Disclaimer: Not mine, yada yada.
Warning: Organ failure, death, deathlike symptoms.... Basically a bunch of hurt with a twinge of comfort. If you squint. Maybe. YMMV.
Concrit: Always welcome.
Parker drew a shuddering breath and looked down, grace and strength gone from her legs as though bleeding from the hole in her side. Which, she noted, her blood was too. Funny that it should burn like that when it was wet, because wet things weren't usually on fire.
The world tilted crazily, and that was wrong, too, because she hadn't jumped off anything. No bunch and surge of muscles, no soaring acceleration, no whirr of ropes and pulleys, just noisy confusion and the smooth, cool cement lying against her body. Or was she lying against it? Things weren't making a lot of sense, and her belly was still burning, even though her hands were pressing against wetness.
Silence fell, and that at least was right, because it meant that Eliot had put down the last of the thugs who'd jumped them. It might be a good idea to look for him, but all she could see was the side of a crate, and it was blurry, so that didn't help either.
The heavy, skidding sound of his knees on the cement coincided with his strength wrapping around her, pulling her up against him, so she decided that he had found her instead. Which meant she didn't have to worry about looking for him. One less thing.
"Gasoline," she said, working through it in her head. "And acid."
"What?" He sounded confused, but in an urgent, breathless way. "What?" Definitely not how he normally sounded when she announced the mental connections she'd made, the way he'd frown and bark What's wrong with you? She felt proud that she'd noticed that. Sophie said that it was important to pay attention to people's tone of voice. "Parker, what?"
"Wet things," she explained patiently. "That burn."
His frustration came out in a short, hard breath, and that sound she identified immediately; it meant he didn't get it and wasn't listening to her any more. She'd heard it twice just this morning, on top of the what's wrong with you as she experimented with Nate's cereal to see how big a chunk she could snort out her nose. It had made her nose sting at the time, and, remembering, she pressed it against his shoulder and drew in air. It was working fine now.
He was shifting under her, shifting her, moving his hands over hers which were over that hole, making it burn worse. She didn't really want to think about it, because it was still confusing, and anyway, he wasn't trying to hurt her. People who liked to hurt for hurting's sake were one thing she could just tell without having to figure it out, and it was strange, because Eliot hit people very hard quite a lot, but she'd known from the start that it wasn't because he liked to hurt. Eliot was trying to help her. She could leave the probing, pressing, frantic gestures to him and think about something else.
She could smell his heat and sweat fresh from the fight, laundry soap from his shirt. Cold motor grease off the floor, sharp lingering gunsmoke, and blood. She took another long sniff where her head rested against him, against his chest, against his steady steam-engine-relentless heart. Though it was getting harder, with her thoughts getting all light and floaty, she compared him to Hardison's funky two-day hacking smell and decided that while the hitter probably sweated more, it wasn't as acrid.
His voice had been going up and down and sideways, chest rumbling, saying things, spiking, but somehow nothing that really seemed to do with her. Now, though, it had dropped low and constant and seemed to be aimed straight at her, pulling her back into the present. He wasn't saying much, but it sounded important.
"No, no, no, no, come on, no, come on...."
She mustered her thoughts, her focus. It would be a good idea to look for him, but she didn't know how to get his attention from the shirt he was pressing against her side. But as soon as she managed to open her eyes properly, his head jerked in her direction and he found her instead, so she didn't have to worry.
"I called 'em." He was smiling at her, but it seemed off in ways she didn't understand. "Parker? I called them. And 911. They're coming." His voice was all funny too, kind of strained like when he had to boost her to reach something.
She coughed slightly, and the movement sent white-hot spears through her, making her clutch at his arm. For a moment it looked like his face cracked, and then that strange smile was pasted over it again. She squinted up at him. "Your smile is weird. Kinda wobbly."
He was the one who shuddered this time, pulling her in tighter against him, although she wasn't sure how that was supposed to help anything. She looked up to ask him, but he scrunched his eyes shut and pressed his forehead to hers.
"I'm sorry, Parker, I'm so sorry," he whispered into the cocoon he'd made of himself around her, his breath coming harshly. "I shoulda...." He broke off, then bared his face, full of failure, to her. And she knew. "I'm sorry."
So that was it, then. For once she understood him perfectly, although considering her track record she thought she'd better make sure.
"Dying?" she asked succinctly. She didn't have much energy to waste on extra words, and even so her voice sounded too small. Maybe it did to him too, because his face got all crumply again and he didn't speak. Finally, like he had to force himself, he met her eyes again and gave a short nod.
Huh. So this was how she died. She hadn't thought about it much for a long time, although there'd been that afternoon she spent idly speculating how they'd all eventually die to Hardison. He'd seemed enthusiastic about her ideas for Eliot, but by the time she'd run through the team and got to herself he started saying she was creeping him the hell out. Ironically she'd rulled out "shot by a thug" as too prosaic for any of them. "Okay," she accepted, gathering a weak half-smile at the memory.
Eliot flinched, and his whole face clenched tight, which was when she noticed wetness in his eyes. Which made no sense. Eliot didn't cry. Eliot never cried. Eliot made other people cry, bad people who deserved it. But Eliot didn't deserve to cry.
She frowned at him. She would have raised her fingers to touch it, to check that it was real, but it turned out they didn't have the energy for more than a twitch against his arm. It was just as well, since she'd have to stick her fingers in his eyes to feel it anyway, and even she knew he wouldn't like that.
She searched his face; it seemed naked somehow, like he was displaying everything that was inside him, and if her head weren't now so full of fog because she was dying she might actually have been able to work it out for once. Which was annoying. She could ask, the way she usually had to, but her sight was getting dimmer and it was harder to breathe, so if she wanted to know she should probably do it soon. Words and sentences and questions were becoming difficult to form, and then recent memory floated something she could use.
"What's wrong with you?" she whispered.
He made a choking noise she'd never heard from him before, even when her questions really irritated him, and his hands clutched even tighter, but he didn't answer her. She was pretty sure she couldn't manage to ask the whole thing again. "Eliot?" she prompted, just barely. She could feel things slipping away from her, and she was tempted to just let go and be swept off with them, but on the other hand this might be important. She wasn't sure anymore. And it was getting harder to keep her face turned toward him.
He looked up with a twisting smile and now she didn't have to check, because the tears were streaming freely down his cheeks. Snot, too, probably. His hand came up and gently cradled her sagging head so she could still meet his eyes.
"I'm sad, Parker," he said gently, voice ragged.
"Oh," she said, or more sort of breathed, not really getting it.
He smiled – sadly, she spotted that – and pressed a kiss to her forehead. His stubble was scratchy, and his hair fell in her face, but she didn't mind. "I'm sad. Because you're family," he explained steadily, though his voice still sounded funny, watching her the way he did when making sure she was following what he was saying. "And ... that means I'm going to miss you."
"Oh," she breathed again, half in relief that he'd known how to make sense, and half because she did understand now and it was important. Her lips fluttered with a smile and her eyes drifted closed so she could draw on that last bit of strength for what was important. "Me too."