Title: Born for Adversity
Rating: R, I guess
Word count: 3,274
Pairing: none intended, really, though you can probably see some if you squint
Warnings: Guns and violence? And naughty language. And randomly made up backstory.
Spoilers: Leverage S3 finale, nothing specific for Inception
Summary: For tigriswolf's comment_fic prompt "Inception/Leverage, Eliot&Arthur, it's been awhile since Eliot saw his little brother" (theme was 'Prompt is the first line')
A/N: Title taken from Proverbs 17:17 - A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Not because the fic is in any way religious. It is not. I just liked the phrase for these two. ^_^
It’s been awhile since Eliot saw his little brother. Staring down the barrel of Arthur’s gun was not exactly how he’d hoped a reunion might happen, but he has to admit the odds had been better than even.
“What’s up with your hair?” he asks curiously.
Arthur’s jaw tightens like he’s chewing on his first response, his brows furrowing in a way that Eliot can admit looks pretty badass.
“My hair?” Arthur finally growls, and Eliot smirks and does the Revlon hair toss, using the motion to conduct a quick visual survey of the hotel room his baby brother is guarding. There’re two other men and what could be a prepubescent boy or a tiny woman in the room, plus the CEO Eliot’s supposed to be playing chauffeur for. The mark is stretched out unconscious on the bed with a needle stuck in his arm, the tubing attached to it trailing into a silver case standing open on one nightstand.
“You’re working,” Eliot observes, keeping one eye on Arthur while he checks out his companions with the other. The tiny girl isn’t a threat, but the squinty blond guy is definitely armed even if he hasn’t drawn yet, and the guy with the shoulders that look like trouble is clearly cursing the piss-poor shooting angle he’s stuck in, Arthur’s body blocking his shot even as he keeps his gun aimed steadily, waiting for an opening. Eliot’s pretty sure Arthur’s blocking him on purpose, but it’s always possible he isn’t, or won’t keep doing so. Ten years is a long time, after all.
“I’m working,” Arthur acknowledges. Dark eyes narrow above the gun barrel. “Are you?”
Eliot grins and shrugs, shifting his weight with the motion. Squinty isn’t going to start shooting in the middle of a hotel, if the look he’s giving Shoulders is any indication, and Tiny Girl looks like her eyes are going to pop out of her head any second. Shoulders, though, his stance says ex-SAS and ready to throw down.
And then, of course, there’s Arthur.
“I don’t want to shoot you, Eliot,” Arthur says slowly.
Eliot nods. “I know,” he replies. “That’s why you shouldn’t have drawn on me.”
Arthur’s eyes have less than a second to widen in realization before Eliot drops into a squat and thrusts upward from his knees, tackling Arthur around the midsection and onto his back. He grabs the wrist of Arthur’s gun hand, but Arthur’s had the sense to toss his weapon away so it can’t be taken from him. Eliot grins in approval and rolls them over quickly so Arthur’s body is blocking Shoulders’ shot.
“Good boy,” he growls, “now I don’t have to hurt ya too bad.” Arthur bares his teeth and blocks Eliot’s attempt at getting him in a submission hold.
“We’ll just see who gets hurt,” Arthur snarls, livid. He pulls an arm back, telegraphing like he used to before Eliot taught him better, and Eliot takes the punch, because he probably deserves it, and because he can use the momentum to roll them over against the side of the bed, giving himself a little more cover.
He ignores the way his vision erupts in stars for a moment, and the blood he can feel rush across his tongue. Sloppy form or not, the kid can hit. It mitigates Eliot’s guilt at slamming Arthur’s head into the metal bedframe.
“Son of a bitch,” Arthur spits, blood spattering onto Eliot’s face from his split-open forehead, and he’s focused now. Eliot barely blocks the knee aiming for his groin, and Arthur smiles in savage triumph as that gives him an opening to slam a much more controlled punch to Eliot’s belly.
Eliot coughs and fights his body’s attempt to curl up protectively as his diaphragm spasms. The rush of adrenaline from being unable to draw breath for a moment is an advantage Arthur shouldn’t have given him, though, and he uses it to flip them yet again, wrenching one of Arthur’s arms up behind his back as Eliot spins himself to kneel in the corner. Arthur’s back is tight against Eliot’s chest, his arm trapped between them, Eliot’s other arm around Arthur’s neck.
“Stop fightin’ or I dislocate your shoulder,” Eliot warns him.
“Try it and lose a kidney,” Arthur snarls, and Eliot freezes at the prick of a blade against his side, considers for a moment, then shifts his arm tighter around Arthur’s neck.
“I’ve got two,” he growls through blood-flecked lips, grinning.
Arthur surges backwards without warning, slamming Eliot’s head into the wall, and his own head into Eliot’s chin as Eliot barely manages to tilt his head up in time to save his nose. He’s only dazed for a moment, but it’s long enough for Arthur to scramble free and crouch over him, his knife held to Eliot’s throat.
“You’ve got two carotid arteries, too, but I don’t like your odds on that bet,” Arthur informs him calmly, just a hint of smug triumph turning up the corner of his mouth.
Eliot’s debating which move to use to disarm Arthur when a British accented voice growls from far too close, “Damn it, Arthur, get out of the way and let me shoot him, that’s Eliot fucking Spencer, do you even know what he’s–”
And Arthur is up and spinning around, fist arcing beautifully with his momentum to knock Shoulders right on his ass. The gun goes off as he falls, silenced thankfully, and Eliot downgrades Shoulders’ threat level a bit. His real-world reflexes are clearly a little rusty.
“Arthur, what the bloody buggering shit,” Shoulders demands from the floor as Arthur yanks the gun out of his hand.
“Nobody shoots Eliot but me,” Arthur yells, looming over his fallen companion as Eliot jumps back to his feet. Tiny Girl and Squinty are huddled in the far corner, Squinty shielding her with his body. Eliot distractedly approves, and notes that Squinty’s eyes have opened up in what looks like some kind of realization, but he doesn’t have time to wonder about that. Arthur’s got a gun again, and Eliot’s bled enough for one reunion.
“Arthur, he’s a killer, you – watch out!” Shoulders shouts, but Arthur’s barely begun to turn when Eliot slams a lamp into his head. He drops like a rock, but Eliot’s not worried. Arthur’s always had an exceptionally hard head. It runs in the family.
It looks like Shoulders is possibly unaware of this fact, from the way his face twists into murderous rage as he dives for his gun. Eliot kicks it under the bed and then kicks Shoulders in the temple, pulling the blow a bit. He does approve of people wanting to defend his baby brother, after all.
Eliot stands there, catching his breath and cataloguing his injuries, wondering if he should restrain Arthur or his buddy before they wake up. He’s dimly aware of his own teammates yelling in his ear, but Eliot didn’t live this long without being able to prioritize.
“You’re Eliot Spencer,” a man’s voice says slowly, and Eliot turns toward the sound. Squinty’s American, which jibes with Eliot’s tentative ID of the man.
“You’re Dominic Cobb?” he asks. The man blinks, frowns slightly, but nods. “Let me give you a piece of advice, Mr. Cobb. You want to put that gun down now,” Eliot tells him gently. Nate sounds on the verge of apoplexy in his ear, but Eliot’s got more immediate concerns.
Fortunately, Cobb does the sensible thing and sets the gun down slowly on top of the dresser, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender. “Arthur’s talked about you,” he says, squinting again. “Although generally only when he’s drunk. And almost exclusively in the context of you being a fucking liar who lies and missed his high school graduation.”
Eliot sighs and runs a hand over his face, feeling forgotten blood smear as the frantic voices in his ear stutter into silence. “Somewhere in the world there’s a monkey with a lot to fucking answer for,” he mutters.
“You don’t look anything alike. Are you sure you’re brothers?” Parker demands, peering at him from where she’s perched cross-legged on the dresser. Eliot scowls at her, seeing Arthur do the same from across the room. Her eyebrows pop up in surprise and she nods. “Okay, now I can see it.”
Eliot rolls his eyes, winces as it only makes his head throb harder, and continues across the room to where Arthur is grudgingly allowing his forehead to be stitched. Eliot offers a clean wet washcloth to the man doing the needlework. He’s turned out to be Eames, which Eliot had guessed by the time introductions were made, and Sophie refuses to be in the same room with him for unspecified reasons. Hardison’s with her out in the van, because baby brother or not, Eliot’s kept tabs on Arthur’s career, and he doesn’t trust these people enough to expose his whole team to them.
Nate seems to be getting on well with Cobb, though, even if Eliot can tell from the depth of his frown that he isn’t buying this whole dream invasion technology thing Arthur’s been caught up in for years. Eliot’s seen a few too many top secret projects of his own, and studied the results of Arthur’s work too closely, to doubt, but he’s not about to talk Nate out of his skepticism. Nate’s plans are crazy and dangerous enough already.
Tiny Girl, who’s actually named Ariadne of all ridiculous things, seems to be fascinated by Parker, possibly because of the way the rest of her team took a collective, involuntary step backwards when Parker introduced herself. Eliot found that to be a commendably sensible reaction to meeting Parker, especially when she was wearing her I-have-a-taser-and-I-really-like-using-i
“Ta, mate,” Eames murmurs distractedly, finally taking the washcloth from Eliot’s outstretched hand and dabbing gently at the dried blood on Arthur’s forehead around the neat line of stitches he’s tied off.
Arthur’s glaring up at Eliot, his formerly slicked back hair thoroughly mussed and falling down around his face, the locks Eames is wiping clean of blood and gel already starting to curl a bit at the ends. “Stitches, you asshole,” Arthur says coldly. “Ten fucking years and you split my head open.”
Eliot shrugs, refusing to feel guilty. “Ten fucking years and you stuck a gun in my face,” he points out calmly.
“I wasn’t going to actually shoot you,” Arthur snaps. “Much,” he adds in a low growl.
“I was going to shoot you quite a lot,” Eames informs Eliot with a charming, sharp-edged grin. “Rather disconcerting, to have Damien Moreau’s right-hand man show up on one’s doorstep.”
Eliot glares at Eames, feeling his cheeks burn with shame even as his stomach clenches at the prospect of Eames listing off Eliot’s crimes. It’s not like there’s any remote possibility Arthur doesn’t already know every detail of Eliot’s criminal career. Knowing things is Arthur’s job, and Eliot’s justifiably proud of his brother’s skills, but knowing in the abstract that Arthur is probably aware of the things he’s done is a little different than having to see the kid who used to hero worship him look at him the way Hardison had when the truth had come out.
“Your information is outdated,” Arthur informs Eames flatly. “He hasn’t worked for Moreau for years. In fact, recently his team was instrumental in imprisoning Moreau in San Lorenzo, decimating his entire network.” Eliot blinks and eyes Arthur in surprise. He didn’t think even Arthur was that good. Moreau’s only been off the grid for a few weeks, it’s a little unnerving that anyone knows why and who did it already.
Arthur looks back to Eliot, his eyes cold and distant, but there seems to be maybe just a hint of pride in the tilt of his chin. “Of course, arms dealers and money launderers abhor a vacuum, but several of the contenders will go down in the power struggle, so all in all, not a complete waste of time for a bunch of thieves with delusions of heroism.” He smirks, just a little, but not unkindly.
Eliot smiles back, rueful. “Yeah, I’ve been told the white hat doesn’t suit me.”
Arthur studies him for a long moment before finally looking away, out the window. “I don’t know,” he says quietly. “I always thought it did.”
Eames raises his eyebrows, shoots Eliot a measuring look, and walks away to join Nate and Cobb’s polite bickering over the sedated CEO.
Eliot sighs and slumps into the chair Eames vacated. “I’m sorry I missed your graduation,” he offers. Arthur gives him an incredulous look and Eliot grimaces. “I’m sorry for a lot of things, okay?”
Arthur frowns and turns back toward the window. “After Mom and Dad died, you were supposed to take care of us, Eliot. You were the oldest. And you left, and you never really came back.”
Eliot sighs, but this is old, old guilt, and he’s laid it to rest. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t still owe some apologies. “I didn’t have a choice, Arthur. Dad’s debts… there was no money, and no prospects in town. I didn’t want to leave you, but it was the only way I could support all of you, keep the family together.”
“And later?” Arthur asks, spearing Eliot with a direct stare.
Eliot shrugs. “The things I started doing then, the money was way better, but it was a lot less safe for me to visit.”
“And you didn’t want to tell us what you were doing,” Arthur guesses. Eliot nods. Arthur frowns. “Alright, that was then, but what about now?”
Eliot frowns back. “What about now?” he echoes.
Arthur rolls his eyes, looking a lot like the kid Eliot remembers for a moment, and sighs gustily. “Eliot. It can’t have escaped your notice that we’re both fugitives from the law, and I can hold my own against any enemies of yours that trace our connection. You could pick up a fucking phone once in a while.”
Eliot blinks in surprise, feels a moment’s guilt, then scowls. “Well, so could you,” he points out.
Arthur crosses his arms over his chest and glares. “I’m not the one who left,” he snaps. “I figured you didn’t want to hear from me.”
“Well, I’m not the one who greeted my long-lost brother with a gun in his face,” Eliot grumbles back.
“Stitches,” Arthur says loudly, pointing to his swollen forehead.
“Whatever,” Eliot mutters dismissively, rolling his eyes. “I gave you worse the time you rode my bike into the pond.”
Arthur opens his mouth, then closes it and frowns, running a fingertip over the line of stitches in his forehead. “Eames,” he says sharply. “How many stitches did I need?”
“Seventeen, darling,” Eames replies distractedly. Eliot raises his eyebrows at the endearment, but Arthur just rolls his eyes again and shakes his head.
“Alright, point,” he acknowledges. “You’re still an asshole.”
Eliot shrugs. “True.”
“And if you ever need to take down an international arms dealer again, you should call me, because I can help,” Arthur presses.
Eliot begins to protest that it isn’t a situation that’s likely to come up again, but it has happened two years in a row now. So he nods in agreement. “And if you ever need backup with the dream shit, you should call me, because I don’t have an issue with using imaginary guns,” he counters.
Arthur raises his brows in surprise, but then he smiles slightly and nods, eyes gleaming thoughtfully. “I might just take you up on that,” he warns.
“You’d better,” Eliot replies, smirking.
“I’m just sayin’, first it’s secret evil ex-bosses, now it’s secret criminal brothers. Is there anything you’d like to tell us about before your secret ninja son shows up?” Hardison’s still pouting three days later as the team settles in with bowls of popcorn and hot wings to watch their former mark’s career go up in the flames of corporate espionage, live on CNN.
Eliot snorts and sips his beer. “I don’t have any secret ninja kids. And as for my family, man, I took you all to my home town and I don’t even use an alias. Not knowing about my family, that’s not me keeping secrets, that’s you bein’ lazy.”
He pulls his vibrating phone out of his pocket, smirking at Hardison’s indignant squawking.
“Yeah?” he answers.
“Is Mr. Ford satisfied with our results?” Arthur asks.
Eliot lowers the phone a little and sits forward to look around Parker. “Hey, Nate. It’s my secret criminal brother. You happy with their results?”
While Hardison resumes his grumpy muttering, Nate stares blankly at Eliot for a moment, obviously drawing his mind away from blissful contemplation of the massive screwing over their former mark has received, or maybe the next massive screwing over they’re going to perform themselves, or who knows what.
“Oh. Yes. Yeah. It’s very… impressive. Love to know how they managed it,” Nate finally replies, turning back to frown at the wall screens some more.
Eliot just nods and smiles and refrains from explaining again that Arthur and his crew sucked the information out of the mark’s brain, because really, they’re all better off if Nate persists in believing it was all some elaborate psychological con.
“Yeah, he’s happy,” Eliot tells Arthur. “And so is our client. And probably a lot of other people this guy’s hurt.”
Arthur is silent for a moment, then clears his throat and says flatly, “Yes. Well. We don’t usually approach the work from that perspective, but I suppose you’re right, in this instance.”
Eliot smiles to himself. His baby brother’s a thief, just like him, but he can hear the hint of confused pleasure in Arthur’s voice. This doing good thing, Eliot knows, it’s kind of nice.
“Also, Hardison’s transferring twelve million dollars to each of your accounts from his insider trading stock shit, and I’m supposed to tell you that’s because he’s very good at what he does,” Eliot adds.
“Very good,” Hardison insists loudly from the far end of the table. Eliot shoots him a glare for the interruption and turns his back on the rest of his team. These people have no phone etiquette.
“I need to meet this guy,” Arthur says thoughtfully, then adds irritably, “and Eames is talking about giving him a surprise thank you blow job.”
Eliot frowns. “Tell Eames I’ll kick his ass,” he growls.
“I told him I’d kick his ass,” Arthur replies.
Eliot grins. “That’ll work.”
Arthur’s quiet for a moment, then says, “So it’s turns out I’ll be in Boston for a few days next week.”
Eliot opens and closes his mouth, not sure what to say. He’d thought maybe they’d exchange a few phone calls, and then drift apart again, maybe run into one another in the field again someday and have another fistfight, if anything. This is a visit. This is his little brother, wanting to come see him.
“Can you recommend a good hotel?” Arthur asks flatly after a long moment of silence.
Eliot clears his throat. “No. I mean, uh. You. You can stay with me.”
“Oh,” Arthur says, sounding startled. “Okay,” he continues. “I’ll try not to shoot you.”
Eliot grins. “I’ll try not to split your head open,” he offers.
“Well,” Arthur says wryly, a hint of warmth creeping into his voice, “let’s not make unreasonable promises.”