Characters/Pairings: Eliot Spencer/Nathan Ford
Word Count: 2,002
Summary: Alternate Universe – Canon Divergence. Prompt: When you are with me, I’m free, I’m careless, I believe (My Sacrifice – Creed)
Eliot Spencer is a complicated man. You scoff, but he’s like his hair. In the shadows it’s shiny as a crow’s wing, some days it curls, others it’s board straight. When the sun kisses that mane, it’s the color of a new penny with hidden depths of gold. Simple clothes, simple man, right? Don’t let the package fool you. He’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma.
When I look at my team, I label them according to their strength. Grifter … Hitter … Hacker … Thief.
They sit in their boxes, and I pull them out as I need them, then put them back when I’m done.
But Eliot … Eliot won’t stay in ‘his’ box. He’s as fine a thief as Parker, cleans up prettier than Sophie, and from his sly looks at Hardison, the whole technophobe thing … Probably a con.
He gives me a run for my money. He cocks that damn eyebrow, and I’m going back over the plan … Just in case. He sits with that infuriating smirk … You know the one … That says he already has your queen he’s just waiting for you to realize you’re caught.
The man is so slick, he had me in his bed and addicted … Well … I really enjoyed the tutorial. It was too late, I was caught.
I on the other hand … Am a simple man.
Good scotch, good food, good sex, the package isn’t important. I’ve gotten cerebral in my old age, a game that runs smooth. I’m a simple man. Except when I slip into the abyss labeled, ‘Sam’.
During the Dubenich job I cut Eliot deep by telling him, ‘we’re not friends’. Instead of backing off, he got that little shit eatin’ grin and left me to Sophie’s tender mercies.
No matter how I acted, he’d poke fun … Like during the game to save Paul’s church.
“You quit priest school to be an insurance cop and now you lead a band of thieves … Nice.”
Smart ass … Complicated … Still a smart ass.
He lulled me into complacency. I forgot the other Eliot Spencer. I only saw ‘civilized’ Eliot and forgot ‘feral’ Eliot behind blue/grey eyes.
Until Miami. I was pushing. I was waiting for them to break. I could justify that … They were thieves. Denial ain’t just a river.
Eliot called my bluff. I looked up and I my blood ran cold. I looked into the stormy eyes of the number one retrieval specialist in the world … He accomplished that without a gun.
Two thoughts ran through my mind. One, I was sorry I drove Eliot to that edge, and two, maybe I would see my son in the afterlife.
Sophie showed us she has more guts than brains by stepping in Eliot’s path.
With a look of disdain, he turned his back, showing he didn’t consider us a threat, and left the suite, Hardison and Parker trailing him like wolf pups.
They pulled away from Sophie and me. They’d lost faith. I could see it during briefings. After setting a plan they would look to Eliot. It was all very subliminal, but body language was Eliot’s thing. He read more in minute twitches than I could on the plasma screens.
Civilized Eliot warily returned. By the time Sophie concocted her plan for Blackpoole, I almost coaxed the retrievalist into letting me back in his bed.
I didn’t realize what I had until I lost it. When it was just Eliot and me, I didn’t have to be the White Knight or the Black King. I didn’t have to be anything other than what I am. A man lost in his grief. A man lost in the alcohol trying to ease that pain. A man trying to be more functioning than alcoholic.
I had that with Eliot. One evening … I think it was after Kentucky … Eliot sat on the balcony with his guitar. I couldn’t place the song, but I remembered the words. Probably only because of the things that man’s voice does to my libido … But I digress …
When you are with me, I’m free
I’m careless, I believe
Above all the others we’ll fly
This brings tears to my eyes
Then Sophie took everything. Our home, our family … Everything.
We split the eight million dollars and agreed to scatter. I watched Eliot moving gingerly, the feral once again prowling behind those eyes … Away … Away from me, I froze. I watched them walk. As they moved away, I saw the two youngest’s paths moving to intercept the enforcer. Moving to his safety.
It’s been two weeks since we scattered. I’m still incredibly pissed, I miss Eliot. All of Eliot. I even miss being annoyed by Alec and startled by Parker acting like a demented jack-in-the-box.
Depressed and half past drunk, I slid into bed. I wasn’t asleep long when the covers shift and the bed dipped.
“Wha … The … Who?”
“Shush … Settle down, now.” The gravelly voiced soothed.
“How did you?” I rolled over to see that much missed face.
“That’s what I do … Come over here and kiss me.” He growled low.
I’m free and we fly.
When Victor Dubenich contacted me about doing a retrieval I almost turned him down. I work alone. Lessons hard learned taught me not to rely on others. Like most suits the little fat man was full of himself. When he said he wanted me to work with Parker, Alec Hardison, and Nathan Ford, I almost gave back the money he bribed me with to stay.
I only knew Parker and Hardison by reputation. I knew Parker was buckets of nuts, but there was no better thief. Same with Alec Hardison, not the nuts part, and much as I don’t like to depend on technology, I knew his rep. He was annoying as hell, like the Tasmanian Devil on speed.
The real surprise was Nathan Ford. He and I crossed paths on several occasions. The man was good. I always managed to stay a step ahead, but it was fun to let him get close to get a bead on how his mind worked. Being chased by Ford actually sharpened my game, and made it easier to avoid investigators like Sterling, who were hacks.
When Ford dropped out of the game, word spread his son was terminally ill, and the company he had given 20 years of his life, IYS, had given Nate and his family the shaft.
The man in front of me was disheveled and moved in a cloud of scotch fumes, but his eyes were clear and his hands steady.
The plan was quick, clean, in and out. Everything went fairly well with Parker only acting half nuts. I kept the urge to hurt Hardison down to fantasizing about Plan M, the one where Hardison dies.
Then Dubenich screwed us … Then had the nerve to try to kill us.
That one act alone had a helluva impact on five lives. It kept us together in a way that was out of character for us. If I’d listen to my own good sense, the second I had that fat check in my hand, I should have dropped off the grid and forgot I ever heard of any of them.
But there was this … Camaraderie between us. Then Parker decided she couldn’t get out of the business because she didn’t know anything else. Hardison apparently had ADHD to go with his terminal blither, and thought an alcoholic could keep him focused. Sophie slithered around like a cobra in Monolo Blahnik and Prada.
The only ones willing to walk away were me and Nate. Then I opened my big mouth, and pointed out that he needed a distraction from the inside of his brain.
I spent a good ten minutes kickin’ my own ass over that one. Since when did I take in pathetic life forms?
I could have stayed away. I didn’t have to answer the phone. These people annoy the hell out of me, yet here I was voluntarily submitting myself to this aggravation. On a good day it was like fuckin’ Romper Room. On a bad day, I’m pretty sure a good lawyer could get me off with insanity.
When did I decide that I was the answer to Nate’s questions? I slid into his shadow and waited. I could make sure the game was mine. My self-preservation still had enough say in what the rest of my brain was doing to make sure I had my ass covered.
Nathan Ford is a simple man. Feed him a good meal, dole out a moderate amount of excellent scotch and fuck him into the mattress on a regular basis, and he’s content.
The first time I seduced him into my bed is one of my favorites. What he lacked in knowledge and experience, he made up for enthusiasm. It was no hardship taking him places he’d never been.
I thought I knew the inside of my own head, but I managed to surprise myself. I don’t do relationships Yet here I am ‘with’ Nate.
Then Willie called. There was no way I could turn him away. He’d been like a father to me. His daughter, Aimee … We almost got married. I would have given up retrievals for her, but she was impatient and sometimes judgmental, and I probably’d gotten pissed and left. Getting caught in Burma probably saved us both a lot of heartache.
When Nate handed me the napkin bill of sale for the surviving horse, I realized Nate had crawled drunkenly into my heart and made himself at home. I was so screwed.
I almost left, then. I know not to get involved. You especially don’t get involved with an addict. It inevitably leads to pain worse than any torture I’ve ever endured.
Miami almost broke us. A couple weeks before we got the job, Sam’s ghost took up residence in Nate’s brain, nothing seemed to exorcise him.
Then Nate caught the attention of the cops. His brain was in a drunken fog, but his sanctimonious mouth was working just fine. One too many condescending cracks and the tight reins I keep on my temper slid through my hands. The demon that’s my temper lunged across the room toward the ex-investigator.
Smart as a whip, but dumb as a stump when it comes to Nate, Sophie decided stepping in the path of my temper was a good idea. The distraction did give me time to jerk the bit out of the demon’s teeth, and get him back under control.
Rather than do something I would regret, I left, Parker and Alec three steps behind.
That incident shook me out of my complacency. I drew back. Did a few solo jobs, worked on putting up emotional walls.
Apparently the twin terrors decided it was a good idea to antagonize Nate and Sophie by second guessing their plans, and looking to me for confirmation.
Slowly I started giving trust back to Nate. I was just about ready to invite him back into my bed when Sophie blew everything to hell.
Standing in the park with the others, the only way I can explain how I felt is … Orphaned. We split the money. All that was left was the leaving.
My head pounding, I could feel my ribs grinding when I moved. I couldn’t look at Nate, and I refused to look at Sophie.
Halfway across the park, I gained two shadows with mumbled excuses about concussions, his not mine, and punctured lungs.
Between my ribs and leg work, it took me two weeks to find Nate. His locks were pretty flimsy. I slipped into his bedroom, stripped off my clothes and slid under the covers. The scotch smell was strong, the snores drunken. He woke when I pulled him against my chest.
“Wha … The … Who?” He startles awake.
“Shush … Settle down, now.” I soothed.
“How did you?” Nate rolled over and cupped my face.
“That’s what I do … Come over here and kiss me.” I growled low.
And we fly.