stillane: (Default)
[personal profile] stillane
Some time ago, [livejournal.com profile] laceymcbain gave me a prompt involving somebody being protective, somebody being competent, and possibly a little banter. This is… kind of that? Only not? Sorry. On the plus side, there may yet be all of those things in the sequels that are looking sort of inevitable.

Fandom: Leverage
Pairing: None, exactly. There is a definite Hardison/Eliot directionality here, though.
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: 1x12 The First David Job
Warnings: Implications of past torture, non-graphic
Notes: Beta’d by the awesome [livejournal.com profile] ileliberte. This picks up from the second-to-last scene of the First David Job, and assumes that a little time passed between it and the last scene. Specifically, one night.

Summary: Eliot, he can twist around like a Rubik’s cube in his head, something to puzzle over without getting too invested in.


There’s a lot Alec’s not thinking about tonight.

He’s not thinking about the day just passed, when he metaphorically salted and literally burned what he’s spent months building.

He’s not thinking about tomorrow, when he’ll cut the rest of it loose, too.

Doesn’t mean he’s not thinking at all. He’s never been able to manage that – not sober, not drunk, not pre-, post- or mid-coital. It’s all about the channeling, deciding which path is fine, which one’s full of fucking dragons and shouldn’t be touched with a goddamn flamethrower.

The thoughts he’s allowing right now look a little like this: What the smirk on the kid behind the desk of this little bitty motel meant when he booked Alec into a room next to Eliot’s; whether the vending machine outside has Coke or Pepsi; how to remember not to bite his cheek because that cut’s not about to heal if he keeps that up; what the Tokyo stock exchange is doing at this hour; how his DVR is full enough that he’s going to have to choose between Psych and Eureka soon; whether Sophie is in Parker’s or Nate’s room right now (either one’s a possibility, and so’s neither).

That’s the background hum. What he’s got playing in the forefront of his head is this: He’s the normal one.

It’s damn bizarre, realizing that you’re standing in for the well-adjusted world. He’s a scifi geek, a kid raised in the system, and the best damn hacker you’ll never meet. He’s not wanted anywhere, because nobody can prove he’s done a single thing, but there are whole countries where he’s not-wanted a hell of a lot. (It’s not like he liked Iceland all that much anyway.)

It says something that the people he spends the most time with these days make him look downright ordinary.

They’ve all got something, every last one of them.

Parker’s got Parker. That’s pretty much enough. He likes her too much to really want to push too hard, though, so mostly he leaves it alone. Tries to let her come to him, tries to keep thinking she will.

Nate’s got his past and his booze, and Sophie’s got Nate. One look at her looking at him tells you that. They both come across as the normal kind of warped until you get to the parts where Nate goddamn napalms everything in his path when the stars are right and Sophie’s jones for a statue shoots her loyalty in the head in a back alley.

Then there’s Eliot. Eliot’s different. Nate and Sophie are simple enough to figure out, Parker’s complicated in ways Alec doesn’t want to mess with, but Eliot he can twist around like a Rubik’s cube in his head, something to puzzle over without getting too invested in.

It makes him fine to think about tonight.

Alec’s Eliot thoughts go like this: If Alec had to pick one of them to tag as Most Likely to Be Not Quite Human, it’s Eliot by a landslide. There’s something freakishly Chuck Norris about the guy, like he took a level in badass somewhere around kindergarten and never got around to remembering normal. Nobody’s invulnerable, Alec knows that, but it’s hard to prove it with Eliot. Nothing ever seems to stick. He’s seen the guy take a punch, he’s seen him bleed, even, but it’s always had that look behind it. That c'mon back smirk, like getting popped was all part of his plan and now it’s his game.

Where it gets interesting, though, is that if Alec had to pick one of them who could walk away and be a regular, nine-to-five, picket fence type, that’d be Eliot, too. Not pretending – they can all do that – but really meaning it. Eliot’s domestic like none of the rest of them. The crazy ninja skills are mostly balanced out by the guy who likes horses and hockey and Earl Grey, the one who brings microbrews and nachos to the office when they watch games.

(Brought. It’s brought.)

Eliot #2 is a dick sometimes in his own right, but in a cut-you-off-in-traffic, leave-dirty-socks-on-the-floor way. He doesn’t go on jobs with them. That’s Eliot #1, and he’s just… untouchable. Best word Alec’s got for it. He’s never seen Eliot drunk or hurt or bone-weary, not either Eliot.

And that’s what Alec’s thinking when he opens the damn door of what’s – surprise! – their connecting bathroom and covers two out of three.

(When are you gonna learn to knock? Nana used to say. Alec’s never been good at staying out of places he shouldn’t be.)

As it is, he has half a glance of Eliot and his blank face and the knowledge that Alec’s slid straight over all lines of guy code to drive him right back out of the room again before conscious thought has shaken itself awake. He’s got the door most of the way back to shut and a hand up over his eyes in full don’t know nothing, didn’t see nothing mode when two things stop him.

The first is the realization that it’s actually true, because Eliot’s got all his clothes present and accounted for and he’s pretty much just standing by the sink doing nothing.

The second is Eliot’s quiet, “Wait.”

The kid at the desk and the soda machine and Sophie’s musical chairs room assignment all shut up for a minute.

It’s surprise alone that gets Alec back through the doorway. Eliot just stands there a second, hands braced on the sink counter and head down. Finally, a muscle in his jaw moves like he’s grinding his teeth and he says, “I could use a hand, if you got a minute.”

There’s a whole scattering of bad jokes that dogpile in Alec’s mind, and it’s a mark of just how damn tired he is that they’re beat to his tongue by the thought that Eliot looks wrong.

“What do you need?” he says instead.

Eliot flicks his eyes over him and back. “‘S easier to wrap ribs with some help.”

Alec blinks, and says, “Yeah. Yeah, I can do that. But wouldn’t you rather have somebody who –“

“Nate’s good and passed out by now, and I’m not going up to the roof to get Parker.”

Alec lets Sophie’s absence go. “Okay. Just… just give me a second. You have…?”

“Duffle bag.”

Alec ducks out and grabs it, and by the time he’s back Eliot’s standing up straight and his shirt’s unbuttoned and on the counter.

Eliot grabs the hem of his undershirt in his hands, and Alec has just enough time to think, Hey, wait, I can – before Eliot pulls it up and over in one quick move, like ripping off a band-aid. Alec doesn’t know whether to clap or roll his eyes, ‘cause that’s just overkill in the true grit stakes, there.

Eliot makes this sound, though, this close-mouthed, cut-off, hoarse sound, and mostly Alec just winces.

Eliot’s got bruises, purple and red islands marking out territory down his left side and one big dark swath down his right. Alec’s got an Ace bandage and no idea what the hell he should be doing with it.

“How do you want me to…?”

“Just keep it tight and smooth as you can. Let you know if you’re doing it wrong.”

Alec has really got to get a handle on that part of his brain that thinks tension and really shitty innuendo should be BFFs. As it stands, he settles for swallowing back a laugh that leans more toward deranged anyway and pinning the end of the wrap to Eliot’s chest with one hand.

He sobers a second later when he clues in that Eliot’s not flinching away, but he’s not breathing real deep either. The first strip of wrapping goes down a little tighter than he thinks it ought to, but Eliot doesn’t call him on it, so maybe not.

“How many’d they have waiting for you?” he asks offhand, wanting a distraction. They sent six guys for him; he’s wondering where they got a small army on short notice for Eliot.

“One.” Eliot snorts, and winces.

Alec freezes. “One guy? Seriously?”

It’s just hitting him that that wasn’t all that nice when Eliot rolls his eyes and says, “Yeah, one guy. Sometimes one guy who knows you’re coming is worse’n a handful who don’t.”

It’s something Alec knew, on the surface. Simple. But. There’s an implication here, and Alec can’t miss it. He’s good with if/thens. Comes with learning to write code early.

Eliot got his ass kicked by one guy who was ready. That guy must have gone head to head with him, kept the fight close enough to fair for Eliot to take him down.

Alec’s not a big fan of luck.

He goes back to wrapping with a neutral hmm, and focuses on what he’s doing a little more.

It’s the lines that he notices first. They’re faint, just thin tracks on Eliot’s belly where the light hits skin that’s just different enough from the rest. If it weren’t for the bruises setting up contrast, they might blend right in.

What gets him, though, is how even they are. Deliberate.

There’s this ragged patch over Eliot’s left shoulder blade, and maybe Alec hasn’t seen many up close before, but he’s pretty sure that’s what gets left behind when you get shot. A jagged line skates over three ribs and bends around to the front. Alec follows it with the next repetition of bandage, covers most of it up on the way.

Three round, smooth marks on his lower back, a streak of raised skin above his left elbow, the dark curve of a burn riding just over one hip… Eliot’s got scars all over, and they’re kind of like trophies, but they’re also kind of like evidence. Testimony for the defense: Not enough. Not always.

Alec is suddenly and deeply uncomfortable. The man in front of him is quiet and worn, and Alec’s well inside the usual do-not-cross line. This is domestic Eliot dressed up in the other guy’s injuries, paying on sins he doesn’t own. Clark Kent wearing Superman’s bruises, if that weren’t a shitty and impossible metaphor.

Alec’s halfway to voicing something incoherent and stupid when he glances at Eliot’s face. Or where Eliot’s face would be, if he weren’t turned away and paying more attention to the wall than the uglyass paisley print deserves. Alec’s got a good view of the long stretch of Eliot’s neck instead, the hair that’s pulled loose to hang over his eyes, and the tight angle of his jaw. No marks there, he notices.

Eliot, it occurs to him, is embarrassed.

The room’s too quiet, no sound but their breathing and the faint swish of a shower down the hall. It would be easy to say something, to cut the tension with a ramble on anything at all, but Alec knows himself. His mouth would walk him right into trouble and out of whatever fragile moment this is where they’re both just standing still.

In the end, he finishes off the last wrap and tacks it in place, bites his cheek and winces when it burns again. His hands skitter around for a second, awkward with nowhere to be, and he waves at the door. “I’ll just…”

Eliot picks his shirt up off the sink counter and folds it in perfect military lines. “Yeah.”

“Shout if you need anything,” Alec says, knowing Eliot won’t.

“Hey, Hardison.”

He looks up, and Eliot’s eyes are steady and serious in the mirror.

“Thanks.”

He nods, a little more solemnly than he intends to. “No problem.”

Alec walks himself out and pulls the door shut behind him this time, lays down on the bed he’s got staked out for the night and tries to sort his head back into the quiet shape he needs.

It’s fine. Just, Eliot’s a little more Die Hard than Terminator. Still a scary son of a bitch when he wants to be.

But.

He doesn’t want this knowledge. Eliot’s not a safe topic anymore, just one more thing he doesn’t want to be thinking about, and his mental boxes are full enough.

Doesn’t matter. Tomorrow, they’re going their separate ways, all of them. Six months, Nate says, and then they’ll talk it over.

And then maybe. Maybe.

He rolls over, and doesn’t wonder who’ll do the bandaging next time.










Post-it notes:

1.    Compression wraps are considered a no-no in treating fractured ribs these days, due to the risk of pneumonia from a lack of deep breathing. I took some liberties with medical fact here because I figure that a) Eliot would have had enough broken ribs to know the score and b) he’d favor a quick fix that lets him limp through just long enough until he caves and allows himself the time to recover.

Date: 2009-07-28 10:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estei.livejournal.com
I love this. Its so much darker than the usual Leverage fare!

Date: 2009-07-28 11:21 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thanks for enjoying it!

Its so much darker than the usual Leverage fare!

Hahaha. I know. *cries* I set out with this whole banter-y, fuzzy thing in mind where Hardison teased Eliot about getting his ass kicked by a single guy with no superpowers, and then it totally went AWOL on me. And then I got to the end and blinked and went, Well. That was so very much not what I planned to do.

I still really want to write a fluffy caper fic, but in the meantime the idea of Eliot, Hardison, and somebody getting bodily injured seems to have settled in for while. I have vague plots for sequels, multiple. There's, like, a theme. God help me. *hangs head*

Date: 2009-07-28 11:02 pm (UTC)
ext_3572: (Default)
From: [identity profile] xparrot.livejournal.com
Heh - while I'm actually of the opinion that Eliot is an anime character and therefore only needs a day of bed-rest to recover from anything, this is a more realistic take, while staying convincingly true to the characters. And I like how Hardison's brain never shuts up, even if he has more reign over his mouth than he gives himself credit for.

Date: 2009-07-28 11:40 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thanks so much!

I'm actually of the opinion that Eliot is an anime character

You know, I always chalked it up to him being a mutant - like, Eliot = Wolverine (and how much would that crossover rock? *g*) - but the anime theory completely works.

In my (less serious) head, conversations like this happen all the time in LeverageLand:

"Hey, man, are you alright?"
"I'm fine."
Silence.
"No, seriously, I think I saw some of your liver on the ground back there."
Cranky sigh. "Yeah, I know. It's gonna be a pain in the ass to grow that back."

*g*

And I like how Hardison's brain never shuts up, even if he has more reign over his mouth than he gives himself credit for.

I imagine it's a really busy place in there. What I think he's missing in his self-analysis is that he really is a genius; while he likely knows exactly how bright he is, I don't think it factors into him thinking of himself as different, per se. I kind of see his head as a constant balance between really fantastic organization and seriously unedited stream of conscious. I don't think even he trusts that he's got that see-saw down pat, though.

Date: 2009-07-28 11:58 pm (UTC)
ext_3572: (Default)
From: [identity profile] xparrot.livejournal.com
Ahahah, Eliot as well-adjusted Wolverine - funny 'cuz it's true!

Really, Eliot, Hardison, and Parker all make more sense if they're not quite human...not that they're unrealistic, exactly; more they have the psychology of real human beings with unreal abilities. Except that rather than being in a 'verse where mutants or superheroes are an established quantity, they're in our world, so everyone including them is in a state of denial, never acknowledging that pretty much everything they can do is patently absurd. Which makes them seem very anime, as so many anime series require fantastic suspension of disbelief...

Date: 2009-07-29 12:54 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
more they have the psychology of real human beings with unreal abilities.

That's it exactly!

I'd argue that the disconnect with reality extends to all of them, honestly. Sophie's conditional mad acting skillz and Nate's status as the tortured-but-unbroken white hat mastermind put them pretty far in the direction opposite to RL, too.

They're almost like the classic characters you get in old-school Westerns, to go even further back in genres. There's something very 'Magnificent Seven' about them (or should that be 'Seven Samurai'? I've tragically never seen it, so I can't say) - that legendary, completely fantastical element held up against a very human factor. Even the way they're using the team's jobs/skills in the marketing this season plays into that.

In summary: I love this gloriously cracky show. There's so much room to go whatever direction you want with it. *g*

Date: 2009-07-29 01:15 am (UTC)
ext_3572: (muncle old skool)
From: [identity profile] xparrot.livejournal.com
I'd argue that the disconnect with reality extends to all of them, honestly. Sophie's conditional mad acting skillz and Nate's status as the tortured-but-unbroken white hat mastermind put them pretty far in the direction opposite to RL, too.

True! Though I think Sophie and especially Nate are a bit handicapped in that their super-powers are more subjective, and depend more on the writing/acting, so are less uncanny; we have to be shown Nate & Sophie's mojo, can decide for ourselves whether they're naturally or unnaturally gifted, and it doesn't always come off. While as with the other three, what they do is clearly impossible, so they're more easy to buy as superhuman.

But, yeah, it's very much an old-school feel (not just Westerns; The Man from UNCLE has the same sort of fantastic-passed-off-as-ordinary quality) - there's a few shows nowadays in that mold, which I couldn't be happier about; I love some shameless escapism in my entertainment!

Date: 2009-07-29 04:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leenys.livejournal.com
Perfection!

Date: 2009-07-29 04:22 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you! :)

Date: 2009-07-29 05:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] luminous-mortal.livejournal.com
Bloody terrific!...I could freakin' quote everything, it was that entertaining...

I just love Hardison's assessment of each team member...he sometimes comes across as a bit naive, but you've fleshed him out as being quite astute...he actually makes deliberate choices about what he wants to know about people and when he would rather stick his fingers in his ears and go "lalalala"...

Eliot as superhero/dick/renaissance man...OH GOD YES, ABSOLUTELY...I think Hardison has a kind of benign penis envy for Eliot that men have for other men whose personalities are larger than life (not that they check out actual dick size *lol*...mostly...*shifty eyes*)...

"Die Hard" v. "Terminator"...OMG, this made me laugh so hard when Hardison checked out Eliot's boo-boo's, 'cause I've often thought that Eliot was just like John McClane...thick crust on the outside with a gooing center...

Alec has really got to get a handle on that part of his brain that thinks tension and really shitty innuendo should be BFFs...*snorts*...

In the end, there's no selective amnesia for Hardison...although I'm sure Eliot works hard to achieve this...yeah, sure, neither one will be thinking about who does the bandaging next time...

*hugs this fic hard*
Edited Date: 2009-07-29 05:46 am (UTC)

Date: 2009-07-29 06:57 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Wow! Thanks so much! :)

he actually makes deliberate choices about what he wants to know about people and when he would rather stick his fingers in his ears and go "lalalala"...

*nods* Yep. For me, Hardison is always walking this line between what he notices and what he designates as important/wanted info. He's got to have some pretty kickass logic in his arsenal, to be the hacker god that he is, but he's also got to be really observant. Without that, he'd never be able to pull off the in-person cons that he does. His interactions with Parker, in particular, are great at showing this, too.

I think Hardison has a kind of benign penis envy for Eliot

Hahaha. It's such a weird blend of hero worship and 'You know, I would dearly love to slap you upside the head, if I weren't sure it would end in me bleeding.' *g*

I've often thought that Eliot was just like John McClane...thick crust on the outside with a gooing center...

Eliot is so built on the McClane model. He's one of the few characters around that could totally pull off the 'Yipeekayay' line, too. *g*

Date: 2009-07-29 06:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragondie.livejournal.com
Definitely more of a John McClane than a Clark Kent. He defies reality and saves the day, but sometimes he gets his ass kicked doing it. :)

Date: 2009-07-29 06:58 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Yep. *nods* Eliot would totally kill a helicopter with a car, too. I mean, he offed a guy with an appetizer. The man is all about the (slightly bizarre) improv. *g*

Date: 2009-07-29 09:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deepbluemermaid.livejournal.com
You know, I think this is one of the best Leverage fics I've ever read! Hardison's voice sounds so right, and his sudden shift in perception of Eliot and Eliot's vulnerabilities - and his own self-awareness - rings true. Absolutely fantastic writing...

Date: 2009-07-29 07:00 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I was freakishly nervous about Hardison actually sounding like Hardison, and you kind of made my day. :)

Date: 2009-07-29 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jendavis.livejournal.com
Amazing. It's really great to see Hardison's internal monologue- You did a great job of really keeping his humor even as he was looking in on some bleak and uncomfortable places.


*bookmarks the hell out of this one.*

Date: 2009-07-29 07:04 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you! I get the feeling that snark is just hardwired into Hardison, possibly especially when what's going on around him isn't particularly pleasant. Coping mechanisms for the win! *g*

Date: 2009-07-29 04:20 pm (UTC)
tigriswolf: (not human)
From: [personal profile] tigriswolf
This is wonderful.

Date: 2009-07-29 07:04 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! :)

Date: 2009-07-29 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucdarling.livejournal.com
This was fantastic!

[livejournal.com profile] estei nailed it when she said this was much darker than the usual this fandom gets, but I'm happy this piece wasn't light & fluffy. While I certainly enjoy those, this felt more moving and left a bigger 'oomph' in my mind than if it was a humorous piece.

It was nice to see Hardison being serious and quietly observing each of the other team members. Perhaps he talks so much to distract everyone else from what he's really thinking? there's no personal experience there, I swear. I really like him clinically analyzing Eliot's marks but not saying anything about them.

& oh Eliot. *pets*

Date: 2009-07-30 02:21 am (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Perhaps he talks so much to distract everyone else from what he's really thinking?

That's a definite possibility. I also get the feeling there's this constant stream-of-consciousness thing going on in his head, and it's exhausting to always have his edit settings on. Alec Hardison occasionally needs a seven-second delay. *g*

I really like him clinically analyzing Eliot's marks but not saying anything about them.

He, um, may eventually get around to voicing an opinion on them, actually, but not for a while. They've got some more ground to cover in terms of their interactions with one another, first. *looks shifty*

& oh Eliot. *pets*

*nods* This is rather frequently my reaction. He's my very favorite, although I love them all with great squishy affection.

Your icon cracks me up, btw. SurpriseNun!Parker is so awesome. *g*

Date: 2009-07-31 07:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kenzimone.livejournal.com
I adore this! It's dark and gritty and there, like I could reach out and touch it if I wanted to! You got Hardison down spot-on, and Eliot's perfect as well. Absolutely lovely.

Date: 2009-08-03 07:19 pm (UTC)
ext_1740: (Default)
From: [identity profile] stillane.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! I'm so thrilled to hear that they sound right; I always freak out with characters I haven't written for before. *g*

Date: 2009-08-27 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roadtriptime.livejournal.com
Thanks for this fic!

I thought you really captured Hardison's interior monologue. That timeslot in "The First David Job" is a really cool moment to visit.

if Alec had to pick one of them who could walk away and be a regular, nine-to-five, picket fence type, that’d be Eliot, too

I hadn't even considered this angle. They haven't done a lot of exploring the "freaks who can't be normal and only have each other" angle as much on this show, compared to say a Buffy or SPN. Maybe when they get farther along, they might explore the issue a little deeper. I don't want them to lose the fun escapism, though!

Date: 2009-10-30 04:25 am (UTC)
ext_21:   (Default)
From: [identity profile] zvi-likes-tv.livejournal.com
I've had this open in a tag to read for a while, but I only got to it today. I'm glad I kept it open, this is great. Gritty and real and good.

Date: 2010-11-15 03:54 am (UTC)
ext_835: (Default)
From: [identity profile] gweneiriol.livejournal.com
this is awesome!!!

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