notes: Post The Last Dam Job so Major Spoilers
The Man in the Mirror
The job was over and Eliot didn't know where or how they'd fall but the landing looked like it was going to be soft, wherever they ended up.
Which was why he was on a chair in the sitting room of the suite they were camped out in until they decided where to go next, with a book and beer instead of a knife.
They'd decide where they were going in the morning and…
He still probably wasn't going to sleep that night. It was too much of a close call. There was no danger. It wasn't going to be another all night vigil making sure the job didn't catch up with them unaware.
No, this was a vigil for his own safety and the team's by proxy because as fucked up as it is Eliot knew it bothered them when they knew he was having nightmares and seeing ghosts in mirrors.
So it was easier, just for one night, to pretend he's just being paranoid.
It was late but he was not the only one still awake. Nate was, as wasn't exactly unusual, a silent companion over by the mini bar.
Eliot's eyes drifted over the page again, not seeing it, really. He would need some down time after this was over, vacation time. Hardison would probably mock him through to the end of summer if he found out but Eliot had an open invitation to stay at a monastery in Tibet and he was considering making use of it if he could be sure Nate was able to go a couple weeks without nearly getting himself killed.
Hell, Eliot had been meaning to take some time there since the warehouse. Between the mountain, the carnival, the college experiment, this last damn job, and every fucking little thing in between he needed some time in a quiet place.
He closed his eyes and remembered the last time he'd been there. Wounded from the job he'd pulled for the temple they'd insisted he stayed there and just…
It wasn't just his physical wounds they'd seen to. God knew it hadn't been much more than a year since he'd left Damien.
Yeah. Hardison would probably tease him mercilessly but the silence helped keep The Kid's ghost quiet.
"Sophie told me." Nate said, the words pulling Eliot out of his thoughts. He looked up, watching as Nate walked over and sat in the closest chair. His eyes seemed dark in the dim lighting but they were clear too. He wasn't nearly as drunk as he usually was by this time of night. "About what you almost did."
Eliot closed his book, putting it off to one side without taking his eyes off Nate. "It's my job to protect the team." He said. Repeating the obvious wasn't normally his style but it was important on occasion. "I was doing my job."
"We never talked about it." Nate said, settling back, watching Eliot the way he normally watched a Mark. "What happened in the warehouse."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Eliot repeated Nate's words. They'd barely avoided casualties today enough already. "And there's no need to talk about it. I did my job then. I did my job with Latimer."
There's quiet, Eliot's not sure for how long. The moment stretches between them and there's no way to tell time's passage.
"You didn't kill him." Nate said after the air becomes near solid between them. "You didn't kill him."
Eliot kept his gaze steady, thinking about an interrogation, a fall through broken ice, walking out of a warehouse on fire and feeling like he was walking out of hell for the god only knew what time of his life…
About the kid he killed long before a child's blood ever stained his hands.
"I coulda killed him." Eliot said. "But it wouldn't have made a difference." Stillness, white noise around them, dark eyes boring into him. "Killing Dubenich woulda taken the choice away, thing is you needed that choice. You decided to walk away and now you know that's the choice you'd make. If I'd killed him you'd never know that." He broke eye contact, looking down at his hands.
His scared and dirt and…
"She told me," Eliot said, pulling himself out of the undertow of his own thoughts. He'd learned long ago letting himself linger there would only drown him. "What you said."
He looked up, meeting Nate's eyes. He'd never thought Nate saw him as a murderer, wasn't sure it had been anything but Nate lashing out the way he did.
But Eliot had never completely known what was going on inside their mastermind's head and if that was true…
He didn't know when it had started mattering to him that these people saw him as something more than a killer.
Or when them seeing him that way started making him dare to dream it was possible to be something else.
"Sophie was right." Nate said, hint of a smile on his face. "You're too bright for me to dignify that with a response." He turned to walk away, pausing for just a moment. "Eliot?"
"Thank you." The silence and dim light roared around them pressing in but Eliot felt like it wasn't so much suffocating but… silencing. The kind of silence that kept his ghosts quiet enough for him to sleep. "Get some sleep. We'll need you to run heard on Parker and Hardison in the morning."
Eliot pushed himself out of his chair, bones and old injuries reminding him that as far as hitters went he was getting old.
Somehow that thought made him smile.
Old, the friend of Nathan Ford, the sheep dog for a team of thieves…
They'd be alright. All five of them would be alright.