Notes: Last chapter for this story. As were the others this is a combination of a bunch of prompt fics (It only takes one second to save a life, Don't Look Back, The team has to protect him, Don't underestimate what I'd do to keep you safe, Makes you stronger, and Watching Eliot's childish delight while eating oreos and a tall glass of milk.)
Thanks for reading!
Blind Man's Bluff
Too much light.
Too much sound.
Too much. Just too much.
Hands were holding him. A gun was pressed to his temple but it was shifting, distracted. He could break from the hold easily and take down the man with the gun. He guessed he had a roughly one in five chance of being minorly wounded in the attempt and unless something unforeseen went wrong there was no chance of a fatal injury.
The word bit bitterly in his mind. He hadn't seen this coming. He couldn't see anything coming but still here things went all to hell. They'd done a job, it had gone just fine, they'd gone out to dinner and somehow he'd ended up in a hostage situation with a gun to his head, the lights turned on far too bright for him to see, and the sirens from half the police cruisers in Boston blaring out front of the restaurant making hearing anything impossible.
He could break free of this hold. But he had no clue if anyone else had a gun aimed at him or someone on the team.
"Please." Sophie. He could just hear her voice over the sirens. "Please let him go. He's blind. Take one of us instead."
"Damnit So-" He stopped himself from telling her off, that even blind he was best suited for hostage situations, not because of the gun jammed painfully hard against his temple but because he realized what she was actually trying to say and who she was saying it to.
She'd been using her con voice and her word choice. God only knew a grifter never said anything they didn't mean.
He was the only hostage.
That just left the question of weather or not there was only one gun trained on him.
"Please ju-" Sophie started again and the gun against his temple moved, the guy holding him shifted his body language changing to a very distinctive…
In less than a second, less than a heartbeat, Eliot realized he was moving to shoot Sophie to shut her up.
So Eliot moved faster.
It only took a second to take the guy holding him out.
It only takes a few seconds longer to end the hostage situation.
The team tries to leave quietly out the back. They don't want trouble or recognition. Nate talks to the cops or something, Eliot doesn't even know. He's trying to keep track but there is too much noise and too much chaos and the smell of gunpowder is strong in the air and he's getting a little dizzy from it all. Hardison and Parker have one hand each on his shoulders, guiding him through the haze.
Eliot hears reporters. Apparently this caught the attention of the news reporters.
Eliot hitched his shoulders, bringing his jacket up and over his head, crossing his arms in front of his face. He may look like an idiot but he didn't need his face to appear in print. Most of the dangerous people who knew what he looked like were dead, but there were plenty out there who'd be very interested in finding out Boston was his home city.
Just as he did so though he heard a click and felt a flash of light.
He'd reacted fast, but for a hitter just one second could be the difference between life and death.
There were some mornings when Eliot would sit at the table looking out his back window and watch the sun rise and the city wake up. Or, he should say, he'd watch until the light became too intense and his eyes burned and watered until he closed them or put on his shades.
He knew he wasn't doing himself or what was left of his vision any favors but it was the one time he allowed himself to look back.
He'd always liked sunrise. Always liked the slow dawn after a long night. Sometimes it brought promise or the end of long toil or the start of new hard, but good, work. Dawn brought the end of night. Light to darkness.
Only now dawn was the herald of the thing that drove him indoors or behind dark glasses. It no longer brought light to darkness but drove him further into it.
Still some mornings he'd look back and remember what it was like, hold onto things he was losing so that his memory, normally so sharp, wouldn't fade.
The sun glared off of something making his eyes water and Eliot looked away, rubbing at them and reaching to slip on his glasses.
A moment later his cell phone rang and Eliot fumbled to answer it.
"Eliot. It's Nate. You need to get out of your house now." Eliot didn't even get a chance to ask before Nate explained. "'Real Life Daredevil' is the front page story on The Boston Globe this morning. 'Last night a police hostage situation at a local restaurant involving several staff and patrons was ended suddenly without a single civilian casualty when the man the perpetrators had at gunpoint singlehandedly took down his attackers when they moved to shoot one of his friends. This already astonishing feat was made more remarkable by the fact several witnesses report the civilian was blind.' And they have a picture of you. Not perfect but good enough that someone looking would know it was you."
"Eliot you need to leave now. Parker will come back later for anything you don't want to leave behind but you need to leave immediately. Get to a safe house and lay low. Hardison's doing what he can but there's no telling what the fallout from this will be."
"On my way out." Eliot only stopped to pick up his cane. It would be a tell tale mark but it would do him no good to be alone in a relatively unknown environment without even this simple aid.
"I mean it Eliot, hurry. Don't even look back." Eliot knew it was Nate's panic and the team in general's overprotectiveness of him since his blinding that made him say that.
But Eliot still found himself muttering. "I try not to."
Right now they're bracing for impact.
Eliot got to Nate's apartment before trouble hit and was quickly holed up in the "safe condo" upstairs with bullet resistant windows hidden behind curtains and as many protections as they could get. Sophie found and convinced or bribed everyone they could think of to not tell the papers who the man the papers had labeled "A Real Life Daredevil" really was or where he lived. Parker was doing surveillance sweeps, trying to determine if anyone had found Eliot's apartment and Nate was trying to come up with some kind of solution that didn't involve them moving their base of operations across the country.
It was Hardison that came up with the closest thing to an actual solution mid morning and quickly drafted the others to help him the best they could.
Within hours Internet news sites, web blogs, and even big city radio stations across the world were being hit with a series of stories about a man who took out a criminal despite being crippled or who stopped a armed robbery at a bank despite being deaf, or some variation on the theme. For some there were pictures. For others there were only detailed descriptions.
They worked through the day, ensuring there had been more than twenty "sightings" of Eliot across the globe, scattered just enough that no one would notice a pattern unless they were looking for one. A handful were made to appear to have occurred and be reported on before the incident at the restaurant.
And, somewhere in that mess, Hardison hacked all the places that had records of the original story, doing his best to make it look like (at least to those looking from the outside) as if the reports had been altered or falsified.
Hardison's personal favorite step was starting a rumor on the internet that the photo in the paper had been photo shopped and that the so called daredevil was actually a woman and the powers that be decided a male hero would sell more papers. Within hours there was a facebook community dedicated to fighting for the rights of real life female superheroes.
But within thirty six hours of the newspaper hitting the stands there was nothing left for them to do, no preparations left to make. If any of Eliot's enemies were coming to Boston to try to hunt him down they were there already, or would be very soon.
There was nothing left to do but wait and brace for impact should a hitter of Eliot's caliber come calling.
Eliot stood in the kitchen of the Safe Condo, the apartment dark except for the faint light of the day leaking in under the heavy curtains on the windows. Shapes blurry from darkness and the damage to his eyes were around him and though he knew by muscle memory and his mental maps what everything was he didn't move to make use of it yet.
He was safe here, as safe as he would probably ever be at least, but at the same time instincts told him to just slip quietly outside of this darkened haven the team had made (for him, his mind told him, in preparation for something like this, because they knew this would happen) and disappear. He was safe here, but that safety was coming at the cost of putting the team in danger. They were protecting him when it was supposed to be the other way around.
He'd willingly put his life on the line to keep them safe. He'd bought Hardison and Parker time to escape fully accepting the fact the price for their safety would probably be his life. Instead he'd given his eyes, his independence, his… light…, to keep them safe.
What gave them the right to put their own lives on the line for his sake?
That wasn't how this was supposed to work.
Not for the first time Eliot pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, giving into the absurd urge to just try to *will* them to work. A half crazy, half bitter, and maybe just a little bit broken sound that could almost pass for a laugh escaped his throat.
Hey, he could will himself through a lot. Why couldn't he just will his eyes to work?
The door to the condo slammed shut, Parker's way of letting him know she was in the room. After he got what little sight he had back he'd discovered she still came in through her usual crazy ways, she just went straight for the door and pulled it open and slammed it shut whenever Eliot was in the room.
On a good day it made him smile.
Today was not a good day.
But any aggravated remarks he could have made were interrupted when Parker came into the kitchen with the comment of. "I'm hungry. I want mashed potatoes and pancakes."
Eliot's Scaring People glare never seemed to work on the thief and before he knew it he was wresting a potato peeler away from Parker and telling her to instead read him the instructions from the box of pancake mix.
One of these days the others would stop becoming subdued when he asked them to read him something.
And before long Eliot was mashing the potatoes, careful to add cheese (because that's the way Parker liked them and she'd probably sulk if he forgot) while she waited patiently over the stack of pancakes, and for a few brief moments Eliot realized he'd almost forgotten the chaos descending into his world.
Then he tossed the masher into the sink only to hear it clank and skid across a counter. The kitchen design in this apartment just a little different from Nate's and he had forgotten.
He shook it off, moving to go grab it when Parker touched his shoulder as she passed. He heard her drop it in the sink.
Shaking his head Eliot finished the potatoes and served most of them into a bowl, placing it beside Parker's plate of pancakes before scooping the rest of it into a smaller bowl for himself.
Eliot closed his eyes as he ate, glad he didn't have to watch Parker do her *thing* where she made sandwiches out of pancakes and mashed potatoes.
"Why do you have Oreos in the garbage?" Parker asked and suddenly Eliot regretted taking his eyes off her. "An empty box of Oreos."
Eliot wondered if he could pretend to go temporarily deaf to avoid answering that question.
"You always get on our cases about packaged food." Parker remarked. "And you were the one who bought all the food to this place." He didn't have to see her to know there was a slowly growing amused look on her face. "You like oreos."
"You like having me cook you food." Eliot said, half warning despite it being said like a statement. He already had a headache, he did not need her teasing him about Oreos being a comfort food. And he in fact had not bought them thank you very much. Sophie had.
After she'd seen him buy them a few times on their twice weekly grocery outings.
Parker fell silent, going back to her eating as if she'd never said anything.
Silence, however, didn't last long.
"You have to promise not to leave." Parker said after a few moments.
"You have to promise not to leave. You're thinking about leaving and you have to promise not to."
Eliot considered denying it but… he doubted he'd convince her. "I'm supposed to be protecting you guys. Lately I've been a liability. I'm gettin' better by but you guys shouldn't have to protect me."
"We don't." She said, her tone of voice the one she uses when she thinks you havn't been paying attention because your mind functions in a relatively sane fashion.
"You don't have to protect me." Eliot reiterates her point to be sure. She was crazy and even though that was his argument it seemed weird that she was making his point to counter his point. "Then why are you?"
Parker's answer was immediate. "Because you make me mashed potatoes and pancakes."
"You could hire a cook."
"I could I hire a cook." She agreed with a nod. "We all could hire a cook. But when I told my cook that I wanted mashed potatoes and pancakes they would ask me why and think I was weird and wouldn't know to put cheese in the mashed potatoes or that I eat it like a sandwich. Hardison's cook wouldn't make him peach pie with really cheap canned peaches because that's the way that makes Hardison make those happy noises and say it tastes just like his Nana's or if Hardison's cook did that he'd probably tell Hardison that his Nana made really bad peach pie and that none of the rest of us will eat it. Sophie's cook wouldn't know that she really likes simple foods and that foods with lots of spices give her heart burn but after a bad day making her Italian Food cheers her up. And Nate's cook wouldn't stop using wine in cooking or stop drinking beer in his apartment. And we'd have to all pay those cooks because they aren't family and they don't care about us and we don't care about them."
He didn't really know what to say to that.
"The team doesn't have to protect you. We want to."
Three days after the incident at the restaurant the coverage of The Daredevil had died down (though the facebook group for the rights of female superheros had tripled in membership). Life was going back to normal and Nate mentioned in a few more days it would probably be safe for Eliot to leave the building.
Though, even if none of them said it, Eliot had been showing much more tolerance to being cooped up inside than expected. When Parker mentioned it Eliot just shrugged, explaining that after a month in a little cell with no variation other than who was coming in to torture you a spacious apartment didn't seem at all bad.
None of them said that the fact if he was caught he might end up in that cell again wasn't comforting.
It had been three days and Eliot was still letting them protect him though, and they all were secretly relived he seemed to have come to terms with the arrangement.
It was almost five oclock on the third day and Parker was upstairs with Eliot when things changed.
Hardison burst into the apartment, locking the door behind him before racing to the kitchen where Eliot had been making Parker dinner. "We have to get out now." He said, panic on his voice.
Parker didn't hesitate, literally dropping what she'd been holding and going to the window, getting her rigs and harnesses ready.
"What happened?" Eliot asked, trying to get answers even as he heard Hardison grabbing his cane from the hook by the door.
"Put on your glasses. I'll explain once we get out." That tone was… surprising.
"No." Eliot stopped. "What the hell happened?"
There was a short, dead, silence before Hardison said the words Eliot had been dreading. "An enemy of yours showed up. He has Nate and Sophie. I was out but they managed to hit the panic button on the phone. We need to get out now."
Eliot followed Hardison to the window, letting Parker work to help get him suited up. The sunlight was bright outside and even just here at the window and he knew even when he could see she could get herself and him rigged up faster than he could by himself. "So they're in Nate's apartment?" He asked.
"Probably waiting for us to come back." Hardison said with the uncertainty Eliot wished he didn't recognize as someone trying to deny a hostage might already be dead. Parker turned to him and checked his rigging and Eliot could have almost sworn he could hear her forced numbess in her movements.
His mind started moving, playing out scenarios, trying to find some way to fix this and protect his team even as he moved through the motions of this already practiced escape plan.
"I'm going to jump with Eliot." Parker said and Eliot didn't bother arguing as she hooked them together. "Close your eyes." She warned him seconds before taking his sunglasses off and stowing them somewhere a second later she'd taken his cane. "I'll give them back once we're on the ground. We can't afford losing them." He knew all these steps already. They'd walked through this. But he thought maybe Parker was trying to be helpful. "Come with me to the window here, follow my lead." She eased them closer to the edge, opened the window, and for just a second Eliot felt warm sun on his face before she wrapped her arms around him. He had just enough time to return the embrace before they went plummeting through the air.
A gut wrenching second later the fall stopped and Parker unhooked herself to drop. Eliot followed suit, trying to absorb the impact of what felt like a three or so foot fall. Parker was already at work disposing of the rigging and a second later the sunglasses and cane were pressed back into his hands. He put on the shades but put the cane to the side. "Whoever's looking for me is looking for a blind man. I'll blend in better without."
Hardison took the jump and landed next to them, cursing under his breath.
"What do we do?" Hardison asked.
"Call the police?" Parker offered.
Eliot shook his head. "If he's on my level the police wouldn't be able to handle him an' he'd likely kill them both." He didn't want to say it but it was still his job to be realistic. It was still his job to lead this team if Nate and Sophie couldn't. "We need to be smart about this but we need to act fast. Do we have coms?" He asked the last bit turning to "look" in roughly Hardison's direction.
"Yeah, always carry a couple just in case." Someone, Hardison, took his hand and put a com in it and Eliot put it in his ear. "Go find the closest internet café and access the cameras you have in the apartment. The hidden ones. He'll be avoiding the obvious ones." He cut off Hardison's sputtered objections that he didn't have hidden cameras or slightly more obvious hidden cameras to try to trick anyone looking that there weren't less than obvious ones. "Now Hardison. The longer it takes the longer he'll have of finding the others. I need to know who it is we're dealing with."
There was a pause then he heard Hardison turn and leave.
Once Hardison was gone Parker said. "Hardison gave me a look. I think he was trying to tell me to watch you. You're not going to do anything stupid are you? We're going to make a plan that doesn't involve you going in there and getting killed right?" There was a note of hysteria on her voice as she asked.
Eliot turned giving her the 'there's something wrong with you' look. "'Course. Me gettin' killed wouldn't solve anything. This is what I need you to do."
Five minutes later Parker left to the sound of Hardison repeating over the coms that this was the worst plan he'd ever heard and didn't Eliot have any sense to not do something stupid?
Eliot told Hardison to shut up, that he needed to focus on trying to hear everything he could since he was alone, blind, and in public without his cane.
In the following silence Eliot whispered, just barely to himself.
"Don't underestimate what I'd do to protect you."
There were times when life was just out of your hands. When things had been set in motion and all you could do was sit and watch and wait to see how the dice fell.
Nate really really hated times like that.
He was sitting with Sophie on the couch, their hands flex cuffed behind their backs, the hitter who had managed to track them down sitting on the kitchen counter cleaning a nasty looking knife.
Somewhere on the floor above them a window closed and Nate mentally cursed when the hitter looked up, sliding off the counter and going to the stairs silently. It was likely Parker returning. She came in through the windows as often as anything else. And any second she'd be coming downstairs to see if Eliot was here and she had to slam a door to let him kno-…
Parker normally entered and left without making a sound.
Shuffling upstairs and the hitter slowly started to climb the stairs.
He hadn't even passed to the top step when a hand, Parker's, appeared, slipping a com unit into his ear and Hardison repeated over and over in his ear. "We have a plan don't freak out. Parker is only going to be able to get out because she'd Parker."
Before he even fully registered she was there Parker was gone.
Next to him Sophie leaned her head on his shoulder, hiding her ear entirely from sight and the com with it and Nate leaned his head on hers.
In less than twenty seconds the Hitter was back downstairs muttering.
Eliot's voice was the next to come over the com.
"I'm going to do somethin' you all probably will think is stupid but I need you to go with me alright? Play along."
Sophie shifted, her breath carefully becoming uneven and worried. Nate took in a deep breath and muttered softly to her. "It'll be alright. I promise."
There was a beat and Eliot added. "Underway."
Seconds ticked by and Nate held his breath, waiting, hoping, not quite praying, not yet, a part of his mind knew that this was Eliot and even blind that part of his mind knew Eliot would get them safe.
Maybe if they did survive this the rest of his mind would remember that.
Suddenly the door opened and Eliot walked in apparently non-chalantly, his eyes open and alert, the cane nowhere in sight.
His eyes turned to focus on the hitter on the counter, flickering briefly to Nate and Sophie on the couch before shooting back to the hitter. "Michel…" He said, his voice going ice cold, entire posture changing. "I wish I could say that it's nice to see you."
"It's been a long time since Hatti Spencer." Michel said with a sneer. "You've made quite a name for yourself since you stole my bounty."
"And you've lost what reputation you had." Eliot responded. "And are 'bout to lose what you have left. Going after my family? Not very clever, boy"
"I'm a bounty hunter Spencer, not one of you honor before reason types." Eliot looked like he was about ready to roll his eyes. "I heard you'd been blinded Spencer. Saw your photo in the daily paper. Just my luck I was in Boston. Took me a few days to track you down. Seems someone got the story wrong."
"Seems so to." Eliot answered noncommittally, taking a few steps forward. "But I have been practicing."
"Is that so?" Michel asked.
"Remember the game we played?" Eliot smirked. "How about round two."
The apartment went dark. Night had fallen not long ago and the light dampening shades on the windows turned the room almost pitch black.
'Guys get out now' Hardison said over the coms
Seconds later a knife sliced through the flexicuffs and Hardison told them both to just get down and get out.
A crash nearby may have been the reason Hardison's voice suddenly got just a little harsher.
In moments they were in the hallway and on their feet and racing out of the building. "Hardison tell Eliot we're out. He can get out of there."
"That wasn't the plan." Eliot's slightly breathless voice told them over the com, drawl heavier than they were used to with just a hint of a promise of violence still in it. "Yall can come back now. It's all clear."
"Did you kill him?" Parker asked the question they were all thinking.
"Yeah." Eliot said without hesitation, a slight chill racing down Nate's spine at how it didn't seem to even occur to Eliot to be bothered by killing to protect his team. "Guess Micheal forgot the same thing you all did."
Nate made a face as they turned to walk back inside, trying to shove away the feeling. "what's that?"
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
Nate grinned when Hardison came back with. "But it doesn't help with your one liners apparently."
Things were back under control and they were all still alive and really that was all he could hope for most days with this team.
Hardison was confused.
He took some comfort in the fact Nate looked somewhat confused as well.
He and Nate had just returned from a mission to dispose of the body of the hitter under Eliot's supervision (and really, if he hadn't been somewhat freaked about the whole scenario and the fact it sounded like Eliot could talk someone through body disposal in his sleep, he would have made some Godfather references).
He might have also complained about how no one was giving the girls body disposal detail if it weren't for the fact that he was pretty sure the fact that thought even occurred to him was a sign he was both still in shock and spending way too much time around Eliot.
But they got back and Sophie and Parker were commiserating in the way that anyone on the team did. Where you knew everyone knew you were plotting but you were making it obvious in part just to worry everyone else.
By the time it processed that they were plotting though Hardison was too tired to care. It had been a freakishly long week and a freakishly long day and yeah.
He needed to take ten.
And Eliot… wait.
Where did Eliot go?
"Eliot went upstairs to get some rest." Nate said from where he stood by the coffee pot. "Sophie and Parker left for the great cookie caper and you fell asleep sitting up." Well that answered a lot of his questions. "Couch is free." Nate added as he finished pouring a mug and turned back to restoring order to his apartment calmly, as if he hadn't been held at knife point in his own home a few short hours ago.
There are occasional moments of clarity when you realize how profoundly weird your life has become.
Hardison's response to those moments was nearly always to get some more sleep.
Sometime later a gentle hand nudged his shoulder and he sat up, looking up at Sophie who silently pointed back toward the kitchen.
At the table Eliot and Parker sat together sharing a box of Oreos and two tall glasses of milk.
Eliot's eyes were closed, Hardison felt a pang of something in his chest when he realized after Eliot's bluff his eyes must hurt like hell for Eliot to be going blind even in Nate's apartment.
But that feeling passed and changed into something else as he watched Parker try to reach over and steal a cookie from Eliot's stack only for Eliot to pull his jedi trick and catch her hand on the return trip. He scowled at her but the quirk at the corners of his lips told a different story.
He let her hand go. With her other hand she reached for his, guiding it back so his fingers closed around the edges of the cookie.
"Make a wish." Parker told him. "If you get the cream it'll come true."
No one, not even Eliot, told her that she was mixing Oreos with wishbones.
Hardison experienced another moment of strange clarity of how weird his life had become when the rest of the team seemed just entranced by the almost boyish grin that crossed Eliot's face as he nodded to Parker and they twisted the cookie.
Eliot dipped his side into the milk and paused just for a moment before biting down and it was strange how realizing that Eliot probably hadn't even known he'd "won" until he bit into the cookie didn't hurt nearly as much as those million little realizations used to.
Somehow as Eliot took the bite of cookie the weird spell on the rest of them broke and they moved to continue their daily lives.
As Hardison went to assess the damage done to his hardware during the incident he heard Parker ask Eliot if his wish came true.
"It did a long time ago." Eliot answered.
Parker told Eliot that wasn't the point of wishes and Hardison decided that there also moments of clarity when you realized just how little it mattered that your life was weird.