while Hardison did more research into Michael Collins, the man who had started this, to determine if there were any other unknown members of his family that might seek further revenge.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The arrival of consciousness was not something Eliot found himself enjoying. He groaned as the innumerable aches and pains in his body began to make itself felt. He flinched when he felt a hand gently touch a shoulder, "Hey man, you waking up finally?"

The hitter turned his head towards the direction of the voice and slowly opened his eyes. They felt grainy and irritated and he blinked several times to moisten them, "Hardison?" he rasped.

"Yeah man. You've been out about 8 hours. You don't seem to have a fever so I guess its okay, but I got tired of watching over you."

"Why?" Eliot asked slowly. He was a grown man and didn't need people watching over him. He'd been on his own a long time and hurt worse than this and always awoke to find himself alone.

"Why?" Hardison asked incredulously, "Geeze man, you are hard core. If I'd taken the beating just took I'd want people around me to wait on me hand and foot for like a month."

Eliot snorted, then grimaced as the motion pulled at the already sore muscles on his chest and back. Hardison saw the look and reached over to the bedside table to open up a bottle of pills and get the glass of water that was sitting there. "Here man, take a few of these." He raised a hand to ward off the cry of protest that he knew Eliot was going to make, "It's Tylenol with codeine, and the weakest version they have. I know you don't like heavy duty pain meds, but Nate wanted you to have something stronger than aspirin. They shouldn't fuzz you out too much."

Eliot paused for a moment before reaching out to take the proffered items from Hardison. Tylenol with codeine wasn't all that strong for him, but would take the edge off, and right now, that edge was sharp as butcher's knife. He tried to close his hand around the glass of water but his fingers would only move a little. Hardison saw the problem and held onto the glass, "Hey man, you hurt your arms pretty badly. You probably wont be able to get a good grip on things for a few days. Let me help."

The hitter didn't want to accept anyone's help but didn't see a whole lot of options. At least the glass had a straw in it and he would have some control. He popped the pills and grimaced at the aftertaste that even the water could not mask, "Sophie?" he asked.

"She's fine. The bastard wrapped her up with the barbed wire too, but at least he didn't hang her from the ceiling. Nate's with her now. She wanted to be in here with you but he wouldn't let her. I think he drugged her to get her to sleep in her own bed." The comment caused Eliot to smile, glad that the grifter was not seriously injured and would be okay.

Eliot lay there for a few minutes, listening to Hardison apologize about Lyle Jackson, how he would be more careful in the future, and after hours of searching didn't see any evidence that Collins knew anyone even remotely like Lyle. "Don't worry about it man. You're not superman and I don't expect you to know everything. At least you were able to find us." He rolled carefully to one side and began to sit up, groaning a bit as the motion pulled at his injuries, "I need to get up."

"Hey man, what are you doing, you shouldn't be getting out of bed."

"Either get out of my way or help me up." Eliot stated, grimacing as he tried to use his arms to propel himself upwards. Pain spiked thru his wrists and he doubled over to lean on his elbows, trying to control the gasp that ripped thru him.

"Gosh dude, you are so stubborn. " Hardison reached over and grabbed Eliot by the upper arms and pulled him upwards until Eliot was sitting upright, "What's so important that you have to get up now?"

"Bathroom," Eliot said simply.

"Uh yeah, right. You ready to stand up?"

"Give me a minute." Eliot was feeling a bit dizzy and wondered briefly if this was the best idea. He waited, and after a few moments his equilibrium began to stabilize. His left thigh ached from the bullet wound and the wounds on his back pulled but after a minute he nodded his head and shifted his weight towards his feet, allowing Hardison to pull on his arms to help pull him up.

Once standing Eliot stood very still for a minute while he waited for the various aches and pains to recede from his body, "You sure about this Eliot?" Hardison asked, "You're looking a little green around the edges there."

"I'm fine," Eliot growled, "Just need a moment to make sure everything is going to work right, which I think it is." He took a cautious step forward. When his legs held his weight without buckling he took another step forward. He didn't shrug Hardison's grip off his arm, but found that he was able to slowly make his way to the bathroom without leaning on the hacker. He knew that the man only wanted to help, but knew that his strength was in his brain, not his brawn, and wouldn't be the best help if he really needed it.

At the door to the bathroom he shrugged off the black man's arm, "I got this." he growled.

"Yeah, okay man. Like don't fall in or anything okay, cause I'm not sure how much help I'd be." the man replied nervously.

"Just shut up, and go get me something to eat, will ya." the statement was less of a question and more of an order, and Eliot firmly closed the door without waiting for an answer from Hardison.

Eliot knew he had a lot of healing left to do when he found that his trip to the bathroom left him exhausted. Hardison had left a small bowl of soup and a half sandwich on the nightstand next to his bed, and he ate a bit of each before laying back in the bed, grimacing until he could find a comfortable position. Hardison was gone, but Eliot could hear the man talking to Parker in the common area. He smiled; the conversation seemed lighthearted, and he closed his eyes and let the exhaustion and the pain medication take him back to sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next time Eliot awoke was only four hours later and it wasn't nearly as quiet as the first time, "No!" he yelled, in the grip of a strong nightmare, "Get away you bastard!" Don't hurt her!" He rolled back and forth on the bed, and the pain from the barely closed wounds on his back aggravated his nightmare and he continued to yell, caught in the grips of the nightmare and the agony of his wounds.

"Eliot!" Nate yelled, rushing thru the doors and to the agonized man's side, "Eliot, wake up!" not thinking, the ex-insurance agent reached across the bed to grab a hold of the man's arms to try still the man.

But Eliot was caught up in the throes of his nightmare, and he didn't recognize Nate's hands as those of a teammate, but thought he was back in the warehouse getting hung by strands of barbed wire and he lashed out, striking Nate across the head and sending him sprawling into a wall. He followed Nate's yell of surprise and sprung out of the bed after the man, intent on killing him when he was suddenly brought back to reality by cold water getting splashed across his face, courtesy of some quick thinking action by Parker and the water container she was carrying to refill his glass. He found himself jolted back to reality and he pulled himself up short. He looked at what he'd done, seeing Nate sprawled across the floor, blood flowing sluggishly from his nose. He stepped backwards, bumping into the nightstand before sliding down the wall and curling into himself.

He lay there for a moment, watching warily as the rest of the team moved around him, "Get out of here." he rasped, " Just leave me alone."

"Eliot," he heard Nate say, "Eliot, its my fault." He heard rustling and the sound of footsteps coming closer. He lunged up and tried to get away, crying out as his body protested the abuse. He fell back down to his knees and then onto his right side, his left leg outstretched and his arms cradled in front of him. His breath heaved in his chest and his face was flushed with exertion. He looked up fearfully at Nate, and was gratified when the man stopped his forward advance.

Nate stopped and crouched down several feet in front of the exhausted man, "Eliot," he said, and waited patiently until the man looked up at him and held his gaze, "I'm sorry. I know better. I shouldn't have tried to wake you up like that. I'm okay." He stayed crouched down in front of Eliot until finally the injured man's breathing had steadied and his face began to regain its normal color. He reached up and moved slowly towards the nightstand, holding Eliot's gaze as he did so. He shook a few pain pills out of the bottle and held them and a glass of water to Eliot. Eliot bypassed the pills and used both hands to carefully take a hold of the water.

"No more of those pills. They make me feel weird." He shook his head.

"Eliot." Nate said exasperatedly, "It's not that bad."

Eliot laughed half-heartedly, "I don't think your face feels that way," He carefully took a sip of water, cradling the glass between his swollen hands, "Just get me a few regular aspirin. That will be good enough."

Nate sighed, knowing that the man wouldn't budge, and decided that it was better than nothing, "Fine, but get yourself back into that bed. You don't need to be up and around yet." He got up and motioned the others out of the room, knowing that Eliot wouldn't accept anyone touching him yet and would feel better if no one saw him struggle to his feet.

Nate returned a few minutes later with a bottle of aspirin and some first aid supplies. He took the top off the bottle before handing it to Eliot, "Take what you need. I'm going to change the bandages."

Eliot growled, "They're fine."

"Stop being so stubborn. As much as you don't want to admit it, you got hurt pretty bad and its going to be a few days before you'll be comfortable on your feet again. And as athletic as you are I don't think you're going to have much success cleaning those wounds on your back very well." He looked the hitter square n the eye, "Now take the damned pills and lets get this over with."

Eliot turned a hard stare at the man before shrugging and swallowing three aspirin. He knew the man was right but it was galling to admit it. He carefully laid back, twisting slightly onto his right side to avoid laying fully on his back and closed his eyes. He didn't move when Nate flipped the blanket over his legs and began to unwrap the bandage on his left thigh..

Over a years worth of working with a team and the occasional injuries that occurred had left Nate with a good idea of what needed to be done. They didn't talk; Nate was too busy concentrating on not being sick at the sight of raw skin and exposed muscle and bone, and Eliot was biting his lower lip to keep from making a sound. Nate was trying to be gentle, and as much as Eliot didn't want to admit he needed help, he was internally grateful that he didn't have to go thru all of this alone.

When Nate was finished they both heaved a silent sigh of relief. "I don't think anything looks infected, and you don't seem to have a fever. But those wrists look pretty inflamed still and I think some ice packs are in order. You should probably keep taking the antibiotics too, just in case."

Eliot nodded wearily, sleep was pulling on him and he wanted nothing more but to curl up on his right side and sleep the pain away. Nate saw this and sat back to gather up the supplies. He returned only a few minutes later with ice packs and antibiotics but Eliot was already falling asleep. He opened his eyes long enough to take the pills that Nate insisted he take, then closed his eyes again and instantly fell asleep. He didn't even rouse when Nate wrapped the ice packs around his wrists.

Nate was just beginning to sit down on the chair next to Eliot's bed when Sophie peeked her head into the room, "How is he?" she asked anxiously.

"Pretty good, all things considering. His wrists are still pretty sore, but he can move his fingers. The rest of the wounds appear to be healing normally, if a bit painfully."

Sophie stepped further into the room, "I'll sit with him a bit. You go get some rest and clean up your face."

Nate laughed softly. So intent was he on caring for Eliot that he'd forgotten his own injury. He shook his head, "I'm fine."

"I know you are, but I want to do this and you should take a break when you can. I can take the ice packs off in twenty minutes. I don't think that's too strenuous."

"Okay, fine. I'll be in the other room." He left the room, squeezing Sophie's shoulder briefly as he went by. He paused at the door, waiting until Sophie had settled herself in the chair before softly closing the door and going into the other room.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Eliot awoke to a muted cacophony of aches and pains making itself known. He silently cataloged each injury, marking that none felt especially bad, and that given time, he would heal. A few more scars maybe, but nothing he couldn't handle. When the cataloging was finished only then did he warily open his eyes to look cautiously about the room. While a part of him appreciated their concern, he was used to being alone to hurt and then heal. He breathed a silent sigh of relief after he was able to carefully roll over and see that no one was in the room with him. Using his elbows, he levered himself up until he was sitting upright, then slowly reached over to the night stand for a glass of water. He saw the aspirin bottle, and saw that someone had thoughtfully left the cap unscrewed. He palmed three, taking a swig of water to wash them down, then sat quietly for a few minutes while he waited for the pills to take affect.

He looked over at the chair next to his bedside and saw several partially melted icepacks. He opened and closed his hands, finding that it was better than he expected, and realized that someone must have stayed with him for awhile, changing ice packs on his wrists while he slept. He reached over and grabbed the icepacks, laying them across his wrists while he laid his head back to rest for a few more minutes.

He realized he'd dozed off again when he opened his eyes to find the ice packs were gone and the pain from his wounds had lessened. He snarled half heartedly; he hadn't meant to fall asleep - he'd slept enough and needed to get out of bed.

He carefully levered himself out of bed and stayed close to the wall while he walked cautiously to the bathroom. He emerged several minutes later, feeling better after having been able to clean himself up a little. He desperately wanted a shower, but knew that would probably need to wait another day or so.

He heard voices outside his door and he left his room and slowly walked the short distance to their work area where he found the rest of the team watching a movie that was displayed on the six screens, "That's just wrong," he thought to himself. He didn't recognize the movie, but tired of sitting in bed he slowly hobbled over to where they were sitting.

By the time he got to the couch he was exhausted, and as much as a part of him was tired of laying down, his body was too tired to do much more. Hardison was laying sprawled across the couch, with the others lounging in the various chairs in the room. There was an empty chair, but he wanted the couch so he could stretch out. His left leg was beginning to cramp from even that little bit of exercise.

He stood in front of the hacker, blocking the younger man's view of the screen, "Move," he stated simply in his southern drawl.

Hardison looked at him incuriously, "Who, me? No way man, first come first serve. Go sit in the empty chair."

Eliot was in no mood to argue, "Move or I'll break all of your fingers."

At the same time, Nate said warningly, "Hardison, move."

Hardison threw his hands up in defeat, "Alright, alright man. Don't have a cow." He was going to say more but trailed off when Nate gave him a warning glare.

Eliot didn't comment and was only half listening as he gingerly sat himself down onto the vacated couch. He positioned the pillows so he could sit on his right side to avoid putting too much pressure on his sore back. He started to lift his left leg up, stopping suddenly and grimacing when a spike of pain shot thru the muscle. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing himself to breathe thru the pain and took a deep breath before trying again.

His second attempt was halted by soft hands touching his face. He opened his eyes to find Sophie kneeling in front of him, "Let me help," she said, and without waiting for a reply she reached underneath his legs with her bandaged hands and pushed them onto the couch.

She wasn't strong enough to do it easily, and it caused the hitter some pain as she pushed his heavily muscled legs up, but he knew she wanted to help, and in truth, he knew it would hurt worse if he did it on his own. He smiled at her when she was finished, "Thanks," he said quietly.

A few moments later he felt a comforting weight being spread across him as Sophie spread a blanket over him. She touched his shoulder for a moment, then his throat to where the wounds on his neck were unbandaged, testament to how she had hurt him.

"It's alright darling," Eliot said softly, "It's not your fault." He opened his eyes and looked at her sad brown eyes.

"I know its not," she said softly, "But I could have killed you all the same."

Before Eliot could say another word she was gone and he heard her soft footsteps in the kitchen and heard her rummage around. He closed his eyes, listening to the sound of the movie and the team wash over him. He opened his eyes again briefly when he felt something cold against his wrists and throat, and saw that Sophie had returned with some ice packs. He smiled at her in thanks."

"Go back to sleep," she said, "We'll be here when you wake."

And as much as Eliot was used to being alone, he was getting used to not being alone anymore. When the team had split up for those months he thought he'd be glad to be alone again, but very quickly he found himself being lonely, and often had to catch himself from dialing the phone to check in with one of the others. He smiled a little as he settled deeper into the pillows, letting sleep overtake him again. He knew he needed a few weeks to heal, but until he was ready, he had a team that would take care of him.