Title: Don’t Have A White Horse
Pairings: Nathan Ford/Eliot Spencer
Word Count: 3,008
Summary: Comment fic prompt: Dont’ Have A White Horse … But you can come along for the ride. ~~>Christian Kane ~ Different Kind of Knight
“How long ‘til you fall apart again? You need the chase.” Eliot Spencer’s words rattled around in Nathan Ford’s scotch soaked brain.
Retrieval specialists were usually the ‘meat heads’ in the world of thieves and con artists, but there was a keen intelligence behind those blue/grey eyes. Eliot Spencer was the best in his field without using a gun. That should have been Nathan’s first clue.
That Eliot read him like a Dr. Seuss book should have been his second clue. It piqued Nate’s curiosity that such a lone wolf stayed with their little team. True, he seemed to be circling around the fringes, but still …
In his more lucid moments he noticed how Spencer would subtly shape their plans with a tweak here and there until he was satisfied.
That Eliot could manipulate Sophie was a source of amusement to Nate. The ex-investigator was so busy watching the specialist ride herd the other members of the team he didn’t realize Eliot did the same to him.
Eliot would express his distaste with Nate subtly. A nose wrinkled at a smell, an arched eyebrow, turning away to indicate he did not agree with Nate.
He was so smooth that he moved in as Nate’s second without anyone noticing. Quiet touches, comfort food, trading his liquor for something less potent, Eliot seemed to be there with distractions, keeping Nate from getting lost in his own head.
The touches became caresses as the hitter exposed his softer side to Nate. Eliot started to move in from the fringes. One day, something clicked in a brain that operated more clearly. Eliot was courting him.
Nathan Ford was being courted by a thief that specialized in hurting people. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He liked having Eliot’s attention. When he focused on you, you were his center. Nate realized that he had been changing to gain Eliot’s approval. That revelation bothered him more than the fact he was developing feelings for the man.
The Resnick job gave him time to brood. Time brooding always involved scotch. It seemed to be everywhere during the job. Sophie tried to be a buffer to Nate’s drunken actions and the rest of the team. Eliot retreated into silence, his mood darker every time a glass rose to Nate’s lips.
When the explosion came, it was spectacular.
“You think you can control me?” Nate challenged their enforcer.
“I ain’t your Daddy. You can drink yourself into a coma for all I care.” Eliot snarled.
Sophie stupidly moved to intercept Eliot when he lunged for Nate. Nate knew he had hurt Eliot, but the alcohol was in control, and he couldn’t seem to make himself care. Besides they had a job to finish.
When they got back to LA, Nate tried to corner Eliot so he could talk to the man, but the retrieval specialist was proving more elusive than Parker.
Parker was giving him the evil eye, Sophie had turned into a first class nag, and Hardison was trying desperately to stay out of the line of fire.
Nate finally got his chance after they shoved Hurley out the door to catch his train. He found the exhausted man leaned back in his chair, feet propped on his desk, eyes closed. He paused at the office door.
“What’da ya want, Nate?” The voice was flat.
“How’d you…never mind.” Nate perched on the chair across from Eliot. “Eliot, I want to apologize.”
“If this is part of your 12 steps, forget it.” The man cut him off.
“No, this doesn’t have anything…I just wanted to…I’m sorry.” Nate stammered, looking into the bottom of his glass.
“Forget it. I have. Reminded me why I work alone.” Eliot didn’t open his eyes. The tone was curt, icy.
“I like what we started, Eliot. I want to get that back. I know Sophie and Parker go on about being Black King, but I don’t need a white knight to rush in and rescue me. I have enough experience with alcoholics to know only I can change my behavior. What we had going on was changing me. I wasn’t ready for that, so I lashed out.”
“Yeah well, Bubba, I’m a different kind of knight. I don’t have a white horse. I don’t save people who don’t want it. So you can curl up with Glen or Johnny or whoever’s bitch you are tonight. I’m done.”
When Nate looked up the office was empty.
He was trying.
Fear kept him pinned down some days. Fear of the DT’s, fear of hallucinations. There was only so much of Jim Sterling one person could stand. Why did it always have to be Sterling? If his conscious was going to manifest, why couldn’t it manifest as Sophie or Eliot? Sophie was almost as bad as Sterling. That British scorn was like an ice pick in the ear. He really wanted to hear that honeyed southern drawl. Before the thought of Eliot’s approval modifying his behavior angered him, now he was just bewildered. Did that mean he was gaining control from hallucinations of Eliot?
The sad part was he was seeing him more in his head than he did in person. Nate hadn’t realized how big a part the retrieval specialist had in his life until he was gone. The only words between the two men were about work, and when they weren’t on a job, Eliot was practically mute.
When he’d asked Eliot to forego watching the Cowboys game, to do reconnaissance with Parker, he was glad looks couldn’t kill. He did what was asked of him, but nothing more.
Between Eliot’s silence and Parker’s glares the temperature in the office was close to meat locker territory.
And the relationship between Eliot and Parker, well that just made Nate’s head hurt to think about. He knew it was because the specialist always talked straight to the thief. She never had to use her limited social skills to figure out ulterior motives. Eliot was just Eliot. Parker rewarded Eliot by invading his personal space whenever she wanted, and letting herself into his apartment to raid his refrigerator.
When Sophie came to him with a plan to go against Blackpoole, Eliot looked it over and at her with a jaundiced eye. Something about it and her made his spidey sense tingle, but it was Sophie so he pointed out a few flaws in her plan and they took it to Parker and Hardison.
When Nate entered the conference room, and made the flip comment about celebrating the functioning and not focusing on the alcoholic, Eliot nearly jumped ship. For a man who prized his control, Nate reminded him more each day of tractor-trailer sliding down an icy mountain. Eliot just couldn’t put himself back in that position.
He told himself to get gone when Sophie and Nate started improvising. A chill ran down his spine when they broke character repeatedly. He nearly bolted, but he calmed his nerves and stayed.
Head aching, broken ribs cutting short his breath, wounded heart causing pain in his chest worse than the pain in his ribs.
When it was all said and done, Eliot limped away from the broken team. He was almost to his truck when he felt a presence.
A small slim hand slid into his. They dismantled their cell phones, destroyed the sim cards, and disappeared.
The corners of Eliot’s mouth curled slightly when he felt the air stir behind him. He made a note in his book, then continued his rounds. A short time later, he looked up. Across the way stood Hardison. He heard Parker squeal off to the right. He looked down and saw Sophie.
His temper spit the bit when saw the brunette grifter. He ruthlessly reined it in, and got Alec loaded in the elevator.
“Need a ride?” Nate asked as they piled into Nate’s car and peeled out of the gallery parking lot.
The only sounds the rest of the trip was Hardison giving Nate directions.
The impromptu planning session ended late. Sophie and Parker got a cab to collect their things, while Nate offered to drop Eliot at his vehicle. The two men had only exchanged a few words, but Eliot had studied Nathan as carefully as he did the gallery plans.
“You’re lookin’ better.” The retrievalist commented casually.
“I’m doing better.” Nate gave a quick look out of the corner of his eye. “It’s all your fault.”
“How’d ya figure?” Eliot started to bristle.
“I kept hearing you in my head. That stuff you were saying in Miami.” Nate put the car in park. He grabbed Eliot’s arm before he could get out of the car.
“Before…I had an idea that Sophie way conning us, but I couldn’t prove it. All I had was a feeling…I should have said something…things might have turned out different.” He looked up into storm cloud eyes.
The hitter gave him a curt nod. “Had a feeling when she first come to me, but stayed on for the rest of ya.”
“Coming back to Hardison’s?” Nate sounded hopeful.
There was a long pause. “Yeah.”
Nate slumped back in the seat. It was a start.
When Eliot got back to the monstrosity of a house, he unloaded a week’s worth of groceries. He went through the suites of rooms, and set up his air mattress in the room at the top of the stairs and stowed the rest of his gear.
He skirted the others by going down the back stairs to the kitchen. Fixing supper helped calm the retrievalist. Parker perched on the end of the marble counter was familiar enough that he relegated her to the background.
She grabbed a green pepper off his cutting board and danced out of the kitchen just as Alec and Nate came around the corner. Hardison made a quick about face to chase after the lithe blonde.
Nate heard a rusty chuckle as he turned to watch the hacker chase the thief.
“She’s gonna make him as crazy as she is before it’s said and done.” Eliot commented.
“What is it with you and her?” Nate leaned against the counter beside the retrievalist.
Eliot watched the former chaser for a few minutes before he answered.
“Parker is Parker. I tell her what I think straight. She don’t have to twist her brain around any ulterior motive.” Eliot’s voice was heavy with innuendo. “I’ll let you know when it’s ready.”
With a sigh, Nate grabbed a soda out of the fridge and went back to the impromptu office.
Over the next few days, Nathan purposely put himself in Eliot’s personal space at every opportunity. When it was decided to bring Maggie into the plan, he crowded the enforcer until he finally growled at Nate in frustration.
As Nate paced behind Eliot while he called Maggie for a date, he wondered which of them Nate’s jealousy was aimed toward. He smirked at Nate when Maggie readily agreed to meet him for coffee.
The other four watched cynically as Nate chased his ex-wife out the front door.
“It’s going great.” He yelled as he jogged out the door.
When Sophie turned to make a comment to the other three, Eliot was gone. She cocked her head at Hardison, who just shrugged and headed for the kitchen.
Sophie had never had as much trouble with a man as she was having getting back on Eliot’s good side. Every time she got him alone, the man became prickly as a porcupine.
She tried to be blasé about Eliot’s reaction to her, but the glare he threw at her that first day had turned her blood cold. When he had yelled, “You don’t con your own crew!” She’d backed up several steps in fear.
Since then he’d been cool and polite to the grifter, and that worried the brunette. Then there was the fact that Nate seemed to flirting with the man…she was so out to sea she couldn’t see the shore let alone get her bearings.
Maggie and Nate came back in the house, an agreement apparently having been reached. Eliot appeared at his right shoulder. Nate gave him a wane smile as they filed into the room where their gallery plans were set up.
When they got back from setting things up at the gallery, Sophie cornered Nate in his room. After the most straightforward talk they’d ever had, they went back downstairs, she was disappointed but calmer, and decided to take another crack at Eliot.
She hadn’t realized how deeply her betrayal had cut until blue eyes looked up from the winch Eliot was repairing for Parker.
“I was just gettin’ used to it.” The gravel voice was flat.
“What? Having an office?” Her voice was between flip and serious.
“Bein’ part of a team.” She backed up a step when Eliot stood and dropped the winch to the floor.
Parker tried to draw Eliot’s attention away from Sophie. Sophie watched his face soften when he turned to the blonde thief.
“What’s goin’ on?” She shot a glare at Sophie.
“Sophie here was just tryin’ to apologize.” Eliot’s tone heated up again.
“She tried that with me earlier. She kinda sucks at it.” She gave him a quirky grin.
“Yeah she does.” He turned away.
By the time she left the room, Sophie was still trying to figure out how Eliot had manipulated her into apologizing to the trio.
Nate chuckled at the baffled look on her face.
“He got you didn’t he?”
“How’s he do that?” Bewildered brown eyes met smiling blue.
“You just met part of the real Eliot.” Nate chuckled into his coffee cup. “You got stuck on that ‘aw shucks, I’m just a southern good ole boy’ face he shows everyone.”
“You could have warned me.” She pouted.
“I was having too much fun it was like watching him herd cats.” Nate’s eyes sparkled at the memory of their early days. “Don’t feel bad, he was doing the same thing to all of us.”
“Was that what Miami was all about?” She prodded.
“Partly. Mostly it was just me being an ass.” The former investigator admitted.
“I didn’t realize the wind blew that way, Nate.” Things were becoming a lot clearer to the grifter.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the wind, just Eliot.” Nate blushed lightly.
“If I can get him to stand still for a minute, I might find out. We’re both lucky to be getting another chance.” He face turned serious.
“I get that. I just didn’t realize how big an impact it was going to have on them.” Sophie mumbled.
“It wasn’t the physical injuries, Sophie.” Nate tried to catch her eye.
“I get that now.” She looked up.
“You’re lucky they decided to give you another chance.” He grabbed her wrist to be sure he had her attention. “You won’t get another.”
“I know.” She patted his hand. “Neither will you.”
He rolled his eyes as he headed back to where Eliot was finishing up with the winch.
At the end of the evening, the men climbed the stairs together. When they got to Eliot’s door, Nate paused.
Two sets of blue eyes met. Nate wasn’t sure what Eliot was looking for, but apparently he found it. When he opened the bedroom door he latched onto Nate’s wrist and pulled him into the room behind him.
The next morning Eliot wore a satisfied smirk, Nate moved carefully and was self-conscious about the area around his collar bone.
The night before opening day, was bittersweet for the couple. No one was talking about after the job. Even Hardison was unusually quiet. Their lovemaking that night had a feeling of finality.
After Eliot went to sleep, Nate had slipped out to his room where he had a stash of miniatures. He poured two in a glass and went back to Eliot.
The retrieval specialist was more restless than usual, and Nate was careful to talk to Eliot before trying to touch him. Bleary blue eyes frowned when he saw the glass in Nathan’s hand.
“First I’ve had since yesterday.” Nate explained.
He set the glass down and climbed back across the air mattress.
“You okay?” He brushed the hair out of Eliot’s face.
“Yeah, old friends.” Eliot pulled the older man into his arms, and snuggled back down into the covers.
Four thieves and an honest man stood in a hanger at a small airport.
“Thank you, all of you. You surprised me.” Nate looked around the circle. The faces were tight, eyes bright with tears not allowed to fall.
“We had a good run.” Eliot voice was quiet and rusty.
“It’s a good time to move on.” Hardison added.
“I’m going somewhere…else.” Parker worked to contain her emotions.
“You should be proud of what we accomplished here.” Nate looked at all of them.
“Fresh start.” Sophie’s voice broke.
They all turned and started to walk away. Eliot stopped. He thought about what he and Nate had started. He thought about what they all had together.
Parker heard Eliot stop. So she stopped. Maybe she wasn’t the only one who didn’t really want to scatter.
Hardison didn’t want to waste the time that he could have with Parker trying to find Parker. He stopped when he heard her stop.
Sophie thought about the challenges her team mates had given her. They made her a better person. They could see the real Sophie Devereaux.
Nate looked out the corner of eye toward their enforcer. Why was he walking away? The past few days had shown him that his heart could feel something besides pain. He found he could function without the deadening effects of scotch to keep him sane. He could have something new. It could be interesting to see where it all led. They were thieves and con artists led by a not so honest man. It could prove to be a very interesting journey.
They turned around.
~ Fini ~