A/N: *pokes head in carefully* *looks around* Hey everybody *waves* I'm still alive and I'm really sorry that I've been gone so long, but I needed a little time off for various personal reasons that I don't want to bore you with. And I probably should take some more time to recover, but I couldn't stay away from writing anymore...
I simply hope you can forgive me and are still interested in reading this and all my other stories and I hope you enjoy the new chapter and your comments are, as always, appreciated and would make my day *smiles shyly*
Thank you to krazylicious, Jesco123, floralisette, Quiet Ryter, Twinchy, SivanShemesh, Guest and darkmoonlady for all your kind words for the last chapter *hugs you all* Your reviews always make my day *smiles*
Warnings: SLASH Nate/Eliot established relationship, slight non-con (only mentioned), nudity and strippers... I'll probably add some more as the story progresses, just that you're warned...
Disclaimer: None of the Leverage characters belong to me and I just borrowed them for this little story... this story doesn't mean to offend anybody… this is just for fun… and not for money either...
Sophie took a deep and calming breath when they exited Marcheda's office. She needed that to collect herself. Sure, they had been successful with their con, but because of what Eliot had demonstrated in there, she had been a little flushed. It had been hot and arousing, Sophie could admit that, at least to herself. And the walk to the car gave her enough time to calm herself and also recover from Marcheda's sleazy behavior that hadn't exactly helped things.
But now, that they were sitting in their rental car, a limousine of course, the Grifter chose to look at Eliot again, something she hadn't been able to do before, because she had feared she might blush or worse. Seeing, however, how tense Eliot looked and taking in the closed off expression on the Hitter's face, Sophie, for the first time, noticed that something was not right. She raised her hand to put it on Eliot's shoulder, but before she could even make contact, Eliot growled, a deep, dangerous rumble: "Don't touch me right now, Sophie, because if you do, then I might hurt you."
Sophie pulled her hand back against her chest as if she had been slapped. Eliot had never said anything like that to her before, well maybe he had, but she had never taken it serious, but right now, she wasn't so sure if Eliot wouldn't follow through with his threat.
"Eliot," the Grifter tried again, but this time she didn't dare to touch him.
"Are you alright?", she questioned, even though she really knew the answer already. Eliot's hand's gripped the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles turned white and his head snapped around, his expression a glare that made Sophie cower a little in her seat.
"Oh, so now you're suddenly concerned about me?" he questioned, before shaking his head wildly.
"But none of you thought to be concerned and talk to me before you signed me up to do this job. None of you even considered that I might have more issues with this part of the con than keeping my pride and dignity intact?" Eliot's voice had gotten harder and louder with each passing word and the whole team knew that he was fighting hard to keep his anger in check and none of them dared to say a word.
"No, you didn't think. You simply forced me to do this, even laughing about how hilarious it is, not even giving me a chance to say no until it was too late, because me saying no would risk innocent lives. You all knew that I'd say yes in that situation and that is why you didn't ask me before. Instead you simply conned me."
Now Eliot's voice was deadly calm, but Sophie, Nate, Hardison and Parker could hear the tremendous anger bubbling underneath the surface, barely kept in check.
"Eliot," Nate decided to try this time.
"We didn't mean to..."
The Hitter simply interrupted him harshly: "Yes you did, Nate and that's what the problem is. I thought we had decided a while ago that you don't con your own team."
The Mastermind fell silent at Eliot's words, because, sadly enough they were the truth and he had no idea what to tell his lover to calm him down, especially because he was spot on with his accusations. They had crafted the plan like this on purpose, sending Eliot out to get some things they needed for the con so he would be distracted and they had decided to only tell him when it was too late for him to back out. Sure, they had known he'd be angry, but they had all thought that Eliot would grumble a little and not cook them dinner for two weeks and then things would be alright. The team really hadn't expected that raw anger.
And now, all things considered, Nate felt bad about it, but honestly, he'd thought that he knew his lover well enough to predict his reaction. Especially because Eliot had done way more ridiculous and embarrassing roles for the cons than this during his time with the team, so no, the team didn't really understand what his problem was.
"Come on, man, it's not that bad. I mean after what you've just shown in Marcheda's office, you'll be a star in that business in no time and people will love you and you sure as hell won't embarrass yourself like the rest, maybe except Parker, would have," Hardison chimed in. The Hacker was still almost painfully hard and his words were meant as a sincere compliment. But unfortunately they had the absolute opposite effect. Eliot's face closed off completely and his whole body tensed.
"That's just it. None of you gives a damn why I'm so good at this, none of you gives a damn that this might be a memory I never wanted to revisit again," he said, voice void of any emotion, even the anger from before gone, and his words were met with deafening silence and that was not only because the Hitter had taken out his earbud.
"I'll go, get some fresh air, maybe hit a gym. I'll be back later some time." He had already opened the car door halfway during his words and now he was out of the car in a second. He briskly walked away, leaving a stunned Sophie behind with Eliot's earbud in her closed hand.
The message behind Eliot's words and actions was loud and clear: "I want to be alone to deal with some stuff and you better not follow me."
It was Nate's voice that broke the silence again and the Grifter sighed deeply.
"I don't really know what went wrong here, Nate. But I'll come back to the hotel now," she told him, before adding sternly: "And you better think of something to make this right, Nate or I'll make you regret it," she scolded while starting the car after she had slipped behind the wheel.
"Already on it, Sophie. And Hardison, maybe you should try to dig around in Eliot's past a little. Maybe it will help us to understand what's going with him," Nate said warily and Sophie could almost see him running a hand through his unruly hair.
"Do you really think that that's a good idea?" Parker piped up for the first time, itching to follow her hitter, but for once she respected his unspoken request, because she knew all about bad memories that you needed to deal with alone. She usually went to steal something when that happened and she knew that Eliot would need a drink or a gym or both to get better, so the thief was prepared to give him all the time he needed.
"No, I don't think it's a good idea. But we can hardly make it worse and I really don't know what else to do and we really have no other option without vaporizing the whole con."
Unfortunately Nate was right and Hardison, no matter how reluctantly, started his quest for information, while the rest busied him – or herself with something else.
Eliot had no idea that the team was trying to dig into his past while he sat in a bar, nursing a beer. Sure, he knew that it was a bad idea to get drunk on a con, but right now he needed it or the long thought forgotten memories would overwhelm him and he'd drown in them and that wasn't an option. The alcohol numbed his mind and stopped the memories from resurfacing. He emptied the bottle while subconsciously rubbing a small scar on his left hip with his other hand. And he was about to signal the bartender for a new one, when a hand put another one in front of him.
Eliot raised an eyebrow and followed the arm attached to the hand until he reached the face of the man that had obviously bought him a drink. And the Hitter didn't even have to fake surprise to see Luca Marcheda sit on the stool next to him. That only showed how lost Eliot had been in his memories, because he hadn't even realized that the other man had been following him.
"Mr. Marcheda, what a surprise," he finally said, immediately slipping into his role as Liam. And for a moment he regretted that he had left his earbud with Sophie. That had been his only means of communication with the team since his trousers had been too tight to put his phone anywhere, so that device had been put into Sophie's purse during their visit to Marcheda's office. So for now Eliot was on his own.
But he hadn't thought that Marcheda might make a move this soon, so Eliot hadn't really been bothered that he couldn't contact the team, because that had also meant that they couldn't contact him. And he had wanted to be alone after all. Eliot swallowed lightly, wondering what to do now, because by the way Marcheda was smiling at him, Liam had seemed to have made quite an impression.
"Yes it is a surprise, but I hope it is a nice one, because you look like you could need some cheering up," Luca told him, voice smooth and deep. Eliot gave him a small smile, trying to figure out how to best play the con right now.
"Well, I'm really not in the best of moods. Miss Colridge and I had a little fight."
Eliot had learned that the best lie was one that was actually a truth, just fitted into a certain situation. Marcheda appeared to be concerned, but Eliot of course noticed the eager glint in his eyes.
"Oh, I hope it has nothing to do with me requesting a show earlier? I noticed that you really weren't prepared for it," Luca questioned. Eliot shook his head, trying to appear thoughtful.
"Well, yes and no. Miss Colridge should have told me that you were expecting a little show since it appears that you always want that. And she knew about it. I would have been better prepared if I had known." Again, it was a truth just bent a little to fit the story.
"Oh, that explains a lot, but don't worry, Liam. I enjoyed the show nonetheless and now I'm anxious to see what you can do when you've had time to prepare," Marcheda purred, suddenly directly beside Eliot, one hand in the nape of the Hitter's neck. And Eliot needed all of his considerable willpower to not flip Marcheda over his shoulder and then break his arm. Doing that wouldn't really help the con, so he merely tried to look uncomfortable, which wasn't too hard to do and hope that Marcheda got the message and would let go of him.
"Thank you for the compliment, Mr. Marcheda. It's nice of you to give me that job, especially since Miss Colridge needs me out of the house soon, before her husband comes back from his months-long business trip. With the cash I got, I can hopefully afford my own place to live, no matter how small." Eliot tried to sound grateful and desperate at the same time and he seemed to have managed, because Marcheda's hand traveled from his neck to his shoulder, squeezing it in what was probably meant to be a sympathetic gesture.
"If you want, I can help you find a new apartment and if we don't find anything then you are welcome to use my guest room for as long as you need."
Eliot wanted to protest and that not only because Liam wouldn't want to impose on anyone, but also because he knew it wouldn't be good for the con to sound too eager. Well, maybe he might have to speed this up a little, but still... and he didn't even get to the protesting part, because Luca continued talking: "Before you say no, let me tell you that I do that for all my new dancers until they've settled in. I take care of my people."
If Eliot had been that naive young man he'd been years ago, he might have bought that Luca Marcheda only had good intentions and wanted to help. He gave the man a small smile and took a careful swig of the beer. It didn't taste different or weird, but Eliot knew of enough drugs one couldn't taste, but he also needed to show that he wasn't suspicious of anything. That little sip wouldn't render him helpless, even if it was drugged.
"That is a very generous offer, Mr. Marcheda and I might have to take you up on that at least for a few days," Eliot explained, knowing that this sounded grateful enough without committing to anything.
"Just call me if you need anything, Liam. I'd love to have you as my guest," Marcheda purred into his ear, his hand once again rubbing the back of Eliot's neck and suddenly Eliot felt a little prick where Marcheda's hand was and suddenly Eliot's whole world tilted to the side and he was dizzy all of a sudden.
"What?" he managed to get out, his voice slurred, tongue heavy. He had been so concentrated on selling the con and not drinking that beer, that he hadn't thought about the other ways to drug people. It was a rookie mistake and one that might cost Eliot dearly...
to be continued...