Disclaimer: Not mine, duh

Spoilers: through the Season 3 Finale

A/N: I heard this song from Spock's Beard and the mournful words and melody simply begged for a background story, and of course, it fits Eliot to a T, so here is my first SongFic. Enjoy.

Slow Crash Landing

It seems he never lost his way
Through grievous dreams and shattered days
While leaving words weighed on his mind
His road is winding to an end
And now it's time that he defends
The wor
ld and friends he left behind

Lying on the dirt floor of the abandoned shack in the nameless town, in the unknown country, in the war that he had long since forgotten the reason he was fighting in, Eliot wonders why he is still alive. Oh, he knows how. He's just too damned stubborn to quit, even with bullets and shrapnel buried in his flesh and bones broken. The thing he doesn't know is why.

Why is he still fighting? Why doesn't he just give up and let himself die? It would certainly be easier than this. Day after day, week after week, year after year of hiring himself out to fight other people's wars so they don't have to do the dirty work themselves.

He thinks of the world he's left behind: the camaraderie of the soldiers in his unit, who would never leave another behind, even though it might spell death for the soldier who rescues his brother; of the beautiful and feisty blonde who wrangles him as easily as she does the wild spirited horses in the fields; of the sister in an unknown city with the nephew that he never did get to know.

Maybe it is time for a change, he thinks, as he watches his blood sink into the thirsty desert sand. Another country, another fight, another war in which the Powers That Be have decreed that this small nation of people have not managed to live, to prosper, to grow, and for that, they must die. His role in the massacre is just that: a massacre. They didn't tell him the why's of the mission, they rarely ever do, they just handed him the guns and the photos of his targets. He is the one who went in, bullets flying, and did the job.

Always the job.

Never the man.

This time it's in a dark, underground cell. His body is broken beyond recognition, bones so shattered he wonders if he will ever heal, and somehow, he doesn't care. His apathy communicates to his captors, and they bring a doctor of sorts who cares for him, helps him, heals him over the course of months. He never speaks though, never able to bring himself to bother. In the end, he is tortured again, beaten again and broken again, this time left in the jungle as a warning to others who might decide it's a good idea to resist.

Somehow, his stubborn will, apart from his own desires, prods him upright and demands that he live. Again.

The slow crash landing man unfolds
A future he so gently holds
Then shines his truth like molten gold
We're free again
The slow crash landing man has won
He knows his final race is run
So we unload the starting gun
He's free again

Nathan Ford: insurance investigator for IYS Insurance. What interest would this man have in him? Eliot knows that he's made a name for himself, recreated himself from the mere soldier to the mercenary, from the killer to the Retrieval Specialist, to the best damned specialist in the world.

But why him?

He finds out when he meets the 'team'; the hacker, the thief, and the grifter rounding out the little group that Nathan has created for this job.

One show only, no encores. This is how Eliot has lived in the past. It's how he's survived. No one to tell him what to do and when to do it, no one to worry about when a job goes south and he has to bail out to save his own skin.

No one to look after his back.

But now they've bonded, in some weird way. They work another job, then another, and they find that this thing between all of them, this connection, it works somehow. They learn about each other's quirks and habits, find out how to expand their skill-set so that Parker learns to fight, Eliot attempts to hack, and Hardison tries to grift. They know that they are each the best at their jobs, but to learn the specialties of the others connects them even more.

The first time the team covers him he is shocked, surprised that anyone would come back for him if it jeopardized their own safety. The second time he gets angry: it's supposed to be his job, dammit, to get them out. They shouldn't be worrying about him.

The third time, when he's so injured he can't hide the blood, can't keep the pain from showing on his face, can't push them away from him long enough to find a bolt hole, they swarm over him. He is afraid at first; a multitude of people with him when he's hurt has always meant more pain, more nightmares. But this time it is different. They come with bandages, soothing words and gentle hands. They ease him down onto soft cushions, cut away his bloodied clothes, and keep him calm with soft voice and tender touch.

Hesitantly he starts to come out of his shell. He is gentler with Parker, because he knows she is fragile. He is annoyed with Hardison and taunts the hell out of him, because in the other man he sees what could have been if he'd had a brother, and he swears to protect the hacker with his life, if he has to. With Nate and Sophie there is an unspoken equality: Nate relies on his strength and knows that Eliot will be there to take up where he's left off, if anything ever happens to their leader. Sophie knows he will take care of Parker and Hardison if she's ever gone, and he does, with all the care she could ever ask.

He lets them deeper into his life than he's ever allowed anyone to go, even Aimee. Small bits of his past surface at odd times; the liberation of Croatia, his love of horses and Willie's farm, his amazing ability to cook, which now keeps them in succulent heaven each and every Wednesday night when they gather for movies and dinner, Eliot-style.

He lived his life in strangers' skin
While all the people breathed him in
They never thought to ask him why
Then on a moondark winter night
The visions crept into his sight
Like heavens' stars swept cross the sky

Life is different now, as Eliot moves from lone wolf to alpha male of his pack. Yes, Nate is the one who calls the shots and gives them the jobs, the instructions, the plans. But Eliot is the protector of this group, he is the one to deal with if anyone wants to get to the others, and he is a formidable foe, indeed. No one has come along yet who has even put a dent in his armor, much less been able to walk away from a confrontation with Eliot Spencer without a limp or broken bone.

And then there is Damien Moreau. The man who had a hand in making Eliot who he is today. The man who takes great pride and pleasure at breaking a man and then reforging him to meet his own needs.

Damien and Eliot have a history. A history steeped in blood and pain, and Eliot fears that the rest of the team will find out and cut him from their side without a second's thought. Perhaps he is wrong to keep his association with Moreau from them, but he tries and tries with all of his might and resources to keep them from stepping into that dark and evil world. He knows they will be forever tainted, just like he is, if they ever find out what Damien Moreau is. Because he's not a man; he is darkness incarnate, a devil without a soul, a demon who slithered his way out of hell and into Eliot's life and now has hold of a corner of his soul.

But now Hardison has been hurt by Moreau's gleefully evil games, and refuses to meet the hitter's eyes. Eliot is shocked to realize just how much that hurts. His chest tightens at the rejection, and as Parker's softly curious voice drifts to his ears, he tears his gaze from the hate in the hacker's face to hers.

"Don't ask me that, Parker. 'Cause if you ask me, I'll tell you." It's the truth, he aches to tell her his sins, his entire body yearns for confession, even as he quails from the thought of their eyes turned on him in disgust. "So please, don't ask me."

To his relief, she doesn't, her natural inquisitive nature yielding to his obvious turmoil, when she could have broken him over the alter of her judgment so easily. He still is not sure why she succumbed so readily.

He rose up from the wreckage
Walked away alive
All cried out in wonder
He survives!

He stops counting after the first five. He is not that man anymore, the one who glories in the number of his kills. Now he does it for one reason: protect the team. Get Nate out, and protect the team. Each bullet that leaves the chamber punches into his gut, a reminder of the shell of a man he'd been when he had been in Moreau's command. The empty eyed, soulless beast stares back at him from the mirror of his dreams each night, and he doesn't know if he stares into Moreau's eyes, or his own.

The fires that surround him are a reminder of his eventual destination, even as he attempts reparation by saving those he can. But as he looks into Chapman's eyes the moment the gun fires and the light of life leaves, he knows that judgment will come calling on him, and he will be found wanting. He can't find it in himself to care about spending his eternity in hell, because he's never thought of himself as worthy enough to go in the other direction, never believing a man such as him would ever find a place there.

The others though, he knows they will. Nate will be with his son again, because a child is ever allowed into the gates of paradise because of their pure innocence, and a father such as Nate belongs with them. Hardison was brought up right, his Nana knowing that the good and righteous have their place made ready, and Hardison only ever follows his Nana's teachings. Sophie, while being a good grifter and con-woman, is not greedy or avaricious, and her cons only hurt those who hurt others. Parker, well, Parker has the innocence of a child, and as such, he feels she will be granted wings the moment she bounces into heaven and steals God's heart.

Himself, he knows he will become a soldier in a dark army, riding a pale horse and bringing the hordes of hell with him. He can only hope that it will have all been worth it in the end.

When he escapes the bloody, burning warehouse whole and unblemished, he can only stare around himself in wonder. The guns are empty, his knives are gone, and he has still survived, when so many haven't. It's another of the curses he carries, that he should be the one to tell the tale, when all of the other voices are silenced. He hasn't told the tales though, so perhaps that is why he still lives.

So he can finally speak of the dead and put them to rest. He only hopes that someone will speak of him and put him to rest someday.

The slow crash landing man unfolds
A future he so gently holds
Then shines his truth like molten
We're free again
The slow crash landing man has won
He knows his final race is run
So we unload the starting gun
He's free again
Free again...