Missing Scene(s) and spoilers: The Boost Job
Disclaimers: Standard...Want 'em, but can't have 'em. At least that's what the Alphabet People say.
A/N: Anybody else notice that during the roundy-round at the end of the episode that Eliot wasn't eating? This could be why. Also, pdljmpr6 mentioned on Twitter her yearning for a tag to 'The Boost Job' where Eliot got hit by a car. I rewatched the scene, and this formerly-fluffy-now-soaked-plot-bunny started gnawing on my knee. So, without further ado, here it is.
At Arm's Length
'Flying through the air with the greatest of ease...' That should be his motto by now, he thought idly as his feet left the ground. Then his shoulder and head hit the hood of the car with a sickening thud and all thought was gone as he sailed over the roof. Dizziness assaulted him and he expected the hard concrete landing and broken bones that would follow and braced himself for it, temporarily ignoring the blinding pain that slashed through his skull. Instead Eliot fell, and kept falling until he splashed into the water below.
Water drove up his nose and into his throat as he reflexively gasped, thrashing in the murky depths. He opened his eyes but couldn't see anything except grey-green and miniature bubbles, churning around him as if a giant spoon was stirring the harbor like its own oversized teacup. His lungs burned for oxygen and he kicked upwards, straining towards the tauntingly flashing light above him.
He broke the surface, gasping and coughing, bobbing up and down, unable to keep himself above water. His arms flailed at the water, and then he banged up against something. A piling. He grabbed at it, choking and hacking more water out of his lungs. Looking up he saw that the current had pulled him under the docks.
He held onto the dock piling for a few minutes while he tried to just breathe, and as soon as his body stopped shaking he started to swim towards the ladder.
Cracks of gunfire on the pier above him hurried his strokes, and he grabbed at the wooden slats, climbing quickly. His job was to protect them, dammit, not wallow in the water like some damn celebutant basking in a spa! One more rung on the ladder and then he was sliding around the shipping containers that he had tried to use for cover earlier, absently noting the new gunshot holes in the metal. He peered around the corner and saw the three men holding Parker and Hardison at gunpoint, their hands held up in the air.
Walking silently despite the water squelching in his boots, Eliot came up behind the three and saw the smirks on his teammates faces, and heard the questions of the three lone gunmen.
Then there was no more time for silence. He punched, kicked and threw his opponents to the ground, satisfied every time his fist landed with a crunch. Too soon the fight was over, and he looked over at Parker with a semi-surprised eyebrow raise after she helped silence the last of them. It was true, she was a good student who took his training and suggestions to heart, and used them when necessary, to his and the others' benefit.
He stepped back and shook the water out of his eyes. Mistake! He fought the rising nausea and white spots dancing around his vision, but the squeal of brakes distracted him from the pain.
He watched as Josie pulled up with the car, and they all made a mad dash for it with Eliot ending up in the backseat next to the young thief-to-be. This wouldn't normally be a bad place for Eliot, but for the fact that Parker was in the driver's seat. Usually he would just hold on to the back of the passenger's seat and shut up, but the pounding in his head and her maniacal driving made his stomach lurch warningly and ratcheted up his crankiness levels.
In between the yelling and bickering, the death metal band in his head started up an evil drum solo and white hot knives of pain stabbed him behind the eyes. He knew he was growling more than usual when he saw the irritated glances that Parker kept throwing back at him in the mirror, but he couldn't make himself stop. When she took a wild left turn that threw Josie into his lap, the young girl leapt back to her side of the car with alacrity, not wanting to be anywhere near the pissed off hitter.
Too soon she pulled up in the back of Penzer Automotive and Eliot bailed out of the backseat, adrenalin once again pumping through his veins. He ran to the back door, growling out, "Move over!" to Josie, and then barreled through the back door to rescue Nate and Sophie. A few lucky strikes from the Russian made his head spin even faster, but he hid it in the rush to get them out to the car.
Crammed in the back of the car he didn't feel any better. The young thief was sitting on his lap and with both Nate and Sophie sitting in the back seat, he was pushed into the side of the door feeling like the first sardine in the can. Add to that Josie's elbow pressing into his already sore and probably cracked ribs, and that little sardine was feeling mighty flattened indeed. Thankfully it was only a couple of blocks to the dealership, but the closeness of the others grated on his worn nerves.
The doors opened up and Eliot could finally breathe, and if he sat in the car for an extra moment to fill his squashed and aching lungs, no one noticed.
Back at McRory's as the team sat around the table bantering Eliot listened from the kitchen, throwing out jibes every once in a while. His head was still throbbing with the headache from hell and the stifling heat wasn't helping. Sweat dripped off his chin and he swiped the back of his hand across his forehead again, wincing when it brushed against his right temple.
Eliot was thankful that no one was in the prep area now, as he would have had a hard time explaining why it took him three times as long as normal for him to chop the carrots. The damn things kept moving on him. Well, maybe that was just the way his eyes kept wanting to refocus. He was lucky he didn't cut up his fingers instead.
Finally he was able to bring the meal to the table and everyone dug in with hearty appetites, a sight he never got tired of, no matter how badly he was hurt. That they enjoyed his food so much was a sort of balm on his pains. They did appreciate him, if only for their stomachs.
"Hey, man," Hardison said after his third helping of fries. "Ain'tcha gonna eat?"
Parker looked up at that and frowned, her brows quirking as she tilted her head. "What'sa matter Sparky? You not hungry?"
"Naw," he said easily, his stomach practically roiling with the thought and scents of food in his nostrils. "Ate back there," he lied easily as he jerked his head toward the kitchen, clenching his jaw tightly around a smile as his head reminded him that it did not want to be jerked around right now, thank you very much.
He listened to their playful bickering as he sat back in his chair, sipping on his beer and joining in a few times, like when Nate tried to convince him that his car wasn't his anymore. Damn Hardison and his electronic fiddling. He'd get that pink slip back sooner than later, he swore.
His stomach did a slow barrel roll then, and he swallowed. Hard. Making some lame excuse to go back into the kitchen, he changed course as soon as he was out of their sight and ran for the bathroom.
He threw open the door to the stall and dropped to his knees, barely time to brace himself before his stomach angrily tossed its contents back up his throat. His abdomen clenched and the pain from his cracked ribs made stars burst around his vision. He heard himself moaning as he retched but he couldn't make himself stop. Breathing deeply through his nose, he tried to force his stomach to settle, but it had its own plans. He heaved again as he braced his shaking forearms on the porcelain.
The door of the bathroom shut and he heard footsteps coming up behind him. "Aw, dayum, man," he heard. "Why didn't you tell us, ya damn hard-headed, mule-brained..."
The voice trailed off muttering, and he heard water splashing in the background. A cool cloth was placed on the back of his neck when the footsteps returned, and he could only nod in acknowledgement as he put his forehead on his arm, panting.
His face grew hot again and the stars returned, a little moan escaping him. He dimly felt his hair being held back and a hand rubbing his back as he heaved a third time, the muscles in his abdomen and chest tightening, bringing up nothing this time but bile.
He felt Hardison reach over to flush the toilet, removing the nastiness from in front of his face, and a paper cup of water appeared in front of him. He took it with a shaking hand, and rinsed out his mouth before handing it back. Exhausted and in pain from the simple act, he sat back on the floor and dropped his head onto his arms. The cloth was replaced with another, and then he felt Hardison wiping his forehead. He jerked away. Oh. Bad idea. Eliot felt himself losing his balance before strong hands gripped his shoulders, bringing him back to center.
Sympathetic noises in the background were joined by another voice. Nate.
Shit. Even better.
"Found him like this, Nate. Looks like he hit his head harder than we thought."
He could almost hear the wheels turning in Nate's head without even looking at him.
"Alright, let's get him upstairs."
"I am right here, ya know," Eliot growled, his eyes still closed.
A hand reached under his arm and helped him stand. Eliot swayed a little and Hardison kept his hand on him until he steadied enough to walk out of the stall. Three Nate's stood in front of him and he screwed his eyes shut, swearing as he put a hand to his head. The pounding was more intense right now, and the overhead light lanced into the back of his brain.
He must have stumbled, because hands gripped his sides and pulled his arms up, sliding them across shoulders that were slightly taller than he was. He kept his eyes closed against the light and his head down; for some reason it helped a little with the pain. Arms slid around his waist to steady him, and he let them lead him forward as he concentrated on keeping his feet under him.
They went out into the bar, but even though they were the only ones in the room, he still felt vulnerable. He heard Sophie's muted cry of dismay as she saw them and she and Parker were suddenly beside them.
"Sparky?" the blond said, and her voice slammed into his head like a hammer. He must have made some sound and movement, because Sophie started 'shushing' her immediately and the hands on his wrists and sides tightened. He felt rather than heard the two women following them up to the apartment.
The stairs were hell. Not because he was clenching his eyes shut and couldn't see, but because with each step he had to guess its height and every once in a while he miscalculated and came down harder than he anticipated, jarring his over-sensitive head. Nate and Hardison took it slowly though, never faster than he could manage, and even stopped a few times to let him catch his breath. Man, there should be a law against steps being this hard to maneuver.
Finally they were on the second floor and they walked to Nate's door. Eliot wondered absently why they were walking so slowly. Then he stumbled and remembered that it was because of him when pain flared across the back of his eyes again.
"Easy, Eliot," a voice whispered near his ear. Even softly spoken, the words hurt. "Almost there."
The door opened and they led him inside, helping him down onto the couch. His eyes still clenched tightly, he groaned as his stomach threatened again, and he clamped his arm around his middle. He felt hands lowering him to the cushions and he didn't fight them this time.
A cold cloth was placed on his forehead, and another one across his eyes. He sighed and let himself relax into their care.
At arm's length was where he usually stayed, but every once in a while, they managed to creep inside.