It had been an easy few months. Really, compared to some of the things he'd done, these last few months had been a walk in the park. Taking down Mark Vector had been the biggest professional challenge before Christmas, and that really wasn't that hard. The sniper was a wrinkle he didn't account for, but it worked out. The bigger challenge had been getting back to Virginia. Newt had been less than thrilled that he almost missed Christmas with his family—showing up before the kids woke up Christmas morning had required a private plane and a favor called in. But they'd been good months. Months of staying nearby and doing work around the house when they weren't doing local jobs. The kind of months that Eliot wouldn't mind making the regular routine. He should have expected that soon enough everything was going to go to hell.
Eliot didn't like this new job. Something just wasn't right about it. Why would Damien want a scientist killed? This Yasmin wasn't working on anything that Damien should find interesting. He could understand wanting to take care of General Atherton, he was honestly surprised Damien hadn't handled that already, but this doctor lady…..having her killed struck him as sloppy. If this woman had created something that Damien wanted, it would make far more sense to leave her around, if only to take the fall for it.
At least this lady was smart enough to take seriously what they were telling her. He'd dealt with people before who would escape an exploding building and STILL not believe that they were in a lot of trouble. Boston PD would get her to a safe house where she could hide out until she no longer had to play dead, while he found out where Moreau was. That would be the easiest part of this whole thing. That would just take a phone call.
He left the others in the bar, slipping his phone out of his pocket. It was late enough in the afternoon that Emily should be done for the day. Kindergarten classes didn't go as long as regular school classes. It took four rings, but she finally picked up.
"Eliot! I wasn't expecting to hear from you for another two weeks!"
"Yeah. Somethin's come up, and I need to ask you about Damien."
"What about him?"
"I need to know if he's in the country."
"He's just coming in for a long weekend. We're going to the Smithsonian for a few days, for my birthday."
Damn it. He'd forgotten her real birthday. Just one more thing he'd messed up, that he could chalk up to this damn case.
"So he's in D.C.?"
"He's not coming just to see me, is he?"
The tone of voice instantly changed on the other end of the line, and Eliot felt bad. It felt wrong, to pull Emily into the middle of anything, or try to get information out of her. She wasn't a mark, or an asset, and it was just dirty to use a connection she couldn't help against her. If the safety of his team wasn't at risk, he wouldn't do it.
"I'm afraid not."
"What's he done now?"
Nate was still talking about Damien and Yasmin when he walked out of the kitchen.
"If Damien Moreau was worried about the cops he wouldn't be staying at a hotel in downtown D.C."
"You keep tabs on Damien Moreau?"
Why did Nate sound surprised? They were trying to take Damien down, why wouldn't he keep track of where the man was? Only a fool would think of going up against Moreau without knowing exactly where the man was.
"I make it a point to know where Damien Moreau is at all times, so we can avoid him."
He didn't like the idea of going after Damien. They weren't ready to make a move, and going after Damien unprepared would get them all killed. His prior arrangements with the man wouldn't save his team if things went badly. He hoped against hope that Nate would see reason and call the entire thing off. He could deal with this Italian woman and whoever she sent after them, and he would gladly take dealing with them over seeing Moreau again.
"You okay, man?"
Hardison was looking at him with concern, a fact that only made Eliot want even more to snap. Hardison, who sometimes lacked any and all sense, was showing more intelligence than Nate at the moment. Nate was too busy spinning off some cockamamie plan that was almost guaranteed to fail; faking their way into the DOD to check out Elias Atherton.
"Nate, Hardison and I'll handle Moreau, and get an invite into this auction."
Of all this teammates, Hardison was the one most likely to make it out of a meeting with Moreau alive. Nate would be made the moment he tried to walk through the door, even with Eliot backing him up. Sophie, well, Sophie would try to grift the man, and while Damien would find it entertaining for a while, he wouldn't tolerate it long. He refused to put Parker in the same room as the goons that Damien would have surrounding him. No, it would have to be Hardison.
"Let's go steal the Department of Defense."
"Isn't that treason?"
"We'll give it back."
He was being a coward, and he knew it, but he waited to call Newt until they were landed in D.C., while Hardison was changing clothes in the hotel room. He could try to justify it that he knew she was at work, and wouldn't be able to check her phone, but no, he was just being a coward. If he told her he was going off to do anything connected with Damien Moreau, she would have something to say about it. And since she would be right, he couldn't get upset at the fact. This was going to be even more dangerous than usual. His message didn't say anything about who they were going to be dealing with, just that he would be gone for a couple of days and that he'd already put on alert the nanny who cared for Dahlia when he was gone and she had to work. He wasn't in the habit of lying to his wife, but if he was lucky she would never need to know what he'd be getting up to this weekend.
Hardison emerged from the hotel room, jeans and t-shirt exchanged for a suit. He had the professional look that he would need for the role he was going to play, Eliot would give him that, but the hitter had the sinking feeling that the role wasn't going to get them the answers they wanted. His past history with Damien might be enough to get them down to see him without anyone getting shot, but it was also what was likely to make Damien uncooperative. He pointed the rental car in the direction of the hotel, running through all the ways this job could go south in his head. There wasn't a chance that he wouldn't be recognized by the men that were closest to Damien, and every single one of them would be armed. He had no idea which of those men had become his replacement, and he really wasn't looking forward to finding out.
A hotel this nice really should have better security, Eliot thought privately as they managed to make their way through the lobby, into the kitchens long enough for Hardison to grab a serving cart, and make it to the elevator. That was entirely too easy considering the clientele that patronized a hotel this expensive. Hardison was saying something about pretending to be the hotel staff to get that elevator door open, but he only half paid attention. Hardison's cooked up plan wouldn't cut it, although he gave the hacker points for creativity with the French African accent he put on.
"And who are you?"
The question was direct at him. Of course it was.
"Me? I'm Eliot Spencer"
He ignored Hardison's look of incredulity as the lackey in front of the elevator ordered the doors open, and his questions as they descended. He needed to stay focused; he had no idea what they would face when they reached the sublevels. When the elevator doors opened and they followed the lackey to the pool, Eliot thought that he really should have expected all the scantily clad women in the hot tub. Damien never travelled without a few companions. The men that fell in step behind him weren't much of a surprise either, and he muttered a warning to Hardison that things could get messy, so he needed to stay close. He was, however, surprised to see Chapman step into his space as though he owned the room. With that level of arrogance and the fact that the other men backed away, Chapman could only have been the one moved up into his former position. He'd really expected Damien to have better taste.
"Chapman. He gave you the job?"
"There was an opening."
They were at an impasse. Chapman didn't know when to back down, and Eliot wasn't going to stand for anything from the Brit. Guns were drawn as the tension in the room ratcheted up several notches, sending the women running for cover. Eliot didn't know if it was fortunate or unfortunate that Damien chose that moment to emerge from a steam room and interrupt them.
"That's no way to treat an old friend. So, let's catch up."
The guns were immediately holstered, and Damien directed Eliot towards the table. Catching up somehow meant Hardison was handcuffed to a chair, but at least Eliot was free. His being cuffed to something was number seventeen on his List of Ways This Meeting Was Going To Go Wrong. A bikini clad girl offered him a glass of wine from her tray, and he nodded her off.
"He prefers beer."
The girl finally took the hint from Damien and left them alone. Moreau took a long sip from his glass before addressing his guests.
"Is this one of your retrieval jobs, Eliot? Tell me, whose Snoopy lunchbox do I have?"
A sense of humor; not the worst way this could start. If Damien had been truly pissed, he wouldn't be acting like a smartass. If they could keep this civil, there was a chance that everyone would walk out of this meeting in one piece.
"I'm escorting the middle man. I'm contracted to make sure he gets in, and out, with the offer."
"Pardon, monsieur," Hardison interrupted, "my employer has heard what you're selling, and they would like to acquire the Ram's Horn."
"And who is your employer?"
Well, it took longer than he'd expected for things to go south, Eliot thought to himself as Hardison was pushed into the pool. His instinct was to jump in after his friend, but that would get them both killed. Damien didn't take rejection well, and there was something he wanted from Eliot.
"I use the same confidentiality with all my clients. But I can tell you that they're in Europe. It would leave the country immediately, with no connection back to you."
What he had was a quickly growing temper that he had to work to keep down. Hardison was down there for too long already. He wished Damien would just get to whatever it was he wanted.
"What do you want?" He finally asked the direct question. He didn't have time to tiptoe around the man and his schemes. Damien smiled, the look of a man who'd gotten exactly what he wanted. He was blunt about it, once he knew he had Eliot's attention. Kill Elias Atherton. Eliot wished he could say that he was surprised. He agreed, and the key to the handcuffs was tossed into the pool. Thank God Hardison climbed out of that pool, or Damien and everyone around him would have been dead. Eliot was starting to think that maybe that would be the easiest thing to do at this point. It was likely the best shot at killing Damien he was ever going to have.
The hacker was shaking a bit, but he maintained his composure as he circled around the pool to join them. Eliot was impressed.
"And what message I should give my employer?" Hardison asked after he pulled out his sopping handkerchief to wipe off his face.
"I like this one", Damien chuckled. "I'm glad we could make our little deal. I'll send the details of the auction once it's done."
"Let's go," he growled at Hardison, stalking to the elevator. This was going to be difficult to explain to the rest of the crew. He might have to really kill Atherton, unless Nate came up with some clever plan to fake the death convincingly enough for Moreau.
"Eliot used to work with Moreau back in the day. A lot. Tell 'em."
He understood Hardison being pissed off about how that meeting went, but really, the hacker didn't have to get in his face about telling the rest of the group.
"We've been after Moreau for months, and you're just telling us this now?"
"I was trying to find a way to avoid this."
"You're protecting Moreau?!"
"I'm protecting you!"
Well, that shut Nate up.
"Last time I checked, that's my job!"
"Every single man on Moreau's team is a killer. Every one of 'em—is worse than me. The worst thing I ever did, I did for Damien Moreau. And I'll never be clean of that."
"What did you do?"
"Don't ask me that, Parker."
At least Parker wasn't looking at him in horror. He didn't think he'd be able to take it if the innocent young woman looked at him like that. She was looking at him in concern. She would understand what he was about to say.
"Because if you ask me, I'll tell you. So please. Don't ask me."
The thief nodded, and he breathed in relief that that subject at least would be put to rest. He would be honest and say he tuned out about half of what Sophie was saying about honesty, as his thoughts turned to Newt and Dahlia, and what his wife would say when he got home. She would have gotten his message by now, and she would be wondering what was going on. He didn't want her to worry.
"What do you have to do for him?"
"But you can't. You're not that man anymore."
He almost wished that was true. He shared a look with Nate.
"He may have to be."
Damien would have the general watched, so Eliot had to stay away, but Nate and Sophie were dispatched to inform the man that he was targeted for death. There were a number of things Eliot wanted to do, but he was relegated to the hotel while the others went out. He couldn't be seen with anyone but Hardison, because he was under no illusions that Moreau might have him followed as well. He resigned himself to watching bad television until his phone rang, and Emily's number came up on the Caller ID.
"Damien ditched me for whatever it is that I'm not supposed to know he's doing, but he mentioned you were in town. Dinner?"
Why not? He had nothing better to do. Besides, Damien would think it strange if he turned Emily down.
"I'll pick you up at seven."
A beep told him he had a text message, and he pulled it up. A single word, from Newt: Coward. Well, he already knew that. He typed back a single word apology before grabbing his things and heading for the shower. If he was taking Emily out, he had to be presentable. He owed her for not remembering her birthday. Before he left his hotel room, had made one more phone call. If things went south, he didn't want Newt to be alone when she found out.
Eliot had to say, he hadn't really expected Damien to try to kill him. Was he trying to provoke him? The arms dealer had said that the white hat didn't suit him, was he trying to push Eliot back to what he was before? That was the only other possibility as far as Eliot could see, sending so many men to take them down, and knowing Damien's sometimes—twisted—logic, it was actually a strong possibility. He didn't THINK that Damien was just using him to clean house.
As he counted the number of men he could see from their hiding spot he wondered who this woman had pissed off enough that they sold her out.
"Are you sure you can take down Moreau?"
Newt was going to kill him when he made it home. Or Nate.
"Get her out of here," he ordered Nate, before pulling out his guns. He hated guns, but there were too many of them to try to handle this without them. He stepped out and started shooting, taking careful aim at the men closest to him. He didn't have enough rounds to waste any. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Nate and the woman dart out of the door. At least they were safe.
He grabbed the guns off the first body he passed, abandoning his own once they were spent. Someone had managed to shoot one of the barrels, and it was spilling its contents all over the floor. Eliot took advantage of that fact, dropping to his knees and sliding down the floor. It enabled him to move much faster, and stay lower, so he had a better chance of avoiding the bullets that were whizzing just past his head. He stopped counting the number of men he shot, deciding it was just another red mark in his ledger that he would never be able to wipe out.
As he started slowing down, a barrel marked Flammable came into view, and he put a bullet into it. He didn't have enough ammunition to keep trying to take them all down one at a time. The resulting explosion took care of everyone else, and Eliot pushed to his feet. Wait a second. One was missing…
"I thought you didn't like guns."
….and there was Chapman. Eliot turned around slowly to face the man who had a gun in his face.
Before the other could blink Eliot's entire magazine was unloaded into his body. The stupefied look on Chapman's face should have been more satisfying.
"Never said I couldn't use 'em."
He watched the other man fall before he left the building as quickly as he could. It wasn't possible that the shootout didn't draw the attention of someone on the property, and he had to be gone before any emergency services showed up. He had to get to the hangar before Nate could do something stupid, like get shot by Damien.
Running into that hangar to see Damien with a gun pointed at Nate had to be one of his worst nightmares. Newt would never forgive him if he let Nate get shot, or if he got shot himself.
"You've got one shot, Moreau!"
He had one shot before Eliot got to him and broke his neck. Let that gun point at him, he didn't care. Damien wasn't the best shot. He could shoot straight as long as he didn't have to shoot too far, but that was about it. It would be pure luck if he managed to make a lethal shot, and anything short of that Eliot could work with. He'd been shot before, he could survive it.
The gun didn't aim anywhere near him, or even Nate. The bullet went straight into the woman's shoulder, and Damien jogged up the steps of the plane, disappearing inside. Eliot wouldn't let that stop him, but Nate did, forcing his attention to the injured woman. Damien was free again. Damn it!
The injury was bleeding badly, but as Eliot expected, it wasn't serious. He managed to get the bleeding slowed down to a trickle by the time the EMT's showed up and carted her off. He wanted to smack Nate in the head for promising her that they were still going to get Moreau. It was time to cut their losses and call the fact that they all survived a win.
"The others don't need to know what I did."
It was better for everyone if the others didn't know that he'd done what he was capable of doing. They didn't need that burden. Hardison especially would have trouble trusting him again. They had to be able to work together.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
It was a relief to end the conversation there, with the others walking through the door. Nate being willing to keep his secrets was a new thing, but one that he'd take. The bomb was taken care of, Moreau was gone, it was time to go home and face Newt.
Eliot opened the door slowly, not wanting to disturb if Dahlia was asleep. It should be about her nap time, and probably Newt's too. She'd had to work a double shift, as he'd found out when he called to check in. He was going to have to throw a healthy bonus into the nanny's check for that.
He didn't like this idea, going after Damien on his own turf. It smacked too much of a suicide bid for Eliot's peace of mind. Damien would have access to all of his money, and he would have access to all of Ribera's security. There was no better protected place Damien could go than San Lorenzo. It was the worst place they could go after Damien, but they'd all agreed to walk right into it. In just a few hours they would all be on the first flight out.
Dahlia was asleep in the nursery. Good. He stood over the crib for a minute, just watching her. Sometimes it was still hard to believe that he'd made her. That anything good could come from him.
"You're a damn coward, Eliot Spencer."
It was said softly, but no less venomous for that. Yeah, Newt was still pissed, and he couldn't blame her.
"It's not what you think," he answered as he turned to face her, then followed her out of the nursery so they didn't wake the child up.
"Then you didn't sneak out of Boston so that you could go after Damien Moreau? You didn't wait until I was at work to send a message so that I wouldn't get it until after you were long gone?"
She walked away, and he followed her with a sigh. She was right to be angry, but if she wouldn't even let him explain, they weren't going to get anywhere. And he didn't want to leave in the morning with a fight still between them.
"Newt, if we don't take care of Moreau now, we'll never get another chance."
"Then walk away, Eliot! You don't need to go after him! Let the man live his life, and leave him alone!"
"You know why I can't do that. If we don't move now, he'll just rebuild everything and keep hurting people. "
"It's not your job to defend the whole world, Eliot! Nate has to learn when to call it a draw!"
"You've got a kid, Eliot! A kid that I'm going to be left alone to raise if something happens to you!"
"Nothing's gonna happen to me, darlin'. I'm used to dealing with bad situations, remember? This is just another crook that we're takin' down."
Maybe, if he said it enough, it would even be true.
"No, it's not. This is Damien Moreau. And you know far better than I do what he's capable of. You've never gone up against anyone like him before, and you know that."
He did know that. He also knew that he couldn't walk away from the fact that their actions had let Moreau track down General Flores. If they didn't do something, Flores would be disappeared once the rigged election was over and Damien's president was safe. He couldn't let that happen.
He reached for Newt, pulling her until he had her tight in his arms. She was as rigid as a board, but he didn't let that stop him.
"I have to go, Victoria. I have to, if I want to be able to live with myself. I promise I'll come back to you."
"Don't make promises you might not be able to keep, Eliot Spencer."
"I don't. I will come back. Not even Damien Moreau could keep me from coming back to you."
He finally felt her resistance melt when he kissed her, and he picked her up, heading for the bedroom. He had time before he had to be at the airport. He fully intended to worship every inch of his wife's body before he left for San Lorenzo. He meant it when he promised he'd come back. He'd never made that promise before, but he would face down Moreau, and he would walk away. Damien wouldn't have all of his flunkies with him. He would have Ribera's security, true, but Eliot wasn't worried about those men. They were second rate mercenaries at worst. He would take down any of them that came at him. He wouldn't let even Damien Moreau keep him from coming back to his family. He would kill the man first.
They went to the hotel only long enough to check in, before heading out to work. For Nate, Sophie and Hardison that meant going to meet the only candidate that hadn't been arrested. For Eliot and Parker, it meant heading down below the city streets to locate access to the Tombs. Finding the place wasn't going to be a simple stroll, even if they did have schematics of the tunnels. Eliot hadn't been in San Lorenzo in years, and his memory was fuzzy on where the prison was located. It wasn't as if he'd ever really needed to go there, after all. Damien always made it a point to avoid prison. "How about this? Steam vent."
Was Parker serious? A steam vent?
"People don't—" he changed his line as she gave him a look—"normal people don't—it feels-" was there a point in trying to explain to her that yes, the human body might be able to withstand that heat for a time, but since it felt like your face was going to melt off people weren't going to go through it?
"This is it, 60 feet below the street."
Parker had abandoned the steam tunnel for a huge pipe, studying a schematic, pointing at it with her flashlight.
"Are you sure that's 60 feet?"
Singing a note was supposed to somehow tell her how far underground they were? But she was sure, so he looked around for something to knock the thing loose. If she was right, this pipe would send the plastic-bagged cell phone directly into Flores' toilet, and they could make contact. There was a giant wrench conveniently lying nearby. He picked it up and went to work.
The relief he felt at hearing Flores' voice was short-lived, as the general refused to leave his men behind. It was going to be almost impossible to get him out alone, never mind the others with him. Flores was the best shot they had to beat Ribera in the election, and he needed to be free to do that.
"These people you're working with now, would ever leave one of them behind?"
Damn the man for making sense. Eliot watched Parker, trying to imagine leaving her behind if something happened. He couldn't do it.
"Leave me here. No matter what."
He didn't even have a chance to object, as Flores ended the call.
"Nate, I hope you're having a better day than we are."
After hearing Moreau through Nate's earpiece, he wasn't surprised at the phone call he received only two hours later. The only surprise was that Damien waited two hours to contact him. He guessed maybe the man was trying to figure out what to say.
"We should meet. Our old hangout, in an hour."
"I'll be there."
"Come alone, Eliot. I don't think this needs to involve anyone else."
That was fine with him. If he was alone, there weren't any other targets for Damien's anger. And there wouldn't be anyone to get in the way if it did become violent. He gave a vague "I need to go out for a while" explanation to Parker before calling down to the front desk to have his car brought around. It would take nearly an hour navigating the winding San Lorenzo roads just to get to the meeting. Driving in San Lorenzo was almost as bad as driving in Monaco.
The cliffs hadn't changed, not that Eliot expected them too. Tucked away behind Damien's villa, this was probably the most remote place in San Lorenzo to hold any sort of meeting, but it was also the most beautiful. The crystal blue water met the white rock in crashing waves during high tide. It was a breathtaking view on a clear day, and even more spectacular during a storm. It had been a favorite place for the arms dealer to meet up when they'd worked together, when he was only using San Lorenzo as a base, but hadn't yet claimed the country as his own.
"We were a great team, once upon a time. What happened to us, Eliot?"
Damien's question was calm, and full of regret. It was a regret that, on occasion, Eliot allowed himself to feel as well. They'd been close, closer than anyone probably suspected (though not nearly as close as some of the rumors had implied), until the beginning of the end. Moreau had become the closest thing to family that Eliot had for years, as he'd kept his own family away for their safety.
"You became Damien Moreau."
"I became what I had to be. It never used to bother you."
"You went down a path I couldn't follow. Not if I wanted to be able to live with myself."
His eyes darted over to the taller man as they stood in silence for a moment. He didn't think that Damien meant to try anything, but he would be a fool to completely drop his guard. He wouldn't let old memories cloud his judgment; he'd made a promise to Newt that he was coming home.
"I saw your wife while I was in the States. I rather regret that I didn't get the chance to meet her."
Had Damien really gotten so close? Eliot almost shuddered to think what could have happened, just how close to disaster they'd been. The taller man took a seat on the ground, his legs dangling over the edge of the cliff. That custom suit wasn't going to thank him for the treatment, but for once Damien looked entirely unconcerned with his appearance.
"My wife is off limits, Damien," Eliot warned him as he joined him on the ground.
"I wouldn't dare harm your wife, Eliot. Call it simple curiosity: I'd like to know the woman that could tame Eliot Spencer."
"Have you come to kill me, Eliot?" Damien asked after an extended silence.
"I thought about it," he finally answered after a minute's internal debate. He still maintained that it would be the simplest answer. But something in him just screamed against the idea of killing someone who'd once mattered to him, now that it wasn't literally a life or death situation.
"You did send an entire team to try to take me down," Eliot reminded him, amused at the hurt in Damien's voice.
"For what it's worth, I sent them to take care of Ford, not you. I knew you'd be fine. You saved me a good deal of housekeeping, cleaning them out as you did. But you really want to kill me?"
"I don't want to," he admitted, "but I won't let you harm anyone on my team."
If it came down to his crew or Damien, he knew who he would choose. He would hate it: killing Moreau would tear him apart, but he would do it. And as much as he hoped otherwise, he was afraid that it might come to just that.
"You work with a team; you wear a white hat; you really have changed."
"Yeah, I guess I have."
"It's too late for me to change, old friend. And I won't just sit idly by while your team tries to ruin me. Your Ford is like a damned bloodhound."
"You should try dealing with him on a regular basis."
"Thanks, but no thanks."
"I won't let you hurt them, Damien."
The hand that came up to rest on his shoulder had him tensing up in anticipation. He didn't think that Damien would try to push him from the cliff, but if there was a fight, he would be ready. Instead the hand squeezed, softly, almost in supplication.
"Then take them home before they can get hurt, Eliot. Please. You don't care about this country, or this election, so go. I'll give you Flores, and his friends if you want them, if you call this off. I don't want to fight with you."
Coming from Moreau, it was a generous offer. One that he wasn't likely to make again, after this meeting. Eliot didn't want it to come to a close, because he knew that after this they would go back to being enemies. But he also knew that they were running out of things to say. Eliot Spencer might want to take that offer from Damien and run with it, but he knew, he just knew, that Nate and at least Sophie were too invested in this scheme of theirs to agree to back off. They would only dig in harder, regardless of what Eliot might say, and he would have no choice but to stick around and protect them.
Instead of saying anything, Eliot covered Damien's hand with his own and gave it a squeeze. As soon as he released the other man's hand he dragged his feet up under him and stood, with Damien following quickly after. He brushed off the dirt he'd acquired in sitting as he made his way from the edge of the cliff.
Damien's call stopped him from opening his car door, and he turned to see the other man still standing where he'd left him.
"I don't intend to come out the loser in this. But if things do go south, you'll keep an eye on Mili, yes? She'll need you."
He just nodded his agreement before pulling his car door open and climbing inside. He could see Damien still standing, watching him as he drove off. The ache in his chest told him this was likely the last time he would ever see the other man in any capacity resembling friendship, and it hurt, but he kept driving. He'd told the truth: Damien had gone too far down a path that he couldn't follow.
"You had your comm. off. Where were you?"
Of course those would be the first words from Nate's mouth when Eliot walked through the door. It was apparently too much to expect something like a five minute breather before diving back into this insane plan of theirs.
"I was out."
He didn't know what he looked like, but apparently it was enough to shut Nate up. The older man just looked at him, before finally nodding and turning back to Sophie. Too bad it wasn't enough to tell Parker to leave him alone. The blonde was looking at him as if trying to judge how to handle him. He kind of appreciated the fact that she seemed to recognize he wasn't in the mood for her to be herself, but- damn it!-he didn't need to be handled. He just needed to be left alone, and to get this job done and get the hell out of this country.
"I think maybe everyone needs to call it a night. We'll regroup in the morning."
Sophie's suggestion was a pretty good one, actually. No one would question him heading off to his room, and if they were smart no one would follow him. He didn't want to hear it from any of them. They wouldn't understand. They only knew Damien as Damien Moreau. They didn't know him as the man that Eliot had worked with extensively, even before he made a name for himself as a hitter, back in their military days. Back when they were both proud to serve their countries, working to make the world just a little bit safer for their people. He and Damien weren't so different. In another life, if he'd made just one wrong decision, he could have become Damien Moreau.
He could call Newt, and she would hear him out without any sort of judgment, but it really wouldn't do any good; there wasn't a fix to this that kept everyone free and happy. If he called up Damien and told him he was taking the offer, if he actually managed to get everyone to just give up and leave, well, he knew that Nate wouldn't let it go. The man would either try to go back on his own, or he would just come up with another plan and spring it on them. If he didn't, this ended with Damien at best behind bars, and at worst, on the other end of Eliot's knife.
Eliot wasn't surprised when Parker followed him, but he was disappointed. He didn't want to deal even with her at the moment. He walked into his room and pulled his wallet and keys from his pocket, tossing them on the bedside table, then turned around to face her.
"What do you want Parker?"
He was surprised when she stepped up and hugged him. As a general rule, Parker wasn't the most touchy-feely person.
"The others don't know what it's like, when you're taking down someone who matters to you. Don't hold it against them. They're lucky not to know."
He drew in a sharp breath at that. Somehow the blonde knew exactly what to say. He wrapped his arms around her, returning the hug he was still surprised he'd received. Parker knew, and understood. He was so sorry that she understood, but he couldn't help but find it comforting that at least one person did.
The week passed surprisingly peacefully. Sophie had managed to stay alive, and her ridiculous act actually put Vittori up in the polls. Nate was running a campaign that hadn't completely fallen apart. The day before the election things started heating up, and Eliot received a surprising text message.
The puppy was a nice touch.
He made a final trip down to the tombs during Sophie's funeral. He couldn't leave things as they were. He had to at least try before leaving the country. He found Damien stretched out on his bunk, staring at the ceiling. That man didn't even bother to turn his head to speak.
"You're going to leave me here to rot."
"At least no one died."
"I suppose there is that."
That got a head turn. Damien looked genuinely surprised at that apology.
"For taking everything. And for letting Nate give it to that damned Ribera."
The biggest flaw in Nate's plan was that Ribera was going to get off completely free just to get Damien behind bars. Not only was he getting away with all of his crimes, he was getting Damien's fortune. Eliot should have at least been able to break they guy's legs. He was one of the ones planning to kill Flores, after all.
"Oh, Eliot. Ribera didn't get anything."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that as soon as you showed up, I had everything transferred to Mili's name. Since Mili's not an enemy of the state, the government couldn't seize a damn thing. Ribera conceded the election for absolutely nothing."
That—that actually made him feel better. That was the best revenge they could get on Ribera, to see to it that he never got a penny.
"You could always get me out of here. For old times' sake."
"I could. But I won't. But so long as you don't cause trouble here, I'll take care of Mili."
He would keep his promise to keep a closer eye out on Mili, but he wouldn't help Damien escape prison. The man had to answer for what he'd done.
"Then I guess I'll be seeing you around. Next time you'll have to introduce me to your wife."
"You wouldn't like that. She'd probably stab you with a letter opener or something. She has very fixed opinions on what is and isn't acceptable."
"I'm sure she keeps you on your toes, then. I like her already."
"You would. She reminds me a lot of Agata."
He left the prison feeling better than he had in days. Damien was behind bars, and would remain there for a long time. That meant Nate was a free man, this blasted Italian woman could go back to Italy, and they could all get on with their lives. He was ready to get back home.