Bedtime Stories

What had happened earlier didn't matter.

Sure the job had gone all to hell and there had been a terrifying, heart stopping, minute when first Eliot, then Parker and Hardison, had been knocked out and their coms had gone off line and Nate and Sophie were left staring at each other trying to come up with some way to even begin to react to the disappearance of their team mates.

And sure. That moment had blurred and stretched and they'd thrown themselves into the rescue and at each other's throats in desperation and frustration even as they worked together seamlessly.

But in the end it hadn't mattered. Even as they made the final move before going to steal back Parker, Hardison, and Eliot Parker had burst through the apartment's front door demanding help for bringing Eliot the rest of the way because he'd passed out in the elevator.

And really, at that moment, nothing that had happened in the last few hours mattered anymore.

Nate and Sophie ran after Parker, taking over carrying Eliot between them when they saw Hardison struggling visibly, obviously exhausted.

Parker and Hardison kept close as they made their way back into the condo, carrying him through the "forbidden door" to the neighboring condo Eliot and Parker used as a training space and where Eliot had set up a working medical room around the second or third time someone (Nate) had gotten himself shot on the job.

With Eliot settled on the medical cot in the corner Sophie started digging out the first aid things they'd need and Nate took a moment to asses the collective damage.

Hardison had a black eye and his left hand looked slightly swollen. In fact most of the damage seemed to be to his left side. He'd been supporting Eliot with his right…

So Eliot's injuries had come prior to their escape. Hardison had been shielding Eliot when he got hurt.

Parker's face was uninjured but there was a cut on her arm still bleeding sluggishly that looked like it was from a knife and the slightest limp she had suggested an injury to one of her legs. Coupled with the blood on her hands and the smell of gun smoke she'd been the one doing most of the fighting to get them out.

And Eliot…

"Oh…" Sophie made a noise in the back of her throat, she'd opened the shirt the others had –judging from how oversized on Eliot it was- stolen at some point during their escape, fingers a fraction of an inch away from one of a dozen small puncture wounds on Eliot's chest. Combined with the massive bruising on his torso Nate felt his heart freeze again, wondering how deep the wounds went, and if it was possible Eliot had simply bled out.

"They're shallow." Parker said. Pushing Sophie's hands away and brandishing a pair of tweezers and a sterilized thin metal probe. "Little needles. Localized poison. Might have left bits behind."

Confused Nate looked to Hardison who looked back with eyes a lot older than the Hacker normally had. "Torture." He said, his voice as worn and aged as the look in his eyes.

"No!" Parker's voice was sharp and angry and Nate looked, seeing her slap away Sophie's hands again as the woman tried to help.

"Sophie." Nate kept his voice calm and even. "Can you look at Hardison's hand?" Sophie looked over at him, shocked –shellshocked- expression on her face before seeming to catch herself and nod.

As she moved to look Hardison over Nate moved in to stand with Parker, holding a hand out for her to drop the bits of metal she was pulling out of Eliot into. "Parker." He said softly as she worked. When she didn't respond he continued. "Parker, we should call his physician."

It had taken them awhile but they'd eventually learned Eliot had a personal physician he mostly trusted. As odd as he'd been about it when Gail had come to pick Eliot up after that carnival job it had seemed weirdly significant that they were finally getting to see this mysterious person.

Though, thinking back, that was possibly why they'd let him go so easily.

Parker's eternally steady hand started to shake and Nate knew they really needed to get Eliot proper medical care *Now* but they had to get Parker to stand down first. Whatever had happened had forced her into a headspace and if her reaction to *Sophie* trying to help Eliot was bad her reaction to a stranger would be worse. "Parker?"

Her hands dropped and she hunched forward, shoulders shaking, and Nate glanced back to Sophie, nodding slightly for her to call Gail. They could try to patch Eliot up but the bruising suggesting broken ribs and the torture…

He seemed stable enough to wait twenty more minutes for someone who wouldn't puncture one of his lungs while trying to help.

Juggling Eliot's care back over to Sophie Nate looked back to Parker. He reached out and took the implements from her hands carefully, she was having a breakdown and as much as he wanted to comfort her this was still Parker. It didn't matter if they were her pseudo family, if she was in distress her first reaction, especially after today, may be to lash out and him getting stabbed with tweezers wouldn't help her calm down.

With sharp implements removed from her hands Nate eased in a step closer, resting a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay." He said. "You got him out. He's safe."

She took in a deep, shuddering breath, trying to force back the stoicism she normally kept so easily. She looked up and over to him, bright eyes shining with tears, looking so damn *young* as she said, barely above a whisper. "I was scared." Her lip trembled a little. She blinked and a tear fell. He didn't know how to do this. How do you make someone who doesn't know fear feel safe again when she finally meets it?

Following instinct, probably created by spending too much damn time around Hardison, Nate reached out and pulled her into a hug, just holding her for a minute like a little girl. Like his little girl.

"We all were." He said, rubbing a circle into her back as he felt her start to cry harder. "We all were. But you brought him home safe. You're all okay. Gail's gonna come and fix him up and you'll be annoying him again in no time at all." She sniffed, a weirdly atonal laugh escaping her and he knew he'd said something right. He let her go and she stepped back, wiping at her face. "Go take care of Hardison. Sophie and I'll take care of Eliot until Gail gets here."

She nodded and went to where Hardison was trying to wrap his hand with ace bandage and taking over for him.

Nate looked up, meeting Sophie's eyes across Eliot's still form and nodding. Without a word they got to work, carefully pulling off bloodied clothing and checking for life threatening injuries they missed the first time around, reconfirming their initial assumption. The damage was extensive but minus the ribs relatively superficial. It probably hurt a lot and should have probably had him down for the count a long time before the elevators but he was Eliot and he'd held on until he knew they were home safe.

A knock on the door, Nurse Gail, and there was a fresh bustle of movement as she took over the sick room before pausing to glance toward Parker and Hardison. "I don't usually have an audience." She said to Nate. "And Eliot probably wouldn't want one."

Nate nodded and glanced to Sophie who brushed the hair out of her face nonchalantly, but reminding Nate she'd never taken out the comm. He nodded again and she went over, herding Parker and Hardison back into the main part of the condo and as he helped Gail he listened as Sophie got them settled on the couch. There was a low murmmer of chatter as blankets and asprin were fetched, Hardison's hand was examined again, and finally they started to settle down.

As Nate braced himself to help Gail wrap Eliot's ribs Sophie's voice, telling a poorly disguised bed time story to get the two other children to get the rest they probably desperately needed help him put off the need for a drink for a little while longer.

And if, when Gail was done and had disappeared back to her place to get some fresh supplies Nate sat beside the cot to watch the hitter sleep and started repeating back Sophie's story to hold back that god awful child-stealing silence… well if Eliot remembered later he'd never mention it.