Crash Landing

"I still don't understand how you could mix up Paris and Tuscany," Sophie said right before she sashayed out of the room, all sex and confidence wrapped up into one drop dead grifter.

Splayed out on the sofa behind the table Nate was stewing at Eliot too a swig of his beer. It was a light brew but the alcohol felt good on his throat and was numbing nicely the headache that was building up beneath his cheekbone and his busted up forehead.

Nate noticed him for the first time. "You're still here?"

Eliot grunted. "You kicking me out or something?" Now that the adrenaline of the job was finally melting away the hitter was feeling pretty beat, physically as well as mentally. Dan Erlick had been a nasty piece of work that he hadn't been expecting. It was his own fault, thinking he was gonna knock out some soft business man. He should have been more on top of his game. (He was getting soft.) Eliot grimaced and forced himself to knock back another gulp of beer.

Nate looked relaxed and Eliot envied him for it. He figured that if he'd spent the last few hours flirting with Sophie he'd feel pretty relaxed too. "Nah, it's your office too now," the older man said.

Eliot Spencer, drinking beer… in his office. He resisted the urge to snort at the thought and instead let his head fall back on the sofa's armrest and closed his eyes. God, he wasn't feeling well. Maybe the beer had been a bad idea after all. He thought he only closed his eyes for a second, but when he opened them again Nate was no longer sitting at the table but hovering over him, a concerned look etched into his brow line.

"Eliot?" He really was getting soft. When had that started to happen? Eliot pushed himself off the armrest and upright. The world, specifically Nate's face, swirled and shifted to the side and the left side of his vision darkened.

Surreally, he realized he was fainting. Nate was never going to let him live it down.

Nate watched Sophie saunter out of the room. Their relationship was growing more and more complicated each day. One minute they were fine, then they weren't and Sophie was babbling about unimportant things like the god damned city, and…

There was a rustle behind him and Nate swiveled on his chair to find Eliot Spencer lay reclined on the sofa. The lights were dimmed and his beer glowed amber in his hands. "You're still here?" He hadn't meant it to come out like an attack, but it ended up sounding that way anyhow.

But Eliot didn't seem to take it the wrong way. He grinned at Nate in his cocky way, "You kicking me out or something?"

"Nah, it's your office too now." And wasn't that a fact. Nathan Ford, sharing office space with all the thieves and criminals he had previously hunted. He almost wished Sterling could see them now, just to see what his reaction would be. Then he shuddered.

He expected Eliot to come back with a quip, or at least a smart comment about Parker's plants, or something. But Eliot was silent and Nate found himself looking up from his drink to see what was on his hitter's mind.

Eliot lay long-ways on the sofa, but his face was pale and the blood that he had unsuccessfully tried to clean off contrasted starkly against his forehead. The beer in his hand was held loosely and, in the instant that Nate looked up, the glass dropped to the ground, spilling but not breaking against the carpet. Eliot didn't even flinch.

Suddenly concerned Nate stood up and restrained himself from running over to the sofa. He was overreacting, he told himself; Eliot was fine.


Eliot's closed eyes blinked open, but it was a disturbingly long process that set Nate's stomach churning. This wasn't supposed to happen. Eliot's eyes didn't seem to focus quite right and the man was unsteadily pushing himself upright, leaning heavily against the sofa to do so. And then, just as Eliot seemed to once again be in control of himself, the moment was shattered as his blue eyes rolled up into his head and he listed to the side. If Nate hadn't shot out and grabbed his shoulders, he would have fallen right off the edge of the sofa.

God, he was heavy. "Sophie! Sophie are you still here?" Nate had long dropped to his knees in front of the sofa, and he pulled himself close to the man as he struggled to keep him upright for a second longer. "Eliot, Eliot can you hear me?" Eliot's face was slack and his head had dropped forward onto Nate's shoulder.

When Sophie's light voice called in through the doorway, Nate thought he had heard god. "Nate? What's…" Sophie peered through the doorway for a second before gasping and rushing towards them. "What's happened?"

"Help me get him flat," and Sophie, bless her, didn't argue with him. She reached around Eliot's shoulders and tipped his head back while Nate lowered the man back down onto the sofa before struggling to shift his legs over the far armrest and making him as comfortable as possible. Nate sat back on his heels and watched Sophie brush the long hair out of the hitter's eyes. Her hand strayed to the scabbing gash on his forehead and she worriedly met Nate's eyes.

Not knowing what to say to her, he simply nodded and sat up closer to their downed man. "Eliot?" He hesitated before reaching out a hand and patting the man on the cheek, careful to avoid the blossoming bruise under his right eye. There was no movement. The man's mouth hung slightly open and Nate was relieved to feel puffs of breath on his face. "Sophie, prop up his legs, would you?"

Sophie shoved the seat cushion from the unused chair under Eliot's ankles, elevating his legs above his heart. "What happened, Nate?"

"Nothing, as far as I know. He was fine and then, next thing I know, he's passed out."

Sophie's nerves, which had finally begun to calm themselves of the team's near death experience, were beginning to work themselves up again. She thought back to the airliner and Eliot taking out Dan Erlick in the cramped plane's bathroom. What had Eliot said? "Erlick's a pro. He had a ceramic knife." She shuddered before reaching down and pulling at Eliot's buttoned shirt. What if Erlick had gotten him? Surely he would have said something. Nervous, Sophie slipped the buttons through their loops and gently brushed the shirt to the side. Nervously, she pulled the undershirt up over his chest. But, other than an ugly bruise adorning his sternum, Eliot appeared to me more or less in one piece.

Eliot shifted and pulled away from Sophie's hands. "Oh, thank god. Eliot?" Sophie pulled his shirt back down and brushed his hair away from his face.

Blue eyes blinked sluggishly up at her and slowly focused. "Sophie?" His voice was rough and clear. It sent a shiver of relief through the older woman that she almost didn't bother to hide.

"You took a nose dive, Eliot," Nate said from near his head. Eliot looked bad, but a little less bad than he had a few seconds ago. Color was flooding back into his cheeks (probably half from embarrassment) and Eliot seemed to have no problems tracking who was speaking. He hoped that now the hitter was conscious they could shed some light on this. And, he hoped it wasn't anything serious. In addition to being a good part of the team… Eliot was a good man and someone who was (despite his comment to the contrary not that long ago) becoming a friend.


"You had us worried." Sophie tried to say it lightly, but it came out pinched. There was no mistaking the concern in the grifter's normally honey voice.

"I'm fine," Eliot ground out. His voice was rougher than usual. He started to sit up, but Nate threw a forearm against his chest decisively.

"No, you're not. Just rest another minute, or you'll end up face down again." Nate wasn't sure, but he thought he saw a twinge of pink flush through from the hitter's neck to his cheekbones. But then he growled, and Nate was no longer sure if the flush had been embarrassment or simple raw anger.

"Let me up, Nate." The words were quiet and said through Eliot's teeth. Nate shivered.

He chewed the inside of his cheek for a second before nodding slightly and pulling back his arm.

Sophie glared at him. "Nate!" Nate glared back. "Eliot, you need to rest!"

But Eliot was once again pushing himself upright, slowly this time, until his feet were back on the floor and his elbows rested on his knees. "I said I was fine, Sophie," he said again. He pressed a hand to his face and Sophie exchanged a worried glance with Nate.

"You're not fine," the grifter protested, putting a hand on his shoulder and purposefully invading his space. "You fainted."

He lifted his head out of his hands long enough to send her a truly annoyed look. "I know, okay. And I said I was fine!"

"You don't need to get all macho, about this, you can tell us-"


Nate wisely clamped his mouth shut and let the two angry thieves wage their war.

Eliot's mouth worked for a few seconds before he decided on his choice of words, clearly restraining himself from simply shouting at his teammate. "I'm a hitter, Sophie, and sometimes I get hit. It just happens, okay. I don't have a concussion, I'm not bleeding to death, hell, I didn't even break anything! So just leave it alone."

Sophie's eyes, in the low light of the offices, looked full and shining, and Nate wondered for a second whether or not she was truly about to cry. He had never seen her cry when it wasn't crocodile tears.

"Damn it, Eliot," Sophie silently pressed her lips together and delicately got to her feet out of the soppy, beer filled carpet. Just a silently, she walked out the room, carefully not looking at the two men behind her as she left. A second later they heard the outer door open and then click close.

Eliot sighed.

"Well," Nate started. But he wasn't even sure where he was going with it, and so he fell silent again, choosing instead to look closely at his hitter. "She does have a point, you know."

Eliot once again looked up and his eyes met Nate's. He was still paler that usual and there was an exhaustion that radiated from his slumped posture that made Nate tired just looking at him.

"You're a hitter, I know. Hitting, getting hit… it's what you do. And you're good at it! But we're a team, Eliot. If you need to slow down, eat, take a break… you can ask us."

Eliot dropped his eyes to the soggy carpet and looked at the tipped glass that once contained his beer. He nodded so subtly that Nate almost didn't catch it. "Yeah. Yeah, I know." He looked back up at Nate and let a little smile dance onto his lips. "You mind driving me home? I kinda lied to Sophie about the concussion."

Nate wasn't sure whether to laugh or beat Eliot on the head so he just nodded and returned the smile. "Sure."