A/N - I've no idea where this came from. Seriously. I was getting ready for bed and then the next thing I knew I had a word document open and this appeared on the page. …Maybe I was abducted by aliens. …Evil fanfic-writing aliens… Riiiiight… Anywhoo, please read and review.

Oh, yeah, and Leverage isn't mine. Darn it all to heck.

Eliot doesn't cry.

He didn't cry when he buried his old coon hound Big Dan. He didn't cry when he was cornered in a South American jungle digging a bullet out of his shoulder. And he didn't cry when Amy told him she didn't love him anymore.

Eliot doesn't cry.

Hardison teases him about it, when a job is done and Eliot is patching himself up, dry-eyed but bleeding, telling him that "you keep being a big boy now, and I'll even break out the Spongebob band-aids!"

Nate ignores it, or fails to notice. Sometimes it's hard to tell which. Either way, when Eliot wakes up shaking, with his heartbeat in his ears and a scream on his lips, and finds his way into the offices at three in the morning, sometimes Nate's up too, a glass of something on-the-rocks in his hand, and his eyes in that far-away place that they sometimes go. He doesn't even blink at Eliot, so Eliot just goes into the kitchen and sits, and waits for the others, and doesn't cry.

Sophie tries to fix it. When he met that girl who's voice sounded like honey, and who liked horses and didn't ask about his scars and he thought maybe for the first time since Amy. And then her high school sweetheart came back, and with him came the promise of a house and a white picket fence and a future, and Eliot doesn't do promises, because how can he promise tomorrow when he can't be certain he'll live through today? And Sophie shares her stash of Ben and Jerry's and tells him that it's okay for men to cry too and that it doesn't make him weak, and gets that disgruntled look on her face when all he does is shrug and say "I'm fine". She leaves the room making a comment about "emotionally stunted cavemen", and takes her ice cream with her.

Eliot doesn't cry.

When they had that case that hit too close to home, he beat up the goons and helped make the bad guy pay, and did his best to pretend that he wasn't shaking and that he hadn't gone 3 days without sleep and that he wasn't being pressed under the crushing weight of his memories.

He got really god at pretending a long time ago. Pretending it doesn't hurt, and you're not scared, and that everything's okay.

He pretended all through the job, until it was finished, and they were home, and everyone was tucked away safely in their beds. Then Eliot stopped pretending, and pressed himself into a corner of the kitchen, with his knees drawn tight against his chest and trying to remind himself to breathe through the pressure of not being able to cry.

He's not sure how long he sat there remembering to breathebreathebreathe, but when Parker found him it was light out and his lungs were tired and his throat ached.

If anyone else would have found him, Hardison would have cracked a joke, Nate would have continued his trip to the liquor cabinet, and Sophie would have tried to fix him.

Parker sat down beside him, pressed up as close as she could get, wrapped he arms tight around him until his face was tucked up against her neck, and made her breathing match his own.

Eliot let her steady heartbeat drown out the sound of his own fast-paced one, and the memories that try to choke him. Memories of a man with mean eyes and whiskey breath, who towered over him and said "You stop those tears boy, or so help me, I'll give you somethin' to cry about".

Eliot sits there and breathes and wonders if maybe Parker understands.

Eliot doesn't cry.

Not because he's trying to be stubborn, or tough.

He just doesn't remember how.