A/N: Second and final installment. Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: Leverage is not mine.
Chapter Two: Pieces
He didn't go looking for them. Maybe they no longer trusted in his ability to protect them. Maybe they'd just been ready to move on. Whatever their reasons, they wouldn't want him to come looking for them. Eliot spent a lot of time carefully convincing himself of that.
After a while, he started taking jobs again. He told himself that he was happy to be back to his old lifestyle, his old kill or be killed mindset, feeling the old drive of self-preservation, the lack of anything but that. But none of it seemed as important as it had before. Before them.
His enemies got their hands on him more than once. He never stopped to wonder why. He never realized that it was because he just didn't care as much anymore. But like before, no one could break him. Like before, no one understood why. Before, it had been because his will to live had been so much stronger than anything else. Now, it was because he was already broken, had been since a single word had floated to the ground. They could do nothing to him that would break him more than that had.
It was sheer coincidence that he stumbled upon her when he did. He'd been working a job when his mind had registered Sophie's panicked voice from down the hallway. He let the door he'd just managed to get open swing shut again—he'd deal with the ramifications of potentially failing to complete this job on time and thereby disappointing his employer later—and headed towards her voice. He reached her just as one of the thugs moved to hit her.
Eliot broke the man's neck.
He had killed the other two men before he noticed Sophie's look of shock. He assumed that she was surprised to see him. And she was. He brushed his hair out of his eyes and turned to walk away.
"Eliot." Her voice stopped him. "What happened to you?"
It was then that he realized that she'd never seen him kill before. He'd hardly even noticed that he'd started to kill again after the team left. But he had. It had been easy.
"Sorry," he said gruffly. "Didn't mean to upset you." He tried to keep the bitterness, the anger out of his voice.
"What?" He couldn't allow himself to get angry. Not with Sophie. No matter how hurt he was. But what did she care about him, anyway?
"Please talk to me?"
"What do you want me to say, Soph?" He finally turned to look at her. His hair was falling forward into his eyes again. He didn't bother to brush it away this time.
"I don't know," she whispered.
He turned away once more. "I'm on a job," he told her by way of goodbye.
A week later, they showed up at his new apartment. He didn't ask them how they'd found it.
It was Nate who broke the silence. "We want to come back, if you'll have us."
There was no reply from Eliot for a moment. Then: "I don't understand."
"We left to help you. But we didn't help you," Parker told him. Eliot, understandably, found this contribution to the conversation less than helpful.
"There was a video camera, Eliot," Nate tried to explain.
It took Eliot a moment to figure out what Nate was talking about. "Oh," he finally said.
"We saw what they did to trick you," explained Sophie. "We thought that it might be better if we weren't here for anyone to use as"—she grimaced slightly—"leverage."
"But it wasn't better, because Sophie says you're killing people again," said Parker.
"Regardless," cut in Nate. "We're sorry, Eliot, and we want to come back, if you'll have us."
"We miss you, man," Hardison spoke up.
Eliot just stared at them for a moment. "Fuckin' crazy thieves," he muttered to himself. But he didn't kick them out. Instead, he went to get Parker a bowl of fortune cookies from his cupboard—it never occurred to him that most people didn't keep fortune cookies on hand at all times—to distract her from the knife she was eyeing. He was going to have to be more careful with his weapons now.
Eliot never noticed that it was easier for him to slip back into being with a team than it had been for him to slip out of it. The team never noticed Eliot slowly piecing himself back together over the next couple of months. They never realized that hitters were always broken, to some degree. And that maybe having something to hold oneself together for made it easier to keep on going.
They did, however, realize that, although they were Eliot's weakness, maybe things were better that way. Because they were also his strength.