aricadavidson: (eliot)
[personal profile] aricadavidson
Title: The Blind Man’s Bluff Job

Author: KaraB

Disclaimer – The characters aren't mine.

Thanks to 2cbetter2/amy01 for help with beta reading for me.

*****
Nathan Ford’s voice was the sweetest sound Eliot Spencer had heard in days. For six days he’d been here, waiting… for his opportunity for escape or for his team to find him. His captors had taken precautions, so an opportunity for escape never came, but he’d known his team would. Hardison could find anyone anywhere



“I want my hitter back,” Nate said in a forceful voice. He was having to be careful not to look at Eliot too closely. The man was held up by his arms and had obviously been tortured.

“Even in this condition?” a heavily accented voice asked. “He is quite… damaged.”

Eliot couldn’t see anymore but he could hear Nate’s sigh. “I’ll give you a million.”

“That’s how much he cost me. I deserve…”

“You’ve gotten any extra you deserve out of him.” Nate’s voice held something that made Eliot mentally wince – pity. “Do you want the money to replace what you lost or do you want nothing?”

The man shouted something in Russian and the pull on Eliot’s arms suddenly was no more and he fell to the floor hard. He felt a gentle arm, helping him to his feet and supporting his weight.

Neither man spoke until they were in a car… well… Eliot presumed it was. “Why did you pay?”

“Fastest way to get you out. The man holding you is… quite in debt.” Nate replied. It wasn’t like they were hurting for money at the moment.

“Waste of time,” Eliot replied. “He burned out my eyes… I’m no good as your hitter anymore.”

“Hitter or no, you’re still part of the team… part of our family,” Nate said quietly.

Both men lapsed into silence. “I’ve arranged for a doctor.” Eliot started to interrupt but Nate was firm. “That is not negotiable.” Another pause. “And you’re staying at my place for a few days at least.”

“Nate…” Eliot thought a moment, realizing he had no real way to argue or stop him. “Don’t take me by the office.” He couldn’t face the rest of them… not like this.

“They’ve been worried about you.”

“I don’t want their pity… or yours.”

“I can’t speak for them, but there’s no pity here. Concern and friendship – yes, pity – not so much. You’re still on the team, Eliot. We need you… sight or no.”

Eliot sighed, his body shaking once and then relaxing into the seat. That they might not need him… or that they might only need the him who could see had been there in his mind. “So you just paid the guy who did this to me.”

“Hardison is tracking the money. He’s not going to get away with this.” The venom in Nate’s voice surprised, and truth be told – pleased Eliot.

Nate glanced over at Eliot once or twice the rest of the drive, glad to see that the hitter had finally relaxed a bit, but also knowing the worst was ahead. He’d seemingly accepted the loss of his sight. But Nate knew… this was only the beginning.

*****

“So how is he?” Sophie and Hardison asked as soon as Nate walked in the door, looking exhausted. Parker looked at him expectantly.

Without a word, he sat down, thinking about how much he wanted a drink right then but knew that he’d have to face this sooner or later.

“There’s something I need to tell you all,” Nate said, massaging his forehead.

“What’s wrong?” Sophie asked, reading Nate’s face. “What happened to Eliot?”

“He can’t see… The man that had him… his eyes were burned out before I got there…” Nate buried his face in his hands. Sophie moved over and hugged him. Nate was struggling to hold back his emotion.

“As in permanently?” Hardison asked in disbelief.

“That’s usually what that means,” Sophie snapped, glancing up at him.

Nate took a deep breath, and stood. “Don’t fight over this. Hardison, I want you tracking the money. I don’t want this guy to get away.”

“Why isn’t Eliot here with us?” Parker asked suddenly. “He should be with us.”

“He’s at my place. A doctor is checking him out,” Nate explained.

“He should be with us,” Parker said again, as if Nate hadn’t responded. “We’re his family.”

“I’m going to go check with Eliot and the doctor,” Nate said. “I want the rest of you to stay here until Eliot decides he’s ready.”

“Ready for what?” Parker asked. “We’re his family.” She seemed to genuinely not understand, or was unwilling to do so.

For once, Nate ignored her and turned to go, hoping Sophie would handle it.

Sophie, Hardison and Parker all stood there staring at each other for a long moment. Finally Hardison said, “I’m gonna get on tracking that money.”

Sophie nodded at Hardison, reaching out to touch his shoulder as he passed her. Parker stalked off without a word, leaving her alone. On a whim, she stepped out into the hallway. “Nate? This isn’t your fault.”

He turned to face her. “If I had been faster in figuring it out…”

Sophie just shook her head. “No, Nate. You can’t take this upon yourself. We’re going to get the man who did this, but you need to let the blame end there.” She paused, seeing he wasn’t sold yet. “If you blame yourself, Eliot’s going to pick up on that and it’ll only drive him away.”

“I know,” Nate replied. “I just…”

“Eliot’s got a lot of strength and not just physically.”

*****

Nate arrived at his apartment moments later to find Eliot laying on the couch, frowning at the doctor. He could see a bandage wrapped around his eyes and flinched. The idea of being robbed of sight that way was suddenly just stuck in his mind.

The doctor nodded at Nate. “Mr. Ford,” he acknowledged quietly. “Mr. Spencer is going to be fine. He needed a few stitches and he’ll need some recovery time, but with the exception of his eyesight, he’ll make a full recovery.

Nate saw Eliot flinch at the word ‘eyesight’, but turned to the doctor to thank him and see him out.

“So I get to be the team freak now instead of Parker?” Eliot said as soon as the doctor had left.

“They’re worried about you.”

“You told them.” It came out half statement and half accusation.

“Of course I did. Hardison’s still tracking the guy who did this. Sophie’s pretty worried about you too. She’s waiting to visit until you’re ready.”

“At least someone’s got brains,” Eliot snorted.

“Parker only wanted to know why you weren’t with us. Because we’re family and you should be.” Nate knew that he had to walk a fine line here. He couldn’t overdo it and push Eliot away, but some pushing was necessary.

“Parker’s crazy,” was his response. “Nate, take me to my place. I can at least navigate that. I keep bumping into things here.”

“Hardison’s getting all the information together and we’ll have a briefing tomorrow to discuss. You’re coming to that. We need you there.”

“I don’t need you to take care of me. I’m not your kid Nate,” Eliot hadn’t meant to go there. A long pause filled the room. “Sorry Nate.”

“No, it’s fine,” Nate’s tone was stiff enough to indicate that the unintended barb had stung. “You’re still going but it’s fine.” Before he could protest again, Nate added. “You owe your teammates that much.”

Eliot truly hadn’t meant to make such a reference, but the damage was done. He mentally berated himself. Nate was only trying to help – the best way he knew how and as much as Eliot didn’t want to admit it, he needed the help right now. He had the overwhelming urge to make things right with Nate because he’d never meant to go there. Forcing himself to stand, he felt his way to the door Nate had disappeared into… the dining room he thought?

“Nate?” he asked, opening the door. The scent of alcohol was unmistakeable. “Don’t start that Nate.”

“Haven’t started it yet. Just thinking about it,” Nate said softly. He’d poured the cup and not been able to touch it yet.

Eliot wasn’t great with words and emotions. “Nate, I’m sorry. I never meant…” he trailed off. “I’ve never been a good patient.” He started feeling around for a chair.

“Right in front of you,” Nate replied, amusement in his voice. He hadn’t expected Eliot to come attempt to make amends.

Eliot clumsily managed to sit. Both men sat in silence for a long time, neither sure what to say.

“Whether you want to accept it or not, you all are my family now,” Nate said finally. “So I’m going to care.” Nate weighed in his mind how honest to be. “I want to help you, but I do understand that you need your space. In honesty, I blame myself for what happened.”

Eliot’s first instinct was to walk away. He didn’t like this kind of talk. It was always uncomfortable and he was always quite bad at responding. “You rescued me. You brought me home. And it wasn’t your fault.” There, maybe that sounded good?

“You’re part of my team. Anything that happens to you is my responsibility, if not my fault.”

Eliot couldn’t argue with that because he felt the same way about the rest of the team himself. He was their protector. He shook his head. Why did he sit down here again? He stood, mumbling something about needing rest and was surprised when Nate let it go at that. At the door he turned around. “Just so we’re clear on this, if I ever decide to leave the team, I’ll tell you to your face.” That said, Eliot turned and went to lay down on the couch, drifting off to a restless sleep a few minutes later.

Nate found him that way and sighed, knowing this situation wasn’t over and that it was going to take it’s toll on everyone before it was over.

*****

Eliot slept longer than he meant to, especially for someone who didn’t need much sleep. No doubt his body was catching up after the near week of abuse.

“I was wondering when you’d finally wake up. I’ve been ready to go for nearly half an hour,” Nate said from across the room in an amused tone.

With minimal help from Nate in learning the layout of the rooms, he showered, and dressed. Nate himself was a little amazed at how humbly the hitter accepted the help he needed. He did however insist on rebandaging his eyes himself. Despite the fact that Nate had seen him at his worst, he just couldn’t allow that again.

Eliot permitted Nate to lead him until they got to the hallway where the office was, wanting to walk in under his own power entirely. He felt a little nervous about how the team was going to react.

“Eliot!” Sophie said, coming over to hug him. He stiffened slightly, but passively accepted her embrace. “Are you sure you should be here today? Do you need to sit down?”

“I’m blind, not crippled,” he snarked in reply, refusing to allow himself to be led to a chair. “Nate made me come anyway.”

Nate wanted to ignore Sophie’s look, but forced himself to nod at her slightly, hoping she’d choose to just let this go and let Eliot be. She seemed to catch the message as her mouth quirked and she nodded.

Eliot made his way to the conference room – slowly granted, but since he mapped out his surroundings constantly, he was fairly certain of his path.

“Should I assume he’s alright since he’s snarking at people?” Sophie asked Nate in a quiet voice.

“It’s a lot to take in… We can’t smother him.”

As he entered the conference room, he could hear Hardison’s furious tapping on his computer keys. “Nate said you’ve been busy tracking the money.”

“Uh yeah, oh hi man, it’s nice to see you… I mean.. . uh…” Hardison stammered.

“Yeah nice to SEE you too,” Eliot replied, setting himself down in the first chair he could reach, not wanting to let on how tired he felt.

“I’m sorry man, I just… I’m glad you’re alright.”

“Yeah I’m just blind now, no big deal, obviously.” Eliot almost felt bad about directing the snark at his friends, but he just wanted things to be normal. He didn’t want them tiptoeing around him on eggshells.

Nate stepped into the room just then and judging from the hurt look on Hardison’s face, Eliot had already come down on him.

“I mean, I…” Hardison was at a loss for words.

“What have you got for us Hardison?” Nate redirected the conversation, knowing his team would have to find a balance just as he and Eliot had to do. “Wait, where’s Parker?”

“I brought you soup,” Parker called as she entered the room, setting something in front of Eliot that he presumed was a bowl. “It’s what you do when people are hurt or sick.”

Nate carefully schooled his face, trying to keep the amusement off of it. Parker had the strangest ideas at times, but it truly came from her heart. He could see the war on Eliot’s face… between snapping at her and saying nothing.

“I’m not sick or crippled – I’m blind. And I just want to get the guy that did this to me so can we just focus on that?” Eliot finally said, choosing not to address Parker specifically.

“Are you? You’re not?”

“Am I what Hardison?” Eliot asked.

“You’re not leaving are you?”

Eliot sighed. “If I ever decide to leave, you’ll know it. Alright?” He felt the nods around him. “Now can we get on with it?”

“Alright Hardison, what have you got?”

Hardison launched into his typical long-winded explanation of where the parties involved. Midway through the explanation, Eliot stood and carefully left the room. Everyone stared at Nate all at once.

“He’s been through a lot. I’ll be right back.”

Nate got up and followed Eliot, finding him sitting in his office. “Knew you’d come,” he responded. “Nate, I don’t think I can do this. I’m not part of the team anymore… I… can’t do my old job and that’s what I’m good at.”

“You told me once,” Nate said, sitting down, “That in your job, most of what your eyes tell you was either misleading or wrong. Now’s your chance to prove it.” Eliot started to object, but Nate continued, stopping him. “I’m not saying you can or should jump right back into your old role, or that it will be easy. It won’t be easy. But you can face this here, with friends who will have your back – no matter what. Or you can go out there, where quite a few people want you dead.” Nate paused a moment considering. “We want and need you here. The awkwardness will settle down. As for the thought that you’re only good at being a hitter – that’s far from the truth.”

Eliot shook his head. “What…”

“Don’t play dumb.” Nate said, a little more harshly than he intended. “You should know by now what you mean to this team.”

Eliot looked away a moment. “No one’s ever had my back like this Nate,” he said softly. “I want to believe it, and trust it…”

“But at the same time it terrifies you.” Nate didn’t wait for confirmation on that, knowing it wasn’t going to be forthcoming. “This is very real.”

“And what if I can’t function with the team?”

Nate realized they’d just hit the core of Eliot’s fears. “Then you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. But there’s no way you wouldn’t be useful in some capacity.”

A pause followed. “Being faster wouldn’t have mattered with my eyesight,” Eliot suddenly said, wanting to ease Nate’s guilt. “This happened the second day…” That didn’t sound near as comforting as he’d wanted it to. “They had worse planned for me.”

That fact, did not comfort Nate. “We’re going to get the guy who did this.” Only that might make him feel better.

“Do me a favor Nate? Let me pull the trigger.” The last thing Eliot wanted was for them to bear the burden of killing someone… especially over him.

The silence indicated that wasn’t what Nate had planned. “I thought you didn’t like guns.”

“I don’t. Doesn’t mean they aren’t useful once in a while.”

*****

“I just… I don’t know what to say to him,” Hardison spoke first, glancing at Sophie and Parker.

“And I went a little overboard myself,” Sophie confessed. “I think we probably need to treat him as normal as possible.”

“He’s still Eliot,” Parker said.

“It’s just…” Hardison trailed of a moment. “When I think about what they did to him… I mean how much that must have hurt. And he’s already just accepted it?”

“I had four days of nothing to do but think about it,” Eliot said as he and Nate re-entered the conference room. “It’s hard to not accept something by that point.”

Hardison winced, obviously unnerved by both what Eliot had been through and his matter-of-factness regarding it.

“It does me no good to sit in denial,” Eliot said, turning his head in Hardison’s direction. “Let’s just get this guy okay?”

“Alright man, if that’s what you want.” Hardison said, sounding more himself.

“Eliot, we want to help you,” Sophie said. “Any way we can.”

“Then stop pitying me. That’d be a good start,” Eliot replied. “I’m going to work through this, I just need to do it my own way.”

“Your own stubborn way,” Sophie murmured softly.

*****

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