Title: There's Always Room For Family (aka, That Time Eliot Helped Break Rio)

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.

Summary: The day the bus break hit the news, Eliot Spencer was in the middle of a job, taking down a dirty businessman up north of Boston. 1800 words.

Spoilers: Season 3ish for Leverage; between F&F and Fast Five for the Fast and the Furious 'verse.

Notes: So it turns out Paul Walker's about nine months older than Christian Kane. Who knew? Written for FaithUnbreakable, for Day 6 in Wishlist 2012, for the prompt: "Eliot met the kid when he was still on the side of the angels. Knew he was trouble, even then."

The day the bus break hit the news, Eliot Spencer was in the middle of a job, taking down a dirty businessman up north of Boston. He didn't even hear about it 'til the next afternoon, when the team finished the debrief and turned on the TV to see if their efforts had made headlines.

"Man, that must have taken balls," he said, pressing a cool beer bottle against the bruised side of his face as the network cameras panned slowly over the wrecked prison bus. "Balls and one hell of a lot of skill."

"You're kidding me, man," Hardison sniffed at him. "How much skill can it take to wreck a bus?"

"You seein' the same thing I am? That's a prison bus, Hardison. Driver, cops with guns, and a bunch of cons chained to their seats. Hell of a risk to take, if you weren't pretty damn sure you could do it without killing your friend or getting anybody shot in the process."

"You sure it was a friend, and not, like, a hit or something?" Parker frowned, propping one elbow on the table and her chin in her hand. "Because then it wouldn't matter if he cared. He could've been lucky."

"Some luck," Eliot said, shaking his head. He'd known a few transporters, and a handful of genuine racers, too; he knew just enough about the biz to know that a bus heist would have to take serious planning and more than one car to hope to pull off successfully. Someone just trying to get lucky would have ended up smearing themselves all over the pavement.

Then one of the talking heads interjected herself into the coverage, a trio of images flashing up behind her. Young faces, all three- and unexpectedly familiar. Not the woman, though she was pretty enough; and not the bald bruiser, though he had a vague impression he'd seen his face somewhere else recently. The third guy: all ice blue eyes and short, dirty blond hair. Speaking of racers. Eliot checked the ticker at the bottom the screen, and shook his head.

"Oh, hell. No, it wasn't luck. He was definitely a friend."

"Why do you say that?" Sophie asked, turning slightly in her seat to study his face.

Eliot pulled his face away from the bottle's chill and took a long swig. Old memories flashed through his mind: two kids racing on an off-road track in the middle of nowhere, way back when. One from ruralsville, Oklahoma, who hadn't wanted to work in his daddy's hardware store all his life; the other from sagebrush country, SoCal, trying to deal himself a better hand than he'd been given. The one fresh out of boot camp, the other a brand-new rookie cop.

Neither of them had been bad seeds, exactly. Just a little wild with the freedom of being eighteen and starting over, smarting from fresh-cut ties and not sure yet where they were going. It had all started with a mutual admiration society over Brian's car, and ended much the same way a few days later. Brian had dropped him back at base again, and they'd parted friendly, pursuing their separate lives. They'd met up every now and again after, and it had been just as easy to fall into, every time. Adrenaline, sunshine, beer and laughter: an escape from everything else weighing them down.

Eliot wouldn't say he knew everything about Brian O'Conner. But one thing he could say about the man with absolute certainty: he was as loyal as the day was long, and twice as stubborn, too. He had a smart mouth on him, and a reckless side that loved the rush just a little too much, but the friends he made, he kept. There was something about him that just latched onto other people, something warm and intense that Eliot hadn't felt equal to facing again by the time he'd ended his employment with Damien Moreau.

So it had been awhile. But Eliot didn't think that essential quality had changed. It would have surprised Eliot a lot more to hear Brian had left a friend behind, than to learn he'd broken the law to rescue one. And, hell. He'd seen Brian drive; and that kind of skill only got better with time.

"Because I know him," Eliot said, gesturing at the screen. "O'Conner. Met him when he was still on the side of the angels. Knew he was trouble, even then. But he's never been a hitter, and he's not the careless type."

"Just a dirty cop?" Nate suggested, a studied lack of emphasis on the words.

Eliot narrowed his eyes at his boss. He knew Nate was still feeling his way along in a world where he wasn't the honest man anymore, and it wasn't like their Robin Hood shtick didn't encourage that kind of hypocrisy. But Brian wasn't like that, and Eliot didn't appreciate Nate trying to pry more information out of him by implying he was.

"Check your tone, man," he said. "He's my friend. And he's a good guy. I'd have trusted him like I'd have trusted you, back in the day."

Nate sat back a little at that, then glanced up at the screen again, a line forming between his brows. "Even though it's been years since you've seen him, and he's clearly formed other ties since then?"

"Even so," Eliot nodded. "After the way I ended my service, and some of the things I did after- there's a lot of people I didn't get back in touch with, including Brian. Thought it was better that way. Wasn't anything to do with him."

Nate sighed, then turned and met his eyes again, something wry and resigned in his gaze. "Then I assume I should start planning jobs that don't require a hitter for awhile?"

"What?" The abrupt shift took a second for Eliot to register, but when it did, he swallowed hard. "Yeah. I wouldn't leave y'all in the lurch, but..."

Hardison cleared his throat. "I can, uh. Put some feelers out, let you know when any of those three names hit the 'net?"

Eliot glanced at Sophie and Parker next, and found only a jumble of approval and expectation. He'd avoided people like Brian and Aimee for years for a reason- only, apparently, to stumble right into another family when he wasn't looking. He still didn't trust that it wouldn't all fall apart eventually; that the blood on his hands wouldn't come back to drown him. But his team all had their own pasts, their own ledgers they were trying to balance; they were hardly marble statues on pedestals.

Neither was Brian. Especially now. Nate was right; Eliot was always going to go after him. He wasn't Damien Moreau's dog anymore. And maybe he'd never be what you'd call good again, but what he would be, was a choice he had to make every day. If he could help Brian- it would be another step in the right direction.

"You will come back, though, right?" Parker asked, her voice wavering a little.

"Yeah, Parker," Eliot smiled at her, wincing as it pulled at his bruises. "Don't you worry. I won't be long."

A few weeks later, he strolled into an old abandoned factory building in Rio, courtesy of a lot of driving, some handy text alerts from Hardison, and a little good old fashioned tracking work. There was a small crowd of people already inside, shaking hands, trash talking, and slapping one another's backs with Brian at the center of it all, standing next to the big guy from the news.

Eliot shook his head; he should have known Brian would land on his feet, wherever he went. Then he deliberately moved out of the shadows into his friend's line of sight.

"Pulled that job with him in... uh," Brian paused in the middle of introducing Toretto to someone who could only be Roman Pearce- nice to see that friendship had mended sometime in the last few years- to stare at Eliot like he was seeing a ghost. "Eliot?"

Startlement ran through the rest like ripples in a pond as they all turned and caught sight of him. Toretto was the first to step forward, taking a deliberate step to place himself between Eliot and his sister and friend; a good sign that whatever else was going on, Brian's loyalty was not one-sided.

"And who the hell are you?" Toretto ground out, as if trying to make his voice as intimidating as his physical presence. Not that either kind of threat ever worked on Eliot. "This party's invitation only."

"Dom, wait," Brian shook his head, stepping forward to match Toretto. "It's okay. I know him."

The tall, slim woman standing off to the side of the group made a surprised noise at that. "You know Eliot Spencer?"

"Gisele," Eliot gave the woman a brief nod. He'd met her a couple of times in her former, former career, once upon a couple careers ago himself; she and Mikel Dayan had run in the same circles, then.

"Wait, you know him?" Brian blurted, surprised, then shook himself and pushed past the others again, shaking off the cautioning hand Toretto tried to put on his shoulder. "Nevermind. Tell me later." He took a more couple long steps, then practically launched himself at Eliot.

"Where've you been, man?" he said, thumping him heavily on the back. "I thought you were dead. It's been six years at least! And what the hell is with your hair?" He laughed, tugging at Eliot's shoulder-length waves. "I almost didn't recognize you at first!"

"What's with my hair?" Eliot replied, batting away the intrusive hand with a laugh of his own. "What the hell's with yours? Where's all the curls, man? You like a serious grown-up for once."

Brian snorted. "Probably because I am, now. A lot of shit's gone down since the last time I saw you." Then he turned back to the rest of his group. "I've known this guy almost as long as Roman; he's cool."

"And just how sure of that are you?" Toretto asked, still suspicious. "How'd he find us?"

Eliot shrugged. "Minute I heard what happened, I started looking. Figured you might could use another hand."

"You're not wrong," Brian replied, grinning. "And you're just in time."

"Just in time for what?" one of the others asked. "Why'd y'all drag us halfway around the world?"

Toretto looked at the guy who'd spoke, then at Eliot, then at Brian, then seemed to come to some kind of decision.

"'Cause we got a job," he said, staring them all down.

With a crew this large, and the DSS on their trail? Good thing Eliot had some time on his hands.

He grinned back at Brian. "Count me in."