Log in

No account? Create an account


What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.

resting grump-face
Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
The loft above Luke's, Thursday afternoon (after the town meeting)
It was a little sad how familiar the sensation of slowly dying while tied to a chair was. Eliot had lost track of how long he'd been drifting into and out of consciousness for, now.

He had to keep reminding himself that this was Parker and Hardison, not a despotic dictator or drug lord. He didn't know what their endgame here was, but their methods were effective. Eliot knew his limits, and the way he was shivering and sweating right now meant he was basically at his.

He wouldn't've thought Hardison was this hardcore. He was almost proud.

Yeah, well, it had admittedly taken a lot of will to keep Eliot tied to chair for the better part of a week. The only reason he was able to stick to it was because whenever he looking into Eliot's eyes, that terrible darkness looked back out at him.

Regardless of how he felt on the matter, he wasn't going to let Eliot out to hurt Parker. Because he would. By this point, Hardison wasn't sure Eliot had any lines left to cross.

"Whoa, hold up babe," he said, holding onto Parker's arm as they entered the apartment. She was all grins and cheer, certain they now had the key to getting the old/real/non-alien Eliot back. Hardison was hopeful that they did, too. But that didn't mean they could just rush in.

He was still dangerous.

"We gotta be careful about this," he said, nodding towards where Eliot was slumped in the chair. "He ain't gonna go back to normal until we're done. Which means that right now, he's just as liable to try to take you down as he is to say hello."

Hardison hated having to be so damn careful. But he'd seen that darkness that lurked in Eliot's eyes. So it was up to him to keep all three of them safe from it.

Parker had seen it too; but maybe she had more faith in Hardison, and her taser - and Eliot - or maybe she just didn't care by now. Anything to change the stalemate would make her happy.

"It's just the necklace! He's not an alien or a robot or crazy, he's being magicked, we can totally deal with this!" Parker drew a breath and leaned into Hardison. "Right? I mean. Once we tell him, he'll get it."


Eliot didn't have the energy left for his eyes to fly open. They cracked open instead, and he peered at Hardison and Parker through the curtain of his hair. So they knew about the necklace. He could feel his body wanting to panic -- but again, he didn't have the energy for it.

"You're back," he said, voice no more than a hoarse whisper. "Gonna . . . finally end this?"

Wouldn't that be nice. At least if he was dead he wouldn't be tied to this chair anymore.

"That's the plan, Eliot," Hardison said. "Now that we know how."

But rather than going for a knife or a gun or whatever ridiculous method that Eliot was imagining, Hardison just pulled two more chairs over, though he stopped just out of range of where Eliot would be able to fling himself and the chair in some last, desperate maneuver.

Look, you didn't watch a man work for six years without getting a decent idea of how far he'd go.

"So," he said, sitting down across from Eliot. "Let's talk."

"And no lying," Parker said, sitting down with crossed arms. "We're too close to fixing everything to get stuck now." She scooted a little closer, and added, "It's not just you, you know. It's other people all over the place."

An interrogation, then. They'd picked a decent moment for it. Eliot was too wiped out to resist much, but still conscious and reasonably coherent.

He frowned a little at what Parker said. "You . . . how many folks you got tied to chairs?"

Hardison was trying not to facepalm. "You're the only person we got tied to a chair, man." Though he wouldn't be surprised if other people weren't having similar conversations with friends and loved ones around the island at this very moment, too. "But you're not the only one who's gone a little cray-cray over the past few weeks. Turns out that a lot of people have. You know what they all got in common?"

He nodded at Eliot's necklace. "They all visited that antique store in town. And they all got somethin' special from the proprietor."

"And the monkey I got you probably doesn't count, but we're still going to torch that sucker," Parker contributed. "'Cause I'm not sick but better safe than sorry."

Eliot shook his head, both a denial and an attempt to clear it. "Tha's stupid," he said, sagging a little more against his bonds when the room spun. "I told ya . . . got this thing from Willie."

"That's what you said," Hardison agreed, after giving Parker a look that said hell YES we are torching that damn monkey.

It was a very distinctive look.

"But we all know you ain't been at your most truthful recently. And radio reported that you went into that damn store and found a necklace that looked just like one you used to have when you were younger."

"And you said Gaunt had a 'weird pricing structure' when we talked about it at the staff meeting." Parker gave him a flat look. "What did you give him for it? The disk drive?"

Eliot couldn't risk shaking his head again, not with the way he was feeling. He shut his eyes instead, swallowing hard. "No, it's -- it's exactly th' same. Th' claw, th'scription. . . ."

Leland was just the middleman. It was Eliot's necklace, dammit.

He opened his eyes and peered at Parker again, confused. "Th' Book? No. That was. . . ." He swallowed again. Talking was exhausting. "Th'was later."

Hardison got up and filled a glass with water then came back to hold it to Eliot's mouth. Yeah, he was probably setting himself up for some kind of water-based murder attempt, but he wasn't just gonna sit there and watch someone he loved suffer.

"Tell us about the inscription," he said. Baby steps. They could take this in baby steps. "What does it say?"

Eliot knew a great many ways to murder someone with a mouthful of water. They all pretty much required him having enough energy to hold his head up for long stretches of time, though, so Hardison was actually pretty safe. Eliot managed a couple sips, then turned his head away.

Jesus, even swallowing was exhausting.

"'Th' one y'feed,'" he said softly. "'Sa reminder."

A reminder not to be an asshole. So, you know, he'd done super well since he got the damn thing.

"The one what that you feed?" Parker frowned, leaning further forward now, and said a little more quietly, "Was that something Willie told you?"

Okay, this was sounding -- ominous. Did the magic item convince Eliot that he had to feed it? "If this is about feeding it blood I'm going to be very upset."

Hardison also had no idea what Eliot was talking about, but Eliot also didn't look like he was up for storytime. So Hardison did what any self-respecting hacker would. He asked the internet.

Skipping past a podcast and a twitter feed, he stopped on a link for a Cherokee legend.

"An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life," he read off. "'A fight is going on inside me,' he said to the boy. 'It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, greed, self-pity, and resentment. The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, and compassion. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too.'

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, 'Which wolf will win?'

The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'"

Hardison looked away from his phone and straight at Eliot's necklace. "A wolf claw. The one you feed. A reminder to you, about what you've got inside."

Nodding took too much energy, so Eliot didn't try, just let his head hang forward. "Yeah. Ain' always been good at -- at feedin' th'right one."

"Eliot. You haven't been acting like yourself since you got that. Think about it," Parker said, face drawn. "And how it's making you sick. You can feed the right wolf without a claw to remind you."

She was remembering seeing him rub that necklace like a talisman so many times over the last month, and wishing she'd asked more questions earlier.

"Think man," Hardison urged. "You hit me. You hurt Parker. You lied to us. You bruised the busboy. You yelled at one of your students. You scared your staff. You barricaded yourself in your house. What wolf does it sound like you been feedin'?" He shook his head. "Which one of those behaviors would Willie be proud of you for showin'? If that is the necklace he gave you, do you think he'd like how you've been actin' since you got it?"

He held the cup up to Eliot's mouth so he could take a few more sips. "The man I met that first year we were runnin' together? I don't think he'd approve. Not at all."

Eliot squeezed his eyes shut, trying to jerk away from the cup. "No," he whispered. "No, that ain' --"

The necklace was his, dammit. He'd already lost it once, he couldn't do it again.

"He said it wasn' mystical." As last ditch arguments went, that one sucked. Even Eliot recognized that. "Gaun' said. . . ."

"It's not mystical. It's magic. Evil bad magic," Parker said bluntly. "It's not opening up your mind, it's closing down your heart." She pressed her lips together, hard, and said, "Do you really think we're doing this because we want to? Do you really honestly think we just felt like tasing you and tying you up? Is that us? Have we asked you for anything but the truth?"

She looked away so neither of her guys would see her face twisting up, blinking fast.

"It's poisoning you," Hardison said. "It's making you sick. Making you weak. Think about it. Should you really feel this bad? Yeah, you been tied to this chair, but we've been feeding you, making sure you have enough to drink..."

Yes, even after the Pork Rind Incident.

"Hell, Parker's been moving your chair around to make sure you get sunlight. So why do you feel this miserable? Why have you been so angry, so paranoid? Why did you suddenly stop trustin' us, your crew when we're the only people that ain't ever lied to you?"

Nate had lied to them. Sophie had lied. But Parker, Hardison, and Eliot had only ever been honest.

Eliot actually cringed at that. They'd never lied to him, but he'd spent the last three weeks lying constantly to them. Even when the claw was working, when he was feeling good, he was ditching them and lying to them and -- well. Feeding the wrong wolf.

They should let it kill him. He'd tell them to, except --

Except he'd promised Sophie he'd protect them. And he couldn't exactly do that by dying.

"So . . . what?" he asked finally, the words scraping up his throat. "Y'wanna burn it?"

"Burn it, smash it, drown it in acid, whatever works." Parker let out a slow breath, because it felt like they were in the home stretch here. The last phase of a job. "We'll be here. We'll help. But you've gotta be the one to do it, Eliot. We can't. I promise, it wouldn't even do any good if we did. It has to be you. I'm sorry."

Hardison nodded. "If we untie you--and, believe me, man, we want to untie you, ain't nobody more excited about not havin' to help you in the bathroom than me--you've got to swear you're gonna do this. You gotta swear that you're gonna end this thing."

He hunkered down and looked searchingly at Eliot. "I gotta be able to look in your eyes and see you, man. Not the bad wolf. Cause that's all that I been able to see for the past week."

Eliot swallowed again. He could feel it, now, the necklace pulling at him. Draining him. Could have felt it any time, if he'd thought to try. He had to be the one to trash it, huh?

They were fucked. He could barely keep his eyes open. How the hell was he supposed to destroy a bone-and-claw necklace?

. . . Oh.

He opened his eyes and looked at Hardison. Really looked at him for the first time in weeks. Not at "the hacker", not at a threat, at his friend. One of the people he loved. "Okay." He took as deep a breath as he could. "Y'gotta get me to th' kitchen."

"You're going to stab it?" Parker asked, getting up from her chair, balancing on one foot, ready to jump whichever way she had to. "I could bring you a knife out here!"

"You know how he feels about cutting boards," Hardison said, fighting back a giant smile. There he was! There was the Eliot he knew! He moved around to the back of the chair to unfasten the handcuffs. And the rest of the various bindings, of which there were many.

Look, they knew what Eliot was capable of, all right?

"He's the only reason we have one in the house. If Eliot wants to chop up his claw, that's up to him." He paused to help Eliot up out of his chair. The grin couldn't be held back anymore. "Besides, our boy's smarter 'n that. He's gonna drop it down the garbage disposal."

Normally, when Eliot was released after being tied up, he immediately moved around, stretching his muscles and getting the blood flowing. Hell, half the time he had to go immediately on the attack.

This time, it was all he could do to keep from falling over.

He leaned heavily on Hardison as he reached for the claw, hesitating only a moment before tugging it up, over and off his head. He'd've liked to yank it off, but that wasn't happening any more than chopping the thing up was.

"Got it . . . in one," he said, smiling even though he was already running short of breath. "Let it . . . grind this bitch."

Parker smiled, huge and relieved, because Eliot was Eliot again, and in a minute this would all be over-- well, mostly.

She still wanted revenge on Gaunt for this. Lots and lots and lots of revenge.

But he wasn't important right now, Eliot was, so she ducked under Eliot's other arm and said tentatively, "We can still pour acid after it. I have some. If you want it."

Hardison wasn't as big on the acts of physical violence as the other members of the crew were, but even he was tempted to track down this Gaunt asshole and introduce him to Parker's taser.

Several times.

But that was getting into that whole 'feeding the bad wolf' thing and, honestly, as much nice as it would be to get vengeance on Gaunt, having their Eliot back would be even better.

"Course I figured it out," he joked as he and Parker maneuvered Eliot into the kitchen. "I'm the smart one, Parker's the sneaky one, and you...well, we mostly keep you 'round 'cause you're pretty."

Damn right he was pretty. Though maybe not so much when he hadn't showered in four days.

Eliot wasn't sure how much of the whole "not really able to walk" thing was the poison Hardison had mentioned, and how much was having been tied to a chair since Monday. Which ever it was, he was damn glad his team was strong, because he was barely managing to get his feet moving, much less supporting any of his weight.

The room was spinning and going grey at the edges by the time they got him to the sink, but he forced himself to pull away from them and lean against the counter instead. If he was supposed to do this -- he didn't want to do this oh god he didn't want to do this -- he was going to do it under his own goddamn steam. Even if he didn't quite have enough to make a teapot whistle.

He swallowed and closed his eyes -- then opened them again, turning his head to look over at Parker and Hardison. He needed the reminder of why he was destroying the most important thing he'd ever owned. Though, okay, the fact that he was thinking of an old claw on a leather cord as the most important thing he owned was probably a pretty good indicator, itself.

He shoved it down into the disposal before he could second guess himself again, then leaned over and hit the switch.

He felt the snap of the claw hitting the grind plate in his chest, a sudden strain and release. The headache he'd been fighting for so long he'd forgotten it was there faded away, the relief leaving him almost more drained than he was already. He sagged against the cabinet, then froze when smoke started to pour out of the disposal.

It took the shape of a little girl, maybe eight years old, her hair in curly pigtails. She clung to a teddy bear and stared down at Eliot for a long moment, then opened her mouth impossibly wide and screamed.

Eliot jerked back and dropped to his knees, hands coming up to cover his ears, not even noticing as the spectre dissipated above him.

Of course the last gasp of the curse would be her.

The last innocent life he'd ever taken with a gun.

Parker had flinched along with Eliot as the disposal did its job-- then froze as a little girl appeared. With a teddy bear. Screaming.

For a shocked second she didn't know what to do, what to think, but as soon as it was gone, she knelt next to Eliot, reaching for his arms. "It's over, it's done," she whispered. "It's okay, it's gone, you're okay... you're so not okay." Because how had they missed how much weaker he was? Three days tied to a chair didn't do this, it had to be more, and why wasn't he fine now? "Eliot? What do you need? We'll get it, I promise."

Every one of Moreau's men has innocent blood on their hands. Every one of them. The worst thing I ever did in my entire life, I did for Damien Moreau. And I...I'll never be clean of that.

Eliot's words, right before brokenly telling Parker not to ask him what it was, because if she asked, he'd tell her. It was the bleakness in his eyes and voice that had killed Hardison's curiosity and he was willing to bet that Parker had felt the same.

Right now, he was guessing they'd just had that question answered. And Hardison was running out of reasons not to hunt down Gaunt and drive a fist into his face.

"That stuff's been gettin' pumped into him for weeks now, babe. We're probably lucky he made it this long. Let's get you up, old son. I'm thinkin' the clinic is probably the best place for you right now."

"'m fine," Eliot tried. It was barely even audible, and honestly, he didn't believe a damn word of it, himself. ". . . dunno if I c'n get up."

He was done lying to his crew.

Parker was very very determined not to think about that little girl, or to wonder why she came out of the necklace (that had been about feeding the bad wolf) or that she'd missed this situation with him being this sick too, or anything but-- "Yes. Clinic. This plan is a good plan." She kept patting at Eliot, as gentle as she knew how. "Stay awake. Stay awake, please?" She heard her voice crack, and cleared her throat, looking over at Hardison with half parts panic and hope. "We need a rickshaw right now."

"You go flag down a rickshaw," Hardison said, crouching down to slide his arms under Eliot. "I'll bring him."

He couldn't help but grin at Eliot as he scooped him up into a princess carry. "Told you you were the pretty one," he said.

Eliot would've loved to protest. To say he could walk as far as a rickshaw, and anyway, he didn't need to go to any clinic.

But again, he wasn't going to lie any more. So he just held as still as he could, trying to make himself easier to carry.

"D'mit, Hardison."

Leaning his head on his shoulder was just because he couldn't hold it up, anymore. Definitely.

[ooc: preplayed with the stupendous whoisalicewhite and age_of_the_geek. NFI, natch, but OOC is always welcome.]

[*hugs stupendous canon-mates*]