I'll Take It From Here




Taking him home after the shit that went down at the carnival was one of the hardest things Hardison had ever had to do. Everyone else found their own way home after he gave them the crazy eyes - too much white around them - that told the team to back off. Lucille Three carried them into the darkness, streetlights flooding her intermittently with an unhealthy yellow glow as they passed overhead, dropping into the blackness again as she sped off the highway. He didn’t have the strength to argue, if Eliot said no hospital then they wouldn’t go to a hospital. If Eliot asked for everything Hardison had, he would gladly give it, every last scrap. If it made the man happy.

He’d been limping. Fucking limping! And what did Nate do? Left him to walk alone. Jesus, even the kid hadn’t done that until the last second. So what if Eliot wouldn’t take the help? You still fucking offered it. His hands ached where they gripped the steering wheel. Poor Lucille, she didn’t deserve the punishment she was getting tonight, but he couldn’t help it. By the time he got there Eliot was already sucking it up, putting on a face of grim determination and fury that everyone knew. The face that - oddly enough - put everyone at ease. Familiar, safe. When he looked like that, they knew he had everything under control. They knew he wouldn’t let it all go wrong. The safety net wouldn’t fail them.

Only Hardison knew now. Only when they were alone did Eliot relax. Speeding past the hospital with an unconscious hitter in the passenger seat, he risked a glance. Bruises had blossomed to a sickening purple, blood drying dark on abused skin, lacerations closing. His eyes were closed now, but Hardison knew even if he’d tried to open them they wouldn’t have been more than slits in the puffy, swollen skin of his eyelids. Eliot’s clothes were torn and dirty, no doubt from where he’d been thrown to the floor over and again, getting back up every time. When it came down to it, that was what made him the best. He got back up. He took it and gave it back twice as hard. Sheer determination mixed with deadly skill and a frightening level of damaged anger. He would never accept their help, but you still had to offer.

They had time. Nate wouldn’t book another job for at least a few days now. Unless something came through those doors that just couldn’t wait, the mastermind would respect the crazy eyes and just give them some space. Eliot might only want a couple of days to recover, but Hardison needed a lot longer to get his emotions under control. They needed to be cool on the job, and he couldn’t do that if he wanted to tear Nate a new one. Which was why he was heading out of Boston. Onto back roads that made him glance worriedly at Eliot with every bounce, each one dislodging the hitter’s loose limbs a little more, making his head loll in a way that made Hardison feel queasy.

The city lights faded in the rear-view mirror, and Hardison smiled, remembering how he’d disabled Lucille’s GPS and tossed both their cells to Parker before he’d hopped in. She had caught them and nodded, no question in her mind about what Hardison needed to do right then. She was the one he trusted with this, and he knew she wouldn‘t fail him. He had a single earbud with him for emergencies, GPS disabled just in case. They were as close to untraceable as he could make them. Of course, the team had just lost their two best bets at tracking anyone anyway, so it wasn’t like they were about to get disturbed.

Eliot would laugh, he hoped. He would get it, how much they needed to get away from all the bullshit that was going on between the hitter and Nate right now. Hell, it wasn’t as if Eliot was up to much more than sipping chicken soup and milkshakes through a straw at the moment anyway. He thumped the steering wheel, wondering even as he did it whether Eliot’s aggression was starting to rub off on him. If someone had told him a couple of months ago that he’d be leaving civilization and heading to a cabin in the woods with no phone, no internet - wireless or otherwise - he would have laughed. He would have told them they were crazy. He would have been blinded by the happy little glow that he’d always thought hung over their little team. Blinded even more by the newly fledged relationship he‘d found with the hitter, the relationship that made him happier than he‘d ever thought he could be.

This time the wool had been pulled back from his eyes, and Hardison saw everything with sickening clarity. Eliot fought in his sleep. At first Hardison had woken to the odd kick or punch and Eliot sneering in his sleep, occasionally mumbling words that Hardison couldn’t catch. He knew the tone, though. They were little things Eliot would say in a fight - “too slow”, “get up”, and he was careful to keep his distance until the light snores started again. Luckily sleep slowed him down, the punches or kicks were dulled by the comforter wrapped around them, and by the sheer fact that Eliot was unconscious, dreaming.

Hardison hadn’t quite got around to telling Eliot about the dream-fights. He’d covered up the couple of bruises and then learned to just avoid the hits as much as he could. There was no point upsetting Eliot by telling him about it - what was he going to do about it anyway? Separate beds? He just wanted to have as much of Eliot as he could get. If that meant curling up in the far corner of the bed for an hour or two once or twice a week, so he could still sleep in the same bed with the man - then that was what he’d do.

The last week he hadn’t been able to avoid Eliot’s deadly hands in the night. As soon as the hitter was asleep, he was muttering and lashing out worse than Hardison had ever seen. This time his words were clearer, though. “Nate, they’re dead” was the first thing he’d been able to make out for a long time. “Don’t like guns,” and his hands were suddenly around Hardison’s neck, tight and unyielding. “Don‘t mean I can‘t use ‘em.” He’d been trapped in the circle of Eliot’s vice-like grip, struggling to breathe but afraid to wake him, trying to peel strong hands off gently. When the fingers at his throat loosened, he’d sucked in the deepest breath, rubbing at the tender skin and dashing away the tears that had gathered on his cheeks.

It was lucky he looked good in a scarf.

Every night he heard a little more. Eliot re-lived those minutes over and over. The deaths he’d caused, the lines he’d crossed. Nate had done this. Put Eliot into a position where he’d had no choice but to take the lives of those men to protect the team, to protect himself. That was what it came down to in the end. Eliot didn’t see himself as a part of the team, he saw himself as their shield. The reason he couldn’t lose a fight was because he couldn’t protect the team if he was dead. Hardison had heard it all now, the inner workings of Eliot’s mind, spilling out over their clean, white sheets. The last few nights Eliot had stopped fighting, he just muttered. Once, just once, he’d whimpered. Hardison would never tell anyone about that sound, they couldn’t beat it out of him, it was the only way he could protect the hitter. The only way he could give something back was to keep his big mouth shut.

“Where…?” Eliot was awake, his voice was rough and thick, throat swollen so the words could only just squeeze out.

“Somewhere safe, El. Nearly there.” He glanced over and saw Eliot had already slumped back down in the seat. Fuck the bumpy dirt road, he pushed down on the accelerator and they sped into the black night.


The cabin was cold and dark when they got there. Hardison reluctantly left Eliot resting in Lucille while he went inside to switch on the generator and get a fire going. Yet another thing he’d never thought he’d have to do. He remembered something about piling up twigs and paper in a sort of pyramid shape, but the thing kept collapsing and only the paper would light. In the end he found a can of lighter fluid in the cupboard under the sink and just squirted it liberally until the wood caught, going up with a rush of heat that threatened to take off his eyebrows.

The lights were dim, giving the place a cosy, intimate feel. There was even a bearskin rug. Not just a thick rug, an honest to goodness bearskin rug. It wasn’t something Hardison had expected when he bought the place, that the old owners would be hunters, but there it was in all its glory. When he looked closer into the little nooks and crannies of the room he found stuffed birds, mounted fish. They stared at him with dead eyes, and when he turned to curl into Eliot’s neck to get away from them, he remembered that the hitter was still sitting in the van, alone.

They were miles from any kind of civilization, no one would do anything to Eliot while he slept outside. Still, that didn’t stop him darting for the cabin door, yanking it open to catch sight of Eliot slowly dragging himself out of Lucille. Rushing forward, Hardison caught him just as his injured leg gave way, and Eliot crumpled into his arms. It said something for how bad it was this time, that Eliot didn’t even try to shrug him off, just leaned on him and let him carry them both inside.

The couch was big and soft, but Eliot was in no state to stay up any longer. Hardison got him across the big main room and into the bedroom, thankful that he’d remembered to hire a cleaner to sort out clean linens for him. Eliot’s left arm was slung over his shoulder, his own right arm wrapped around Eliot’s waist. He used his free hand to pull back the covers and helped Eliot to sit on the edge of the bed. The boots came off easily enough and the shirt was practically in tatters anyway, but he had a hard time with the jeans, getting Eliot to lift up enough that he could tug them down. Eventually he had the hitter wrapped up in the comforter wearing only his boxer-briefs.

As Eliot’s eyes closed and his head lolled against the pillow, Hardison went to grab a first aid kit out of the bathroom. He knew how heavily the hitter would sleep tonight, and he set to work cleaning and disinfecting the worst of the cuts, dressing them as best he could. He sat back once he’d done the job, and watched the hitter sleep for a while, hoping that for once his sleep would be dream free.

When he eventually came to bed, Hardison slept wrapped around Eliot, and the hitter didn‘t move all night.




Waking up the morning after a fight like that always left him drained and nauseous. There was no point forcing down food, as much as his body might need the nutrients. He knew from past experience that it wouldn’t stay down for long. The other side of the bed was empty, but still warm from someone’s body. He hoped it was Hardison, but without knowing where he was, he couldn’t be entirely sure.

The sheets were soft and clean, but the bed was a little softer than his or Hardison’s. The room was small and the walls were varnished wood. Through swollen eyelids he peered around the room, checking for escape routes, noting the locations of possible weapons. He caught sight of Hardison’s asthma inhaler on the bedside cabinet and fell back on the pillows, letting out a deeply relieved breath.

His hands felt strange. Lifting them shakily, he saw the gauze and tape wrapped around his smashed up knuckles. Muscles aching and stiff, he sat up in the bed, wincing as he put weight on his hands to lift himself up. Now that he was coming to a little more, he began to remember their late night journey here, but he’d been too out of it to keep track of where they were going. If he’d been with anyone else he’d have forced himself to stay awake, memorizing the route they were taking, noticing landmarks, tense until he knew their destination. With Hardison he’d learned to let his defences drop a little. Not much, just enough to let them have a relationship. Just enough to begin to trust. Forget the fighting, the violence, that stuff was easy. Compared to learning to trust, that stuff was a cake walk.

Muffled clanking sounds came from beyond the wooden door of the room. He wondered whether Hardison was actually going to attempt to make breakfast. He’d have to get out there quickly and tell him not to bother, nothing was passing Eliot’s lips this morning except water, his body couldn’t handle anything for a few hours at least. Swinging his legs to the edge of the bed was easy enough, but standing proved a little harder.

His left leg gave at the knee when he tried to put weight on it, and he remembered Roper’s foot impacting with it, the snapping sound he hoped he hadn’t heard. He sat back in the bed and felt over the bones in the knee. Nothing seemed to be broken, but his kneecap was loose, bulging on one side. It wasn’t the first time it had happened. He took a deep breath, placed the heel of his hand against it and braced his knee with the other hand, shoving with controlled force until he felt it ease back into place. The pain was excruciating, and for a second he felt the world darken, bile rising in his throat as his head swam.

Panting through the pain, he felt the dizziness recede as the bedroom door opened. Hardison was there, tall body folding so he could duck under the low doorframe and hurry over to Eliot. He sunk to the floor in front of Eliot and looked up at him radiating concern. Big, dark hands hovered over his body, not quite resting anywhere until Eliot took them in his own and brought them to his lips.

“You didn’t have to…” He gestured at the room and Hardison’s hands rested gently on his thighs.

“Yeah, El. Yeah I did.” One hand wrapped up in Eliot’s hair and brought him down, Hardison’s lips warm against his forehead for a second.

Quickly Hardison was up, and Eliot envied his ease of motion. He ducked out of the door and came back a moment later carrying a tray. Eliot was about to protest, he couldn’t eat, why didn’t Hardison know that by now? Hardison smiled at him and he couldn’t bring himself to say anything, he’d try and swallow a few mouthfuls. But as the tray came down to rest on the bedside cabinet, he realized he’d under-estimated Hardison. The tray was covered in supplies, anti-inflammatory gel, anti-bacterial wipes, ice packs, bandages, a jug of ice-water and a pack of large Band-Aids. He grinned a lop-sided smirk and reached for an ice pack, holding it lightly on his damaged knee and closing his eyes as the blessed cold seeped through his swollen, hot skin, cooling and soothing him. Numbing the pain.


The first day was hard, but the second day was worse in a way. His body stiffened up, although the visible swelling began to fade. His bruises darkened and took on a green hue, cuts and scrapes looking a little better, but he could barely move the knee. Hardison disappeared for a few hours and came back with a knee support for him that helped a little. He wouldn’t be swaggering for a while, but he could at least walk around the little cabin. He was thankful that there were no stairs, though.

Once he was able to get around on his own, he took a look around the cabin. The place was small, but well furnished and built with a loving attention to detail. Even if there were far too many dead animals all around the walls. He took a closer look at the rug in front of the fire, it was a real bearskin. He didn’t have a problem with killing for survival, sometimes it was you or the animal, but this was just not his scene at all.

“Where did you find this place?” He asked as Hardison came back into the living area from the kitchen, carrying two mugs of hot chocolate.

“Nana has some friends that lived out near here, I visit every now and then, and they knew the person who was selling this place. I paid in cash, kept it off the radar as much as I could. Knew one day it would come in handy.”

Eliot took the offered mug and sat slowly on the big, comfortable couch. “I guess it did.”

They sat in silence for a while, drinking the milky chocolate, both avoiding the real reason why they were there. Eliot had gone back on the job after worse injuries than this. He knew that if he got his head back in the game he could be ready for the next con as early as the next day, but being cloistered away like this let him stop and recover in a way that he wouldn’t normally allow.

Once the chocolate was gone, the silence in the room turned into something awkward, and he could feel the distance that Hardison was keeping between them. Hardison wasn’t used to inactivity, he needed something to do, some distraction. Eliot would give him that, even in the middle of nowhere, no technology to keep them busy.

“C’mere.” He reached over and pulled Hardison across the couch, wrapping his arms around the bigger man, cradling him across his lap.

“Wait,” Hardison tried to pull away, “I don’t want to hurt you. Your knee’s still-”

“Dammit, Hardison! Shut up.” He growled, pulling Hardison up into a rough kiss. Soft, warm lips parted and he felt Hardison give in to the love that was between them. Whatever depressing thoughts Hardison had been nursing since Eliot had dragged himself out of that house of mirrors, he was determined to erase them all.

Hardison’s fingers were light on his skin. His own were digging into the hacker’s waist and shoulder hard enough to leave marks, forcing Hardison to forget that Eliot was injured. He licked inside Hardison’s mouth, eagerly chasing the last of the chocolate taste from the hacker’s tongue. It wasn’t enough, though. Hardison was still holding back. While he would normally be grabbing at Eliot’s clothes, desperate to feel skin on skin, now he was just gently submitting to Eliot’s kiss.

Eliot pulled back long enough to say, “I’m not gonna break, dumbass,” before latching onto Hardison’s throat, sucking and biting at the skin there, knowing it drove the man wild. Hardison moaned under his lips and Eliot smiled, pulling the hacker up so he was straddling Eliot’s hips. His hands fit perfectly over the curve of Hardison’s ass. He rested there, face buried in Hardison’s neck, breathing in the scent of home.

For a moment he thought Hardison was going to just let him snuggle there, nose pressed against the soft, warm skin of his throat. Hardison had other ideas. He moved his hips in small, slow thrusts against Eliot’s own, hands slipping down to tug at the hem of Eliot’s t-shirt. Eliot lifted his hands and drew back, letting Hardison pull the shirt over his head, hoping that the ugly bruising that marked his skin wouldn’t put him off. He couldn’t tell if Hardison was ignoring the marks or if he just didn’t see them, but nothing changed. Long fingers kept on removing his clothing, undoing his fly and tugging down his underwear to delve inside.

Eliot gasped as Hardison took hold of him, wrapping a firm grip around his cock and jerking him slowly as Eliot lay back against the couch, eyes closed. Hardison’s tongue licked a trail from the base of his throat up to just under his ear, and the hot breath ghosting over the shell of his ear made him groan and buck up into Hardison’s hand. The hacker was grinning, Eliot could feel it against his skin. Before he had time to figure out why, Hardison was whispering in his ear, “Can’t wait ‘til you get better, El. Soon as you can do it, I want you to fuck me.” Eliot gasped again and Hardison just continued, one hand wrapped around Eliot’s cock and the pressure of his hips behind it, keeping a tight grip on him just the way he liked it. “You’re gonna bend me over, make me beg for it. Gonna fuck me so hard, so fucking hard I’ll be feeling it for days. Ain’t that right?”

“God, Hardison!” The hacker was still grinning but Eliot was determined to make this last, “Wait, slow down.” Hardison pulled back and Eliot fixed him with a glare, “Want you to ride me.”

Hardison’s grin faltered, “You sure?”

He nodded, growling “Yeah.” Hardison grinned and gave him a quick, sloppy kiss on the lips, before leaping off Eliot’s lap. Quickly, he was back, completely naked, lube in one hand and a condom in the other. Eliot huffed out a laugh and shucked down his jeans, hissing as they slid over his injured knee, and taking a moment for the pain to recede. When he was ready, he slipped on the condom and patted his thigh in invitation. Hardison crawled across him until he was on hands and knees over Eliot’s lap.

The lube was cold on his fingers, he waited a few seconds for it to warm before reaching down to gently stroke over Hardison’s hole. He felt the muscles relax as Hardison took a breath, and let one finger slip inside, easing it in slowly and twisting with each little push. Hardison’s breathing quickened and Eliot felt himself harden even more, the tight heat around his finger reminding him of where he was going to be in just a few minutes. A little more lube, another finger, and Hardison was panting and pushing back against Eliot’s hand, eyes closed and lips bitten between his teeth. This time it was Eliot’s turn to grin, a third finger stretched Hardison enough that it wouldn’t be too painful for him. A quick slick of lube over his own painfully erect cock, and they were good to go.

As his fingers left the hacker pushing back into thin air, he gave a little slap across Hardison’s ass cheeks, a signal to jump up and get on with it. Quickly, Hardison was in his lap and Eliot lined up, pushing up a little as Hardison eased down onto him, so that within a moment he was buried deep inside and relinquishing control as Hardison began to move.

At first Hardison’s movements were small and guarded, gaze fixed on Eliot’s face for any sign that this was aggravating his injuries. Eliot simply smiled and grabbed him by the hips, thrusting up and pulling down at the same time, forcing Hardison into a faster, harder rhythm. Eliot’s smile widened and he let his hands travel up along his lover’s body, mapping out the dark contours of slim muscle, occasionally stopping to tease a nipple or brush lightly against Hardison’s own erect cock.

Eliot’s heart was racing, his lips were locked on Hardison’s throat as he reached down to finally take hold of Hardison‘s erection, stroking him firmly just the way he knew how. He felt his own orgasm building too quickly, but Hardison was crying out blissfully above him, writhing on Eliot’s cock, and there was no way he was going to slow this down now. He let his thumb slip over the head of Hardison’s cock, twisting his wrist a little on each upward stroke. Hardison shuddered above him, body trembling even as he rode down hard on Eliot’s cock, muscles fluttering a signal to Eliot that his lover was about to come.

“Come on, baby, come,” he grunted in Hardison’s ear, and pulled back to watch as Hardison moaned and painted his stomach with thick, white splashes of come. He wasn’t far behind, but Hardison was spent, on top of him. Hands sliding back around to the hacker’s hips, he held on tight and thrust up until he was nearly ready.

“Baby, will you…?” He didn’t need to finish the sentence, they each knew the other’s favorite things, and Eliot knew that Hardison would be on his knees in seconds. The condom landed with a sticky plop on the wooden floor and Hardison’s hot, wet mouth slid around just the head of his cock. His hand wrapped around to jerk Eliot quick and hard, mouth sucking and tongue flicking over the sensitive head until Eliot felt like he was going to explode. The pleasure building to an intense rush that left him dizzy, pumping spurt after spurt into Hardison’s mouth, hands clawed in the couch cushions until he was spent.

By the time Eliot got his breathing under control, Hardison was crawling back onto the couch, laying with his head in Eliot’s lap, a satisfied smile on his face. He reached over to lace his fingers with Hardison’s, neither of them needing to say a word, content to just be together.



“Dammit, Hardison! I can carry my own bags.” The hitter’s expression was a warning that Hardison could choose to ignore, but it was best for his own health if he didn’t.

They were leaving a little earlier than he’d originally planned. Turned out it was hard to keep Eliot from getting bored and restless once he felt he’d healed up enough to get on with another job. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t miss civilization himself, could almost hear his online avatars crying out with neglect. Not to mention the serious lack of orange soda in the cabin.

“Says the man who’s been letting me carry his sorry ass for days.” Hardison wondered whether maybe he had some kind of death wish. Sometimes things slipped out of his mouth before he really thought them through.

Eliot’s expression would have had anyone else running for the hills, but Hardison saw the glint of amusement in sharp, blue eyes and grinned, swinging up into the driver’s seat of his beloved van as Eliot buckled himself into the passenger seat. “Did you miss me, sweetheart?” He paused and pretended to listen to her, “You did? Oh baby, let’s get you home. We got a long drive, but you’ll see, it’s gonna fly by.”

Hardison’s hand rested on Eliot’s thigh, and although the hitter was looking out of the passenger side window, his hand slid down to rest lightly on top, and stayed there.


~~~~~~~~ Back to Leverage ~~~~~~~~



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