Nate sat across the table from Eliot. He had a job to get done, and Eliot was the key. He couldn't look at the man across from him as a friend. Right now, Nate needed to see him exactly as he saw any other obstacle standing in the way of getting the job done. Even if it meant crossing a line that should never be crossed, Nate was prepared to do that if that was what he needed to do. Nate needed to break Eliot, and he knew how he was going to do it.
Netcorp caught the spy on Friday morning. An outside agent wearing a janitorial uniform was found downloading files onto a flash drive. The communications device they found in his ear confirmed their suspicions. Naturally, Netcorp contacted their security firm for consultation at their earliest convenience.
Earliest convenience was not supposed to take take three days. Hardison was ready and set to go with the phone lines wired and computers hacked. Nate was prepared to jump in and play the role of the security firm's top 'interview' specialist. Apparently someone hadn't taken into consideration that the Loss Prevention manager of Netcorp had other plans. Apparently two tickets and a weekend getaway package to see a Flock of Seagulls tribute band at the casino trumped investigating industrial espionage. In this instance, earliest convenience happened to mean after the weekend, because the Loss Prevention Manager had some paperwork to do before leaving for his weekend holiday. Eliot would be spending the rest of the day and the weekend locked in a modified storage locker in the sub-basement of Netcorp Industries.
They had of course kept a close watch on the security feed that Hardison hacked into. Not a direct view of Eliot in the locker, but the hallway was clear. They knew that Eliot was inside alone. The only activity in the hall the entire weekend consisted of one guy opening the door of the locker to shove inside a plastic cup of water three times a day.
"We keep going. Eliot can do this. He'll be fine." Nate insisted. And so they waited.
Now it was Monday afternoon, and Rick Wilson: Loss Prevention Manager, thanked Nate for coming on such short notice to which Nate had to cough to make himself not say something sarcastic. It was a small room, with a conference table and a metal folding chair on one side, and a padded leather executive chair on the other. Naturally, Nate made himself comfortable in the executive desk chair and waited.
He didn't have to wait for long. Within minutes, Eliot was led into the office by two smirking hotshots wearing plastic loss prevention badges.
Hotshot number one and two pushed Eliot down into the metal chair, he went easily, offering no resistance even as Hotshot two cuffed his right wrist to the folding chair. Nate narrowed his eyes at what he was seeing. Exhaustion, glassy eyes, uncoordinated movements; what the hell happened to Eliot over the weekend?
Nate stood up and blocked the doorway before the guards to walk out. "How am I supposed to get anything out of a guy who's barely conscious?"
They laughed and pushed past without answering.
Nate walked over to the small plastic pitcher and cups that had been left for him on a small side cart earlier and poured two cups of water. He placed them on the table before sitting down and carefully regarded the man across from him. Nate took a drink of his water, and waited.
Eliot rested his head on the table, using his arm as a pillow. Nate pushed the water closer to him. The ear bud was hidden underneath. "Drink."
Eliot obediently lifted his head and took a drink of the water, thumbing the ear bud in the process.
From the unmarked white van parked two blocks away, Sophie listened in beside Hardison.
Nate said. "I don't think your employer is going to get his hands any dirtier than they already are to get you out of this. My employer wants you to disappear. Of course if you are helpful, we can make it the problem that disappears rather than you."
"Eliot," Sophie's soft British lilt cut across Nate's ear bud, worry all over her voice. "Eliot, Sophie here."
Nate kept his face impassive, not reacting to Sophie's voice. He knew that she wouldn't have interrupted if she wasn't concerned and likely her concern had a lot to do with what she was seeing through the lens of his button-cam. But that was okay because that was her job; not his. His job was to push this con along and convince Netcorp to dig their own grave; metaphorically speaking of course.
The tricky part was going to be for Nate to get himself and Eliot out in one piece, despite obstacles and unforeseen bumps along the way.
Just as Eliot reached for the water again Nate pulled it out of reach, and with barely a sigh of resignation, Eliot rested his head back down on the table.
"What is your name."
Eliot consider the question a bit too hard before looking up and meeting Nate's gaze. "I can't," he said quietly.
"Eliot?" Sofie again. "Blink once for yes and twice for no. Are you alright?"
Eliot blinked twice. No.
"Eliot, are you injured?" Sophie asked.
He blinked twice. No.
"Do we need to pull the plug on the con?" Sophie asked.
He closed his eyes a moment, then blinked three times. Which of course wasn't any signal at all.
"Can't what?" Nate pushed.
"What's wrong Eliot?" Sophie asked.
Eliot sighed. "I can't think straight. How do you expect me to answer questions when your guys have been drugging the water three days?"
Nate slammed his fist on the table so hard it made Eliot flinch. He stood up and stared at the mirrored observation window on the wall. "Rick, get in here now." The loss prevention manager walked in.
"What did you use." Nate said flatly.
Rick shrugged. "Why?"
"What did you use?"
"Lorazepam. It's a sedative."
"This is not how I work." Nate stared clearly.
"I don't care how you work. This guy put up a fight when we took him down. We couldn't have him causing problems all weekend, so I came up with a solution. I've done my part, do yours." Rick snapped and walked out, slamming the door shut behind him.
Nate sat down. "Listen to me. There's no getting out of this. Co-operate, and I'll do what I can to help you. I asked you your name," Nate insisted.
"Listen Eliot," Sofie jumped in again, her voice still soft but with a new intensity in it. "I'll feed you the information. I'll help you keep everything straight. Remember the con. You are Mike Hershey," she supplied
"Mike Hershey," Eliot said.
Nate passed Eliot the water again. Eliot awkwardly drank the rest of what was in the cup.
Nate frowned. With Eliot's arm stretched out he could plainly see the three days worth of bruises and chaffing from metal cuffs. "We're going to keep going."
Eliot nodded as he looked up briefly, and tried to focus his eyes before giving up and putting his head back down. "I'll try."
"When were you hired?"
"October sixth," Sophie cut in.
"October sixth." Eliot repeated.
They went on like that for a while. "How did you get the job?"
"Recommended by a friend."
"Recommended by a friend," Eliot repeated.
"How were you contacted?" Nate asked.
"By phone," Eliot sighed quietly and rubbed at his eyes.
"What kind of information were you hired to steal?" Nate asked.
"File numbers," Eliot said.
And so on and so forth. Even with Sophie talking him through it, there were a couple times Nate had to reach over and poke Eliot's arm to remind him to answer, and what he did say sounded apathetic. Definitely not going well.
"Who hired you?" Nate asked.
"You don't remember," Sophie said.
"You don't remember," Eliot repeated, then winced when he realized his mistake. "You already asked me that, don't you remember?" he added belatedly.
Eliot was too out of it to follow the con. Nate needed to successfully sell himself as a hard edged professional interrogator getting information out of the reluctant industrial spy or both their covers would be blown. It needed to be convincing, and Eliot couldn't hold up his end.
"You're going to have to do better than this," Nate stated. "I know you're holding out on me."
"I'm not." Eliot shifted, and looked up. "I'm trying."
"Make me," Eliot insisted.
"Oh, I will." Nate placed his hands on the table. "Look at me."
Eliot looked up.
Nate lowered his voice. "You're used to working alone aren't you? But now you're in trouble, and you have no backup. No one is going to help you. Nobody knows you're here. This isn't your first time in a situation like this, is it?"
Eliot started to look away, but Nate stopped him. "Hey. I told you to look at me. Look at me, and don't look away." He waited for Eliot to focus back on him. Somewhat unsteady but compliant. Trusting. It made Nate's stomach uneasy that Eliot would follow him so easily. Nate swallowed the guilt, and focused on the matter at hand. It was only because Eliot was drugged to the gills that they were in this mess, and Netcorp was accountable for that.
"Listen to my voice carefully. There is no one here but us. And you are going to think and do exactly what I say." Nate paused. "You are alone. You are tired, your eye lids are heavy. You can hardly keep them open. Focus on my voice. There is nothing here but my voice. Close your eyes."
He watched Eliot's eyelids flutter and close.
And then he continued. "You are alone. There is no way out. No one is coming to help you. Your friends are gone." Nate quietly stood up, and walked around the table to stand behind Eliot's chair. He placed his fingers gently on Eliot's shoulder. "No one is going to save you."
"Nate, don't do this," Sophie pleaded.
"Listen only to my voice. Nothing else exists. You were manipulated into coming here. Think about your boss. You think he's your friend don't you? That's why you are protecting him, isn't it? Loyalty. Why would a friend leave you with no back up?"
"I can handle it," Eliot whispered.
"He manipulated you," Nate continued unfazed. "You are a tool." Nate moved his hand up, under Eliot's hair and ran a finger along his neck. He felt Eliot shiver. And he found the spot he'd been looking for. Just below the hairline. Nate gently rubbed his index finger over the scar hidden there. "He used you as a weapon."
Nate expected a reaction. He expected it to be violent and he was ready to jump back. Eliot did react. He flinched away from Nate's touch so violently he fell off the chair. Eliot backed up, dragging the chair cuffed to his wrist with him across the the floor, until his back was against the wall.
Nate knelt in front of Eliot. "Who is your boss, and why did he send you here?"
"Eliot, repeat after me," Sofie urged. "I was hired by Sean Williams. Sean Williams," she supplied.
"Why? What does he want with the information you stole?" Nate demanded.
"There is a new IOS in development," Sophie said.
"New IOS development."
"I don't know. That's all I know." Eliot choked out.
Nate nodded. "Good." He left Eliot sitting in the corner. He looked into the mirrored window. "I'm done here."
Rick walked in, looking pleased. "Good work." He shook Nate's hand. "At least we can get rid of this scum now."
Nate leaned against the table. "Oh?"
"We have what we want from him." Rick brought in the two hotshot guards from before. "Go drop this guy off outside the city somewhere."
They pulled Eliot up and had a good laugh about the folding chair dangling from the cuff on his wrist before finally re-cuffing his wrists behind his back. They practically dragging him out to the service elevator.
Nate shook hands with Rick. Accepted the thanks for a job well done and explained it was the hefty bonus on his paycheck that motivated him to do so, and then exited through the front door.
"Parker?" Nate asked as soon as he was out of ear shot of Rick and his loss prevention staff.
"Got him. I'm bringing him back to the van now."
"Good, take him home. I'll meet you there."
When Parker met Eliot at the elevator, she was ready with her tazor, and disappointed that she wasn't going to have the chance to use it. The guards were already on the floor, and Eliot was leaning heavily against the wall to keep on his feet. Parker pulled Eliot forward and off the elevator before slipping the cuffs off his wrists. He wasn't steady, but he wasn't down either and Parker only needed to keep a hand on his back to keep them going in the right direction. Outside, Hardison ran to meet them and helped her support Eliot the rest of the way to the van.
Eliot didn't say anything. He kept his head down, and eyes closed even when Parker took his hand and started cleaning and wrapping the abrasions on his wrists from the hand cuffs. Sophie drove. Hardison opened a bottle of water and passed it to him, which Eliot greedily accepted.
"Think you can eat a little?" After the water Hardison passed him some crackers.
"So good to have you back, man." Hardison rambled. "Been missing you the last few days, what with not having anyone breathing down my neck and growling at me every few minutes. I even tried to make Parker say, Dammit Haridson, a few times but it just wasn't the same, you know?"
Hardison went on and on and on and on.
Not that Eliot responded to any of it.
They brought Eliot to the office.
Eliot didn't object. He followed their lead the entire way without argument, which they figured probably had something to do with the drugs in his system. Even keeping his eyes open seemed to be a losing battle. They at least managed to help him to the sofa before he fell asleep.
Then Nate got home.
All three of them ambushed him at the door.
Hardison went first. "What the hell was that, man?"
"That was getting the job done," Nate answered.
Sophie looked accusing.
And Hardison looked ready to throw a punch.
"I did what I had to do. I didn't drug Eliot. The bastards at Netcorp did that. We needed to finish the con to get out of there, but the con wasn't going to work because Eliot couldn't play his role." Nate detoured to the kitchen and poured himself a drink. "I did what I had to do to get us both out of there."
Hardison huffed. "Like secretly hypnotizing me into playing a violin wasn't bad enough, you hypnotized Eliot into having PTSD! And you did it while he's drugged and couldn't defend himself. That's just evil Nate; like something Crossfire would do to Hawkeye. That is not cool."
"Eliot doesn't have PTSD," Nate reasoned.
"Well, I bet he will after this!" Hardison threw his arms up in the air and paced.
Sophie let herself flop down into the arm chair beside the couch. "Nate's right. Eliot couldn't focus on the con. Getting out of there depended on both their performances."
Parker turned and ran out of the room. Hardison looked torn in what direction to go in. Follow Parker or protect sleeping Eliot from the evil hypnotizing mastermind.
"I'll watch over him." Sophie reassured Hardison.
"Really?" Nate asked. "What do you think I'm going to do? I'm not the bad guy here."
Sophie sighed. "Nate."
"I know." Nate took another long drink of his scotch.
It was hours before Eliot woke up. Parker had calmed down and returned, now considering it her mission to make Eliot eat the powdered soup mix she heated up for him.
"Thanks," He told her. Then insisted on going home.
"But you're sick. You need us." Parker reasoned.
"My head is pounding and I can't see straight, and all I want to do is sleep it off. I can do that better in my own place," Eliot argued.
Parker offered to drive, which Eliot wisely refused. He surprised them all when he asked Nate to take him. Just Nate. Of course there was that brief awkward moment when they all wondered if Eliot just wanted to get Nate somewhere isolated to... get some kind of revenge. Despite that, Nate agreed.
They didn't say anything along the way. Nate knew where Eliot lived, and didn't need directions.
"Drop me off out front." Eliot told him, and that solved Nate's dilemma about offering to help him inside.
Nate parked where Eliot told him to, but Eliot didn't move. "Are we good?" he asked.
Nate felt a little thrown by the question because he'd been wanting to ask the same thing from Eliot. "Are we?"
"Yeah." Eliot answered. "How did you know I'd react like that?"
"You sometimes rub your neck there when you are angry or annoyed. And I saw the hint of a scar there once when you had your hair tied back. It seemed to mean something to you."
Eliot nodded. "I didn't know. Is it obvious?"
"No. Look Eliot..."
"Don't say sorry."
Nate was quiet a moment, because he really wanted to say... something. Then, he looked at Eliot and nodded. "Okay."
"Thanks for getting us through that." Eliot said as he stared out the windshield. "But if you ever try and pull that kind of shit on any of us without a hell of a good reason," he turned and pinned Nate with his gaze before finishing, "it's not going to end well."
note: Thanks very much to my awesome friend Julie for helping with a much needed beta read! I've of course messed with things again since then, all mistakes are on me.
Cookies and reviews are appreciated.