Wouldn't Be The First Time
Fanfic by Maimat the Rat
Summary: It wouldn't be the first time a personal grudge interfered with a job.
The twisted remains of what was once a very powerful laptop lay strewn across the floor.
"I'm sorry. I'll get you a new one. It's, uh," Eliot tried to think of the right word for it but was pretty sure he was making even more of a mess of things. "You have a back-up, right?"
Hardison blinked rapidly. "A back-up? Of my laptop? Are you referring to an exact duplicate of all the hardware and programs and ... and everything? Just in case someone comes by and lands on it? That kind of back up?"
Eliot raised his eyebrows a little bit. "So, you mean you do or you don't?"
"The information; that's what gets backed up. The files and the URL's and the research; yes, I back-up all that. And yes, I do have another laptop. But I don't have another one of this laptop. I built this laptop, myself, out of the bits and pieces of the best hardware I could find. The programs on this laptop are unique. Unique as in, no, there is no back up. When I work, I update and change things as I go along, making what was once a decent program, an amazing program. You can't buy this stuff at Wal-mart."
"So, how about one of those specialty computer stores? Like Best-Buy?" Eliot didn't know what he said wrong this time, but he backed up as Hardison's head suddenly looked like it might explode.
Eliot looked at Parker, and Parker looked at Eliot. "It isn't Eliot's fault," she said in his defence.
Hardison picked up a portion of the scattered remains. "Oh? Who landed on it?"
"We were just ...playing. We didn't mean to break your computer." Parker insisted.
"Who landed on it?" Hardison asked again.
"I did," Eliot admitted.
Hardison nodded, as though that was the end of it.
"I'll buy you a new one," Eliot offered because he honestly couldn't think of anything else to say.
Without a word, Hardison got up and stomped out.
No one saw much of Hardison for a few days after the accident, until he showed up ready for the next job sporting a brand new laptop. Eliot asked him how much, ready to make good on his offer to pay for the replacement of what he broke.
Hardison sighed and looked upwards as though searching for divine intervention. "Look man, things are priceless because of their awesomeness rather than their msrp."
"Is that supposed to make sense?" Eliot asked to anyone in general, and Nate shrugged.
The job put Parker and Eliot together in a Heath Insurance building, while Sophie and Nate worked on conning the crooked insurance adjuster. In the Fourteenth floor office of the fifteen story building; their goal was to gain access to computer files detailing the rejected claims. Hardison worked from the van, monitoring and adjusting the surveillance systems.
"We have a problem." Hardison spoke up over the com. "I'm still ironing out kinks in some of my programs. The security guard caught a blip, he's on his way to investigate." Hardison apologised.
"What kind of blip? Did he see us?" Eliot pulled the card reader out of the USB and tossed the small device to Parker.
"I don't know what he saw, static maybe. What I do know is that he's on his way up right now."
"And the other one?"
"Still at his desk watching hockey. But he won't be for long if you don't move. Now."
Due to bad luck and lax safety inspectors, there weren't a lot of exits. The north fire escape was locked due to maintenance after a water pipe caused extensive damage to the stairs and walls. There were two elevators, one currently in use and on the way up, and they opened directly in front of the security desk in the lobby. Any questions as to the security of what they were now stealing would blow the entire operation. The south fire escape was their best chance of getting out unseen, and they ran up the fire escape to the roof. The roof they gained access through an adjacent apartment building with no security, and from there Parker and her climbing gear had them covered. For the way down, Parker planned on a straight drop to the street.
On the roof Parker geared up while Eliot watched the door. "He's headed for the roof. I think... uh I don't know how he's following you." From the level of panic evident in Hardison's voice, it was obvious the guard was almost on them.
On the roof, Eliot was aware of one main thing; the wind had picked up quite a lot since going in.
"Come on. This is going to be great!" Parker shouted, and seeing Parker's obvious excitement at the challenge ahead left Eliot feeling more than a little uneasy.
Eliot kept his focus on the door. With the strong wind and his inexperience at rappelling, he'd rather find a different way down. "Go. I'll catch up. It's no good if we both get caught dangling off the side of the building when this guy calls for back up. Go."
Parker shrugged and disappeared over the edge, while Eliot turned his attention back to the door. "Hardison, give me another way out."
"Cause I'm not going to be swinging in this wind while a kid wearing a plastic security badge aims his gun at me. I'm going to have to take this guy out and you can bet when there's no response to the next radio check in his buddy downstairs is going to call for backup. And I'm going to make it look like we broke into a different office on the way down to cover up what we were really doing here. Is that a good enough explanation? Ready to give me another way out of this damn building now?"
"The parking garage. That's the only other way out, man. "
The door swung open and the security guard stepped out with his gun drawn. Eliot swung his arm up and around the guard's gun hand and successfully avoided becoming a target, but what he couldn't foresee was the fact that the nervous guard had been holding his weapon with an already flexed finger on the trigger.
There was a flash of light and noise like a freight train busting through his skull. Eliot felt the kickback through the guards arm as the weapon fired, and a blink of an eye later Eliot and the guard were both down, and the gun was a few feet between them both. Eliot whipped around and grabbed the gun before the guard could even see it; emptied the bullets from the chamber and got back on his feet. With one punch, the guard was out.
His ear-bud let off an annoying high pitched whine in his left ear making him feeling slightly off balance as he stumbled over to take care of the rigging left behind. "Hardison?" The sound of his own voice echoed oddly in the eerie silence. Loud noise wouldn't break the ear bud would it?
"Hey, Hardison?" No answer, just the high pitched whine and behind that some kind of muffled static.
He started back for the fire escape despite the lack of feedback. When he asked again and still got no answer Eliot got annoyed. With Parker clear, he wondered if Hardison would bother helping him out of this one. He had to admit he'd had some reservations going into the job with the tension between them. It wouldn't be the first time a personal grudge interfered with a job. Double crosses and back alley deals were par for the course in his line of work. There was a good reason Eliot preferred to work solo before Nate came alone.
This team was supposed to be different. "This ain't funny Hardison. Where am I going?" He slowed down. "Don't pull this shit. I said I was sorry about the damn computer. What is the second guard doing now?"
"Hardison?" Eliot stopped moving and listened to the silence in the stairwell. He took another step and stopped again.
He didn't hear his shoe on the stair. Eliot cleared his throat. "Hardison?" The ringing was still there, but now he understood something else. The ringing wasn't coming from the ear-bud. He pulled the tech out of his left ear and replaced it in his right ear. The ringing sound continued as it had before even without the hardware.
"Hardison?" Eliot asked again. He heard a little more than he did in the other ear, there was definitely a mumble coming through. "I can't hear you. Can you turn this thing up from your end?"
Finally he heard Hardison yelling. "NO COPS YET." He could tell it was yelling from the tone, but not from the volume, and from what Eliot could hear there was a lot more Hardison was trying to say, but not much he could understand.
"Wait, just hold on." The effort it took to keep the slight tremor out of his voice was aggravating, because Eliot didn't do fear. Eliot Spencer did not to panic, and he did not get nervous. Why? Because he was Eliot Spencer. But the Eliot Spencer who didn't do those things wasn't deaf either. "I can't hear you. The damn ear-bud isn't working right. Am I going to find a way out through the basement?"
There was another long string of words Eliot couldn't figure out.
Eliot sighed and concentrated carefully on deciphering the muffled sounds. "What?"
"Can you keep tracking me?"
Eliot ran, and as he ran he weighed his situation. He knew the problem wasn't with the ear bud; he couldn't even hear his own feet echoing in the stairwell. He sure as hell wasn't going to hear a threat coming towards him.
The minute it took to stop at the third floor and kick open the door to a dentist office emphasized how vulnerable he felt in the open. He had to keep looking over his shoulder to be sure he was still alone. As a misdirect it wasn't very inspired, but it should be enough to mask their real purpose in the building.
The fire escape ended at the Parking Garage.
"I'm in the parking garage now, where am I going?"
"South ... corner, red door."
The heavy door slammed shut behind him and the traffic passing just feet away from where he stood sounded blocks away. A headache pounded in his temples from the constant ringing in his left ear.
Pressure on his shoulder set off Eliot's already over strained nerves, and he swung into fight mode ready to take down... instead he faced Parker.
She ducked, apparently anticipating his response, and without a word she grabbed his hand and pulled Eliot into a run down the street. Two blocks south, east at the Chinese restaurant, and then abruptly into a dark alley. The van.
The light inside was dim and the new depth of silence felt heavy in the cramped space. Parker sat beside him, her hand still clutching his, and when he looked up Hardison was right in front of his face, obviously saying something but muffled in a way that stole all meaning from the sounds.
It didn't matter. The job was over; Eliot took out the ear bud and flicked it at Hardison, earning him only an odd glance rather than the customary bitch face he expected to see. Hardison put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder and Parker squeezed his hand a little tighter, all of which was meant to be reassuring, but rather made the hitter feel claustrophobic, Eliot shifted away from them both.
Parker placed an ice pack in his hand, and then pushed it up to his face. Eliot resisted the help and pushed the ice pack away. "Leave me alone."
Parker grasped his wrist again, and guided it up to his head, slightly above the ear. The sharp sting against his head was immediate, and when Eliot pulled the pack away he saw dark flakes of dried blood stuck to the fabric.
Parker guided his hand holding the ice pack back up. It stung as he touched it to his head again, but not as much as the first time.
Concentrating to understand words made his headache pound even more and so Eliot ignored Hardison as he continued speaking. At least until the word hospital was thrown his way and that snapped him back to attention. Hardison stared at him intently.
"It's tinnitus. I'm fine." Eliot grumbled. "No hospital. Drop me off at my apartment."
When it looked like they might argue, Eliot reminded them, "Maybe I can't hear you, but if you take me to the hospital I will hurt you."
Parker escorted him up to his door, still trying to hold his hand, and thankfully not trying to communicate. Eliot evaded most of her attempts at comfort, but he still ended up feeling awkward as she stood forlornly at the door while he swung it shut it in her face.
It took over a day for the ringing to fade in Eliot's left ear, and twice that for the hearing in both ears to slowly come back to normal. He stayed in his apartment for the duration, and let his phone calls all go to the answering machine. All of them were from Hardison.
When Hardison cornered him the first day back to the HQ, Eliot had been expecting it but that didn't make the moment any less uncomfortable.
"What you said in that building..." Hardison started. "You really thought I'd ditch you in there?"
"You were pissed off. I didn't know what to think."
"The laptop, expensive as it was, was a thing. It's a computer. A really expensive computer. It'll take time, but I can get this new one up and running just as good as the old one. But you're family, man. Like a really mean big brother who picks on me all the time and steals my cheerio's. Family."
"Damn right... whatever. You get what I'm saying, don't you?"
"You were pissed off I spilled blue slurpee in your SUV, right?"
"But, when I was sitting on that car bomb, you didn't think about leaving me there just because I wrecked the carpet?"
"Course not. No. Thats... oh."
"See? We're family." Hardison wore a big goofy grin, and despite himself, Eliot kind of smiled too.
Please review. It makes me happy to know if my story has been read and enjoyed.