What Else Would You Have Me Be?

Chapter 11

It had been half an hour, and still there was no sign of Parker.

Alec was monitoring every emergency room in the county, while Sophie and Nate stood outside 44 Monroe, watching the police and ambulances pulling away. There'd been no official statement yet, but judging by the chatter on the police frequencies, they were leaning towards a false alarm.

Otherwise, it was quiet on the line, which probably meant that everyone heard Alec's startled gasp when his door swung suddenly open.


"You're supposed to be in bed." She was pale and bedraggled, but wasn't so out of it that she missed the expression on Alec's face as she froze in the doorway. "I'm fine."

"Parker- guys, she's here, she's fine." He shook himself, searching her face for answers. She looked shaken, almost ill. "What the hell happened?!"

"My line came loose," she replied in a wavering tone, once Alec stood up to grab her by the hand and pull her inside. She dropped the orange backpack she'd slung over her shoulder, and somewhere in the background, the rest of the team was all talking at once, but Alec wasn't listening. Instead, he was sitting her on the edge of the bed and going to the mini fridge to get her a soda. It was the best he could think of, and it bought him the time to adjust to the shift his panic had taken.

"So it was an accident?"

Parker was wide-eyed as she nodded, and Alec only now noticed the oversized blue sweatshirt she hadn't been wearing when she'd left. "I. Yes. I don't know. I anchored at the top, checked my knots twice, but I didn't see anything wrong." She closed her eyes and took a breath. "Made it down to McTeague's balcony just fine, but when I grabbed the line to tie in again, it just came down."

Alec nodded, remembered to breathe. "How'd you get out of there?"

"I swung down onto the sixteenth floor balcony and caught my breath. By the time I was heading through the condo, I could hear the noise in the hallway and sirens coming from outside, so I waited, took off the rig and shoved it in the bag, grabbed this," she gestured at her shirt with a distasteful face. "There was all this noise- neighbors talking in the hall, trying to find out what happened, and they knocked on the door. Made up something about waiting for my brother to get back from work and told them that I hadn't heard anything. A bunch of them were all going outside to see what they could see, so I went with them." She shrugged. "And that's when it hit me, all those police cruisers sitting out there, I just. I ran."

"Your comms-"

With shaking hands, Parker pulled her hair back to show off the red welt that ran along the side of her face. "The line whipped me in the ear as it came down."

"Shit," Alec said, wrapping his arms around her, and even though she clearly wasn't wild about the idea, she allowed the contact.

"Another five seconds, and I would've gone over the edge, I would've-" she frowned, her voice distant. "My knots came loose." She shook her head, like she just couldn't believe it.

"Nate. Sophie. I need you guys to head up to the roof." Parker's frown deepened at his words. "Just checking something," he assured her, standing up slowly to give her some space and ease the ache in his side a little.

"There's a chunk of rope tied off up here. It's been cut. We're heading your way."

"Seriously?" The hell?

"What is it?" Parker asked.

"Your knots didn't slip." There wasn't really much point candy-coating it. "Someone cut the line."

Anyone else would've frozen in terror. Parker just laughed. "Whew." Her shoulders lost some of their rigidity and she leaned back on her hands, smiling. "That's a relief."

Alec threw his hands up in surrender. If she wasn't going to freak out on her own behalf, he could step up. "Someone tries to kill you, and it's a relief. We're all running around, panicking, because we think you're dead. And now it's looking like someone actually wanted you that way, and you're relieved."

She scowled, puzzled as to why Alec wasn't getting it. "Yeah, but my knots didn't fail."

"Someone tried to kill you."

Parker nodded raised an eyebrow, her eyes darting down towards Alec's injury. "So?"

Fuck it, he decided, his injury finally winning out and sending him to stretch out onto the bed beside her. Might as well start a club.


She's okay, Eliot told himself, trying not to hear the for now that followed.

They'd underestimated the threat, and he'd underestimated McTeague. Somehow, he'd known Parker was going to search his condo.

On the other end of the line, Sophie and Nate were returning to the hotel, pouring drinks and passing them around. A whiskey or five would've been good right now, but it wasn't worth complaining about.

"Hey, man, why don't I-" Hardison was saying, only to be cut off by Sophie.

"Painkillers and alcohol. You know better."

"Maybe I don't," came the grumbling reply, as Nate prompted Parker to go over her story again.

"Get her on comms," Eliot muttered, needing to hear this, and after a rustling sound- Hardison signing off- finally heard her voice.

"Hi Eliot."

"Hey," he said, realizing only halfway through her story that what he'd meant to say was don't scare us like that. But she was fine, cracking jokes now that the immediate danger had passed. Like the fact that someone was gunning for her hadn't even registered.

"I'm going to kill McTeague," he announced, once she was done.

"No," she said. "It's not him, I don't think. I mean, he wasn't home. Besides. I found this note shoved under his door. I left it there, but got pictures."

A moment later, Nate read it out loud. "Says, ah, 'You were at Arlington's that night, so I wouldn't go around spreading rumors. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.' Huh. Hardison?"

"Going over the security footage from this morning," Hardison came on the line again after a few minutes. "McTeague left at about six-thirty this morning. About five minutes later," he trailed off, and Eliot imagined him scrolling through frame by frame. "Guys. It's Miller."

"Same guy who signed off on the evidence bags for the shiv," Parker confirmed. "Right. Was he the one that cut my line?"

"He's been on the block all day," Eliot confirmed, glancing out into the corridor. He could just make him out down near the rec area. "Seen him often enough that he couldn't been out there and back in between. Though I might just kick his ass, anyway."

"Stay cool, Eliot," Nate warned, just as Hardison sputtered.

"Hey, guys, I got it. 11:46 this morning, I got Donovan entering the building. He's going for the stairs half an hour before Parker shows up at the condo. And I'm not sure- the cameras are low-resolution, cheap ass things- but it looks like he followed the police out."

"I don't understand," Sophie said. "How was he was there before Parker?"

"Don't want to alarm anyone, but I'm checking it out, and. Hang on." There was a moment of static on the line, then he was back. "Okay. You know how I lost my earbud in the yard?"


"Someone found it, and Donovan has it. As of now, that earbud is cut off and we're on another channel, but. Everything up to now? He knows all about it."

"Damn it, Hardison!" Nate's voice echoed Eliot's own.

"Hey. Things got a little hectic in there, with me bleeding out and all, just chill. Here on out, he's lost the advantage."

"He knows everything I know," Eliot sighed. "The entire mind reading routine. All he needs to do is to come in and show them his earpiece, and I'm blown."

"Then you'd better act quick," Nate decided. "I'm bumping up the timeline."


This was reckless. Nate had brushed off the fact that they were compromised like it was nothing, and there was no way this was going to work. To make matters worse, Eliot found himself having to wait until the shift-change cell check to say anything. Up the line, he could hear McTeague chatting with the guys a few cells down.

Eventually, though, he was standing at Eliot's cell, checking him off on a clipboard, barely looking at him. It wasn't the ideal setup, but it would have to do.

"Veiled threats are the weapons of a guilty man," he said, keeping his eyes and voice carefully distant, aiming for some air of vague mysticism that he just couldn't feel, acting like nothing he said mattered to him at all on this plane. "The only harm comes from giving in. Seek guidance"

McTeague frowned, glancing sideways before finally looking at him. "What're you on about, Gremminger?"

"You should seek council. Someone you can trust." He blinked, then, as if coming out of a trance, and frowned apologetically. "Uh, sorry, boss. Sometimes, I just. Say things. Never mind."

"Right," McTeague shrugged, making a mark on his clipboard. "See you tomorrow."

All Eliot could do after that was wait.


Things moved quickly after that.

As Nate had predicted- of course, it would've been better had he actually explained it at the time- McTeague showed up at the church that evening, sitting through the service and asking to speak to Nate afterwards. Eliot had only heard Nate's side of it, asking to see the note, coaxing him into doing the right thing.

He'd wished they'd bugged the church. It would've been helpful to have at least heard the tone of McTeague's words. Even so, after McTeague had finally gone home. Nate had seemed obnoxiously confident.

"Eliot? We'll have you out of there in no time."

He hadn't believed it, though, not until a few minutes ago, when he'd been called into visitation.

Tara was waiting for him with a grin on her face, and things were happening fast, now.

"The charges against you are being dropped," she leaned across the table to show him the paperwork. "It seems that there are several deputies who are changing their stories of what happened the night of Deputy Springer's murder."


"Four initially, spearheaded by McTeague, and with the FBI investigation taking over, the others are lining up to follow suit. But that's neither here nor there. The amended reports so far are enough that you're being released immediately, since the State Attorney agrees that your treatment here has been more than adequate punishment for the drunk and disorderly charges that, well, by your own admission…" She trailed off, her eyebrows twitching, amused and apologetic.

Eliot fell back against his chair, actually stunned. This was real. "You're serious."

"I am," Tara stood up. "Now come on, let's get you out of here."

When Eliot made to follow, the guard- Sanchez, this time- let him pass without comment.

He really hadn't been expecting that. Not in the least. Half an hour later, he was walking out the entrance a free man.


Alec lay in bed and tried not to watch the clock, tried to ignore Parker's pacing, but the going was rough. Since Tara had grabbed the nearly dead relay phone from the ladies' room outside reception an hour ago, she and Eliot had been off comms, and, well.

It's easier to just call it paranoia.

Never mind the fact that even though Eliot was out, so was Donovan.

And it shouldn't be taking this long for two people to drive the thirteen miles from the jail to the hotel.

And he wasn't the only one being paranoid, either. Nate had instructed Parker to wait in here, while he and Sophie hung out in the lobby, watching the parking lot. He'd said nothing about it, but his intentions were plain- he was keeping the crew close.

Parker knew the score as much as Alec did. She was flitting across the room, not even bothering to try cracking the cheap safe that hotel provided for valuables. Alec watched her tread from the window to the door and back to the window again. Finally, though, her posture changed and her head swiveled towards the door.

"They're coming," she brightened, stepping over to swing the door open and peering excitedly out into the hallway.

Alec could hear them coming, and a moment later, Tara was stepping inside, followed by Sophie, Nate, and finally, Eliot, who was immediately tackled by Parker. He recovered quickly, even returning the hug with a chuckle. "Good to see you, too." His eyes swiveled towards the bed and he frowned sharply at Alec. "Don't get up, man."

Alec hadn't realized he'd been doing just that, and froze, halfway to sitting and feeling precariously foolish, but that had nothing on how precarious he felt when Eliot crossed the room and shook his hand, passing him his earpiece as he did so.

"Thanks for that, by the way," he grinned, and maybe Alec was imagining how tight Eliot's grip had been, there, for that scant second. "But don't let me see that thing for at least another twenty-four hours."




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