Notes: This is actually a collection of prompts I did for comment fic over on live journal that I complied into a single story. Each segment is from a diffrent prompt (Sophie returns when Eliot is injured, "It wasn't your fault" , You don't con your own team, He's learned to control himself, Swallowing His Pride, and The teams first job After...). There will be at least one more chapter to this story.
Dedicated to JennyTork who read the first segment and thought something much more cool than what I had planned was going on, thus enableing me to write the rest of this story.
Blind Man's Bluff
When her cell phone's ring wakes Sophie up at four in the morning she lets out a slew of curses as she fumbles for the offending device. She's more than a little temped to throw it across the room and go back to her pleasant sleep. It's probably nothing more than that guy from the club earlier who managed to get her number by means Hardison would be able to tell her but she wouldn't bother calling about.
When she see's it's Nate she is briefly faced with the decision of whether to throw it across the room or answer and give Nate a piece of her mind for calling at this hour.
She decides on the later, answering the phone and preparing for a rant of the ages.
Nate's voice cracks a little when he says "Sophie." And she finds she can't get a word out. Nate takes a shaky breath and continues. "We were on a job… it went south. Hardison and Parker made it out okay but Eliot bought them the time to do it. When we could get him… He's in surgery now." Sophie covered her mouth, not able to stifle the gasp. This wasn't possible. "I… I know you said but… please. Come back now. We need you. Eliot needs you." She was about to answer when she heard a very soft "I need you." Tacked on.
"Did Hardison get me a ticket already?"
"Give me your location and he'll have one waiting for you at the desk."
"I'm on my way."
Nearly twelve hours later Sophie stepped into the ICU room where she'd been told Eliot was.
She paused on the threshold, looking around at the others hesitantly. Parker looked like she'd seen a ghost, but the shock at seeing Sophie didn't hide eyes red from 'not crying'. Hardison looked like he might have been pissed or might have been beyond happy if 90% of his focus wasn't on the unconscious man in the bed.
Nate didn't even look up from where he was sitting by Eliot's side.
She was still trying to find words when a more gravely than even usual voice broke the silence. "You have a very distinctive walk…"
Nate knew it was illogical. He knew, very clearly, and was certain he'd feel very bad for doing so later, that it was wrong to feel this flash of utter loathing for Sophie.
All she had done was step in through the door. Hell, she came walking in because he asked her to. He'd called her in Europe, probably at some god awful hour in the morning, practically begging her to come back, saying the words he couldn't say before because he had nothing left to hide behind.
He needed her. The team needed her. And Eliot… god Eliot…
He didn't look away from Eliot even as she walked in the door. Even as her being here somehow made this real. Even as the fact that she had flown halfway across the world to be here made it really true that this was happening.
And she didn't even know what was so bad, probably just relived to know Eliot was alive.
He hadn't known when he called what the true damage was. It was another three hours before the doctors had come out and dropped that atomic nuke in their laps.
Yes. Eliot was alive and stable and should recover enough from the beatings to return home in only a few days. However the other damage done… They had brought in a specialist and tried to repair what they could but the time between the initial damage and him getting help combined with the head injuries sustained they didn't know yet. The surgery was done and they'd have to wait until the wounds and surgical damage healed before they'd know for sure.
Nate hadn't hated Sophie when she first walked in. It was Eliot's dry remark of "You have a very distinctive walk", the soft gasp followed by Sophie's bag hitting the floor, the way she stumbled dazedly across the room and reached out, fingers just a hair away from touching the bandages wrapped over Eliot's eyes.
That was what made this real.
This was real. His plan had really gone south. Parker and Hardison had really only escaped alive because of Eliot staying behind. Eliot really had been tortured and his captors really had blinded him.
This really was his fault.
Eliot raised a hand, wrapping it around Sophie's wrist as easily as if he'd seen her hand suspended there in the air inches from his face.
He let out a long, slow breath, his face calm. "Sophie…" He stated, his voice gentle. His head turned up like he was looking at her before turning toward each of the other three standing silent vigil, unsure how to handle what came next. "It wasn't your fault."
He's adapting remarkably well.
That's what the doctors kept saying, the surprise in their voice sincere enough for Sophie to actually believe them.
And why wouldn't what they say be the truth? After all it was only five days ago that Eliot had been captured and tortured for hours until the team had come to his rescue. Only four days ago he'd woken up in the ICU and been told the damage to his eyes had been severe and they wouldn't know weather or not he'd ever see again for a month, maybe longer.
Eliot had only been legally blind for four days and he was sitting in his hospital, in his civilian clothes, fingers skimming over the brail text of some book without a title that could be read by the eyes.
After knowing him as long as she had Sophie should have only been mildly surprised to learn he could already read brail easily.
She had to admit he did seem to be adapting remarkably well.
The doctors had given them all tips on things to do and avoid to help him through the transition: announce yourself when you enter the room, let him know before you touch him, don't move something of his without telling him and "showing" him where you put it, and try to be as casual about the situation as you can.
But Eliot had always known who was who and where they were. When, that first night when his wounds were still fresh and he was having the most difficulty moving Sophie had tried to, subtly, cut his food he'd glowered at her and she'd put the silverware down without restoring it to it's proper location. With a frustrated sigh picked up the utensils and put them back, neatly aligned with his plate, where he'd know where they were.
At least they could all act casual, acting casual was what cons did best.
Hell, Eliot was adapting so well and they were all acting so casual that Sophie almost thought they'd all tricked themselves that things would be back to normal in no time. Eliot was too … Eliot to be slowed down by the fact he couldn't see.
He'd bounce back from this like nothing had ever happened. Just a few changes and accommodations and they'd be back in business. Hell, Sophie could hear the goons now. "But you can't see" and then Eliot would beat them up and remark with that little smirk. "Good thing I don't use a gun then."
She kept tell herself that, but even as she did she knew it wasn't true.
She knew because Eliot had agreed to stay in the hospitals until the doctors told him he was good to go. In the past Eliot was normally out the door the moment he was capable of standing under his own power, sometimes before.
She knew because there were a few pieces of broken glass left in the corner of the room that hadn't been there before he all but ordered them to go home the night before. Sophie could practically see him, getting frustrated, losing his temper, a glass sailing across the room to shatter on the far wall. The orderlies running in and him pulling it back in, claiming it was an accident, and no they didn't have to clean it up. He would. She could see him meticulously cleaning up the glass (he'd know the safest way to do it to) but still missing pieces. He was good, but even Eliot couldn't know where all the pieces of a shattered glass had fallen from the sound.
And she knew because she was standing in the doorway, feeling guilty for taking advantage of the fact a code blue alert the next room over had masked her approach and entrance, the door sliding shut behind her before the noise died. Eliot had looked up, his face pointed straight at her despite the bandages covering his eyes, before looking back to his book with a long suffering sigh.
He had read on, oblivious to her presence. A minute ticked by, two, three. Sophie knew she should announce herself but she couldn't make herself break the silence.
When the book closed Sophie feared she'd been caught but she watched as he let it drop to the floor, hands falling to his lap as he took in one of his "I'm in agony but way too tough to scream" deep breaths and let it go slowly.
He lifted a shaking hand to touch the cloth covering his eyes before letting it drop, his shoulders slumping and his posture hunching like he was instinctively trying to protect himself from the beating he could no longer see coming.
If it was anyone else Sophie would have thought she saw just a hint of something dampening and darkening the bandages at the corners of Eliot's eyes.
She knew Eliot was conning them. That he wasn't adapting well. That he wasn't okay. That he wasn't going to just bounce back from this. She wanted to be angry, he'd said it so many times you don't con your own team and here he was.
She wanted to call him on it. She wanted to tell him to let her help, let them all help.
But there was another code blue alarm and Sophie took the chance to leave, slipping out the door almost silently despite the noises covering her exit. Somewhere further into the ward she heard someone call out "We're losing him again."
Her own private con shattered and she all but collapsed into the closest chairs, five days catching up to her and she wasn't even sure if the sudden hum of the flat line she heard was real.
There were going to be changes. Eliot knew that, even without the doctors constantly telling him so. Some days he really just wanted to punch in a few faces to show that he didn't need their helpful tips on how to cope with being blind.
He knew he had to take it slow, that he had to let himself process the fact the injuries might not heal, that he might not see again and he shouldn't wait a month to start his life again.
In a month the bandages would come off and he'd open his eyes and he might see fine, if a little worse for the wear, or he might have some vision problems, or he could see nothing at all. But that was in a month, or twenty-four days at this point.
But he had processed that. He had gone through the whole denial stint and come out on the other side when Sophie had arrived and it hit him that even though she'd come back for him he still might never see her again.
It had hit him like a blow to the gut, nearly knocking the wind out of him as realizations hit and his mind spun in dangerous directions. He had the sudden Need to be not there anymore, to be not surrounded by his team, staring at him with pitying looks he couldn't see but could feel.
Flight or fight instincts kicked into high gear. But he's learned to control himself. He was in no condition to go anywhere and the team needed him. The team needed him. He'd focus on that and ignore all the rest.
Just focus on the job. It was what always worked.
He dealt with the team's guilt and started trying to move forward, progressing into anger as he spent a few days adapting. He'd trained blindfolded at times, and had done plenty of work in the pitch dark so it could have (for anyone else should have) probably been a lot harder to start habitually remembering exactly where things were by touch and muscle memory instead of sight. That he already could read brail from that whole mess back then was a small blessing. Honestly his frustration could have been worse if he hadn't been so prepared.
Not that he didn't have his moments, that shattered glass was pretty damning evidence even if he clean it all up before anyone but some orderlies saw it. But he'd learned to control himself a long time ago and he reined himself back in before any serious damage was done.
He had known depression was going to hit, he was used to five staging things. Others might insist he was a big macho guy who didn't deal well with emotions but he'd learned early on that when you could, and when it was safe, you had to deal with shit and move on. Better to let himself just cope with this for a few days now than let it fester.
And yeah it hit. And yeah, it was about as painful as he knew it would be. He registered and recognized symptoms as they came. Exhaustion, lethargy, feelings of sadness, loss of interest, loss of appetite, inability to sleep… after doing the PTSD and Five Stages deals as many times in his life as he had he knew he just had to wait it out.
He felt those things, but he'd been through enough, learned enough control, that he never let it show when the team was around. They already blamed themselves enough for what had happened and he was still, as always, trying to protect the team.
As usual Bargaining never really hit. He'd always been too much of a realist. Eliot had learned a long time ago you can't control the violence, he could only control himself.
And then, after seven days in the hospital, Nate offered to drive him home as usual when Eliot had been injured and Eliot was pretty sure he'd made it into acceptance.
For better or worse, for sight or without it, it was time to move on with life. Determination set in and he left his hospital room behind.
It wasn't until he sat down in the car that it hit him that there was a decent chance he'd never be able to drive his truck or ride his motorcycle again. He nearly reacted like he'd been punched in the gutt again, implications beginning to spin one more time and he felt like he'd been knocked all the way back to just out of Denial.
Nate asked him if he was okay and Eliot felt this insane urge to just once answer with a deffinant "No" and maybe some Parker-crazy sounding thing, his mind practically begging to hear Nate say "Let's go steal back Eliot's sight."
But he was protecting his team and he's learned how to control himself. Instead he forces a smile and says. "Just realized this was my first time in a hospital where I didn't hate the wallpaper."
Nate laughs and they drive off, and Eliot wonders how much longer until the team gets out of Denial themselves.
It's a lot like a riding crop.
Of all the thoughts going through Eliot's mind as he sat there that was the one that kept coming back.
It felt a lot like a riding crop.
Long, thin, springy, with a loop on the end with the handle meant to go around the wrist. Well made, of course. Parker had stolen it for him and stolen into his apartment to leave it where he'd find it.
He mentally acknowledged that of all possible ways that was the best. They didn't spend money on it. Parker delivered it and left without him even knowing she was there so there were no awkward moments and it was Parker. She could have done so only a little less easily when he wasn't blind.
It felt a lot like a riding crop, the kind of thing he'd always refused to use on a horse.
He wasn't sure it was reasonable to hate an inanimate object this much, though maybe guns were the exception.
He didn't use riding crops. He didn't use guns.
He wouldn't use this.
He didn't need it. He really didn't. He hadn't had any problems avoiding obstacles so far. His instincts and reflexes meant he would do just fine.
The fact his knees ached still from the fall he took the last time he left the building…
He didn't need it.
Who was he kidding? He hadn't made it fifty yards from his apartment building without falling flat on his face. The sidewalk in this area was dangerously uneven even for those with sight and he knew this area.
What happened if he fell in front of the team?
He didn't need to see to know what their faces would look like. Guilt, worry, concern, Pity.
They'd pity him. They'd get more coddle sum and Eliot wasn't sure he could take that.
Eliot rubbed his face, careful of the bandages at his eyes and sighed. He didn't need this.
He didn't want this.
Frustration boiled through him but he breathed out and sighed.
He didn't want this, but he needed it.
Slowly he wrapped his hand around the grip and stood, trying to remember Old Pam, digging back to decades gone and dredging up memory he could of what to do. There had been directions in the box, written in brail, but he'd figure this out on his own.
He needed that too.
It had been two weeks since they got the news that Eliot might be blind and no one would know for a month if not longer.
It had been nine days since Nate drove Eliot home from the hospital and the team tried to go back to some semblance of normal life (or what had passed as normal life before).
It had been eight days since Eliot accepted the fact he should use a blind man's cane when going out and about, even though he argued he could probably get by without it.
It had been seven days since Eliot called Sophie and offered to go shopping with her if she'd go with him to the grocery store. She'd been with Nate at the time and mentioned it to Nate after she got off the phone. It only took them a few minutes to put together his reasoning for the bizaar offer.
Going shopping with Sophie was a test, he'd have to go out in public, use the cane, deal with a completely unknown area and situation, not lose his cool, and while he wouldn't be able to say screw it and bail he'd have Sophie there as a safety net should things go horribly awry.
But it was Sophie going with him to the grocery store that hurt. He'd already shown them that he could cook blind, what he couldn't do was go shopping for the ingredients.
It had been six days since Eliot called to ask if Nate could pick him up from a local gym later that day. Curious Nate arrived early, parked his car and went in. When he asked the woman at the front desk she said Eliot was in the back studios and Nate could go find him without signing in or paying.
Nate had found Eliot with a couple of guys who had the same air of easy strength that fighters like Eliot had. Eliot had asked Nate if he minded hanging around a few more minutes. He'd promised Sam a rematch.
Nate watched as they squared off, Eliot's opponent had the height (and, well, sight) advantage but Eliot seemed at ease, almost serene really.
The fight was short. The victor was Eliot.
It had been five days since Eliot showed up back in Nate's apartment at the time he used to show up when they weren't on a job, a bag of groceries in one arm, backpack on his back, and relived grin on his face. He had leaned his cane by the door, put the groceries away and went about things like he normally would.
He sat in his chair and turned on the TV, listening to a football game and Parker and Hardison bickering as they showed up together. There was a brief fumble as they tried not to react to the reasons why it had been two weeks since things had been this normal but soon the three were bickering. Sophie showed up and she distracted Nate with some cases to work on.
Time passed and their off duty routine settled in and around two oclock, right on the usual schedule, Eliot had put down his book, stood, and stretched. "It's Thursday." Was all he said before heading toward the door. Nate watched as Parker and Hardison stared at him, unmoving. "I can hear you not moving. It's Thursday an' you had last week off. Get."
Slowly Parker and Hardison stood, following Eliot out the door. Thursdays when they weren't on a job Eliot used to spend a few hours training Parker and Hardison in self defense.
Looked like that wasn't in past tense after all.
"He's ready you know." Sophie said, pulling Nate's attention back to her. "He wants to go back to work. He wants to go back to doing his job. He's doing everything he can to show us he's ready."
"He's blind Sophie." Nate said, still hating to say the words but having to be realistic. "His job was the most dangerous to begin with and now… And it's not just him I'd be putting at risk. We all depend on him for our safety. Even if I hate what happened if Eliot hadn't done what he had Parker and Hardison would be dead now." Nate sighed, looking down at his hands, that fact the only reason he was able to live with the fact when the job had started to go south he'd told Eliot 'get Parker and Hardison out of there'. It didn't matter that Eliot would have done what he did on his own. "A job's different than normal life. We don't know if he can do his job anymore."
"Then we put training wheels on." Sophie said simply, sorting through the files. "He need's to 'get back on the bike'." She referenced what Eliot had once said with a sad smile. "I don't think he'll be able to get through this until he can do his job again or knows he can't for certain."
Nate sighed and nodded, accepting enough that Sophie continued.
"We pick an easy job, one we could do in our sleep and plan it and practice like we're going up against Sterling." She put the file in his hands. "And you plan a time for things to "go south" a bump in the road that Eliot would have to deal with without us, and don't tell him you did. Have Hardison and Parker close enough to come to the rescue but not unless they have to."
Nate looked at the file an old memory stirring.
Sam, no older than seven, trying to ride a bike without training wheels and falling, scraping his hands and knees up badly on the asphalt.
Sam, before the scabs had completely healed, afraid but still asking Nate to teach him how.
The training wheels came off and he rode with Nate holding him upright, running beside him, then letting go.
The triumphant smile as Sam rode laps around the parking lot, small king of a small boy's world.
He blinked away the memory and picked up the file. "Alright." He looked up at Sophie and gave a determine nod. "Lets go steal Eliot's bike back."
It had been four days since he'd told the team they were doing a job.
It had been one day since they'd finished their pre job prep work and Hardison had held the official briefing. A new brail printer helped ensure Eliot had the materials to follow along and Hardison had told Nate he was designing a screen that would mimic the TV only have bits under it that could raise to make brail letters and a upraised cursor to key Eliot in to where he should be "looking". Hardison also had done extra surveillance, getting clips of their marks' voices and even the sound of one of them walking.
Later Hardison would admit that and a lot of other little changes he'd made for Eliot's sake had been Parker's ideas. When Nate asked her how she'd come up with them her answer was simply "some people do crosswords."
It had been five minutes since Nate had finished metaphorically helping Eliot gain speed, setting their planned "hiccup" into motion, three security guards changed their route 'unexpectedly' and heading straight for the stairwell where Hardison and Eliot were making their way to their goal.
The last two weeks swam through his mind as Nate hit the button that would make it seem to Eliot like their coms were being blocked, and let go of the metaphorical handlebars. He sat back, watching on Hardison's hacked security system, forcing himself not to hold his breath.
Eliot reacted to the down coms first, asking Hardison something. Hardison responded flippantly, doing his part like Nate had told him to try his best to distract Eliot.
Eliot had growled back, obviously annoyed by Hardison's response. There was bickering and then, mid sentence, Eliot stopped. His head shot up, swiveling like he was trying to catch the sound of something. Nate checked the other cameras, the guards were getting close. He looked back to Eliot and Hardison in time to see Eliot helping Hardison to get their stuff together and half dragged Hardison up a flight of stairs and into an alcove off the stairwell they didn't have to pick a lock to get in.
Nate smiled, Eliot still found ways to memorize the blueprints of whatever building the broke into it seemed.
But Nate had predicted this and sure enough moments later the guards were closing in on the location where he and Hardison were hiding.
Just as the guards were about to look in to their hiding spot the door exploded open, catching the closest guard and knocking him down. Eliot came out swinging, locating his next opponent and taking him down. He was on the third guy only a beat slower than he'd normally be and had him down just as fast.
He stood very still for a moment, listening, determining it was an all clear before he started to drag the guards somewhere less conspicuous.
The camera was at just the right angle that Nate could see Eliot's face just as he moved to do so. He was wearing a smile, victory on his face, as big as a boy doing his first laps around a parking lot.