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Falling Into

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Eliot slumped at the kitchen table, the ice pack balanced precariously on the back of his neck. His head was resting on his arm, the other holding his broken ribs that still had to be wrapped. He just didn’t have the strength to do so yet.

*****

The day’s con hadn’t gone off without a hitch, and that hitch had put a major wrench in Eliot’s job. The goons that Nate had told him were homing in on Parker’s position on the roof had had more than one surprise for him. Parker was halfway down the side of the building by the time he’d managed to make it out the door to the roof, and as he exited one of them had come up behind him, slamming him to the ground.

Spitting blood from his split lip Eliot had kicked up, shattering the guy’s kneecap and downing him, a fist to the face silencing him. The hitter stood and ran to the men holding (what he thought was) Parker’s rope, only to be grabbed by one and punched violently in the stomach by the other. He was distracted by the thought that the men would cut Parker’s line and the one who’d caught him twisted his arm back, leaving Eliot’s side unprotected and the other man hammered his fists into the hitter.

Then to add insult to injury, they threw him off the roof.

He heard Hardison’s scream in his ear as he fell, and then nothing.

It wasn’t too much later that he woke, looking up and wondering why the hell he was still alive. He saw the edge of the building he’d been thrown off of and realized he’d fallen about two stories onto the roof of the building that butted up to the first. Parker had gone over the side adjacent to this one, and he realized the goons had played him, distracting him from her real rig. He only hoped that the distraction had given her time to make it to the ground.

He rasped a query to Hardison or Nate but heard no reply and realized he’d lost his earbud. Gritting his teeth and forcing himself to his feet, he wavered in place, feeling the blood that was trickling down the back of his neck. Ignoring the pain he managed to make it to the express elevator and punched the button for the ground floor.

When he’d emerged, some of the office workers gasped and one even screamed, but he snarled at them and they retreated. He ran through the back doors and saw the goons that had thrown him off the building heading for Parker, who was just unhooking herself from her harness and he realized he’d been out for only a couple of minutes, at most.

He saw the surprise on Parker’s face as he raced for the men, kicking and punching before they even had a chance to realize that he was there. They were down on the ground within seconds, and then he was running to catch up to Parker, who was headed for the van. To his surprise the door started to close after she jumped in, and he barely caught it before it closed. Hardison’s face looked out at him and went pale, which surprised him at the moment, and he growled at the hacker before the man snapped out of his shock and backed up enough to let him in.

“I thought you were.....I mean they.....shit!” Hardison had babbled. “They threw you off the freakin roof, man!”

“Shut up and drive, dammit!”

Sophie made a move to come closer but he growled at her, and they all backed off as Nate drove the van back to the bar, respecting his space. They knew that Eliot did not welcome helping hands or questions about his health; as long as he was upright and functional, they left him alone.

When the team emerged from the van Eliot held himself back a little, letting the others walk ahead. They turned to go to the bar for their usual post-job celebration while he headed for the stairs instead. It wasn’t unusual for him to wave off the after party, especially if he’d taken a few hits, and they knew that sometimes he needed to hole up to lick his wounds in private.

Eliot made it to his apartment and managed to open the door, turned and locked it, setting the alarm out of habit more than conscious thought. Once that was done, he let the façade drop and leaned his head against the wall, his breath coming in shuddering, shallow gasps.

He knew at least three of his ribs were broken, either when he’d been hammered by the thug’s beefy fist, or when he’d landed flat on his back. There was also a knot on the back of his head that, thankfully, had stopped bleeding, but he could feel the dried and crusted blood on his back and shirt. Head wounds bled like a sonuvabitch. His back was killing him, and if he’d had a mirror he knew it would be blossoming into a motley of black and purple.

Holding himself upright with the wall and counters, he staggered into the kitchen, bypassing the table and heading for the pantry that held, instead of dried and preserved foodstuffs (because he had no use for those, he only used fresh organic food), a medical supply big enough for most small clinics.

He grabbed a few ace wraps and a bottle of Vicodin, setting them on the counter. Reaching into the freezer he pulled out an icepack and carried the items to the table, where he slumped onto a stool. He put his head on his arm and the icepack on his neck and drifted, unable to stay coherent any longer.

*****

Dimly he heard voices, and then footsteps around him. Parker and Hardison knew better than to try to creep silently around him because he would strike first and ask questions later. They’d learned that more than once, to Eliot’s chagrin, when they’d tried to be quiet and not wake him and instead received a punch to the nearest body part when his reflexes woke up before his brain did.

The icepack, now melted and warm, was removed from his neck, and he felt gentle hands on the back of his head, combing through his hair and lightly touching the knot that was forming. He flinched when they touched a particularly sore spot, and he heard a murmured apology.

Eliot pushed himself upright, blinking and seeing Parker’s worried face in front of him, her hand reaching out to touch his cheek. Hardison was at his back, a firm backrest with his hands on Eliot’s shoulders so he wouldn’t fall over.

 

In the time they’d spent with Eliot, the other two had learned that he didn’t hate to be coddled and comforted at all; he actually craved it. During the few times when the hitter was really hurt or sick, he had let them take care of him, but only when it was just the three of them, together, and only in his apartment where he felt most secure. He would let himself shuck off the mask of invulnerability and stoicism and reluctantly allow them to tend to his hurts, gradually becoming more used to the idea that there was actually someone who wanted to take care of him. They knew that it was a rare gift for him to let down his guard, and they did their best to let him know that behind the doors of his apartment, with them, they would protect him.

Peering into his eyes, Parker held her finger in front of his face and moved it side to side; Eliot knew enough at that point that she was checking for a concussion, so he followed the track of her finger to the right and then to the left, up and then down. His head was pounding in time with his heartbeat, so as soon as she finished, he closed his eyes again, wincing.

“Concussion?” he heard Hardison ask her, but he didn’t look up to see her reaction. He knew he had one by the nausea in his stomach and the dullness of his reactions, but hopefully it wasn’t too bad. The worst thing about it was that he couldn’t take the Vicodin yet to take the edge away from the agony of the rest of his body.

Parker leaned forward and unbuttoned his shirt and Hardison gently pulled it down his arms, slowing when Eliot hissed in a breath.

He whistled softly at the sight of Eliot’s back, the ugly bruises already starting to form and blood crusting between his shoulder blades.

Knowing the hitter felt better when he was clean, he asked, “Shower?”

Eliot thought a moment, started to nod, but then stopped. “Yeah,” he rasped instead, not wanting to move his head any more than necessary. They helped him stand and paused to let him reorient himself, moving as one towards the bathroom.

Once there, Hardison held Eliot upright as Parker quickly stripped, then bent to take Eliot’s boots and socks off. Reaching up, she unfastened his jeans and slid them down his legs until they pooled at his ankles so he could step out of them. The hacker supported Eliot as he walked to the shower while Parker adjusted the water and helped Eliot in.

Thankfully the shower had plenty of room for all three of them because Hardison stripped as well, then joined them. Standing in front of Eliot, he held the hitter upright against his chest. Eliot grabbed onto the railing as well as Parker washed the blood from his back, biting her lip as she heard him stifle a moan and watched the water at their feet turn red.

They moved him closer to the shower and the water hit the back of his head, soaking his hair and washing the blood away. Eliot let his head fall forward onto Hardison’s chest, feeling strong arms wrap gently around him as they held him up.

“Eliot? Eliot, wake up, come on man....” he blinked and moaned, feeling light touches on his cheek. They were pressed closely against him now, sandwiching him between their bodies. They each had a leg between his and he realized he must have passed out, and they were trying to keep him upright.

“Eliot, wake up now,” Parker’s voice was in his ear and he struggled to lift his head.

“That’s it, man,” Hardison rumbled. “Wake up and open them baby blues.”

“Unnh,” he mumbled, incoherent as his head fell forward again.

“We gotta get him outta this heat,” Hardison said, worry heavy in his voice.

Parker turned off the water and together they managed to get him out of the shower, Eliot barely keeping his feet. They bundled him hastily in towels and half led, half carried him into the adjoining bedroom where they set him onto the bed. Hardison held his head and shoulders as they laid him down, Parker carefully swinging his legs onto the mattress.

When he was somewhat settled they slowly toweled him dry and covered him with the comforter, leaving a couple of towels under his head to soak up the water and the rest of the blood.

He had no idea how long he’d been unconscious but when he woke, they were both in the bed with him. They’d moved him closer to the middle of the bed and arranged themselves on either side of him so they could feel his slightest movements. Instead of feeling trapped though, Eliot felt secure and woke slowly, without his usual rapid fire reflexes that at this moment, would hurt like hell.

“Hey,” he heard a soft voice above his head. Without looking he knew it was Hardison, and gentle fingers stroked the side of his face.

He closed his eyes for a moment and felt a light kiss on his cheek; when he opened them again Parker was smiling at him.

“Hey, Sparky,” she said, the volume and tone surprisingly subdued. “Don’t you know that you’re supposed to have a harness on when you jump off of a building?”

“Yeah man,” Hardison agreed from his vantage above Eliot’s head. “When I saw them throw you overboard, I fuckin’ freaked!”

“You....saw?” he croaked, his voice rusty with disuse.

“Well, yeah,” the tone was sarcastic now. “I got eyes everywhere, remember?”

Admonished, Eliot fell silent again. “Hey, hey, hey.... It’s not your fault, man. We were just scared out of our minds, thinking that they’d....that you...”

Hardison didn’t finish, but moved a little closer to the hitter instead.

“ ‘M sorry,” he rasped, feeling both of them now snuggling closer, only to stop as he hissed when his ribs were jostled.

Apologies were whispered and Eliot settled again, his head falling to the side as he slipped into a light doze where the pain in his ribs and head couldn’t follow.

An hour later they woke him out of his slumber, asking the usual questions: name, date, president, etc. before they let him sleep again, and it was the same throughout the night. Finally satisfied that his brain wasn’t fish food, they let him sleep through the rest of the morning until he woke naturally on his own.

Hardison helped him to the bathroom, smiling softly and waiting at the firmly closed door until the hitter emerged, leaning on the doorframe. He took one look at Eliot and stepped forward, supporting the man until they’d made it back to the bed. Propping him on the edge of the bed with Parker behind him, the hacker wrapped the Ace bandage around his chest to support the broken and cracked ribs, making it easier for Eliot to finally take a breath without stabbing pain.

“Here,” a pill and a glass of water were shoved under his nose, and he took it, swallowing down the Vicodin and the entire glass of liquid without even questioning it.

Parker had retrieved the three heating pads from various places in the apartment and laid them on the bed, and they maneuvered Eliot down onto them, hearing him hiss as his skin made contact with the warmth. Slowly he relaxed, melting into the heat and comfort.

“That’s it, man,” Hardison said softly, brushing Eliot’s long hair from his face. “Just relax and let us take care o’ ya.”

Eliot blinked his eyes open, seeing their faces swimming in front of him for a moment before his vision steadied. Parker bent down and kissed his forehead and he sighed, closing his eyes once again and trusting that they would.