Pairings: Eliot/Quinn; Parker/Alec Hardison; Nathan Ford/Sophie Devereaux
Word Count: 11,105
Summary: Damien Moreau escapes his San Lorenzo prison and sets out to extract revenge. He only finds Eliot, who lets himself be taken to protect the team from Moreau’s revenge. Set after The Last Dam Job.
Author’s Notes: Graphic depictions of violence.
Dark eyes watched the pony-tailed guard as he made his rounds. The prison grapevine said the warden had hired the man out of familial obligation. Apparently holding down a job was not the young man’s strong suit, but the grapevine also said if you wanted something and had the price, he was the one to see. It had taken time, but he had finally accumulated what he deemed would be enough to buy the young guard’s services.
He leaned back in his chair watching Hardison and Parker clean up the dishes from their impromptu cookout. Parker had started it with wanting burnt hot dogs wherein new mother, Sophie had taken over and like Sherman marching across Georgia had organized them from a business meeting about several situations they were watching to a family evening. Eliot had been about to leave, not wanting to be odd man out when he’d been pleasantly surprised to see his lover come through the door with the supplies he’d need for dinner.
“Job finished.” He asked when they’d come up for air.
“No, but I’m not needed for a few days, so I decided to come see my favorite retrieval specialist.” The smooth baritone voice snarked.
“Hmmm. Glad you did.” He took the grocery bags from the younger man. “I hate shoppin’.” He smirked giving Quinn a sassy wink.
“If I can’t drag you away, you really need to stop that.” He grabbed Eliot and pulled him in tight for another breath stealing kiss.
“Hold that thought, Darlin’ ‘cause I think your stomach just overruled everything else.” Eliot teased when the other man’s stomach growled loudly.
“Hate airplane food.” Quinn complained.
Now here he sat with a life he never thought he’d have. The warm weight of a lover in his arms, a home where only the locations sometimes changed, but not the people, and the whole team moving toward retirement.
At 43, he was beginning to feel homesick for the Hill Country of Texas where his ranch waited for that retirement … A retirement he never thought he’d live to see. His foreman snidely called it the Flying S Retirement home for burnt out assets.
His smile was indulgent as he watched Parker still leading Hardison around by his ‘man bits’. Their relationship had progressed to them actually having sex and living together, but Hardison still hadn’t convinced the thief to marry him.
Movement in his peripheral vision had him watching Nate help Sophie out of her chair while holding their daughter. The grifter had presented Nate with a brown haired, blue-eyed daughter the month before, and was just now getting back to her pre-pregnancy figure. Eliot was looking for a job that would take him away for a few weeks or months. Baring that he’d get rid of any electronics Hardison could track, and go to Texas.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be here, it’s that he couldn’t. Concerned that it was something in his genetic makeup that had caused Sam’s cancer, Nate had a vasectomy after his son died. Next thing Eliot knew he was in the middle of their marriage as Sophie convinced Nate that Eliot was the perfect sperm donor, since the two men had similar coloring, and the next thing Eliot knew he was making a donation, and the grifter was hugging him tightly as she whispered in his ear she was pregnant.
Not wanting to deal with Nate’s Jesuit guilt over Eliot never being more than an honorary uncle, the retrieval specialist planned to be gone until Rowena Jamie Ford was at least 3 months old, giving Nate plenty of time to bond and forget that Eliot was ever a part of the child’s creation.
Maybe instead of a job, he’d tell Quinn about the ranch and they could spend a couple months relaxing … That thought gave him pause. He’d never in the ten years he’d owned the ranch told anyone about it, but now he wanted to share it with Quinn?
The younger man was just hitting the top of his game, and people in their profession never talked about retirement because they rarely got to retire. They usually ended up dead in some backwater retrieving something not worth what the client was paying, or taking a bullet for some ass with more money than sense.
Feeling Quinn’s body going limp in his arms, Eliot shook him awake.
“Come on, Bubba. You’ll get chilled laying out here.”
“I’ve got my own personal furnace.” He started to snuggle back down.
Eliot dropped his voice so only the younger man would hear.
“Do you really want to have sex on Nate and Sophie’s patio?”
“And have Parker ask to watch? Are you touched?” Quinn growled as he climbed off the chaise lounge.
Eliot chuckled as they made their round of good-nights.
“You’re just going home early so you can have hot monkey sex.” Parker theorized as she sat on Quinn’s chest after landing on him when she’d slithered out of a tree.
“Parker!” Hardison sounded horrified as everyone else laughed.
Eliot gave them a hand up.
“That’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.” Eliot smirked at the hacker.
As he shoved Quinn toward the door he called back over his shoulder.
“I’ll call you.”
“Are you sure this is the only way?”
“I want all traces of that man obliterated.”
“What about Eliot?”
“You said he’s survived many things.”
“Not what we’re about to do. We could lose him.”
“You are being very well paid for your part in this. That should provide a man like you comfort.”
“Not anymore.” He whispered.
Pushing his glasses up his nose, Eliot read through the notes he and Parker had made on a preliminary reconnoiter for a job they were considering once Sophie recovered from Rowena’s birth. They had taken a few jobs that could be handled without the grifter, just to keep boredom at a minimum. A bored Parker is never a good thing.
Eliot grinned when he felt his pocket buzz. He pulled it out hoping it was Quinn saying his long assed contract was finally finished. The grin turned to a scowl when the number showed ‘Restricted’.
“Talk.” He growled in the phone.
“He has escaped and gone to ground.” A voice he recognized as now Presidente Flores told him.
“It was discovered during the morning check.”
“How’d he leave the country?”
“It appears to have been by boat.”
“A corrupt guard at the prison.”
“Any idea who he is?”
“No. The information on his application was falsified.”
“Thank you for calling, Sir. It will give me time to get my family safe.” Eliot said sincerely.
The call ended.
Flores leaned against the wall to collect himself. When he hatched this plan to clear his country of the stench of Damien Moreau, he never dreamed it would be so complicated. Eliot and his friends had made it look so easy … The way they manipulated the players in their game into doing their bidding, had intrigued the former general until he studied every aspect of how they stole the election and put Moreau in prison.
He remembered the expression on the Eliot’s face when the door clanged shut on Moreau. It was as though a great weight had lifted from the retrieval specialist’s shoulders as he thumped Flores on the back in congratulations before disappearing into the crowd of revelers.
Wiping his hand over his face to clear the memories, Flores straightened from the wall and headed for his office. It was done, his course was set. He would see it through to the end, and light a candle that one day he would be forgiven.
Eliot laid his forehead on his desk. Moreau was loose and probably heading toward the States as fast as he could while dodging law enforcement. Then some devil in his brain had him wondering if General … Presidente Flores would call Interpol … Admit that one of the most wanted men in the world had escaped his San Lorenzo prison, or if he’d keep it hidden and send his own men to find Moreau. Either way if was up to him to protect the family. He picked up his phone and dialed.
It was deep in the night when Eliot stretched out on his office couch and pulled the afghan off the back over his shoulders. He’d done everything he could until everyone was awake so now he could rest for a minute.
Breakfast was waiting when everyone appeared the next morning. They saw bags and crates piled by the door.
“Eliot, what’s going on?” Nate asked as seated Sophie at the table.
“You’re leaving after breakfast.” He answered flatly.
“What do you mean, leavin’?” Hardison’s voice was grating. “I just got this place just the way I like it, and you expect us to leave?”
Eliot stopped what he was doing and looked up. Sophie gasped at the dead eyed look on his face.
“What’s happened?” Her simple question left the others sputtering.
“When?” Nate demanded.
“Flores called me after y’all went to bed last night.”
“You should have woke us up.” Parker stated.
“You needed the sleep. You have a long trip ahead of you.”
“What do you mean long trip? Where are we going?”
“Not we … You. I’m sending you the safest place I know. No one knows about it. You’ll be safe there.” Eliot picked up several crates and headed for the door.
“What about Sophie and Rowena?” Parker asked.
“Taken care of. Their medical records are in that case …” he pointed to the red case, “Along with Hardison’s favorite computer of the moment.”
He finished loading the big SUV in front of the house.
He walked up to Nate.
“Here’s your map. Do not plot it into any GPS or any other electronic gizmo that can be traced. I want you totally off grid. Man you’re meetin’s name is Jake Pike. He knows everything about the situation, and he’ll take care of gettin’ Sophie and Ro to a doctor … The works. Him and the rest of the crew will take care of you, keep you safe.” His tone softened.
“What about you?” Parker looked confused.
Eliot took a deep breath and hoped they didn’t fight him.
“Remember what I told you?” He asked her quietly. “Remember what I said about you and me?”
The blonde head bobbed as the lump in her throat kept her from speaking.
“This is one of those times.”
She threw herself into his arms and buried her face in his neck, and wept silently. He let her cry for several minutes before giving her a squeeze.
“We need to get you on the road.” His voice was quiet.
Nodding, she took a step back, wiped her face on her sleeves, and grabbed the next box.
“Let’s move it, people. Ain’t got all day.” She shouted.
Sophie gasped. “You aren’t coming with us.”
“It’s me he wants. They only way you get time to get to where you’re going is if I stay.” The General probably has Interpol on Moreau’s trail as we speak. Sterling will probably get here before Moreau.” He gave them a cheeky smirk.
An hour later the SUV pulled away from the house leaving Eliot standing in the driveway.
Three days later, a call from Jake let him know the team had arrived.
Three days after the call, he was stacking bodies like cord wood outside their office as a group of men tried to take him. They were obviously under orders to take him alive while he was under no such compunction. Bones snapped, bodies lay unmoving as he refused to go down until he looked into the sherry colored eyes staring from behind the balaclava and paused … A pause that allowed a needle to puncture the vein, which allowed the tranquilizer to enter his adrenaline hyped system. Breaking the wrist of the man wielding the needle, he began to move toward the man who the week before had lain under him offering his body and his heart, now offered his betrayal.
As the drug pulled him under there was something in those brown eyes as he was caught in strong arms and gently lowered to the ground.
“Hardison have you found anything?” Nate asked as he watched the hacker feed camera footage through facial recognition.
“Two vans pulled up to the office three days ago, but I haven’t found any camera angle that lets me see faces, plus it looks like they’re wearing masks. The vans were there for an hour before they left. I was able to follow them to a bunch of abandoned warehouses across town, but with no cameras in that area there’s no way to tell where they went.”
“Have you been able to get in touch with Quinn or Flores?”
Hardison shook his head.
“The number I have for Quinn goes to voicemail and I’m getting the run around from San Lorenzo.”
Nate turned to see three sets of eyes watching him expectantly.
“Fine.” He pulled out his phone and dialed.
“Was Interpol informed that Damien Moreau had escaped from prison in San Lorenzo?”
“Hello to you, too, Nate?”
“Did President Flores from San Lorenzo inform Interpol that Moreau had escaped?”
He listened to Sterling turning pages. Knowing his impatience would only feed Sterling’s ego, Nate bit his tongue and waited.
“It appears that the government of San Lorenzo has been remiss in its reporting Moreau’s escape. Perhaps it’s time I become acquainted with the officials to see how such a thing could happen.”
The line was silent for several beats.
“You owe him and us for your daughter.” Nate reminded before Sterling got too entrenched in his moral superiority.
He could almost hear Sterling deflate.
“I’ll let you know what I find out.”
As awareness returned, his brain was already cataloging his surroundings and his physical condition. He couldn’t have been unconscious very long—his arms were just beginning to tingle from being stretched over his head. Smells told him wherever he was had been abandoned until recently. Among those smells were two that he would never forget. Both scents caused the acid in his stomach to rise to his throat. They belonged to two men who knew him better than anyone living, and he, always the tactician, knew exactly how they would use that knowledge.
Two sets of eyes watched the body hanging from shackled wrists. Anger and madness showed in the hazel eyes of Damien Moreau. He paid little attention to the man standing behind him, the man responsible for giving him what he’d lusted after as he sat in his prison cell … Eliot Spencer at his mercy.
Whiskey colored eyes watched the insanity Moreau had kept in check coming to the fore as Eliot swung from his wrists. Nothing in Quinn’s body language or face gave a hint at the turmoil going on inside.
Eliot had introduced him to Flores when they’d taken a vacation to the beautiful little country, he never dreamed he’d be the reason his lover was about to tortured by an insane sadist. He prayed to the god of his childhood if it existed that Flores would quickly round up the players involved in the corruption of the judicial and penal system of his country. It was the last bastion of the Ribera regime the Leverage crew had unseated.
He sent another prayer out to the universe that Eliot would forgive him when he knew the whole story. Quinn knew the only reason they’d gotten close enough to drug his lover was because Eliot had recognized him behind his balaclava, causing the older retrieval specialist to hesitate.
No completely trusting Flores, he’d set up an email to be sent to Hardison if they weren’t free of Moreau within the next ten days. The last hope he sent to whoever was listening was that he and Eliot made it out of this without permanent damage.
The President of San Lorenzo frowned at Stefan, his personal assistant. The younger man had served him in the same capacity before he’d retired from the military. When he’d retired, Stefan followed him into the private sector. Absolutely loyal, he knew the young man wasn’t lying when he said James Sterling from Interpol was in the outer office.
The cells beneath the government offices had many new guests, and he himself had called Interpol an hour ago to report Moreau’s escape so he was curious to find how an officer had gotten here so fast.
“Is Mr. Sterling comfortable for the moment?” Flores asked.
“Yes Sir. I explained you were on an overseas call.”
“Give me five minutes then send him in.”
When Sterling entered the room, Flores came around his desk, hand extended.
“Mr. Sterling! It’s only been an hour since I telephoned your office. Do you have Moreau in custody already?”
Hazel eyes full of keen intelligence narrowed at the President’s behavior.
“No. I don’t have any information about Damien Moreau except for the fact that he actually disappeared at least a week ago.” He sat in the pre-offered chair.
“Is that so?” Flores settled behind his desk. “From where did you receive this information?”
“A very reliable source.” Sterling smirked.
“What did this reliable source tell you?” Flores tried to steel himself for whatever Sterling would say … After all he was a retired general.
“That Eliot Spencer had packed them off to a safe house because Damien Moreau had escaped and would surely be coming to find them. They lost contact with Eliot Spencer four days ago.” Sterling picked up his coffee cup and watched El Presidente closely.
A smirk formed as James Sterling watched Presidente Flores digest the information he’d been handed. He had to give him credit. Flores was good, but he was better. Nathan Ford might be a lot of things Sterling didn’t like, but he’d been an excellent mentor in reading people. There was a slight tightening of the mouth, the slight deepening of the crease between the dark brows, all telling James Sterling that the President was considering his options.
By the time Flores finished giving Sterling the details of his plan, both men had switched from coffee to scotch. Sterling had grown to respect Eliot for his sharp mind and brutal honesty though he still held a grudge over that little thing where he’d drugged him in Dubai. The plan that Flores had hatched using the man he knew was Eliot’s lover as his inside agent appealed to his Machiavellian side, but appalled him at the same time.
“Oh Presidente, you may soon live to regret this little plan.” Sterling commiserated. “Nathan Ford finds out about your machinations …” He trailed off has he stood to leave. “I wouldn’t look for Eliot Spencer to forgive you anytime soon, either.”
“I have always done what was necessary to protect my country.” Flores puffed up to cover his guilt.
“Not this time, Presidente. This time you were looking to solve a problem and keep your hands clean at the same time.”
Hand on the door handle he turned back to Flores.
“By the by … Did Mr. Quinn tell you where they’re holding Eliot?” He smiled as Flores paled. “I myself have made use of Mr. Quinn’s services in the past. He’s not on the same level as Eliot, but he’s made vast improvement since he started keeping company with Spencer.”
The minister visibly deflated then wrote something on a piece of paper.
“These are their last know coordinates. I was about to contact their hacker … Hardison … When Stefan informed me of your presence.”
“Were you now?” Sterling’s expression said he didn’t believe Flores.
Before the man could answer, the Interpol agent was out the door.
He’d lost track. Not of time, his internal clock still kept perfect time. What he’d lost track of was the number of times the blade of the knife separated his skin. He made no noise. He’d bite his own tongue in two before he gave Moreau the satisfaction of hearing his pain.
There were times when buckets of salt water were thrown over his wounds that almost caused him to scream, then he’d remember Quinn standing at Moreau’s shoulder and sink into the pain … Welcoming the darkness.
Quinn was beginning to quietly panic. It had been a week since he sent the coordinates to Flores and no one had come for them. He’d expected to see Sterling or Ford come through the door like the hounds of hell we behind them, but there was no one.
Not wanting to alienate Moreau, he followed the man’s instructions to the letter until Moreau left the warehouse each day. Even on the lam, Damien Moreau refused to stay in an abandoned warehouse. He carefully tended Eliot’s wounds thankful each day the Moreau hadn’t cut something that would cripple or cause Eliot to bleed out. With only the ambient light to see, he’d coax the older man to drink and eat what little he could manage, lacing the food with as much antibiotic and painkiller as he dared. When he had done all he could, he’d use his body to cushion Eliot from the concrete floor and in a ragged whisper beg his forgiveness.
He listened. The noises outside the building, the sound of Damien’s satisfaction along with the sound of the knife separating his skin … He learned new sounds like the noise blood made in a silent room as it ran in rivulets down his body … He even fancied he could hear the sound the drops made when they hit the floor.
He listened as Moreau talked incessantly, and wished he’d just shut the fuck up and get on with his big master plan. He’d done his job, the team was safe, his daughter was safe and would have them to love her as he could not.
The last thing he listened to every night was Quinn. He listened as he told him about Moreau’s insanity, Flores’ plan, and his own ego for going along with the General’s plan thinking he’d be able to protect him until Flores or Interpol or even the team got there to end this travesty of a plan. He fell into unconsciousness each night cradled in the younger man’s arms as he listened to Quinn’s entreaties to hold on and never forget he had people who loved him and needed him alive. He listened to the younger hitter beg for his forgiveness.
As he had every morning for fourteen days, Quinn pulled Eliot’s arms over his head until his toes touched just enough to give the muscular arms a small respite. Hearing a vehicle stop outside, he stepped away from the swinging body to stand patiently in the same place he’d stood every day since this began. Giving up that anyone was coming for them Quinn had started to make his own plan.
As Quinn gently let his arms take his weight, Eliot closed his eyes and let himself feel everything. There had been a change in Quinn. He was tense, angry. The air was still, the birds and insects silent as though anticipating a great event. He opened his eyes to see Damien stop and speak with Quinn. The younger man acted as though he was going to argue with something Moreau said, but finally nodded and left the building. When the car pulled away he knew what was going to happen today. Today one of them would die.
Nathan Ford wanted to scream his frustration. Eliot’s foreman … All of the people working on the Flying S were intelligent, helpful, highly trained, and extremely protective of each other and those they’d been told to protect even against themselves. The rest of the team was just as frustrated, but for the sake of peace everyone was trying to project a calm they didn’t feel.
Rowena was his and Sophie’s on paper. She looked like her mother until she opened those blue eyes and stared into your soul. She was as hyper-aware of her surroundings as her biological father, and was quick to let everyone know she wasn’t happy, which since Eliot had gone missing she was unhappy … A lot.
It had been fourteen days with no word. Sitting on the wide porch enjoying the respite from the south Texas heat, everyone came instantly alert when Nate’s phone rang. Hardison ran out of the house, but a raised hand silenced him.
Nate listened for several minutes.
“You just now confirmed? How long have you had this information, Sterling?”
“You could have given it to us when you got it. Hardison could have confirmed it the same day. Still climbing the corporate ladder on the backs of my team?”
He disconnected the call. Before he could speak, Hardison’s phone rang.
“QUINN! Where have you been, man? We’ve been tryin’ for two weeks to get a hold of you. Moreau’s escaped, Eliot’s missin’, we think Moreau grabbed him after he sent us to some godforsaken place in the outback of nowhere …” The hacker stopped his spiral when Quinn interrupted him. He pulled the phone away from his ear and put it on speaker. “You want to very carefully repeat what you just said? I don’t think I heard you right. I warn you, you’re on speaker.”
“I said: It’s safe to come back to Portland. Moreau is dead.” Quinn stopped.
“Eliot. What about Eliot?” Nate asked.
There was a long pause.
“What do you mean missing?”
“I mean he’s not here, and he’s injured.”
Before Quinn could say anymore they heard a familiar voice.
“Mr. Quinn! A word about what happened here.” James Sterling’s condescending voice came across the phone as the call disconnected.
“Find Jake.” Nate barked at Parker. As the blonde took off he turned to Hardison and Sophie, who were already on the move. “Get packed. Hardison.”
“Tickets. On it.” He ran back in the house.
“Stay with Rowena. I’ll take care of getting us ready.” Sophie assured him with a soft kiss. “He’ll probably be at the house with an ice pack on his bruises when we get there.”
“I hope she’s right.” Nate whispered to his sleeping daughter.
He tested the shackles as a punch to the body from Moreau sent him swinging. He knew Quinn left them a little looser each morning. He could feel the blood starting to trickle where the cuffs cut into his wrists, acting as lubricant. Each time his swing changed directions Damien would be there with his knife leaving a line of red across his torso. He knew it was only a matter of time until the former arms dealer/financier got bored and started going for things that were important … Hamstrings, tendons, genitals … Things that would cripple … Eyes, major nerves, fingers, kidneys. Most of the damage had been confined to his torso, Moreau’s way of playing with him, trying to get inside his head.
Sending Quinn away meant playtime was over.
“You’re still so beautiful.” Moreau murmured as the tip of the knife went in the skin and skittered along his hip bone. “Chapman was a poor substitute after you left. All brute … No brain … I did so miss you, lepoto moja (my beauty).”
Damien stopped his body from swinging, and stepped back like an artist inspecting a canvas.
“Perhaps… There is a way …” He muttered to himself.
Grabbing the chains that controlled the hoist he was hanging from, Moreau began to lower him until they were face to face and his feet were almost under him. Damien pulled the knife out of his belt and moved toward him, the gleam in the hazel eyes half-past crazy.
He never looked away from the handsome face as the knife came closer. He felt the knife running along his brow bone, but had to close his right eye as the blood obscured his vision as he quietly wrapped his hands around the chain between his cuffs.
“I always loved this part of your face. When you scowl, the bones make you look so fierce. This will dim your beauty, but not diminish that famous Spencer glare. Soon only my hand will touch you for all others will turn away from your scars.” Damien started following his facial bones with the blade of the knife.
His face a crimson mask, the agony, anger, and betrayal of the last two weeks were all channeled into one effort. In a blink of any eye, he was driving Moreau’s nasal bone into his brain with snap of his head. Hands slid through blood slicked cuffs. Adrenaline surged, exhausted, he crumbled to his knees beside Moreau. Crawling forward he checked for a carotid pulse. Finding none, he fought the urge to find a wooden stake to drive through the broad chest to make sure the dead stayed dead. Struggling to his feet he staggered toward the place Quinn put him at night hoping there were still supplies.
Going through the supplies he was beginning to think that maybe Quinn was telling the truth about the Flores hare-brained scheme. The emotional pain that had heaped on top of the physical pain Moreau was dishing out had him off balance and by no means ready to welcome him back in his bed.
Looking at his face after he’d washed away the blood and made liberal use of the butterfly bandages in the first aid kit, he considered Moreau was probably right when he said no one would want him again.
Scars were scars and nothing he could do anything about. Instead of simpering in front of the mirror like a teenage girl, he bandaged what he could reach then pulled on the clothes in the duffle. Finding a wallet with one of his ID’s and plenty of cash, it was time to leave before Quinn got back. He was not ready to face Quinn or anyone else right now so fortified with mild painkillers, protein bars and energy drinks, he headed to a little clinic he knew always needed money and didn’t ask a lot of questions when you paid in cash.
There was a collective sigh of relief when the cab pulled away from the historic houses that made up the Leverage and Associates complex. The offices and Eliot’s house were situated at the mouth of the dead end street with Hardison and Parker’s next and Sophie and Nate’s at the end of the street, their backyards separated from the public thoroughfare by a tall historically correct fence that afforded them security and soundproofing.
Luggage was shoved in the reception area as Hardison got to work to find out what was happening. He’d been working during the flight, but there was not a lot of information on the electronic wavelengths. There was the body of Damien Moreau found in a warehouse with his nasal bone shoved into his frontal lobe, but other than that nothing. There was no DNA samples, the photos showed an old warehouse with a dead body … No blood trails, fingerprints … Nothing … Totally sterilized.
“Eliot might have made a phone call for clean-up in aisle one because the CSI folks found nada, zip, zero, and Sterling is mad as a hornet.” Hardison informed them.
“Sterling not getting his way is a bonus, but what about Eliot, or for that matter, where’s Quinn?”
“Right here.” The weary voice came from the door.
“Where have you been?” Sophie asked as she settled Rowena to feed.
“After I finally got away from the Sterling and the cops I went looking for Eliot.” He rubbed his hands over his face.
“Well?” Parker perched on the chair arm by where Quinn leaned on the door frame.
“He’s gone to ground.”
“Why wouldn’t he come home?” She asked.
“He’s hurt, pissed, betrayed, and vulnerable. It’s his job to protect you, not the other way around so he won’t surface until he feels he’s able to do that again.”
“Hurt? How hurt?” They could see the wheels turning in Nate’s head.
Hardison went back to his keyboard.
“What ID did Eliot have on him?”
“That won’t work.” Quinn sat down next to Sophie running a finger softly over Rowena’s dark hair that was so like Eliot’s.
“Why not? I can find anyone.” The hacker practically stomped his foot.
“Eliot’s a pro. Eliot’s old school. Cash only. No questions. He probably has connections in this city you don’t know about, and really don’t want to know about. It’s all part of how he does his job.”
“So help us find him.” Nate insisted.
Quinn stood and walked toward the door, but Parker blocked his path.
“Please?” She asked.
“You’re not listening.” The hitter ground out from between clenched teeth. “He doesn’t want to be found, won’t allow anyone to find him until he wants to be found.” He waved his hand at Hardison’s computers. “All the searching in the world won’t make that happen until Eliot’s ready. You’re not the mastermind on this job, Nate … Eliot is.” He picked the thief off the ground and set her gently to the side.
“What do we do now?” Parker asked after the door closed.
“Wait. Use Quinn until Eliot comes home. Short of walking the streets and falling over him there’s not a lot we can do.” Nate rubbed a hand over his mouth wishing for a large glass of Irish whiskey.
Looking over at Sophie and Rowena, he poured a cup of coffee, and went back to studying a map of the area surrounding the warehouse trying to figure out where Eliot would hide.
He’d installed the security at the clinic, so knew exactly how to disarm it. He stripped and stood under the hot water of the shower until the water ran red. By the time he’d dried off most of the bleeding had stopped except for his mangled wrists and a few of the deeper cuts on his back and face. He was pulling on his pants when a gasp and curse sounded behind him.
“Who the hell! … Holy fuck, Spencer! What the hell happened?”
“Cut myself takin’ out the trash.” The exhausted unused voice sounded rusty.
“No shit.” He walked around the retrieval specialist. “This trash got a name?”
“Not anymore. Just a toe tag.”
“Sit your ass on the table, and let me look at you. You’re gonna have more fuckin’ stitches than granny’s patchwork quilt.”
Working efficiently but keeping up a running dialogue that garnered the occasional grunt or growl from his patient, Dr. Jules Anders was trying very hard not to let his anger at his friend’s condition spill out. He should have known not to bother.
“You gonna pop that valve before you bust somethin’?” He asked quietly.
“I hope the son of a bitch that did this is dead. I may have to go find him just to make sure.”
“He should be in the morgue if Interpol hasn’t hauled him back to Europe.”
“Interpol! You mean that ass, Sterling that was talking like he’d done something?”
“Dammit Eliot. If this is gonna happen to you, I’d rather you go back to bein’ a bad guy.” The dark forehead rested against his shoulder. “Where the fuck was Quinn in all this?”
“I was takin’ care of myself long before I started fuckin’ Quinn.” Eliot growled as he started to jerk away.
“That’s not what I meant and you fuckin’ know it.” He clipped the last stitch on the broad back. “Can you lie down? I really need the light if I’m going to help you keep your pretty face.”
Jules watched as Eliot fought the pain coursing through his body as he lay down. He knew the answer to his next question, but he had to ask.
“Let me give you something for the pain.”
He reached in his pocket for a vial. He felt the vise of Eliot’s grip on his wrist. He opened his hand and let Eliot see the vial.
“Sorry, Jules. Havin’ a few trust issues.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“Yeah, well there were some others I thought the same about, but was recently proven wrong.”
‘The doctor reached out with his free hand and cupped the lacerated face.
“You have always been safe with me.”
He released the wrist and relaxed.
“I’m really tired, Jules.”
“Let me take care of you for a while.” He whispered as the drug took effect.
The doctor smiled as the pale eyes closed and the exhausted body relaxed.
“You forgot to figure in your blood loss and exhaustion, old friend.” He pulled on fresh gloves.
When he was done he helped his old teammate to the huge leather couch in his office and watched over him as he rested.
Hearing his staff coming in to start the day, he left the office to make sure they had work that would keep them away from his office. He was not surprised when he came back to the office to find it empty. He smiled when he saw the bottles of meds he’d left sitting on his desk were missing. He looked at the note he’d left telling Eliot he was welcome anytime, but within fourteen days to have his stitches removed. Double checking to make sure the retrieval specialist had actually left the office, he dialed a number.
“What the fucking hell happened!?”
Quinn threw his phone on the table his ears ringing from the shouting that had come over the phone. He knew he shouldn’t have left, but if he’d stayed Moreau wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot him for not doing what he wanted.
He’d come clean to the team about Flores hiring him. He did not tell them how Flores had neatly blackmailed him emotionally into taking the job by threatening to bring in someone who would not care how badly Eliot was hurt or even if he survived Moreau. He’d made San Lorenzo dig deep in their coffers for putting him between a rock and hard place.
If he invested wisely he could be very selective about any jobs in the future, and he hoped Eliot would be a part of that future. Though the team was upset with him, they were working on forgiving him because he was Eliot’s, as Parker had so bluntly stated though the way she’d stared at him with those dark blue eyes narrowed down to slits, he had his doubts. He knew he was glad to be half a world away from San Lorenzo because Nathan Ford’s brain fueling Hardison’s hacker’s skills scared the bejesus out of him.
He at least had a starting point to begin his search for Eliot. He wanted him home, in his arms, in their bed where he belonged and not wandering the streets of Portland dealing with his pain and nightmares by himself.
If Eliot found out Doc Jules had called him, in his present state of mind he would probably consider that just one more betrayal by people he considered family, and go further underground. He would have to wait a couple days before he searched the neighborhood where the clinic was located to throw off any suspicion.
Knowing he wouldn’t sleep in their too big bed, he stretched out on the couch needing to sleep if he was going to be combing through the less savory parts of the city after dark.
Three days of no success, Quinn gave in to his frustration and went to visit Doc Jules at home.
“He’s not here.” Jules greeted him with a frown.
Quinn rolled his eyes. “I didn’t think he was. How bad was he?”
“So many stitches I lost track. He looked like Frankenfuckingstein’s monster when he went out of door.” He stepped back and let the younger man through the door. “His face … I did the best I could, but I don’t know how much scarring there’ll be.” He threw back the bourbon in his glass.
“I don’t care. I just want him home.” Quinn fought the urge to throw his glass into the fireplace.
“I hate to tell you this, ‘ol son, it may be awhile before you see Eliot. He’ll not come back until he thinks he’s worked out all his triggers and is safe to be around.” The doctor refilled Quinn’s glass.
“Did you say there’s a baby in the group?”
“Couple three months old.” Quinn confirmed.
“If there’s a kid around he’ll make double sure.” He said more to himself then Quinn.
“Perfect.” The hitter murmured sarcastically.
He pulled the oversized hood up so it kept his face in the shadows. He knew he was in the area where Mac and the other vets from the college experiment stayed, but he didn’t seek them out … He just wanted to be somewhere that if something triggered a flashback or he got stuck in a nightmare, there were familiar sounds and smells that might pull him back to reality.
It was a week since Jules had stitched him back together and so far things hadn’t been too bad. Nightmares when he did sleep, but no flashbacks. His old nightmares of Damien Moreau merged with his new nightmares, and developed all the makings of an award winning horror movie. He was hoping by the time his stitches were removed he’d have his brain back under control. After that he’d worry about residual scarring. He wouldn’t be able to work a con if the scars were too noticeable. Things like that stood out in the minds of even the most oblivious of people.
Quinn would be their better choice. Physically in his prime, that smooth baby face, whiskey colored eyes, and the morals of a shark, he’d do what was needed and never lose a wink of sleep, or question Nate when the mastermind’s plans started going sideways. The kid loved the rush of getting away with only the narrowest of cushions between him and disaster.
Yes, Nate and Quinn would be a match made in thieves’ heaven.
A gloved hand absent mindedly rubbed his chest at the thought of not seeing Quinn, Rowena or any of the team again.
“I need your help.”
“Anything you want, little mama.” Hardison looked up from his computer screen. “What are we stealing?”
“Eliot.” She perched on the edge of the chair ready to run. “I want to steal Eliot from wherever he is.”
“Parker, we don’t know where to find Eliot. Even his doctor friend doesn’t know where he went. We’re doing everything we can to find him. See?” The hacker pointed to the pictures and words moving across multiple screens too fast to read.
“NO! We’re not doing everything we can. You don’t find someone like Eliot with a computer.” She jumped up and began to pace. “He’s somewhere, and the only one looking somewhere is Quinn. The rest of us are just sitting here searching nowhere, waiting on some magic answer from your stupid computer!”
“Parker … Parker … You’ve got to calm down. Nate and Sophie are working out a profile of where he might be while Quinn’s checking the places someone like them hangs.” He reached out to pull the thief in for a hug and was surprised when she slapped his hands away.
“Someone like them! A profile! Dammit Alec that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say. Profiling Eliot is like profiling …Me. We don’t have a profile. If we have a profile we’re predictable, if we’re predictable we can’t do our jobs, and if he’s not somewhere then he’s nowhere! We’ve been nowhere! This … This … Family was supposed to keep us from ever going back to nowhere!” She was shouting by the time she finished the sentence.
Quinn, Nate and Sophie rushed in the room to see what had happened just in time to watch Parker run out the door leaving a bewildered Hardison in the middle of the room.
“What was that all about?” Sophie looked pointedly at Hardison.
“She doesn’t think we’re doing all we can to find Eliot.” He rubbed a hand over his short-cropped curls.
“She’s right.”Quinn’s quiet tenor broke the quiet.
“WHAT!” The other three stared at him.
“You don’t find a man like Eliot Spencer using a computer or a profile.” He looked at Nate. “Did you ever catch Eliot when you chased him?” Nate shook his head. “Come close?”
“I thought I was, but he’d change his MO and I’d lose him again.”
“Exactly.” Quinn smiled broadly then looked at his watch. “Gotta go. Time to make the rounds.”
“Rounds?” Nate looked at Hardison.
“Places close to Anders’ office where he thinks Eliot might be.” Hardison pulled up a map on one of the plasma screens. “He thinks Eliot’ll stay in the general area until the doc takes his stitches out.”
Before the hacker could continue, Nate ran out yelling Quinn’s name, only to find Parker had waylaid the hitter on his way to his vehicle.
“Quinn!” Nate called. “You’re going to Anders’ office?”
“No. I always go to the house on his days off.”
“We’re going with you.”
“What?!” Parker and Quinn said together.
“Parker’s right. We’ve waited long enough for Eliot to come home. I want to talk to your doctor friend.”
The mastermind held up his hand. “We’ve been expecting you to bring him home because a retrieval specialist should be able to catch a retrieval specialist. That was our first in a long line of mistaken assumptions.” He looked up at their confused expressions. “Come back inside and we’ll go see Dr. Anders together.”
“TWO DAYS AGO!” Parker moved between the angry Quinn and the doctor. “WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU CALL!”
“I promised him I wouldn’t.” Anders sat heavily in his chair. He looked up at their expectant faces.
Quinn reigned in his temper and his panic.
“Why would you promise him something like that?”
Jules Anders looked into whiskey colored eyes that were full of confusion, guilt, and pain. He began to wonder if Eliot had taken his nightmares and built them into a delusion.
“He told me you didn’t need him. His scars made him useless on the job. You had Quinn to keep you safe. I thought he had gone home and you, … his glare took in the team, “Had rejected him.”
“None of us have seen him.” Sophie tried to calm herself as Rowena began to fuss.
“He’s seen you. He watches over you.”
Hardison reached for his computer.
“That’s not possible. We have measures, cameras …”
“Who installed those measures?” Nate asked the hacker.
“Jules, how bad is the scarring?” Quinn’s mind was racing to all the ways this could be really bad.
“Minimal. Once the pink fades out of the tissue they’ll be hardly noticeable. Six months to a year only someone close as a lover should even see them.”
“What does Eliot see, Doctor?” Sophie asked quietly as she soothed their daughter.
“The night I sewed him up I jokingly said he looked like my granny’s patchwork quilt.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “We’ve known each other a long time, and he was fine with it, but he’s spent too much time alone since Moreau with nothing to keep him grounded in reality.”
“Only seeing us at night gives him no point of reference that we’ve been looking for him.” Sophie filled in the rest.
“Thanks, Doc.” Nate stood abruptly. “Let’s go. We need a new plan.”
“What new plan?” Parker asked. “I didn’t know we had an old plan?”
Nate turned to correct the thief who was standing with her arms crossed stubbornly. His eyes went wide.
The room fell silent. Even Rowena stared at him, waiting.
“Parker’s going to steal Eliot for us.”
“She is?” Hardison and Sophie parroted.
“It’s perfect.” Quinn patted her on the shoulder and herded them out the door.
Eliot turned his head just enough to see who was speaking, without giving anything away. He knew the man walking toward him, but couldn’t remember from where.
“It’s Mac. Sempre Fi from that study where we kicked college boy ass.”
Eliot smiled briefly.
“Hey man. How ya been?”
“Pretty good. That deal your brother-in-law got us into’s been working—helping us get back on our feet and back out in the real world.
Eliot paused trying to remember the details from after the job. Hardison had told the guys Parker was his sister, and they’d been looking for him so the men would trust the team the way they’d come to trust Eliot.
“What’re you doin’ back out here? Why aren’t you home with your family?” The older man asked.
“Something went down …” Eliot closed his eyes trying to set things right in his mind. He pushed his hood back, revealing his scars. “I’m Frankenstein. I’ll scare the baby. They have someone younger, handsome, to protect them.”
“Man, are you off your meds? They’re yer family. They can’t replace family. I sure don’t see no Frankenstein. Hell, I’ve got worse scars from cuttin’ myself shavin’ … When I still shaved … Then you got on your cheek.”
Eliot blinked, confused at the old vet’s words.
“But the doc said …”
“What? One of those stressed out VA docs?” Mac put his hand on Eliot’s shoulder and tried to coax him inside the shelter. Maybe they’d let him call his family.
Eliot shook his head. “Naw, man, he’s a friend. When he was sewin’ …” Eliot shook his head again.
“A friend? I’ll bet he was joshin’ ya so you wouldn’t worry about yer pretty face.” Mac cajoled as he edged them closer to the door.
“He said that.”
“Where’s he live?’ Mac desperately wanted to help the confused man to repay all they’d done for him. “Do you remember his phone number?”
“No!” Eliot stopped. “No phones. He can trace the phones.”
“Who can trace the phones, Spook?”
“Man … Moreau … No Hardison …” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I have to go.”
“Spook, No! Stay here with me.” He grabbed Eliot’s sleeve. “Sometimes you just have to sit tight for someone to find you.”
“They don’t wanna find me.” He looked around. “Can’t sit still. Gotta go.” He pulled his sleeve from Mac’s fingers and disappeared into the crowd.
Talking with Mac made him realize how clouded his mind had become. He thought being away from everything he knew would help him get clarity, but it only seemed to be adding to the confusion. He couldn’t stay this way. If he didn’t soon get his control back he’d become like Mac and the others he’d seen at the shelter, except he’d end up hurting someone. He tried to pull images of where he’d found what he needed when he couldn’t find it within himself.
Going back to the SRO where he’d left his kit, the smells and oppression of the place closed in on him. Grabbing the backpack, he cleared his mind as best he could while keeping awareness of his surroundings. As the sky turned dark he continued to walk. Keeping to the shadows, moving with the darkness there was an underlying scent to the area. Keeping close to the wall, he circumvented the houses on the dead end street. There were only a few. He could feel their age as he stopped at the last one before he returned to the main thoroughfare.
In the shadows of an ancient oak was a seat. Ever cautious he listened and watched. All the houses were dark save the one at the end of the street. He settled in the seat that was angled so his back rested against the tree. Folding his legs so he sat tailor fashion, he leaned against the tree with an ease that surprised him, slipped into a meditative state.
He opened his eyes and looked down at his bare chest and buckskin pants. Bright pink lines of his new scars crisscrossed his chest and arms. He recognized the place he’d only ever seen in his dreams. His great grandparents, they’d taught him many things since he was a child, and had helped preserve what little sanity he had left.
E-du-di (Grandfather), Elisi (Grandmother), why have you come?
We heard your distress, grandson.
The old woman’s sharp eyes took in everything about him. You are nothing but flesh and bone. What ails you, Child?
I am lost inside too many realities in my mind.
Come abide for a time. The old man moved to his right as his great grandmother took the left, and led him into a two room cabin.
Settling him on palette by the fire, she covered him with a bear skin.
Rest, heal, we will talk of your loss when you have rested and regained your strength.
Unable to resist, the blue/grey eyes closed trusting his ancestors would keep him from harm while they healed his spirit.
When he opened his eyes, breakfast sat on the table. Under the watchful eye of his Elders, he ate until something told him it was time.
I have to go.
We will be here when we are needed, came their cryptic answer.
He stepped through the cabin door and…
Opened his eyes just as the first blush of dawn lit the sky.
Feeling more himself than he had since he’d looked up and recognized Quinn’s eyes staring at him from behind the balaclava.
Looking around he realized he was sitting in the backyard of his own house, and that he needed to get moving. Though he felt better, he still didn’t feel up to human company.
Still keeping to the shadows, he slipped around the wall and into the flow of traffic.
Leaving Nate with Sophie and Rowena in the van, Quinn and Hardison stood waiting for Parker to decide which way they were going.
Parker had crawled inside her own mental hell trying to think like Eliot. He was the strongest person she knew, but even the strongest go down if you hit them enough times. Just as she was about to give voice to her frustration, something tickled her nose.
Closing her eyes, she let her other senses find what she wanted.
A few feet away two men stood talking … One pointing as though giving directions. She watched for a few more minutes as the man walked into a small park further down the street and bent down to talk to someone else that caused Parker to jerk like she’d been shot and take off toward the park, Quinn hard on her heels, and Hardison hard pressed to catch up.
“Wait a minute, Girl!” The hacker called after them. “Where are you? … What did you …” He finally gave up and ran after the other two.
“Hey! You!” Parker shouted. “Not you.” She told two women who stopped to stare at the shout. “You with the grey beard thing.”
“Yeah. Who are you?” She sniffed again. “I know that smell.”
“Mac looked at the slim blonde for a minute. “Yer Spook’s sister.” He crowed.
“Who’s Spook.” Now it was Parker’s turn to be confused.
“I think he’s talking about Eliot, Parker.” Quinn prompted.
“Yeah. Eliot … I mean Spook.” She turned back to Mac. “Where is he?”
“That’s not the way it works down here, little lady.” Mac backed up a step at the look on all three faces.
“What’s to work? We want Eliot … You know where Eliot is … See nothing to know.”
“Some folks come down here for a little privacy. Eliot looked like he needed some of that.” Mac’s forehead pulled down in a frown. “He told me you folks didn’t want him no more.”
“Sir … Mac …” Quinn spread his hands as he stepped forward. “There was an accident. Eliot … Spook’s injuries caused him to become confused. We’ve been looking for him for more than a month.”
Mac watched the trio closely. “These two I know.” He squinted at Quinn. “I don’t know you.”
Parker wanted to giggle when Quinn blushed just because he was cute, but if Mac was going to tell them something so she needed to be kinda normal.
“Eliot and I are … Close.” He dropped his head to hide behind his hair.
The gesture was so reminiscent of Spook Mac took pity on them.
“I guess it’s been a day or so. Tried to get him to go in the shelter, maybe make a call but he said someone named Moreau or Hardison could track you on the phones. Then he seemed really confused, but I couldn’t get him to stay.” Mac admitted.
He was surprised when two strong arms wrapped around him as Parker gave him a hug.
“Thank you. You just made it easier for me to steal him back.”
They found little traces of him here and there, but after walking the streets in the vicinity of the park and shelter all day, Hardison was complaining about his feet hurting.
For three days they widened their search radius with no results.
“I can practically feel him.” Parker ground out. “Why won’t he let me see him?”
The team stood near the vendor selling cold drinks.
“Let’s have a drink and sit in the shade for a few minutes.” Nate suggested. “I’ll buy.”
The three youngest sprawled on the grass while Nate and Sophie opted for a nearby bench Rowena’s stroller between them. Still restless, Parker climbed an old birch tree and stretched out on a lower limb.
Relieved she finally relaxed, everyone else did too until she jumped off the limb and took off at run across the park. Caught flat-footed, Parker had a head start on the rest of the team. When Quinn and Hardison caught up to the blonde she was hanging from the neck of their lost retrieval specialist, and it looked like he was hugging her just as hard as she was hugging him.
When they got closer they could hear her chastising him for going nowhere when he had somewhere to be. His hood kept his face in shadow as much as his face buried against Parker’s neck breathing in her sunshine scent. Before anyone could slow him down, Hardison had wrapped his long arms around both of them.
When they let go, Sophie stepped in.
“I’m very cross with you. You’ve missed some very important babysitting and milestones in Rowena’s life.”
“Did Nate miss ‘em?”
“That’s all that matters.”
“No, Eliot. It is not all that matters.”
Nate’s hug was fast and hard. His eyes were red-rimmed, not from alcohol, but from holding back his emotions. He moved to pull down Eliot’s hood, but a hard hand on his wrist and a shake of the head let Nate know he wasn’t ready.
The only one left was Quinn. Too well trained to fidget, he waited quietly with his eyes on the ground. A finger under his chin raised his head.
“Eliot.” He had to stop and clear the lump out of his throat. “I’m …” Fingertips on his lips kept the words from tumbling out.
Eliot looked up to see the team … His family had formed a circle around him and Quinn. Though his eyes were locked on the younger man’s, his words were for all of them.
“I’ve got things mostly straight, and it’s going to take time to work out some trust issues, but if you’re willing, I want to work through this.”
When Quinn gave a short nod, Eliot pulled him into his arms.
“Eliot.” He spoke against his throat.
“We’ll take care of family business when we’re home, Quinn. It’ll keep.” Eliot pulled back, but kept his arm around his waist.
“So we walkin’ or ridin’?” He asked.
Everyone groaned except Parker and Quinn.
“Walking!” She declared happily as she pressed against Eliot’s other side.
The weather was perfect their penthouse perfect, the city spread before them while Eliot critiqued their meal holding Rowena in one arm while he and Quinn ate.
Not big on Broadway shows, they’d volunteered to babysit while the others had a night on the town. The occasion of their one year anniversary and Rowena’s second birthday had been all the excuse Sophie had needed to plan a trip to New York City.
It hadn’t been easy. There’d been yelling with scorching tones and cutting words, arctic silences, and on more than one occasion … Blood, but the slim platinum bands were a testament to their commitment.
Quinn looked across the table and pondered the strange turns his life had taken. If you’d have told him six years ago this is where’d he be … He’d have punched you for even hinting at a relationship between him and Eliot Spencer, and babysitting, Pfft, that suggestion would have gotten you laughed out of the room. Now there was nowhere else he’d rather be.
While Quinn was giving Rowena her bath, Eliot sat where he could watch the bathroom door then grabbed Hardison’s computer and started typing. He’d heard a voice in the lobby while they were taking a turn around the block with Ro. A voice he hoped never to hear again.
Staring at the computer he could feel his body preparing itself for battle. A high pitch squeal and a childish giggle pulled his attention from the screen. The warm, loving tones in Quinn’s voice as he played with Rowena grounded him in the present. He cleared the computer and joined the two most important people in his life.
Dark eyes opened slowly surveying the room. The blue numbers told him it was 3 am, but there was no hint of what had awakened him, his instincts screaming in his head ‘DANGER!’. He sat up and reached for the light, glad for once his wife had remained at home.
“You might not want to do that unless you’re ready to admire your handiwork first hand.” A deep gravel voice came from the shadowed chair by the window.
“Spencer?” He snapped on the bedside lamp, but his assassin turned friend turned savior to his country was still in the shadows. “They said you had disappeared.”
“Shame that’s not quite right … Would have tied everything up in a neat little package for you. All that nasty baggage gone … Just like that.” The retrieval specialist snapped his fingers.
Presidente Flores shivered at the dead tone in Spencer’s voice. General Flores understood it perfectly.
“You know …” he continued conversationally, “You would think after getting fucked over by my own crew so many times that it wouldn’t matter when someone I considered a friend … Who I put my life in jeopardy for not once, but three times, would think it perfectly okay to do the same thing. I mean after all I’m a bad man … A mercenary, Damien Moreau’s pet assassin. I have the blood of countless lives on my soul, so that made it perfectly justifiable to convince my lover, with not only a huge chunk of money from the treasury, but a good piece of your personal fortune that putting my life and the lives of my family in the sights of a psychopath was acceptable collateral damage.”
Flores flinched when Eliot leaned forward, but he simply rested his elbows on knees clasping his hands together as he continued. He was captivated by how loquacious the normally taciturn man had become. He must have said it out loud because there was a nasty chuckle from the shadows.
“Got no problem talkin’ when I’ve got something to say, just not so in love with the sound of my own voice that I talk just to make noise.” He stood and walked to the window and into the light though his face was still in the shadows. “Quinn’s usually a bright boy, but you really sold him with how he could protect me, control the scene, and control Damien Moreau.” This time the laugh was bitter. “No one ever controlled Damien. His unpredictability was what got him to where he was until he met the perfect foil to his insanity …Nathan Ford … A psychopathic genius with a Jesuit guilt complex …That and he can still be trained.” Eliot shrugged and turned back toward the bed. “I’m sorry if I ruined your plan for cleaning all the skeletons out of your closet by surviving.”
“I knew you would survive.” Flores stated quietly, unable to predict the outcome of this conversation.
“I almost didn’t. You almost succeeded where countless interrogators on countless missions didn’t.”
Flores paled as Spencer stepped into the light. The ruggedly handsome face he’d last seen tan and smiling across his dining room table was still handsome, but the thin silvery lines would be carried forever as a reminder of a betrayal of love and trust. He moved back into the dark.
“When I came here tonight I didn’t know whether to kill you or leave you with your own reminder of the consequences of your actions.”
Pale predator’s eyes watched the man sitting on the edge of the bed. Flores saw the thin band as the left hand as it tugged on the patch of whiskers under the full lower lip, but before he could appeal to whatever the ring meant, Spencer continued his monologue.
“But I am not that man anymore. When I was lost in the nowhere, a good friend told me to sit tight that someone would come for me because he had seen how much I mattered to them. So I’m not going to kill you. That would be too easy for you, and I want you to live a very long life with the memories of what you did, and what you lost.”
Eliot cut him off with a shake of his head.
“We will never speak again.”
He threw something on the bed as he walked out of the room.
A shaking hand reached out and turned the picture Spencer had thrown down to the light. It was a picture taken of the Flores family when Spencer had introduced them to Quinn. He remembered the peace and happiness Spencer had projected that day. Tears filled his eyes as it finally struck home what he’d lost by his own hand.
Stepping outside Flores’ hotel room, he stopped and breathed, letting everything he’d just gone through slough away like a snake shedding its skin. Always aware, he was not surprised at the honeyed voice in his ear.
“Can we close this book, now?”
Turning his head to meet whiskey colored eyes, he smiled.
Side by side they walked away from the past and into the future.
~ Fini ~
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