So, I usually write for Suits, but Mei Neko suggested that I post this. I owe her a great deal of thanks, love and appreciation. Right, so first Leverage story. Please tell me what needs to be fixed.

Insert standard disclaimer here. Um... random spoilers for everything before and including The Big Bang Job.

It took all of Eliot's legendary self control not to turn around and leave the office. He had just arrived, slightly late, but one look at his team's faces told him. They knew. It didn't matter how quickly Hardison closed the security video, that Sophie sent him her smoothest smile, the casual way Parker munched on her cereal, eyes fixed on the bowl, or the desperate pleading look that Nate shot him, he knew it was over. He kept his own face blank, eyes locked on Nate for just a moment. He straightened, shaking his head when Nate opened his mouth and turned sharply, walking right back out of the door he had just entered. He couldn't stay with them any longer, not now that they knew exactly what he was capable of. The bond gone with the harsh truth of exactly what Eliot was capable of. That dark part of him that couldn't be stopped, that refused to let anything get in the way of what he had to do. It used to be something that he relied on, used to complete his jobs, despite torture and harsh conditions, it kept him going, refusing to allow anyone the satisfaction of winning. But, no matter how hard he tried to protect them, all the times he was hurt so they didn't have to be, it was no longer his place. They were thieves, all of them, and he was a murderer.

Casually, he pulled out his phone and making a quick stop at the bar below the office, left it behind. He had another phone, the one he used before he joined the team, with a number they didn't know, under a completely different alias. He would leave, but he refused to leave them unprotected. It was his job to keep them safe, no matter what the cost to himself was, and he would not leave until he was satisfied that the job would get done.

Truth, because Eliot never lied to himself, others sure, but never himself. He had been thinking of leaving for a while now. The team was good, and they did good work, but they didn't need him. Oh, they needed someone to keep an eye on them because they were all completely crazy and half convinced that they were invincible, but they didn't need him, specifically. It was obvious, after the last few jobs. They had each other. Nate had Sophie to keep him in line, she had Nate to keep her from going too far. Parker had Hardison wrapped around her finger and he kept the Thief grounded, always right there for her. They didn't need him except to make sure they got out alive.

Nate sighed when the door closed behind the Hitter. He had to explain to the team why Eliot had done what he did. Then he would have to hunt down Eliot. It wasn't good for him to be alone right now. "You know, I promised him that you didn't have to know what he did."

"That isn't a promise that you should have agreed to." Sophie argued. "We need to know these things. You can't just tell us bits and pieces."

"I thought it was cool." Parker commented absently. "I mean it was all Matrix-y right, Hardison?"

"Somethin' wrong with you, girl." The Hacker replied, the words a habit. "That was scary! He took all those men down in nothin' flat!"

"So?" The blond looked confused. "He was saving Nate."

"He killed people, Parker." Sophie reminded the Thief. "There had to have been another way."

"Thought, he didn' do that anymore." Hardison muttered, tapping at his keyboard. "I knew there was somethin' wrong with him lately. Been all extra moody."

Nate kept his mouth closed, knowing that anything he said would just keep the argument going. Personally, he felt that it was his fault that Eliot had to resort to such measures. If he had planned a bit better, or listened when the Hitter tried to warn them, it might not have had to happen. He let the argument fade out, thinking of the look on Eliot's face when he walked in the door. It had only been for a second, but Nate saw the sheer hurt flash across his face before he hid it away, like every other injury. Finally, he stood, drawing everyone's attention by banging his untainted coffee onto the table. "So, you are honestly going to sit there and judge him for this?"

"Nate." Sophie again. "What..?"

"He didn't want to do it. I was there, I saw his face when he told us there was no way to get out. I saw how hard it was for him to reach for that gun. Do you have any idea how hard he tried to keep that part of him away from you all? The only reason he picked that gun up was so that I could get out and we could finish the job. If he hadn't done it then we would all be dead because nothing would stop them from coming after us. He did it for us, to you understand? Because, now he's gone, and I don't know if he will come back."

"He has to!" Parker blurted out, ignoring the looks from Sophie and Hardison. "He's part of the family, we need him."

The Grifter sighed, "You don't really think he'd leave because of this do you?"

"Don' see why not." The hacker replied, before Nate could. "We haven't exactly been treatin' him too good, lately." The man's eyes were fixed on his screen. "I mean... job's been tough lately and we've all got someone ta talk to, to lean on, 'cept him."

Silence fell over the table as that blunt truth settled between the four. Nate shook his head, Sophie bit her lip while Parker played with her spoon. Finally Nate broke it. "Hardison, track Eliot. I need to talk to him."

The Hacker nodded, hands moving over the keys swiftly. "He's downstairs. Hey!" He jumped from his seat, quickly snagging his laptop, when Nate brushed past. "I'm comin' too!"

"Yeah!" Parker bounded up, while Sophie nodded. They all needed to clear the air, because they couldn't do this without him.

The four thieves entered the bar with purpose, stopping cold when they realized that the Hitter wasn't there. "Hardison..." Nate's tone was warning.

"It's not my fault! The tracker in his phone is coming from right here!" The Hacker looked confused, pressing a few buttons on his phone, before holding it up to his ear. Soft country strains floated to them from an empty seat at the bar. Parker had the phone in her hand a second later.

"He forgot it." She frowned at the object, then shook her head. "No, he left it."

Sophie glanced at Nate, worry creasing her beautiful face. The Mastermind looked very worried, eyes darting back and forth, like they did when he planned for a con. "He'll come back, Nate. He probably just needs some space."

"He won't come back." The words were said with certainty. "No, we'll have to find him on our own."

Eliot was not a person that wasted time. He was a man of action, and despite his unwillingness to leave the team the decision was made and he would waste no time. He wasn't stupid, the ones that were never lasted as long as he had, and he knew that at least Nate would be looking for him soon. His home wasn't far from the offices, not that anyone really knew where it was, granted, Hardison could find it quickly though. It took very little time to get there and pack whatever he needed, one bag, everything else was a luxury. He made a four calls while he packed, one to two men that owed him far more than their lives, giving them very specific instructions, and three to make his arrangements, before tossing the phone into his bag. He knew Moreau, knew him better than he really cared to admit, but it made it easier to predict what the man would do now that he was completely ruined in most of the world. It had only taken him fifteen minutes to be ready to leave, but he hesitated. Maybe he was getting soft, but he couldn't leave without some kind of message to them. Aimee was right, they were family, a crazy dysfunctional family of thieves, but they were his. Snagging a bit of paper, he wrote swiftly, cursing himself the entire time, and left the note on the counter where the team would find it when they arrived.

He didn't bother setting the alarm, there was nothing left that he really cared about. Eliot took one last look around the closest thing to a home he has in nearly twenty years. Slinging the battered duffel bag over his shoulder, he pulled his hair into a messy ponytail and left, snagging a helmet on his way to the door. He chose his favorite motorcycle, and secured it in back of his truck, before tossing the helmet and bag into the passenger seat. He was gone two minutes later, confident at where he was going, and determined to go. As a last gift to them, one last time of personally protecting them..

The rest of the team arrived ten minutes later, Nate with a dark frown and the others with various worried expressions. Hardison promptly whistled at the wide array of vehicles the Hitter owned, Parker wandering to inspect Eliot's lock, while Sophie shook her head.

"We're too late, aren't we?" The Grifter sounded worried.

"Probably, his truck's gone." Nate muttered, privately wishing for a good stiff drink. "Parker?"

"Unlocked. Alarm was off too." Her tone was disappointed, and came from inside the sparse apartment.

Hardison shook his head, moving into the small building with Nate and Sophie on his heels. The three paused next to the Thief, surveying the inside. It was nearly empty, two chairs, a table and a battered couch the only furniture in the one room apartment. The kitchen, separated from the rest by a small island, was fully stocked, as expected from their resident chef, but devoid of any personal touches. Even the small bathroom was nearly empty, except for the massive amount of medical supplies in one of the cabinets, those appearing to have been picked over.

Sophie frowned, it reminded her too much of Parker's residence, something that the Grifter had worked hard to remedy. "This isn't a home... It's a safe-house."

"Still, it's the only place that is connected to any of Eliot's aliases. This is it." Hardison gestured around the room.

Nate kept his silence, moving around the room looking for anything that might hint where the Hitter was going. When he saw the note, he practically dove for it, eyes scanning the hastily written words in Eliot's distinctive style.


I can't. Not after this. It's changed, and that can't be undone. I would never leave you unprotected, any of you, no matter what the cost to myself was. I know that isn't something that the others can understand, but you can. Believe me, I wasn't lying when I said that the worst thing I ever did was for Damien Moreau. But, the best thing I ever did was for you, for the team. Don't stop doing what you do, it's important. I've taken care of your safety, with people that wouldn't ever betray me, no matter what. They won't interfere in the cons, they're just to make sure none of you are harmed. Don't go after Moreau, I'll take care of him. Eliot.

The Mastermind read the message twice, before shoving it at Hardison, mostly because he was closest, and clenching the edge of the island so tightly his knuckles turned white. He heard the muffled curses from the Hacker and the gasp from Sophie. He knew the minute that Parker read the note because she bolted from the room with Hardison on her trail.

Sophie had tears in her eyes when she wrapped her arms around Nate. "What do we do?"

He stayed quiet for several minutes, thinking hard before pulling away gently. "We do what we do best."

"Parker. Parker! Come on, girl. Just talk to me." Hardison was doing everything he could to keep the Thief from disappearing. "Look, we'll find him."

"He gone, Hardison. He's not coming back." Parker snapped, finally turning to face the Hacker. "He left us."

"To be fair, it was our fault too. I ain't saying it wasn't creepy, cuz, well it was. The man has problems but we shouldn' have judged him for 'em." Hardison put a hand on Parker's shoulder. "I know you get it, so why are you all mad at him?"

"He left. Eliot doesn't leave. He's always there, every time. Now... he's not. I don't want a new person, I want Eliot."

"Hardison, Parker. Back to the office." Nate's command halted any words the Hacker might have said. "Time to go steal our Eliot back."