Title: Sinner's Prayer
Disclaimer I do not own the characters of Leverage.
Characters/Pairings: The team, Shelley, original characters.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Warnings/spoilers: Spoilers for season four. Some violence and fictionalised religious fanaticism.
Word Count: 10K
Summary: The world is awakening, and the old ways are becoming obsolete. Agents of the Order of Thanatos are dying, and if one person has their way, Eliot will be next.
Eliot tossed his bag into his rental car, cell phone held to one ear. Rain was coming down in a steady drizzle, and Eliot wanted to get to the airport early. He had ended up staying in DC a few days over the estimated week, and he was more than ready to get back to Boston. City traffic was also a pain in the ass on good days, but add in a little bit of rain, and people thought they were trying out for Nascar. Hardison’s babbling wasn’t helping either.
“When you get back, Nate wants you to head right over,” Hardison said, the steady click of keys carrying over the line. Eliot briefly wondered if he was doing research for some case, or playing his stupid World of Witchcraft game. “He’s got a client meeting set up he wants you to sit in on. Also, if you could stop by the store on your way over, I’m out of gummy frogs and orange soda.” The distant sounds of computerized fighting confirmed Eliot’s suspicions.
“Hardison,” Eliot snapped as he slammed the trunk closed. The rain was starting to come down a bit harder now, and he wanted this conversation to be over. “I ain’t buying you that crap, and unless the client is in danger, tell Nate he can have Sophie sit in instead.”
“Ah, man,” Hardison said. “Come on, it’s not like—”
“I gotta go,” Eliot said. “I’ve got a lot of stuff I need to take care of and I got a flight to catch.”
He hung up before Hardison could protest further. Getting into the car, Eliot pulled out into traffic. The street was relatively quiet, thank God. Only a few cars passed by as Eliot headed towards the freeway. Coming up to an intersection, he turned on the signal before taking a left. The light was green, so he only slowed down enough to make the turn. It was only a brief moment of distraction, his eyes looking where he wanted to go. He failed to see the SUV speed up behind him, flying through the intersection. The impact caused Eliot’s head to strike the steering wheel. The harsh grinding of metal on metal filled the cab as the car came to a stop. The world swam before Eliot’s eyes. His head, neck, and shoulders begged him to stay still.
The driver’s door screeching open drew an unfocused gaze. Eliot tried to shove the insistent hands away, but his stomach lurched and the world grayed before his eyes. Blackness swallowed him down as he was pulled from the car.
The world came back to Eliot slowly. Voices reached his ears, though he couldn’t understand the words. His eyes didn’t seem to want to open, and his body felt oddly detached, like that time in Yemen—
Eliot’s eyes shot open and his nervous system came back online. His head ached and his neck and shoulders were stiff. More voices assaulted his ears, but he did not recognize them. Fear, panic, and a need to flee surged through his system, but when he tried to move he felt the hard unyielding grip of iron around his wrist. A hand, small and gentle, settled on his arm while fingers ran over his brow and through his hair. Soothing words drift past his ears, and though he tried to make out their meaning, darkness dragged him back under.
When he woke again, the voices were gone. He was lying on his stomach, the rough feel of canvas under his cheek. Dim light allowed for very little in the room to stand out. Concrete floors met with walls of the same make, and Eliot could just make out several filing cabinets along one wall. A bare light bulb lit the room. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, and when he shifted the clink of metal rang out in the room.
Bringing one hand up, Eliot looked over the cuff. The band was about an inch wide, the chain attaching it to the wall heavy. Pulling himself into a seated position, Eliot bit back a pain filled groan, the muscles in his shoulders and neck protesting all movement. His muddled memory offered no answers to how he’d ended up in this room, and a quick search of his pockets revealed his cell phone was missing.
“Great,” Eliot muttered, pushing his hair from his eyes. “Where’s Parker when you need her.”
Drawing a leg up, Eliot felt along the cuff of his jeans. Relief flooded through his sore body when he pulled the thin lock picks from their hiding place, grateful Parker had insisted on sewing hiding places for the picks into the team’s clothing. Carefully, he lifted one wrist and set to getting the damn chains off. It took him longer than he would have liked, none of them as skilled at picking lock as Parker, but first one, then the other fell from his wrist.
It took him a moment to gain his footing as a wave of dizziness swept over him. After a few deep breaths he slowly began a search of the cell he was in. The filing cabinets he’d spotted earlier were sitting next to each other, and unfortunately they were empty. A lone window rested at the top of the back wall, but even though he could easily reach it, it was too small for Eliot to fit through. The door was metal, but luck was finally on Eliot’s side. Crouching down he worked slowly, keeping his frustration at bay while he tried to get the door opened.
After what felt like forever the lock clicked and Eliot slowly edged the door open. The hallway was empty, and Eliot eased out of the room, closing the door. He stood for a few seconds, taking in his surrounding and listening to see if there was anyone in the immediate area. There were no cameras that he could see, so he began to make his way towards the end of the hallway. Eliot had to dodge crates, boxes, and one dilapidated stack of books before he could peer around the corner. The lights were dim and Eliot could still not hear any signs of activity, so he crept out into the main room, keeping close to the walls. He found a crowbar as he made his circuit and kept it in case he needed a weapon.
His muscles were screaming at him with each step, causing his neck and shoulders to tense up. His head had joined in with the rest of his body and began to stage a mutiny of its own. Teeth clenched, Eliot used every tactic he had to keep going. He’d been in situations like this before and usually in worse shape. All he had to do was get clear and find a car, and then he could get the hell away from wherever he was.
As he neared what he thought might be an office, he heard the harsh shrill of a phone ringing. Ducking down behind a stack of boxes, Eliot closed his eyes and strained his senses. There was no one in the main room, but he could now hear shuffling in the office. The ringing cut off abruptly, and a low voice murmured in the background. Eliot sighed and opened his eyes. If he wanted to hear he’d have to get closer, or he could keep heading towards the exit.
The choice was made for him when he felt a slight displacement of air off to his right. The sharp prick of a needle that followed caused the world to spin around him and he could barely keep his body upright. The last thing he heard before his eyes closed was a softly accented voice saying, “I’m sorry.”
Eliot woke to discover his shirt missing and a soft cloth gliding along his bare skin. Cool air drifted across his body causing a slight shiver. He tried to jerk away, but the hard bite of metal chains dug into his skin. A sharp burning pain radiated from his back. He could feel his wings flexing against the chains holding him down. Panic surged through him and he fought the fog filling his mind. His wings were showing. Every lesson the Order had taught him said they only came out when the bearer was close to death. He didn’t feel death coming to greet him. He felt drugged, his body heavy, his thought process muddled. When he turned his head a sense of vertigo nearly had him retching.
“Shhh…” a female voice said. “It will all be over soon.” It was the same one that had apologized to him earlier.
The dim lighting did little to help Eliot’s fuzzy vision focus. The cloth moved to his face, a gentle cooling pressure on his forehead as the speaker cleaned away sweat. A spicy scent reached his nose and Eliot tried to move his head out of the cloth’s reach. The scent made his eyes water and his stomach roll. It didn’t help his headache either, the scent invading his senses the same way a pungent perfume would.
“Delilah.” The new voice brought a spark of recognition and Eliot tried to focus on the new comer. Dark hair, light clothing, and just a bit taller than Eliot. He would know that silhouette anywhere.
“Michael,” Eliot said, his voice a raspy drawl that sounded as raw as his throat felt. Delilah stopped her ministrations, dropping the cloth in a bowl before standing and walking away. Michael took her spot next to Eliot, a fond smile on his face. Eliot wanted to hit him hard enough to permanently knock the smile off. “I’m gonna kill you for this.”
“You can try,” Michael said, gently patting Eliot’s arm. “But you won’t get very far.”
“What’d ya' do to me?” Eliot asked as the world spun before his eyes once more.
“We gave you a little something to make you more, cooperative.”
“Why’d ya’ do it?” Eliot asked, the whole scenario not making any sense. Michael had been dedicated to their calling since his recruitment. He’d always been the first to help out a fellow agent, and the last to leave a fight. He’d helped save countless lives over the years, making his betrayal all the more painful. “They were good people.”
“Now you know that’s not true. No good person ends up with our job.” Michael reached forward and pushed the hair from Eliot’s forehead. “Besides, it has been foretold. The world is changing, the old ways are becoming obsolete, and someone has to lead us into the light.” He leaned over Eliot and paced a gentle kiss to his forehead. “You’re death will help me become that leader. Your memory will be held in the highest regard after your sacrifice.”
Eliot shifted against the cold steel holding him down. “You won’t get away with this.”
Michael shook his head sadly. “Yes, I will. It is destiny after all.”
Delilah returned, the soft overhead light highlighting her blonde hair. She held long strips of purple cloth in her hands and presented them to Michael with a slight bow. Turning, Michael took one from her and moved to drape it over Eliot’s ankles. Another piece went over his knees, then his hips, chest, and throat. Raising his head, Eliot could just make out gold symbols stitched into the fabric.
“Are the other’s ready?” Michael asked.
“Yes, my Lord,” Delilah replied with another quick bow. “They will be here shortly.”
“Good,” Michael said. “We’ll start the ritual as soon as they arrive.”
“Of course, my Lord.” Delilah turned and began lighting incense, filling the air with the same spicy scent used in the water to clean Eliot.
“Got some high aspirations, doncha?” Eliot said, coughing as the scented air coated the back of his throat. It tasted as bad as it smelt. “You gonna wear a crown after this? To complete the transformation and all?”
“I really wish you’d take this more seriously,” Michael said, a disappointing frown marring his face. “You don’t seem to grasp the great honor that is being bestowed upon you.”
Eliot snorted and tugged at the chains once more. They held firm. “I never knew betrayal and murder was supposed to be something to look forward to.”
“Eliot,” Michael said in a gently chiding tone. “You read the text, the same as I did. Now that the world is awakening—”
“Those prophecies are a load of horse shit,” Eliot cut in. “Not even the old bastards believe in ‘em.”
“Kalen did,” Michael said. “Or he never would have offered Moreau’s most trusted Lieutenant a place in the Order.”
“Kalen smoked too much weed,” Eliot said, ignoring the dig. “He doesn’t count.”
The opening and closing of a door cut off their conversation. Several footsteps echoed in the room and Michael turned away, warm smile firmly in place. Delilah returned and went to stand beside Michael. Eliot could just see the handle of a dagger held in her slim hands.
“Welcome, everyone,” Michael said, shaking the hands of the men and women who gathered around the table. “Please, take your places; it’s almost time to begin.”
They formed a loose circle around him, hands held as if in prayer. Fury burned through Eliot’s blood. He knew some of these people. He’d fought with a few of them, bled with them. While they weren’t friends, they’d still shared a bond forged from duty. Michael came to stand at his head and placed one hand along his forehead. Eliot tried to dislodge his hand, but the added pressure kept his head in place.
“Stop touchin’ me you son of a bitch!”
Michael’s hold tightened and the ache in his neck increased.
“Brothers, sisters,” Michael said, his voice ringing out in the open room. “Agents of the Order of Thanatos. Tonight is the beginning of a new era. Tonight the world will awaken to the truth once more. For too long we have fought in the shadows, saving humanity from a threat few even recognized as more than fiction. With Brother Eliot’s sacrifice, Thanatos’ Heir will rise.”
As one the others knelt, bowing their heads. Eliot pulled at the cuffs around his wrist and the chains holding down his legs. Prayers rose steady in volume, and with a gesture from Michael, each member came forward, taking up the decorative blade Delilah held in her hands.
“Let our blood join with the holy sacrifice,” Michael said as each person let a few drops of blood splatter along the purple cloth. Once they were finished Michael took up the dagger and raised his hands. The prayers fell silent. “Let our souls join together with his to aid him on this journey.” He sliced the width of his palm and placed the blooded hand on Eliot’s forehead.
“Do you give unto me your faith?” Michael asked, gaze taking in each member. “Do you gift me with your loyalty? Do you promise to up hold the laws of the new Order we are creating tonight?”
“We swear our faith, our loyalty, and our lives to you.” The crowd’s voice rang out as one.
Michael bowed his head. “I humbly thank you for your fealty, and I vow that I shall do all I can to be a just, and honorable leader. Let us bow our heads and pray.”
A sharp whistle silenced the group. Heads turned and Eliot saw Shelley, big smile on his face, wave at everyone.
“This is some part you’ve got going. How come I wasn’t invited?” Shelley asked in an overly cheerful tone. “I’ve know Eliot longer than anyone here. I should have been at the top of the invite list.” He then turned his attention towards Eliot. “I’m hurt. You promised you wouldn’t start the fun without me.”
“Shelley,” Eliot choked out. “If you don’t star killing these bastards soon, I’ll never forgive you.”
“Brother Shelley,” Michael said, his tone smooth, his smile serene. “You have to understand, this is a delicate time for the Order, and we cannot have any interruptions.”
“Gee,” Shelley said taking a few steps forward. “Then maybe I shouldn’t have brought all those extra guest then, huh?” He gave a slight shrug, his expression saying, Oops, my bad.
The explosion that followed knocked the group to the ground. Michael stumbled back, dagger clattering to the floor. Smoke and light filled the room, and Eliot closed his eyes, ears ringing due to the blast. In the chaos instant hands began pulling at the chains and soon they were falling away. Something was quickly shoved into his ear and the hurried sounds of his teammate’s voices filled his ears.
“I’ve got him,” Parker said, her strong hands pulling him from the table. “I think he’s hurt.”
“Drugged,” Eliot said as he struggled to stay standing. “It’s wearin’ off though.”
“Well, hurry up and get out of there,” Hardison said. “Before the crazies decide three sacrifices are better than one.”
Eliot could hear the panic footsteps of Michael’s followers running for the exit. A few met with Shelley’s quick and brutal strikes as he tried to reach where Michael had fallen.
“We’re moving as fast as we can,” Parker snapped. “His wings are heavy.”
A pause, then Hardison said in a choked voice, “wings?”
“Oh, yeah,” Parker said as she dragged Eliot towards the exit, stepping around debris. “Eliot’s part bird.”
“Save it for later,” Nate said, voice harsh. “Just concentrate on getting out.”
“Come on, the exit’s this way."
“I’m sorry; I can’t let you take him.”
The blow sent Eliot staggering back and to the ground. Pain spread out across his back, his wings having been caught at odd angles beneath him. Eliot was getting tired of the world spinning around him and he tried to order his stomach to cease its rebellion. When he looked up, Eliot saw that Michael had Parker by the throat, her feet barely touching the floor. He had such a look of sorrow on his face that Eliot realized in some twisted way Michael truly believed what he was saying.
“Destiny awaits us,” Michael said. He lifted the knife clutched in his free hand. “And Eliot has his part to play.”
Grabbing the nearest object Eliot hurled it at Michael. The piece of wood struck the side of his head, giving Parker enough slack to get free. Eliot climbed to his feet, took a deep breath, and tackled Michael. They crashed to the floor with a bone jarring thud. Michael’s head struck the floor, momentarily dazing him. Eliot took the advantage and reared back, landing a punch to his jaw. He quickly followed it up with another.
“Shelley, get Parker out of here,” Eliot growled out. Michael was starting to come around, making it harder for Eliot to hold him down.
“Nate said we’re not supposed to leave without you.”
“It’s admirable, really,” Michael said as he broke Eliot’s hold. “How loyal they are to you.”
He surged upwards, pushing Eliot off causing his back to slam against the floor again. Michael was on his feet soon after. A swift kick caused pain to tear through Eliot’s side. He managed to dodge the next kick, rolling away and climbing to his feet. The weight of his wings caused him to stumble a bit and Eliot had to use the table he’d been chained to for balance. He was relieved to note he could not see Parker anywhere, though Shelley was busy fighting the remains of Michael’s followers.
“I had hoped this would be a painless process, but I will not let your friends stand in the way of destiny. If it comes to it, they will die too.”
“The only person dying here today is you.” Eliot pushed his hair from his eyes, a blood tinged smile curving his lips. “And I plan on being the one to deliver you to your marker.”
“I didn’t want it to be this way,” Michael said. His voice had taken on a somber note once more and Eliot couldn’t resist rolling his eyes.
“Right,” Eliot said. “Cause I should have just laid down and let you kill me like a good little sacrifice. Keep dreamin' jackass.”
Michael came at him then, fist aiming towards his head. Eliot ducked and, despite the added hindrance of his wings, managed to lash out at the other man’s torso. One hit was accompanied with a loud crack of bone breaking and Eliot laughed.
“Hurts like a bitch, doesn’t it?”
Eliot dodged another swing, but the next caught him along his jaw. He stumbled a few steps, his wings making it hard to move as quickly as he was used to. He ended up falling backwards, his feet tripping over one of Michael’s downed followers. Michael’s weight landed on him next, his hands wrapping around Eliot’s throat.
“I wanted to give you the honor of a dignified death,” Michael said. His hands tightened, and he leaned forward, denying Eliot the air he needed. “But it doesn’t matter how you die, just as long as you do.”
Lungs aching, and the remains of the drug slowing his movements, Eliot couldn’t get a solid grip on Michael’s arms. The pain of his weight on Eliot’s bruised body made fighting even harder. His vision started to gray and the noise of Shelley fighting started to fade. The other’s voices were incomprehensible and a part of Eliot wondered why he was even still fighting.
A sudden force knocked both of them to the side, dislodging Michael’s hands. Eliot was finally able to draw air in his lungs. Every sense came roaring back as he fought to breathe through hacking coughs. Looking up he saw Shelley and Michael tear into each other, their movements almost too fast to follow.
Small, but strong hands grabbed his arms, hauling him upright. The scent of Parker’s shampoo filled his nose and Eliot tried to force his exhausted body to move.
“Come on, Sparky,” Parker said. “Time to leave the party.”
“Shelley,” Eliot coughed out as Parker dragged him once more towards the exit.
“Go, I’ve got this,” Shelley said through gritted teeth.
A few steps from the blown out door, Shelley gave a shout of alarm. Eliot, reacting on instinct, pulled Parker in front of him and wrapped his body around hers. He crouched low to the ground, wings raised high in a shield around them. Heat slammed into his back, air fled from his lungs again, and a concussive forced slammed them to the ground. The world fell silent after that.
The world came back to Eliot in a chaotic rush. Voices filled his ears, hands tried to hold him steady. He couldn’t seem to force his eyes open, and the swaying of the vehicle caused a groan to slip from his lips. A jarring lurched caused Eliot’s eyes to finally open and he couldn’t help the harsh scream that tore from his throat. His back felt like someone had peeled the skin off and was grating the exposed muscles. His vision swam and churned so violently that he had to close his eyes. Nausea caused his stomach to roll and bile to fill his throat.
Eliot swallowed it back down as he tried to take deep breaths through his nose. The voices stopped, and Eliot lay still waiting for the pain to stop. A few seconds ticked by before a rustling sound reached his ears. Before he could process the information, a hand tugged on something and a scream was ripped from him. He twisted his body on instinct and he curled his wings around himself, trying to will the pain in his back to fade.
The fog around his thoughts started to lift. He could hear the panic, fear, and uncertainty in his teammate’s voices, though the words still sounded fuzzy. Another hand touched him, this time on his arm as a soothing voice finally cleared.
“Eliot, come on man,” Hardison’s voice accompanied the gentle rubbing on his arm. “Open your eyes. You’re scaring everyone.”
Eliot took a deep breath and forced his eyes open. Hardison’s face came into focus after a few blinks, and he could see the encouraging smile on the younger man’s face. Looking around Eliot saw he was in the back of Lucille, chair and computer equipment missing. He was curled partially under the desk, his wings bunched up around him.
Eliot blinked again and looked from his wings to Hardison. Blood covered the gray feathers, matting them together. There was more blood on Hardison’s clothes and face. Leaning forward Eliot made his way out from under the desk. Sophie and Parker where missing, though he could hear their voices drifting in from outside. Nate stood in the doorway, his face tight and pale. Blood coated his shirt and face as well, emphasizing the hard lines around his eyes and mouth.
“What?” Eliot croaked out, his voice sounding like it was being forced out over glass.
He swallowed and looked down. A bottle of water entered his field of vision and Eliot took it with a shaky smile. Hardison nodded and scooted back, giving Eliot as much room as possible. He took a few small sips, praying that the nausea wouldn’t make a return appearance.
“Where’s Shelley?” Eliot asked, his voice sounding less broken.
“He’s outside getting fussed over by Sophie and Parker,” Hardison said.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Nate said, voice clipped and angry.
Eliot felt his shoulders tense at Nate’s tone, causing a wince as battered muscles tightened in ways they shouldn’t.
“Back off,” Hardison snapped back and edged closer to Eliot. “Man nearly died today. I think that earns his a reprieve from the Nate Ford Inquisition.”
“I didn’t see what went down,” Eliot said and Hardison rested a hand on his shoulder. “I just heard Shelly yell, and I reacted.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he gave Eliot’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Let’s get you back to the hotel so you can clean up. Then, we’ll talk.” He shot a dark look Nate’s way and tossed him the keys. “You drive. I’ll stay back here with Eliot.”
Nate nodded and closed the back doors. Eliot slumped forward and took another deep breath, Hardison’s hand still on his shoulder.
The drive to the hotel seemed to go by in a blink. As soon as the van stopped, Hardison pulled out a blanket and opened the doors. Eliot followed, his movements slow and measured, careful to keep his wings from knocking into anything. Once on his feet, Hardison handed him the blanket.
“What’s this for?” Eliot asked, irritated that his thoughts were still a scrambled mess.
“To hide your, well, you know,” Hardison said and gestured towards his wings. “I didn’t think you’d want a bunch of strangers to take notice.”
“Oh,” Eliot said and with Hardison’s help, shrugged the blanket over his wings. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Shelley met them a second later and between the two, they managed help Eliot across the parking garage and into the elevator. They came to a stop on the eighth floor and with all the speed of a turtle, shuffled down the long hallway to the room. The rest of his team was already sitting around the suit’s living room, eyes filled with fear and uncertainty. Eliot couldn’t help the scowl that settled over his features. He dropped the blanket and watched their eyes widen slightly as they shrank back a bit.
“Eliot,” Shelley said, casting a glance at the others. Eliot nodded.
“I’m gonna take a shower,” he growled out. “Shelley can answer your questions for now.”
Eliot made it to the bathroom before anyone could think of stopping him. He slammed the door and locked it, though he knew it wouldn’t keep them out if they really wanted in. Peeling off his ruined clothes, Eliot tossed everything but his boots into a garbage bag and stepped into the shower. It was huge, large enough for four grown men, which made it big enough to fit his wings, though not wide enough to stretch them out fully.
Grateful for Hardison’s ability to get them the best room available, he turned the water on. It was warm enough to chase off the chill from the air conditioner, but not so hot it stung his tender back. He kept the pressure low and let the body sprays get the blood off.
Eliot stayed in the center of the shower, head against the wall, watching pink water swirl across the light colored tiles. A knock pulled him from his thoughts and Hardison’s voice drifted through the cracked bathroom door.
“I hate to say this, but you need to hurry,” Hardison said. “They’re starting to get restless, Shelley’s looking like he might kill Nate any second now, and I don’t think you want to leave him to the mercy of a curious Parker.” The door closed then opened again. “Oh, and I left your bag by the door.”
Eliot sighed and reached for the shampoo. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
He heard the door closing and started scrubbing his hair, body, and the parts of his wings he could reach. He rinsed off quickly and turned the water off. He gently shook the water from his wings and had to bite back a hiss of pain. Stepping out of the shower, the cool air causing his skin to prickle, he dried off quickly before pulling on some clothes.
Comfortable sweat pants went on first, then some socks. Sighing, Eliot riffled through his bag until he found a loose cotton shirt. Grabbing some scissors, he cut the sides and draped it over his head. A robe belt from the one hanging on the back of the door held the bottom half closed, but didn’t restrict his wings. Lights off, he finally left the bathroom and headed back to the living room. He stopped just before entering and leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, wings pulled in tight against his back.
Silence filled the room for several minutes, and Eliot felt his patience wearing thin before Parker raised her hand.
“Can we ask about the wings now? Shelley wouldn’t tell us about your wings.” She looked around the room before turning to face Eliot. “Are you an angel?”
“No,” Eliot said quick and decisive. Parker tilted her head.
“Then why do you have wings?” Parker shot up in her seat before he could answer. “Oh, can you fly? Will you take me?”
“They don’t work that way,” Eliot said. He could feel a headache coming in to join the rest of his aches and pains. Shelley’s amused snort earned him a glare. “Shut up. You’re not helpin’.”
“How do they work?” Sophie asked, casting a nervous glance at Nate. “Parker said you somehow blocked the explosion.”
Ah, so that explained his back, Eliot thought.
“Why couldn’t we see them before now?” Parker asked before Eliot could reply.
“They’re not meant to be seen,” Eliot said. “Michael did something that made ‘em come out.”
“And what was that?”
“There was something in the drug he used that caused it,” Shelley answered. “It causes the body to go into a state similar to death.”
“How’s that relevant?” Sophie asked.
“They’re only supposed to become physical if the person is dying.”
“This still doesn’t explain what was going on,” Nate said.
Eliot flinched at his cold tone before his temper flared and he scowled back.
“He was trying to off me so he could fulfill some cracked out prophecy written by some fevered monk during the time of the Black Plague,” Eliot said, words crisp and glacial. “He was hoping to get a few upgrades and take over leadership.”
Hardison’s eyes widen. “I’m not sure I wanna know what else there is.”
“How can I get wings?” Parker asked, excitement filling her words.
“Nowhere,” Eliot said. Parker’s smile wilted. “And if I have my way, you never will.”
“How did you end up so different?” Sophie said. Her expression held concern and a bit of fear.
Eliot felt his shoulders droop and he shared a somber look with Shelly. “I did a lot of bad things, ya’ll know this.” He paused and took a deep breath. “Then I died saving some kids and got offered a second chance.”
“A second chance at what?” Parker looked ready to cry and Eliot felt his heart clench.
“At getting out of goin’ to hell.”
“What?” Hardison shouted. His eyes were wide and his face had paled. “No, hell no. There’s no way you’re going there.”
Eliot shook his head. “You don’t know what I’ve done.” Eliot sighed and pushed away from the wall. “I was bleeding out in the desert and this guy showed up. He asked me if I wanted to live. I said yes. It wasn’t till after that I got the full story.”
“Was it Shelley?” Sophie asked.
“No,” Shelley said, shaking his head. “I was recruited about a month later.”
“They’re part of the Order of Thanatos,” Nate said, cutting off the other’s questions.
“The Greek god of the dead,” Hardison said, a bit of excitement filling his words and leaching the worry from his posture.
“Right,” Eliot said and he cringed at the gleam now filling the hacker’s eyes.
“What does that mean?” Hardison asked.
“It means we make sure the dead stay dead and that the living can’t use the dead for their own means.”
“Like zombies?” Parker asked, a wide smile on her face.
Eliot shrugged. “I’ve never seen a zombie, but Shelley and I have taken out few people who thought reanimating dead things was a good idea.”
“That’s just nasty,” Hardison said with a shudder.
Eliot scoffed. “You know what’s really nasty? Vampires. They're walking corpses with a human intelligence. Plus, they smell like old blood and grave dirt.”
“Vampires are real?” Hardison squeaked and sank back into his chair.
“So are ghost,” Eliot said. He had to force himself not to grin as the excitement on Hardison’s face started to head back towards fear. Now that they all knew about Eliot‘s other job, he figured he could have some fun at the hacker‘s expense. “Though they’re rare. Most hauntings you hear about are only echoes.”
They talked for nearly three hours. Question after question was hurled at him, and though Eliot did his best to answer, there were some that he couldn’t talk about, and more than a few he wouldn’t. Shelley suffered through the barrage as well, and Eliot was thankful to have some back up. There were some things people just did not need to know.
As the night grew deeper, an argument over dinner sprung up. Eliot used the distraction to drift out to the room’s balcony and lean against the railing. His back was itchy now, healing from the burns he’d suffered. The wind ruffled the feathers on his wings, and Eliot gave an irritated huff.
Eleven years in and he still hadn’t gotten used to the extra appendages. When they weren’t visible, he barely noticed them, insubstantial as they were. Like this, however, he had to remember to keep them pulled in tight in order to avoid bumping into things. Plus the added weight caused his balance to waver a bit.
The sliding glass door opening pulled Eliot from his thoughts. He didn’t turn though, it was only Nate. Even without his heightened senses, Eliot would know the tread of any of his team. The clink of ice in a glass was also a big give away.
“The food should be here soon,” Nate said. His gaze was fixed on the twinkling lights of the city.
Eliot nodded and pushed away from the railing. Nate’s hand on his arm stopped him.
“What really happened today?”
Eliot sighed, trying to fight back the annoyance he could feel rising. “I told ya’ already.”
“That’s not…” Nate ran a hand through his hair. “I meant with Michael.”
“Oh.” Eliot shrugged. “I don’t know. We obviously missed something, but I can’t figure out how he managed to pull it all off.”
“We’re meeting up tomorrow to go over the information we have,” Nate said. “And Parker has already drawn up plans to break into the Order’s headquarters.”
“Of course she would,” Eliot laughed, shaking his head.
“Shelley and Hardison are helping.”
“Oh, God we’re doomed,” Eliot said as he rested his head on the railing. “I knew there was a reason I never let ‘em meet.”
Silence stretched between them with only Nate’s awkward shifting as answer.
“You got something else you wanna say?” Eliot couldn’t keep the growl out of his voice.
He was tired, sore, and laid bare in ways he had never been. Things were going to be different, Eliot knew, secrets like his couldn’t be revealed without consequences, but he’d much rather have those consequences presented right away than left to fester.
Nate sighed next to him, finally turning his gaze Eliot’s way.
“I don’t know what to say,” Nate said, and Eliot could hear the crack in his voice. “When the explosion happened…” Nate paused and took a deep breath. “We thought we’d lost you, Shelley, and Parker. Then there they were, dragging you out and you had wings, giant gray wings covered in blood. I…was…I…couldn’t…” Nate’s words trailed off and he turned his back to Eliot as he downed the rest of his drink.
“Nate,” Eliot said, reaching a hand out. Nate pulled away and headed towards the doors. “You knew about this, have for years.”
“I’ve never almost seen you die before.”
“It’s my job to protect people, and it‘s my job to protect this team,” Eliot said. “I ain’t about to stop now.”
The door opening silenced their words and they turned back to see Parker standing in the doorway.
“Come on,” Parker said as she grabbed Eliot and Nate’s arms and started dragging them inside. “The pizza is here and Sophie won’t let us keep planning until you guys are there to help.”
“All right, we’re coming,” Eliot said as he followed her back inside. There would be more questions tomorrow, and things would get messy before they got better, but Eliot was sure things would. He had his team, Shelley was there to help, and Michael and his remaining followers wouldn’t know what hit them.