A/N: Sophie's comment in the Big Bang Job about Eliot being unable to kill Atherton (sp?) really stuck with me, so this is the result. I'm not sure I like how it came out-I rather meant for it to be a little more angsty, and I don't know what else. But it's been bouncing around in my head since the finale aired, so I figured I should just suck it up and publish. So I hope you like it!
Disclaimer: Leverage and its characters are not mine.
The bar was empty except for them. No one was talking much, although Parker and Hardison kept casting each other significant glances, the meaning of which Eliot had absolutely no desire to know. Eliot sat, beer in hand, staring into space. He felt as though he should feel… something. Guilty, maybe. Upset. Instead, Eliot felt nothing.
Eliot had taken a few minutes to run up to Nate's apartment and grab a change of clothes from the stash he kept there for when they were pulling a long job. All the same, he was sure that someone had to smell the gasoline on him, the gunpowder, the smoke. Someone would ask him what had happened.
"You're not that man anymore." Sophie had believed her words. She'd believed that Eliot had changed. That he wouldn't—couldn't—kill anymore. She had been wrong.
"Eliot?" He nearly jumped at the sound of her voice, only slightly more immediate than the words echoing in his head. "Are you alright?" Eliot just grunted. "Eliot?" Sophie asked again, concerned.
"What?" he snapped at her, still staring at his beer.
"I asked if you were alright."
"I'm fine, Sophie," he growled. He glared down at the counter, resisting the urge to run, to get out of there. Instead, he focused on keeping his body still, trying to relax.
"Look at me, Eliot." He slowly lifted his head, staring somewhere in Sophie's general direction. He didn't meet her eyes. "It's okay, Eliot. I know this job brought back memories for you, but it's alright. Your past is your past. You're not that person anymore." The confidence, the trust in her voice… he looked away.
The smell of the gasoline, the heat of the flames behind him. The thought of their scorched bodies didn't bother him.
Abruptly, Eliot stood, pushing back his stool and turning towards the door. He walked out, relishing the bite of the cold night air on his skin, ignoring the others calling his name, asking what was wrong. Eliot kept walking, his movements jerky at first, but then his stride became more natural, predatory.
He'd been halfway there, halfway to the door of that warehouse. He could have gotten out, he knew that. Eliot could have escaped. Without killing them. But even as he thought it, he knew that hadn't been an option. Not really. Those thugs hadn't been holding him there—if anything, he'd been holding them, keeping them trapped in positions that against another opponent would have been defendable. But if he'd gotten out, there would have been nothing holding them in place, nothing blocking the door, nothing to keep them from going after Nate.
What bothered him most wasn't the murder. It had been easy, to slip back into his old habits, to try and take down as many men as he could before he was hit with a lucky bullet, to not care whether he made it out or not. In fact, it was almost nice. Not caring was easier, a luxury Eliot hadn't had since he had joined the team—with a team, you had to make it out, at least to see the job through. But, in picking up that gun, Eliot had committed himself. He would give up his life to get Nate and that woman out of this. He had to. Not a single one of those men could be able to come after Nate, to stop him from getting Moreau.
What bothered Eliot most wasn't that the murder didn't bother him. It was that Sophie had thought that it would. He wondered if the rest of the team also thought that he was no longer capable of the things he'd done in his past. Certainly Nate had never thought that—especially not after that afternoon. But the others? Didn't they realize? How could they not know what a monster he'd been? Instinctively, they had to know. Because he was still that monster.
Eliot Spencer: retrieval specialist. Eliot was a murderer, an interrogator, a get-the-job-done-regardless-of-the-cost kind of guy. That was what he did. It wasn't like he'd enjoyed all of that, the killing, the torture—he'd never killed for enjoyment. But…at some point, he'd just stopped counting the bodies. No, that wasn't true. He'd always counted. But at some point the numbers had ceased mean anything to him.
Eliot wasn't sure how long he walked, but by the time he found himself back at the bar, the others were gone. He made his way upstairs to Nate's, although he wasn't entirely sure why. He found Nate sitting on the couch, watching a football game. Eliot grabbed a beer from the fridge and went to sit beside him. Nate acknowledged him with a nod of the head.
After a few minutes: "They're all dead?"
"Does it bother you?"
"That I killed them?" asked Eliot. "No, Nate, it doesn't bother me. They were bad men. I wasn't lying when I told you that they were worse than me."
"Then what's bothering you?"
Eliot didn't answer immediately. "I kill people, Nate," he said after a moment. Nate waited. "I don't kill unless I have to. Not anymore. And I haven't had to since we started working as a team. Until today. But I…Sophie thought…" Eliot looked away, biting back some emotion that Nate couldn't quite identify.
"That you'd changed," Nate finished for him.
"I'll never change, Nate. No matter what I do, I'll never be clean of my past. And so it will never really be my past."
"Are you afraid that, one day, the others will realize that?"
"They'd hate me, Nate."
"They might. Or they might value you over your actions."
"But, dammit, I am my actions!"
"Yes, you are. What I meant was that you might find that they value you—good and bad—over simply the bad."
Eliot was silent. Then, after a moment: "What if they don't?"
Nate was silent for so long that Eliot almost got up and left, not wanting to sit there with that question hanging between them for any longer. But then Nate said softly, "I do."
The room was quiet for a moment, except for the babble of the TV announcers. "Thanks, Nate." Eliot's voice was rough.
"I appreciate what you did today, Eliot."
"Had to get ya out somehow."
After a few moments of silence, Eliot said, "I hate Moreau."
"Because he told you to do things you regret?"
"No, Nate. Because I listened."
"You hate yourself." It wasn't a question. Nate understood.
"Yeah, I do," replied Eliot, voice soft and rough.
"I'm sorry, Eliot."
"Don't be. It's who I am."
"The team doesn't ever need to know what happened today, Eliot."
"But you'll know."
"Yeah. I suppose so."
Eliot finished his beer and stood up. "G'night, Nate."
"We'll get Moreau, Eliot. Really get him. I promise."
Eliot nodded, hesitating before he shut the door to the apartment behind him. He turned back to Nate as though he wanted to say something, but then shook his head, closing the door. He'd been unable to voice his thoughts because he knew that he was right, and he was afraid that Nate would agree. If they were taking down Moreau, they should be taking down Moreau's men. And Eliot had been one of Moreau's men.
The things Eliot had done for Damien Moreau… Nate had no idea, Eliot was sure. Because if Nate had known—Nate had been a father once—Eliot knew that Nate never would have forgiven him.
"You're not that man anymore."
But he was. He always would be. He would never be the man the team thought him. Eliot wanted so desperately to protect them from the man he was. The irony of that did not escape him.
Part of him wondered how long he'd be able to go on like this, when the team believed that he wasn't the man he had once been. He wondered how long he'd be able to lie to them before it became too much. But deep down, he knew that he was lying to himself. He just wished that lying to the team bothered him. Just like he wished that murder bothered him. But neither did. He would lie to them forever if it meant that they didn't look at him with fear in their eyes. He could bear hating himself. He couldn't bear it if they hated him as well. If they were afraid of him.