A/N: Just a little something I came up with. Starts with a job gone wrong.
Disclaimer: Leverage is not mine.
Chapter One: Breaking
He was watching them die. They were all dying, one by one, in front of his very eyes.
First Nate. A man whom Eliot trusted and respected. Eliot yelled as they beat him. His scream was not entirely human as Nate slumped forward in the chair, still held upright by the ropes binding him, not moving, not breathing.
Then they started on Hardison. Eliot wasn't sure if Hardison had seen what had happened to Nate, if he knew that these men had beaten Nate to death, but Eliot knew. Eliot's voice was raw and broken by the time Hardison slumped forward in the chair.
Third came Sophie. She tried to be strong at first, although she had to have known what had happened to the others. How could she not know, when it was the only thing Eliot could think of, when he saw their deaths replayed over and over again in his mind? It seemed as though the whole world must know.
Sophie was crying and whimpering by the time they delivered the deathblow.
Last was Parker, and Eliot was broken as he shouted her name. It was sickening how loud her screams were in his ears. She tried to curl in on herself, to protect her vital organs, but the cuffs were holding her in place on the chair and she couldn't protect herself. He couldn't protect her either.
When Parker stopped breathing, Eliot shattered.
They came for him next, although he could hardly bring himself to notice, let alone to care. They intended to make his death painful, but there was nothing they could do to him that could break through the haze of sheer agony that already consumed him. There was no satisfaction in it for them either. Eliot couldn't bring himself to care enough to yell as they beat him.
When the team came for him, they found him like that. Silent, bleeding and shaking and almost not breathing. They found the empty syringe on the ground. At the time, they didn't realize.
They spoke to him as they worked to free him, and then again as they patched him up. Eliot didn't respond.
When he awoke from the pain meds three days later and looked at them with such open relief, at first they didn't understand. But when Hardison found the security video and they watched as Eliot was left alone in the cell, as he screamed their names one after another, voice broken, eyes wide and unseeing, they understood.
They understood that they had broken Eliot, broken him merely by being there, by being a team, a family, because their apparent loss had done what physical pain had never been able to do: it had broken their hitter, broken Eliot Spencer. They vowed that it would never happen again.
So, one night, when everything was back to normal, they left. They left, leaving behind nothing but a single sheet of paper, with a single word scrawled on it.
They wouldn't be there the next morning to see Eliot let himself in to the empty offices, to see him pick up the note and then stumble backwards in shock, the thin piece of paper falling from his fingers, its one lonely "Goodbye" coming to rest face up on the ground.
And the team wasn't there to realize that, in trying to protect Eliot, they'd only broken him once again.