Title: (I'll Be) Right There Waiting For You Job | Author: 2cbetter2

Rating: PG

Spoilers/Warnings: I'm gonna say up to The Queen's Gambit Job in Season 4 just to be safe but there will probably be no real spoilers in this other than just generalities.

Word Count: 2359

Summary: During some recovery time for Eliot, the rest of the team takes on a job they think should be a piece of cake even with their hitter absent. Written as a Team Hacker entry for Leverageland's TV Tropin' challenge for Heist #5 (this was my trope) and inspired by the TNT APPS commercial (you know the one with Nate, Sophie, Parker, and Hardison singing with Eliot glaringly absent)

0o0

"Enzio Santini. Enzio freakin' Santini, man!" Hardison's voice was loud as he came through the door first. "Not only one of the most dangerous mobsters in Chicago but also one of the most eccentric! I mean who even owns a Tommy gun anymore much less almost still uses one like he's Al Capone or something!"

When he paused for breath the other three present members of the team hoped the hacker was finally running out of steam in his complaints because after all they had already heard this during the ride to the airport, then again on the plane, and again during the ride to Nate's from the airport. "We'll be lucky if we don't have Santini's entire organization after us for this one, man!"

Nate headed towards the kitchen for a drink, Parker rolled her eyes, while Sophie sighed rather dramatically before saying, "Hardison, you know Santini doesn't know who any of us are or where we're from. It's very unlikely he'll be able to track us down." The hacker had opened his mouth to make a retort, but a voice from the dark cut him off, sparing them whatever he had been about to say.

"Well, that explains the call I got today."

Eliot watched as all four of his team jumped visibly before turning on the light beside the chair he'd been sitting in. "I knew the descriptions I got from Santini's man sounded like the four of you but I had hoped he was talking about some other four man team that only sounded like you."

"One of Santini's people called you?" Nate asked, sitting down across from Eliot with his drink in hand.

Eliot nodded. "Santini wants to hire my services as a retrieval specialist."

"And what did you tell him?" Sophie asked, sitting down beside Nate.

"I haven't taken the job."

"Good."

"Yet."

"Man, what do you mean yet?" Hardison asked, taking a seat on the couch.

"Yeah, as in I haven't turned down the job as of yet, either." Eliot looked at Nate. "You do realize if I don't take the job, Santini will simply hire someone else to retrieve his property for him right?"

"The thought has occurred to me, yes."

"What were you thinking, Nate? What were all of you thinking? Because this is the part where I remind you all that while I was away, I specifically asked you not to take on any job that might have smallest chance of being dangerous. If messing around with Enzio Santini isn't dangerous then I don't what is!" Eliot said, his voice a low growl by the time he finished.

"By the way, how's your arm?" Sophie asked, her voice held a familiar tone.

"Don't change the subject, and don't try to con me by changing the subject."

Sophie looked shocked, and maybe more than just a little hurt but her tone sounded more sincere when she said, "Eliot, I really want to know. How are you healing up?"

"I would have been a whole lot better if you would've kept yourselves out of trouble like I asked you to," he retorted.

Hardison rolled his eyes. "Yeah man, we took this job all because we wanted to annoy you by almost get shot at by one of the most powerful members of the Chicago mafia. Seriously, Eliot, you do realize that we didn't realize this job was going to be as dangerous as it turned out to be, right?"

Parker added, "Yeah Sparky, it was supposed to be a simple snatch and run... only it wasn't."

"But of course things didn't turn out according to plan."

"When do they ever?" the hitter replied. "All right why don't you tell me exactly what happened in Chicago. I hope it was a matter of life and death that made you accept this job."

"And that is how the job went down and how we all almost got popped by Al Capone's gun!" Hardison added to Nate's narration, wildly gesturing to add more emphasis.

"And it really is Al Capone's gun you know," Eliot stated.

Hardison's eyes widened. "Seriously, man?"

"Yeah, I would say rumor has it only I was the one who retrieved the gun for Santini once upon a time. Santini's gun was once the property of Al Capone."

"Aww man! Seriously?" The hacker's eyes searched Eliot's face for some tell he was making that up and the hitter's face revealed absolutely none. "Seriously?"

"You go ahead and ask me that question just one more time..." Eliot trailed off, leaving the threat unsaid, but his irritation carried through.

"Hey, guys!" Nate said, trying to step in before Hardison made things any worse for himself, "We need a little more focus on the present problem instead of a job from Eliot's past!"

After a beat of silence, Eliot spoke up. "All right listen up everybody because this is how it's going to play out." He paused to make sure he had their full attention. "I'm going to take the job from Santini to retrieve his hard drive for him."

"You can't!"

"What about our client?"

"Seriously?"

The last cry of outrage was from both Hardison and Parker, but any further protest were quickly silenced by the look of death Eliot shot them both before telling Hardison, "You're going to copy the hard drive before I take it back."

Then to their amazement they watched as Eliot dialed a number on his cell, and when the line was answered he said simply, "I'm in... yes... yeah tell Mr. Santini my fee is still the same it was from the last time but with the economy being what it is, there's a twenty percent increase... I'll have it back to him in two days or he can dock me thirty percent for every day it's late being returned after that." With that Eliot ended the call, and took in the wide eyed surprise of his team.

Hardison was also spitting and sputtering before finally saying, "Let me get this straight. I'm supposed to crack whatever state of the art encryption Santini has on this thing, then copy the information on it, all in just two days."

"More like in a day and a half, actually. Santini is not known for his patience when it comes to getting his stolen property back, plus he knows my reputation for giving a client a fast results when I'm hired." Hardison opened his mouth to protest further. "You ain't getting anymore time than what I've given to Santini so if I were you, I'd get busy on cracking that hard drive's encryption and copying the information now. I mean you're always bragging how good you are with this stuff, so here's your chance to prove it."

"Yeah man... uh yeah...I can do this. It's just the principle of the matter and all.." Hardison stuttered.

"Just do it," Eliot replied, stalking off.

Nate glanced at the rest of the team and nodded. "Do it."

"He doesn't have to be that way man... I mean my feelings are hurt and I'm wounded my skills have been called into question..."

"He's trying to protect us... which is what we asked him to do, remember?" Nate said. "He's only that upset because..."

"Because he cares about us," Sophie finished, smiling.

Parker grinned, running to hug Eliot when he came back into a second later. "I knew you cared about us! I knew! I knew, knew, knew it!"

"There's something wrong with you!" Eliot said. It was in a growl but somehow it sounded like one of his usual annoyed growls instead of the angry ones they had all heard just a few minutes before.

Through the consumption of many bottles of orange soda, and the noble sacrifice of an assortment of gummy critters, Hardison managed to crack the encryption on the hard drive. He had just finished copying the files two hours before Eliot was due to be out the door with it to leave for Chicago. He had told them he only planned to stay long enough to hand the hard drive off to Santini before hopping on the next available flight back to Boston.

It had been four days since Eliot had left for Chicago, his return was now three days overdue, and the others could no longer shake off or push aside their concern at his absence.

Hardison in particular seemed to be the most worried. He was therefore up at 3 am, doing some computer searching, headphones on. Eliot slipped into Nate's apartment as silently as Parker, hoping to that no one would be awake, and could only shake his head when he found Hardison passed out on his computer's keyboard, snoring softly. Mentally cursing, he dragged himself to where they stored the first aid kit and sat down to relax and fix up his injuries.

A few minutes after he came into the apartment Hardison sat up, bleary eyed and stretching. When finally looked in Eliot's direction he almost jumped out of his skin, and yanking the headphone off he exclaimed, "Man, where the heck have you been... I've been crawling the web for days on end looking for you!"

"Looked to me like you were sleeping. You knew where..." Eliot cut off with a hiss of pain.

"Eliot?" Hardison started to go over to where he was but halted when Eliot held up a hand.

"I'm fine."

The hacker was cut off from saying anything else by the door opening to Nate's bedroom opening, and Sophie peeking down the stairs. "Hardison, what is...Eliot, you're back! Nate, he's back!" Sophie hurried down the stairs without waiting for a response from him, and came up short of the couch when the hitter let loose a low, warning growl.

She approached Eliot more sedately, knowing like a wounded wolf he probably wouldn't be very receptive of hers or anyone's help at the moment. Turning on the light end table light, she gasped and Hardison gaped at the bruises covering every inch of his skin they could see. "Oh Eliot, what happened? Did Santini have his goons do this to you?"

Eliot only nodded.

"But why? You returned his hard drive right?"

He nodded, again. "Yeah, I returned it but there was a problem." He shot a look in Hardison's direction. "They noticed someone had tampered with the hard drive, and it took me two days to convince Santini I hadn't double crossed him."

"Is that when he let you go?" Nate asked, finally joining them.

"Yeah."

Nate was about to sit down in a chair when Sophie said, "I think we're going to need some ice and towels from the kitchen." Taking one look at Eliot's swollen face he agreed with her and went to get the requested items.

"You said Santini held you for two days. You were gone for almost five days," Parker said as she joined them from nowhere, which made them all jump. "What took you so long to get back?"

"Parker! Good grief, woman! Cats should pay you to teach them how to keep quiet!" Hardison patted his chest while taking deep breaths.

Eliot hissed as Sophie laid the ice pack on his swollen eye before answering Parker's question. "First of all, Santini had me meet him in his home outside of Chicago, and in the middle of nowhere. Then after he found out about Hardison's tampering with the hard drive, he had every bit of his hired muscle rush me. I was winning the fight with them until he pulled out that stupid gun of Capone's, and he made it clear he'd pump me full of lead if I didn't stop fighting them right then.

So I became his house guest for the next 2 days, and after I finally convinced him I hadn't double crossed him, he let me go but without any offer of transportation."

"Why didn't you give us a call after he let you go, Eliot? I know you didn't taken one of the earbuds with you but you still could've used your cell." Nate said.

Eliot shook his head. "Santini destroyed or confiscated everything I had on me including my phone and cash. He then made it very clear that he wanted me off his property but didn't offer me a ride back into the city. So given what I looked like after Santini's men had worked me over, no one would let me hitch a ride with them, so I had to walk most of the forty mile hike back into Chicago..." He saw them all cringe at that. "I finally got a trucker to stop and give me a ride for the last fifteen miles or so."

"All right once you made it back to the city, why didn't you call us then?" Sophie asked.

"Because Santini had his people still tracking me well into Chicago."

Hardison gave a skeptical snort. "That's a bit paranoid don't you think, man?"

Eliot gave him a dirty look but otherwise ignored what he just said, and continued his story when prompted by Parker. "How'd you get back here then?"

"Found a few truck drivers who brought me as far as Boston, and that cab driver we helped a few months ago dropped me off here."

They talked for about another hour before Nate asked Eliot, "How much time do you need off?"

"Why, will you actually stay out of trouble and let me have all of it off this time?" Eliot snapped back.

"Of course we will!" Sophie answered for Nate.

Eliot gave her a look that said he didn't quite believe her but answered, "A week would be a good start, maybe two."

"All right, then we'll all take the next week or so off."

Eliot nodded, and got to his feet slowly. "I'm going home for now and may head out of town for a little while after I've gotten some sleep." Pausing at the door he looked back at Nate. "Hey, Nate?"

"Yeah, Eliot?"

"If I go out of town to finish healing up from all of this, there had not better be one call for me to retrieve something the four of you have stolen or or I swear when I get back I might just give you all a taste of the same trouble I've received!"

"For what it's worth Eliot, I'm sorry about this. But I appreciate what you did for us..."

"Just stay out of trouble for the next week or two. That'll be thanks enough."

-End