Sixteen flights and over a dozen men in the stairwell and Eliot was all but out of breath and bloody by the time he reached the roof of the forty story building. But he couldn't stop. Even though every exhalation burned like fire in his chest and every inhalation made his broken ribs creak and pop along his left side. His mouth was foul with the taste of tainted copper and blood flowed into his already anger red field of vision from a gash above his right eye. A violent kick to his right knee and the resulting damage would also go unheeded as he raced for the door at the top of the flight. A silent prayer played across his lips, a plea to God or whatever higher power watched out for hitters and thieves.
"Let me make it...please God don't let it be too late."
Down on the ground Sophie and Nate looked up anxiously, powerlessly. Hand in hand they waited for something more than screams and muttering; or rasping breaths and the sounds of physical violence to fill their coms. They could do nothing, not from where they stood, they just had to trust Eliot and hope.
Alec was typing away frantically, his attention split between the sounds coming in over the earbuds and the multiple tasks at hand. He couldn't get too caught up in what was happening in the building. If he did he'd never get the system shut down or the elevators operational. He had to trust their hitter to make it there in time.
Eliot had been on the twenty third floor, the elevators had been shut down and Hardison hadn't yet been able to get them running again, he also hadn't yet disabled the electronic security system that had locked down the main entrances and exits to the building. That was when Eliot had taken off running, the first five flights had been nothing, the equivalent of a few minutes on a stair climber to a man that could have jogged halfway up Everest. But between thirty and the roof there had been complications. Men had come off the floors into the stairwell, they'd had the higher ground and for five flights it had been three to four on one and advancement had become a step by step struggle.
A struggle he loathed as he was forced to hear her screams. Parker dangled from her zip line knowing that she could neither climb higher or drop far enough to save herself while one of the three men on the roof pulled a sizable blade from a sheath on his calf and made to cut the only strap that kept her from falling thirty eight stories to the street below.
She screamed and fumbled for either a foot or hand hold on the seamless glass and metal wall. She dropped another half story with a scream as Eliot slammed bodily into the man hacking thru the line. Granted the tackle got the man to drop her line but it also left the Hitter open for body shots, kicks and a brutal pummeling from the other two. But that was his job, he took the assault so the rest of the team could do what they had to do. He had fought off more men, under more hopeless odds for a lot less victory than Parkers life. But that didn't make it easy, he felt his fractured ribs give in to a boot in the side. It robbed him of any oxygen that remained in his lungs and black spots danced in his field of vision. But hearing Parker screaming in stereo, only a few feet away and still in danger made him fight back the pain and the damage and he swept one of his attackers ankles out from under him and snagged another by the boot and sent him sprawling onto his back. Eliot fought his way up to a crouch, a desperate second wind cleared his vision, flagging strength renewed and his actions regained that calculated perfection they carried when he was on the top of his game. In comparison the motions, the strikes and dodges of his attackers seemed awkward and out of sync. The two of them were down in a matter of moments, but that still left the man with the knife. The man that had thankfully turned his attention away from Parker and on to Eliot, the one that hadn't a mark on him while Spencer was broken and battered.
Parker tried to climb up the lines but her arms were shaking from the effort and she was making progress slowly at best as Eliot and the last man standing threw punches and kicks almost three stories above her. And then he was there, leaning far over the side, grabbing for the line trying to haul her up while the single tether holding her was fraying. He pulled while she struggled to climb up all the while the line was growing weaker and in a matter of moments she could be plummeting...and then he was gone. One of the men was up and he hauled the Hitter back, Eliot was holding on to the line for all he was worth as he struggled and was dropped on his already wounded side, the world dimmed for a moment as the air in his lungs escaped in a rush and he turned onto his back. Taking advantage of the opportunity the man got in a few good blows, forcing Eliot to roll onto his stomach to protect himself from the kicks. Then seeing the line clamped in a death grip in the Hitters hands the attackers expression turned cruel and calculated as his boots came down repeatedly on Eliot clenched fists. Even then Eliot wasn't letting go, he pushed back the agony and it was exactly that as small bones cracked and skin split and bled, he twisted and he turned and he fought with everything he had, every skill he had learned, he kicked and kneed and centered his hits on the mans legs, he'd bring him down to the gravel rooftop with him. Once the man was on his knees Eliot kicked up sharply, almost impossibly, and his entire body turned onto his back as he landed a heel into the mans jaw with enough force that it actually spun him a full turn before he dropped stone cold dead to the ground with his neck broken. Eliot ignored this; he crawled back to the edge of the rooftop and started hauling on the line with everything he had left, which sadly wasn't as much as he wished it would have been. Parker was holding on tight, eyes closed and tears streaming down her face. All that was holding her from death was Eliot.
"Don't let go Parker...you hear me."
He sputtered as he wound the line around his elbow twisting his arm to shorten the distance between them, his damaged hands barely capable of performing the act, but somehow he was doing it. The line was shortening, she was coming up slowly, but she was coming up.
"Sparky...hurry, please hurry..."
She turned her gaze up to him and the sight of her tears was as heart rending to the hitter as the blood on his face was to the thief. She had seen him battered before, but never for her sake, never to save her, not just for her. For others yes, more important people than she saw herself as, yes, but not for her.
"I am not letting go. So neither do you. Your almost there darling. Your almost there."
He released the line with one hand and reached down for hers, clamping onto her wrist, his mutilated fingers not half as strong as they should have been. She saw the damage then, as she wrapped her fingers around his forearm and pulled, pulled as hard as she could, tried to help.
Finally she was there, her hands on the edge of the roof, he was still hauling her up, groaning and heaving with the effort until he had her in his arms, she wrapped herself around him and he didn't try to stop her, no matter how much it hurt, and it did hurt. He had more bruises than he could count, and his broken ribs were screaming. But he was not letting go. She sobbed and buried her face in his neck, he held her and kissed her hair, rested his cheeks on it and shook all over from the effort, the exhaustion and the feel of Parker safe in his arms.