Set post the Scheherazade Job, to better/more properly articulate my frustration with the Nate/Sophie as manipulators thing I was talkingaboutearlier. (Weirdly, I talked mostly about Sophie earlier, but Nate is also a major part in this and this piece, being set when it is, is focused on him).
Somehow, even given everything, Nate is still surprised to see his condo occupied. Eliot sits in front of the monitors, and, when he turns to face Nate, he looks pissed as hell.
Nate’s thrown, for a second. Eliot was with the reporter, and he hadn’t heard…but of course. Hardison, Parker, and Eliot. Always the three of them. When they have a problem, they go to each other. They would have called Eliot, and Eliot would have ditched even a pretty, smart reporter for this.
“Heard what you did to Hardison,” Eliot says lowly.
Nate shrugs, and throws his jacket over a chair. “Got the job done.”
“Not good enough, Nate,” he growls. “You don’t con your crew.”
“You do anything you can, to get the job done,” Nate corrects, finding his own seat. “I told Hardison already, just because he doesn’t have the stomach for it…”
“So, he told you he wanted to leave someday an’ you punish him for it?” Eliot asks.
“This wasn’t punishment, Eliot. You’re all free to go. Just say the word.”
“You thought you’d teach him a lesson, knock him down to size,” Eliot growls.
“I thought I’d do our damn job,” Nate snaps. “If you don’t like it, you can leave, but you won’t stop me from doing my job.”
“It’s my job to protect ‘em, and if you think I’ll let you stand in the way of that…” Eliot levels off. He takes a deep breath. “It was one thing, her screwing ‘round with me, an’ you lettin’ her. To…what? Test a theory? For fun? I ain’t a fan of her makin’ me into her monkey, but at least it was just tea. It was just a suggestion, even if I didn’t know what she was doin’ to me.”
"Hypnosis is really…” Nate begins. Hypnosis is really just suggestions, similar to neurolinguistic programming, only accessing the unconscious on a different level. Just a suggestion Hardison was already willing and able to follow.
“I don’t care!” Eliot snaps. “You think they care? You think they wanna sit through your bullshit explanations, you tryin’ to justify yourself? You think they wanna hear one thing you an’ Sophie gotta say?” He takes a deep breath. “We’re people, Nate, even if you forget that. Even if you two think you can treat us like marks. No, worse. Tools. Like Hardison’s computer or Parker’s line. Use us, manipulate us, put us away.”
“That’s not…” Nate begins, but Eliot isn’t in the mood to let him speak.
“They don’t trust you,” Eliot says ruthlessly. “Hardison’s twitchin’ like a rabbit an’ it’s gonna take a while for him to sort himself out. Parker’s already asked twice how she can know what’s real in her head an’ what you put there.”
“How’s she supposed to believe that?” Eliot asks. “How’re either of them supposed to trust you to lead this team, hell, even just be ‘round you, anymore? You used ‘em. You and Sophie conned the crew again. They can’t trust you.”
“And you?” Nate asks, looking at the hitter.
Eliot shrugs. “We joined this team ‘cause we trusted an honest man,” he says. “Think we all know how far you are from that.”
Nate doesn’t flinch, not in front of Eliot.
“You find a piece of that man, you find somethin’,” Eliot says heavily, “or I will take them an’ run. It’s my job to protect ‘em, and I won’t let this crew—you—be the thing that hurts ‘em. We’ll be in the wind, an’ you can deal with your little Italian problem on your own,” he says, and then he stands, heading for the door.
Nate is almost positive Eliot is bluffing. Pretty sure, at least, that he’s not to the point of breaking up the crew and running yet, not when they expended so much effort to get him out of prison and reunite the crew. He’s pretty sure Eliot won’t do it, that it’s nothing more than empty bluster.
But he can’t call Eliot on it, can’t try to feel him out, can’t try to talk him down, even, because Eliot is already gone, leaving Nate alone in his still-dark condo.