Prompt: Leverage, Eliot/Maggie, he feels guilty, but he still calls her
The first time he called her, well, the second time really, but the first time he called her as himself, was just after they took down Blackpoole, just to ask a simple question. Because he needed to know if he was really that transparent, and what had given him away if he was. It was important for his work, now that the team had split up he’d need to be on his toes about that kind of thing. So he called.
“Eliot?” she answered, sounding curious.
“Maggie. Hi.” He cleared his throat and winced at his own awkwardness, and since when was he awkward with women? “I, uh. I just wanted to ask. When I called you before, before the job, I mean. When we went for coffee?”
“I remember that, yes,” she stopped his babbling, sounding amused. “What about it?”
He can feel himself smiling a little at tone of her voice. She doesn’t sound annoyed to hear from him. “I was just… Did you know? I mean, that I - that I wasn’t Professor Sinclair, that I was…”
“Eliot Spencer, world-class retrieval specialist?” Maggie supplied, and laughed softly. “I probably should have, considering the size of the file IYS has on you, but no, Eliot, I didn’t know until I saw the button-cam. I just wanted to have coffee with an attractive, intelligent man. And I did. Reminding Nate he’s not always as slick as he thinks he is was just a bonus, not the reason I said yes,” she explained.
“Oh,” he said, glad she couldn’t see his stupid grin. “Well, thanks.”
“Anytime,” she said warmly. He hung up, and tried not to wonder if she meant that.
The next time he called her was from an almost miraculous wifi hotspot on the outskirts of a bombed-out city in Pakistan.
“Eliot?” she answered again, sounding pleasantly surprised.
“Maggie,” he said quietly, and didn’t know what else to say. There was blood on his hands and shirt, and he wasn’t sure what he was doing was right, and he wasn’t sure when that had started to matter so much.
“Eliot?” she repeated, sounding worried. About him.
He closed his eyes and sighed. “I, uh… Sorry to bother you. I just needed to hear a friendly voice.”
“It’s fine,” she told him gently, and he wondered what he must sound like, to have put that soft, soothing tone into her voice. “I told you you could call anytime. Is there anything you want to talk about?”
He picked at his bloody shirt and frowned. “…not really. Uh.” He felt stupid, but he needed this, needed something, someone. “Could you maybe just talk to me? About… about anything, your day, the weather, your favorite TV show…”
“Of course,” she said kindly. “Let me tell you about the absolutely horrible fake Rembrandt this idiot tried to get us to insure today, it was ridiculous. The brushstrokes alone…”
He fell asleep smiling to the sound of her voice and woke up the next day to the sound of his phone’s low-battery alarm, feeling well-rested for the first time in weeks.
After that, he called her more often, sometimes just to say hello, sometimes to share a story or a joke, sometimes to remind himself he was human. She always picked up.
He called her when the team got back together, needing an outlet for his relief and happiness that wouldn’t result in Hardison mocking him for months. She’d said she was happy for him, but she sounded slightly wistful, so he asked what was wrong.
“Nothing,” she assured him quickly. “I am happy for you, Eliot. You needed this. I guess I just… well, I probably won’t be hearing from you as much anymore. I’ll miss talking to you,” she admitted.
“You weren’t just a substitute for them, Maggie,” he protested, because she wasn’t, not at all.
She laughed softly. “Thank you for saying so,” she replied.
He was opening his mouth to reassure her when he got a beep, and frowned, seeing it was from Nate. Probably a job. He apologized to Maggie and promised she’d hear from him soon.
She didn’t, though, so he wasn’t really surprised to learn when they went to Kiev to help her – even if it hurt a little that they’d gotten so out of touch – that she had a new boyfriend. He didn’t like the guy, not even after he worked out that it wasn’t Alexander that was behind the whole evil plan. He might even have liked Alexander better if he had been evil, because evil was still better than stupid. But probably not.
He was considering trying to catch her for a conversation in the bar once they got back to Boston, but while he was waiting for her to finish with Nate, Parker eased up next to him, grinning wickedly, and told him all about the kiss in the elevator. He slid out the door into the night to think about that.
He knew how Maggie felt, and didn’t feel, about Nate. They’d discussed it often enough, Nate being such a ridiculously important part of both of their lives, and Nate being, well, Nate, and therefore impossible to just ignore. But he also knew that Nate still hadn’t quite gotten the hang of the whole ‘ex-wife’ concept. And Nate was… well, Eliot considered him a friend, anyway. It complicated things.
About two hours later, he called Maggie anyway.
“Eliot,” she answered, sounding amused and pleased and maybe a little relieved. “My hero. I wasn’t sure you’d call.”
“Hey, Maggie,” he replied, smiling. “I wasn’t, either. But I miss you.”
She sighed. “I missed you, too, Eliot. And I’d kind of hoped… I mean, you can always, always call me. But it would be nice, you know, to… talk, face to face, sometimes. I guess I thought maybe, since we’re in the same city for once…”
It was probably a horrible idea. She was on the rebound, and his friend was still at least a little in love with her. He smiled. “Yeah, that would be nice,” he agreed, and hung up.
And knocked on her hotel room door.
Prompt: Eliot/Maggie, touch
(Ha! I totally wrote this one in present tense for some crazy reason. OH WELL. In my brain, it takes place pretty much immediately after the one above.)
He stares at the phone for a long time, scrolling up and down his contacts absently. He does that sometimes, well, a lot, really, when he’s not sure he should call her. It’s not that he doesn’t want to call her, he pretty much always wants to call her, but he often doesn’t feel like he should, for one reason or another.
And right now, there’s a pretty huge reason calling her is completely stupid, but he’s got the phone to his ear listening to it ring on her end anyway.
“Eliot?” she answers, sounding curious and confused.
“Hi, Maggie,” he says quietly. He feels a little like he did back in junior high when he’d call Aimee and they’d say nothing and just giggle occasionally for hours. Which would be fine if he was still in junior high, but it’s more than a little ridiculous at his age.
“…something you wanted to talk about?” Maggie asks after a moment of silence. She sounds caught between concern and amusement. Eliot is stuck very firmly in the land of embarrassment.
He’s pretty sure he used to be much smoother than this. In fact, he’s pretty sure he still is much smoother than this, just… apparently not ever with Maggie.
“I’m, uh… I’m not sure how to do this,” he admits.
“’This’ being…” Maggie prompts.
“This… us. You and me. Whatever this is,” he attempts, and fails, to explain.
“Well, right now, it’s a phone call,” Maggie points out gently. “And I’m pretty sure you can handle a phone call. We’ve had at least five or six… hundred.”
“But who’s counting,” Eliot mutters, rolling his eyes. She’s right, he’s being stupid. He just doesn’t know… “I don’t know how to get from just a phone call, to… more than a phone call,” he admits. He wants to, he really does, it’s just that he’s kind of panicking that he wants to.
Because this, Maggie, is important. She isn’t some pretty little thing he can walk away from in the morning and never regret leaving behind. Maggie’s his friend, his sounding board and confidant and sometimes his lifeline to sanity. And she’s gorgeous and smart and sweet and funny and… way out of his league, really. He’s as much of a one-night-stand guy as the girls he hooks up with. Nobody expects a second date or a working phone number from a guy like Eliot Spencer.
Maggie has his phone number programmed into her phone. She has for more than a year now.
She sighs over the line, but it’s not an exasperated sound, more patient and amused. “Well,” she muses, “we could start with… what are you wearing?”
Eliot pulls the phone away from his ear to frown at it a moment, before putting it back. “Uh… jeans and a shirt, and…another shirt? What–” And then he gets it. “Oh. Oh, shit, you wanna – you wanna? Seriously? Phone sex?”
Maggie chuckles. “Well, you do have a very sexy voice. And I know you like talking to me, so…”
Eliot presses a hand over his eyes and laughs weakly. “Um. Well. The thing is… I kinda suck at phone sex,” he admits sheepishly.
“Aw,” Maggie murmurs, “that’s a shame. Because I’m just lying here on the bed in nothing but my bra and panties, wondering what in the world you’d like to do with me…”
Eliot swallows, and hopes the gulping noise doesn’t carry over the phone. “Oh. Uh. I, um… I guess I’d…” take a moment just to look at you, all that pretty pale skin spread out for me, then I trace the edges of your bra with just the tips of my fingers… I slide my finger under the strap to stroke just my thumb along your collarbone to the hollow of your throat-
“Eliot? Are you still there?” Maggie’s worried, slightly impatient voice cuts into his thoughts, and he pinches the bridge of his nose with a groan. Christ. He wants to do that, and so much more, but how is he supposed to come out and just say it? Flirting and flattery, he can do that all night long, and there’s plenty of other ways he can put his tongue to use that never get complaints, but this? Talking about… describing…
He just can’t. He’s a man of action, dammit. Words are… hard.
“…yeah, I’m here. Sorry, Maggie, I…”
“It’s okay,” she assures him, sounding only a little disappointed. “I’m a little surprised, but it’s okay.” She’s quiet for a moment, while Eliot prays Hardison never finds out about this, then she adds, “But if you were wondering, if I was with you right now? I’d make you take both of those shirts off so I could get my hands on your chest. I’d touch you lightly at first, just learning the shape and feel of you, then I’d start to use my nails, just lightly, not enough to leave marks… at first…”
Eliot swallows again, not caring if she hears, dimly aware his own hand is absently caressing his chest as she talks about touching him. His nails aren’t long enough to scratch, though, and he loves that, loves the sharp, hot bite of nails on his skin, and he’s already getting excited. He can almost imagine her hands on him, but not quite, and this is the other reason he’s no good at phone sex, aside from feeling like a moron trying to narrate and reduce into words something that is all about instinct and movement and heat and passion to him – it’s just not enough.
He needs to move, so he stands, and opens the door, walking out –
Into the hotel room, where Maggie, is, in fact, lying on the bed in nothing but her bra and panties. She raises her eyebrows and gives him a sultry smile. When he remains frozen for too long, though, she raises her phone and snaps a picture.
“Eliot,” she says firmly, “lose the shirts and get over here, or I’m sending Hardison that picture. With context.”
He’s not an idiot. He pulls his shirts off and goes. But he hesitates again beside the bed. Just words, that’s not enough, could never be enough, but this just might be too much. This just might break him when it’s gone.
Maggie smirks at him, for once not reading his mind. “You can hang up now, Eliot,” she points out, glancing at the phone still in his hand. “I’m right here.” She winks. “Reach out and touch me.”
He lets the phone fall to the floor and climbs onto the bed, reaching out to brush his fingertips lightly over her lips.
"I said hello I think I'm broken
And though I was only jokin'
It took me by surprise when you agreed
I was tryin' to be clever
For the life of me I never
Would have guessed how far the simple truth would lead
You knew all my lines
You knew all my tricks
You knew how to heal that pain
No medicine can fix"
(You're Gone, Diamond Rio)
(This follows on from the above piece - not directly, but same 'verse. Not that it's a 'verse, or anything. Really.)
He didn’t call her after, when they’d ditched the helicopter and limped home to lick their wounds separately. He sort of meant to call, thought about it, even got his phone out and stared at it for a while in his hand while he drank a few too many beers to numb the pain of taking down thirteen guys with guns for apparently no Goddamn reason.
He scrolled up and down his list of contacts as blood dried on his skin, pausing every time on her name, but never hitting send. What would he say? ‘Hi, Maggie, guess what? Today I left Nate behind with a bullet in him to be dragged off to jail. Wanna have phone sex?’
Yeah, that’d go over well. He finished off his beer and turned off his phone, decided the chair he wasn’t sure he could get out of would do fine for sleeping, and closed his eyes.
Nightmares were nothing new. They didn’t even wake him up anymore, just left him feeling groggy and grumpy and like trying to sleep had been a waste of time come morning. He levered himself out of the chair with a groan for muscles gone stiff and cramped, and a million little pricks of pain from untreated scrapes and cuts and splits, and the bruises he knew were blossoming under his torn, bloody, sweat-stained clothes. He stood, holding what felt like at least bruised ribs with one hand, and looked at his phone. He’d have to call Hardison soon, see what was going on. See if they needed him for… anything.
He picked up the phone and hit speed dial, and didn’t realize until her sleepy voice murmured “Eliot?” who he’d actually called.
“Maggie,” he said quietly, and closed his eyes.
There was a sound of rustling from her end of the connection, and he glanced at his watch, did some time zone math, and winced.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “I didn’t mean to call you. Not…now. Go back to sleep.”
“No, it’s fine, Eliot. I’m awake now. What… Are you alright?” She sounded concerned, and he felt a fresh surge of guilt at his failure. She didn’t know - of course she didn’t, how could she, he hadn’t called her, because he was a pathetic coward and didn’t want her to hate him – but she could hear the weakness in his voice. She always could.
Eliot had always been inclined to rip bandages off quickly. He sighed and unconsciously braced himself as if to take a physical hit. “Something happened. Yesterday. There was this whole big mess, and Nate… he got shot, and arrested. We… I had to leave him.”
There was silence for a moment as Eliot focused on keeping his breathing even, then Maggie said quietly, gently, “Yes, I know.”
She knew. She knew? “How did you…”
“Jim called me last night, from the hospital. Nate’s okay, he lost a lot of blood, but he’ll be fine,” she assured him.
Jim. Sterling. Sterling called Maggie, from the hospital, from Nate’s side, where Eliot should have been, to tell her what Eliot should have told her –
“Eliot? Are you there?” her worried tone cut through his self-recrimination, and Eliot took a deep breath and let it out, forcing his thoughts to silence.
“Yeah. I’m here.”
“…are you okay?” she asked.
He gave a short, grim laugh, and answered flippantly, “Oh, yeah, you know, aside from being in about a million fucking pieces right now, I’m fine.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Eliot,” she assured him carefully, the gentleness of her tone telling him she’d taken his offhand remark to be the truth.
He drew breath to answer her and felt things grate painfully in his chest that had nothing to do with bone, and thought maybe, maybe it was.
“I know,” he replied in a ragged whisper, but he didn’t, really, because he wasn’t ready to be angry at Nate yet. That would come later. Then maybe he’d know all the guilt, all the failure, wasn’t his alone.
“No, you don’t,” Maggie sighed. More quietly, she added, “Sometimes you two are a lot alike.”
“No, we’re not,” he snarled, punching the back of his chair with bruised, swollen knuckles. “If it was me, Maggie, me bleeding out and cornered, he’d have found a way – thought of something –”
“If it had been you,” Maggie cut him off sharply, “you wouldn’t have put him in the position he put you in. Jim told me everything, Eliot, the evidence, the deal he tried to make with Nate, the way you all reacted, you couldn’t have possibly known – I loved the man, Eliot, but he always thinks he has some God-given right to decide what other people should know and do and think and – it’s infuriating! You should be mad at him, not – not breaking your heart over his selfish, stupid –” Her tirade broke off on a sob, and he belatedly recalled what she’d told him about how she’d felt when Nate finally told her the truth about Blackpoole and Sam.
“I’m sorry, Maggie,” he murmured, trying to be soothing.
“Oh, don’t you apologize! God, men! You’re all idiots!” she snapped, then sniffled. She let out a heavy sigh and then announced, “I’m flying in to Boston this afternoon. I’m staying at your place.”
It took him a moment to process that. “Maggie, I – you’re… welcome, of course, but you don’t have to do that, stay with me, I mean…”
“Jim’s picking me up at the airport, and unfortunately you can’t meet me at the hospital, so I’ll catch a taxi after. This is not open for negotiation,” she informed him.
He sighed, and felt his mouth curl in a rueful little smile. He’d always had a weakness for strong women. “Okay,” he said quietly. “I’ll see you tonight.”
“Eliot,” she said abruptly, before he could end the call.
“I know you think… I know that it’s your job to keep them all safe. But it’s Nate’s job, part of it anyway, to not make your job impossible. I know right now you’re… you’re really just worried about your friend. But this wasn’t your fault, Eliot. Nate arranged things according to his own little plan that he chose not to share. You can’t blame yourself for not being a mind-reader.”
“Pretty sure he didn’t plan on getting shot,” Eliot muttered stubbornly.
“Did you pull the trigger?” Maggie shot back.
“…no,” Eliot admitted reluctantly. And even now, he’d still make the same call of not sending Hardison to seal one of the doors alone. He sighed. “Damn it, Maggie, I’m tryin’ to wallow here,” he protested half-jokingly.
“Yes, I noticed,” she replied, sounding amused and less sniffly. “And I promise I’ll let you, within reason, when I’m there to pat your shoulder and say ‘there, there’ in person. But no wallowing alone, okay? I had to watch Nate tear himself to pieces like that because he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, and wouldn’t let me help. I’m not going through that again, understand?”
He smiled bemusedly. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
“Good. Now go check up on your team, you know you need to. I’ll see you later,” she ordered.
He shook his head and laughed a little, not grimly at all this time. “Okay. And Maggie? Thanks. For, uh… I guess for not listening to me.”
She laughed, too. “Anytime, Eliot,” she promised, amused. “Somebody has to.”
Then she hung up, and he stared at the phone in his hand, still smiling a little as he hit the right button for Hardison.
He was still a ways off from alright, but he felt like he could hold together for a while longer now. At least until Maggie could help some more with the patching.
Prompt: Eliot/any (really any, but in my head it's Maggie), phone sex
He used to really suck at this.
-run my hands down your-
He felt stupid, trying to translate touches and tastes and images into simple words, because words have never come easily to him.
-press my fingers into-
It’s different, though, when the words connect to memories.
-look so beautiful, sweetheart, gonna slide my tongue-
Memories have dimension, weight and presence in his mind, because he had to leave any physical mementoes behind long, long ago.
-so hot, so wet, so tight-
He treasures his memories, and he likes to take them out and turn them over in his thoughts, like looking through photo albums or souvenirs.
-warmth of your skin, the scent of you-
He used to really suck at this, because words have never come easily to him.
-bite you there, just hard enough to-
But when the words connect to memories, they aren’t just words, they’re kisses, caresses, emotions, the smooth, warm slide of skin against skin, even across miles.
-need you inside me so bad, so ready for you-
So if words are all he can have, all he can give, for right now, words are enough.
“I know you are, darlin’,” he murmurs, voice low and deep and whiskey-rough with desire, “and I’m here, my hands on your hips, holdin’ you tight so I can lower my head and taste you...”
He dreams of holding more than memories, but he’s gotten good at this.
Prompt: Eliot/Maggie, 'Fragile. Handle with Care.'
She hadn’t called him all week. Which, granted, was actually not that unusual – she rarely needed to call him, because he called her. It was the pattern they’d fallen into, Eliot did the reaching out, and she did the steady support. He needed that, needed her, and it was nice to be needed. But right now…
He’d called her, of course. He always called, and it had gotten to the point where she could tell something of his activities by the timing – regular as clockwork an hour after she had dinner when he was on his own time, or any random moment he had to spare when he was on the job. His schedule had been pretty consistently inconsistent lately, and she worried about that, knowing as she did how Nate could get caught up in his own grim determination and forward momentum and forget that other people – But she didn’t want to think about Nate at the moment.
She set down her half-empty mug of cold coffee and stared at her phone, sitting silently on the table. It was past eleven at night, much later in Boston, and she wanted to call Eliot. Wanted to hear his voice, sleep-roughened and deep, or more likely still alert and awake, but either way with that special softness that she liked to imagine was just for her. She wanted something just for her, wanted to be comforted and cared for and just not feel so alone. It was so quiet here, by herself. Especially this time of year –
The soft buzzing of her phone was a welcome interruption to her thoughts, but she only picked it up and stared at the screen, biting her lip. It was Eliot, of course. That was twice tonight, which was unusual. Maybe she should pick up, maybe he needed…
She sighed and set the phone back down unanswered. She just didn’t have it in her right now, didn’t have any strength to hold him up. She felt guilty and horrible for leaving him hanging, but…
A firm knock on her door distracted her from her worry, and she frowned. It was awfully late for visitors, and she wasn’t expecting anyone. She had just about decided to ignore it in the hopes that whoever it was would go away when a familiar voice drawled, just loud enough to be heard through the door, “I’m no Parker, darlin’, but I can pick the lock.”
Before she even realized she’d moved, Maggie was flinging the door open to find Eliot, who greeted her shocked expression with a gentle, careful smile. “Hey, Maggie,” he said softly.
“Eliot,” she breathed. “What… what are you doing here?”
He shrugged and leaned against the doorframe, not seeming to mind having this conversation on her doorstep. “Well, you stopped takin’ my calls,” he replied slowly. “You always answer when I call, so I got worried, thought maybe I’d said or done somethin’ wrong…”
She summoned a weary smile and shook her head, settling into the comfortable and familiar role of reassuring him. It was better than feeling alone, even if she wished –
“And then I pulled my head out of my ass and remembered the date,” he continued quietly.
Maggie blinked, and choked on the soothing words she’d been about to offer him. Choked on the sob that unexpectedly burst free from where she’d been keeping it locked deep inside. And then she was in his arms, wrapped in his warmth and strength, crying her broken heart out onto his shoulder as he stroked her hair.
After a few minutes, he gently nudged her inside, closing the door and leading her towards the bedroom of her small apartment. “Eliot,” she murmured uncertainly, not sure where this was going.
“Shh, sweetheart, you look tired. You need to sleep,” he advised, turning her to face him beside the bed. Skilled hands, so gentle for all their strength, undressed her with care and no hint of teasing, and once he’d settled her under the blankets he quickly stripped down and climbed in beside her. It had been so long since she’d had someone to hold onto, someone to hold her. He was warm and solid and steady and he was there. She needed him, and he was there.
She was exhausted, and she needed to sleep, but instead she spent hours telling him stories, stories about her little boy, her baby, who was gone. He held her while she trembled and cried, held her tightly enough that she didn’t shake apart at the seams, held her like she was made of the most delicate spun glass and would shatter into a thousand pieces if he let go. She thought maybe she would. But he was there, there for her, and so she didn’t.
When she woke to daylight with no idea of when she’d fallen asleep, he was awake and watching her with a softness she’d never imagined in his eyes. He didn’t ask her if she was feeling better, just as he’d never told her during the long night that everything would be alright. She would always carry this pain, and nothing would ever really be alright, and she appreciated his silent acknowledgment of the hole in her life more than she ever had any well-intentioned but futile attempts at comfort.
“I wish…” she murmured, and didn’t know how to finish. There were too many wishes, all of them impossible.
“Yeah,” he agreed, brushing a lock of hair off her forehead with a sad smile. “Me too.”
She sighed and curled into the comfort and safety of his embrace, and tried not to think about the past or the future, what she’d lost and what she’d never really have. It was enough that he was here for her right now, that today she wasn’t alone.
It would have to be.
Prompt: Eliot/Maggie, 'I'm breaking one of the most critical rules of friendship. Never screw with your friend's ex.'
“…what do you mean, you haven’t told him?” Maggie asked slowly, and Eliot winced. He could actually hear her eyes narrowing over the phone.
He sighed. “Uh, I mean I haven’t told him?” he repeated, picking at a scab on the back of his hand, phone clamped against his shoulder. “It just… hasn’t really come up, so…”
“It hasn’t come up. Well, nice to know I’m such an important part of your life,” Maggie said crisply.
“Maggie – ” he tried, and suddenly heard a busy signal beeping in his ear. He blinked, and grabbed the phone, holding it in front of his face to stare at it incredulously. She’d hung up on him.
This was not good. He’d been hung up on by enough women in his time to know he was now in deep trouble. He sighed again and snapped his phone shut, barely resisting the urge to hurl it against the wall. He didn’t even know why it should matter that he hadn’t mentioned their relationship to Nate, it wasn’t like she saw Nate every day, or had to work with him, or anything. Not like Eliot did.
He scowled at the phone. Okay, so maybe he did sort of understand why she might feel like he should have mentioned the fact that they were… involved to Nate. Nate, and the rest of the team, were Eliot’s… sort of family. They were part of his daily life, his friends, and disturbingly high on the very short list of people who were important to Eliot.
But that was the problem, really. They were his friends. Nate was his friend. And Maggie was… well, not Nate’s, but… He flipped the phone open and hit her number. She picked up on the fourth ring with an icy, “What.”
“He’s my friend, Maggie. And you just don’t… you don’t do that to your friend. I’m breaking one of the most critical rules of friendship. Never screw with your friend’s ex,” Eliot explained in a rush.
There was silence for a moment, then Maggie asked in a disturbingly reasonable tone, “Is that what we’re doing, Eliot? Screwing?”
“No!” he denied firmly. “I didn’t mean it like – dammit, Maggie! It’ll hurt him, okay? He’ll feel betrayed, like I stole you from him, and I – ”
“I think you’re the one that feels like you stole me, Eliot. If you didn’t feel guilty, I don’t think you’d have a problem telling Nate about us,” Maggie interrupted with unsettling calm.
“Maggie,” he protested weakly. She waited a moment, but he didn’t quite know what to say to that accusation, and finally she sighed, sounding tired.
“You didn’t steal me, Eliot. Certainly not from Nate. I chose to get involved with you of my own free will, despite all the many good reasons not to. And I’ve never regretted that choice. But I’m not interested in being your dirty little secret.”
“You’re not – Jesus, Maggie, that’s not what it’s about!” he protested.
“Well, that’s what it feels like,” she told him. “And I’m a little too old to be playing these stupid games. We’re all adults, Eliot. If you don’t want to tell your closest friends that you’re in a relationship because it might potentially bother one of them, that’s your choice, but it makes me think that this relationship isn’t terribly important to you. Which means I have to make a choice of my own.”
Eliot closed his eyes and braced himself. Here it was, the moment he’d known would come sooner or later. He could try to argue with her, try to buy a little more time. He could even tell Nate like she wanted, and handle the shitstorm that was sure to provoke. It might delay the inevitable for days… weeks. Longer.
But the truth was, she was right. He did feel guilty. Not so much because she was Nate’s ex, although that did bother him a lot, but just because… he really didn’t deserve her. She was right, there were a lot of good reasons for her not to be with him. A lot. More than she even knew. Every precious minute he got to think of her as his was borrowed time.
Of course he’d stolen her. He was a thief. And of course he was too ashamed to tell the others, because they wouldn’t approve, how could they? They knew him too well.
Part of him knew that he should really tell her all of that. He’d always told her everything, it was what their whole relationship was based on, and she’d made it very clear that Nate holding his pain inside and not letting her help him was a big part of what had driven them apart.
But he didn’t know how to tell her this, or if there was even a point. How could he argue that she should stay with him because he wasn’t good enough for her? It didn’t make any sense. No more than her choosing to be with him in the first place did.
“This is the part where you should be talking me out of ending this,” Maggie informed him quietly, as if she thought he might have gone temporarily brain dead.
“I know,” he acknowledged. And then he let the silence stretch.
“…okay, then,” she murmured reluctantly after a minute that felt like an hour. “I guess this is goodbye, Eliot.”
“…yeah,” he finally managed to choke out. Then there was just the busy signal in his ear again. This time he did throw the phone against the wall.
Prompt: Eliot/Maggie, 'You shouldn't love a bad boy. We don't end well.'
Maggie was woken from a sound sleep by a ringtone she hadn’t heard in a long time, and honestly hadn’t expected to hear again, certainly not at… she peered at the clock and groaned. 3:27a.m. “Somebody better be dead,” she muttered, then felt her stomach drop as she shot to full alertness, realizing that it was entirely possible that someone was.
She snatched up the phone in trembling hands. “Nate? What is it, why are you calling? Did something happen? Is everyone okay? Is Eliot okay?” she demanded without pausing for breath, then forced herself to wait for an answer.
“Uh… hey, Maggie,” Eliot’s voice came over the connection, sounding hesitant and more than a little slurred. She blinked and pulled the phone away from her ear for a moment to peer at it. No, she’d been right, that was Nate’s number.
“Eliot?” she asked a little stiffly. They hadn’t spoke in a week, not since she’d decided she couldn’t do this with him anymore. She sighed. She’d missed the sound of his voice, though. “Are you alright, Eliot?” she asked.
“Yeah. Well, no. But yeah. ‘M not dead, so… there’s that, I guess,” he rambled.
Maggie frowned and rolled her eyes. Déjà vu all over again. It was even Nate’s phone she was getting drunk-dialed on. Maybe she really had made the right decision. She rubbed her eyes wearily. Now if she could just convince her heart it shouldn’t be beating double time just because he’d called her at all.
“Not dead is a good thing,” she agreed, settling back against her pillows. “So, why are you calling, Eliot? I thought we’d agreed we weren’t going to… do this anymore.”
He sighed. “Nate won’ let me go start a war. Or even finish one. Which is so not fair, cuz he gets ta drink whenever he wants. He’s a jerk,” Eliot grumbled.
Maggie felt her eyebrows creeping toward her hairline. She’d been talking to Eliot for a very long time, and had heard all sorts of surprising, disturbing, and shocking comments from him, but this was the first time she’d heard him express an urge to start a war. She rather hoped it was just some drunken exaggeration, but knowing Eliot… she decided it would be safest to ignore it and just focus on the sensible part.
“He can be kind of a jerk,” she agreed, smiling a little wistfully. “I guess I have a type.”
He was silent long enough that she almost began to apologize for that, even if she was still mad at him, but then he started talking, miserable and disjointed, “’M sorry, Maggie. Sorry ‘m not a better man… you deserve… ‘m not… always knew, ya know, I mean. Couldn’ last. Di’n’t make no damn sense, a woman like you an’… I know I’m no damn good, Maggie. Couldn’ last.” He gave a heavy sigh and added, “Miss you.”
Maggie sighed. None of this drunken babbling really changed anything. He was still more concerned with Nate and his other friends’ opinions and feelings than hers, and she still didn’t want to be something he hid from the people he cared about out of guilt or embarrassment or whatever.
But he sounded so unhappy. And she missed him, too. And even if her head knew she’d made the right call to break it off, her heart was far from convinced.
“I miss you, too, Eliot,” she admitted. “And you’re a much better man than you think you are. I wouldn’t love you if you weren’t.”
“…what?” he asked quietly, sounding stunned, which didn’t surprise her. They’d been skirting the word for a while, both of them skittish about it.
“You heard me,” she told him. “I love you, you idiot. Just hearing your voice does things to me that… You touch me in places I haven’t been touched in so long, and you don’t even have to be in the same country to do it. You couldn’t make me feel so good, or hurt so much, if I didn’t love you.”
“No,” he protested when she finished, “no no no no no, Maggie, no, you can’t – you don’ unnerstand, ‘m not – you shouldn’…” He drew in a shuddery breath, and told her in a thin shadow of his voice, that broke over the words, “You shouldn’t love a bad boy. We don’t end well.”
She frowned. That sounded… ominous. “Eliot? What do you mean by that?”
He gave a breathless little chuckle. “What do ya think I mean? I ain’t never gonna be the guy you oughta have, the guy you deserve, people like me - I don’ get a happy endin’, I get ta bleed out in an alley or a ditch somewhere all alone, an’ you shouldn’t… you shouldn’t have ta… You’re too smart ta love somebody like me, Maggie, I’m not a good man, not at all, and you deserve – ”
“Eliot,” she said firmly, cutting off the bitter words that were twisting her stomach in knots and making her heart ache, “I’m a grown woman, and I get to decide what I deserve, and what I want. And I want you. Nothing you say is going to change that. You can’t talk me out of loving you.”
“Maggie, please, you gotta – hey, don’ – what the fuck, Nate? Gimme – ” Eliot’s voice grew more distant and muffled, as Nate apparently took the phone away from him.
“No, I think that’s about enough of that,” Nate’s voice stated firmly, also muffled by distance. “You’re getting too worked up, this was obviously a bad idea. Try to relax and get some rest.” There was some indecipherable grumbling, to which Nate replied, “Yeah, well, you’re not at the top of my hit list at the moment either. Get some sleep before I have to wake you up again.”
Maggie bit her lip and wondered if she should just hang up, but then Nate spoke again, much clearer this time, and directed at her. “Maggie. Sorry about that. He was so insistent about wanting to talk to you, I didn’t have the heart to keep saying no.”
Maggie frowned. “That’s… it’s okay. Is he alright? He seemed pretty… out of it. Not that he’s never called me drunk before, but…”
“Hmm? Oh, no, he’s not drunk. That would be…well. Kind of a combination of concussion and fever,” Nate informed her. “He’s been hallucinating all night, which I don’t recommend for entertainment value. I thought talking to you might calm him down, but I didn’t know you’d broken it off, or I wouldn’t have let him. I suppose his sudden desire to liberate third world countries should have tipped me off, but…”
“He has a concussion? And a fever? And – wait, you know about… us?” Maggie demanded.
“He’s had worse, he’ll be fine,” Nate assured her. “And of course I know. Everybody knows.”
“But… he said he hadn’t told you,” Maggie protested.
“He didn’t,” Nate agreed. “But it wasn’t hard to figure out.”
“…he didn’t know you knew, though,” Maggie reasoned.
“Mm, well. Like I’ve said before, most thieves aren’t nearly as smart or good-looking as they think they are,” Nate said, but there was a tone of wry good humor in his voice.
Maggie sighed. Eliot hadn’t told anyone… but they did know. And she loved him. Maybe she should listen to her heart instead of her head, at least for a little longer. “I have to get some more sleep,” she murmured, glancing ruefully at the clock. “You’re sure he’s okay?”
Nate was silent for so long that she worriedly prompted him, “Nate?”
Nate sighed, sounding tired, which she supposed he was, if he’d been up all night watching over Eliot. “The concussion will heal, the fever will fade,” Nate answered slowly. “But I was here for his side of that conversation, Maggie. I think we both know he’s not okay.” He sighed again. “He’s a good guy, Maggie. Maybe not what I would have picked for you, but… you could do a lot worse.” She wasn’t sure how to respond to that, and after a moment Nate continued gruffly, “Get some sleep, I’ll keep you posted.”
“Okay. Thank you,” she murmured, and hung up, setting her phone on the nightstand blindly. She really did need to sleep, but when her alarm finally went off, she was still staring at the ceiling, worrying and wondering what to do.
Prompt: Eliot/Maggie, she almost walked away
She almost let it go.
He didn’t call her again, after that late night feverish ramble. Nate had kept her apprised of his progress, as promised – he healed quickly, or at least lost patience with being ill or injured quickly, and within a few days he was back on his feet and doing fine. Physically, Nate emphasized pointedly the last time they spoke. She knew that much. Eliot hadn’t called her.
For a few days, she’d toyed with the idea that maybe he just didn’t remember their conversation. He had been pretty dazed and confused. Nate didn’t think so, though. He said that the trouble with Eliot was that he rarely ever forgot things, or let things go. An obsessive streak was a good thing in Eliot’s line of work, and his dedication to keeping the team safe was admirable, but he held onto his past and his pain just as tightly. She still thought he might not remember the details of their phone call, but Nate had insisted.
“Eliot’s not the kind of man who forgets someone telling him they love him, Maggie,” he’d finally insisted exasperatedly. “He’s trying to see if you’ll forget, or pretend to, if he ignores you long enough.”
“Do you think that’s what he wants?” she’d asked uncertainly.
Nate had sighed the sigh of a man being forced to give relationship advice to his ex-wife. “How am I supposed to know? I don’t think Eliot even knows what he wants.” After that, she’d stopped harassing Nate about it, but Eliot still didn’t call.
She did love him. She’d said it on impulse, but the words would not have popped out if they weren’t true. Their relationship was far from conventional, and likely always would be. Barring serious injury, she couldn’t see Eliot retiring early, and even if he did, she doubted he’d be content being tied to one location. They’d never talked about the future, though. Well, she knew now that was because he didn’t expect to have one.
That was a frightening thought, with a brutal edge of reality to it. Bleeding out in a ditch was probably the end of the line for most people in Eliot’s profession. But he had the team now, so it was worrisome that he still expected to die alone. And he had her. Maybe. He hadn’t called.
Maggie had suffered a lot of loss in her life. She’d lost her only child, and that had left a hole in her heart that would never fully heal. She’d lost her husband, her marriage, and for a while one of her best friends. She had her friend Nate back now, she thought, but the life they’d had together was over and gone. Eliot… she didn’t completely have Eliot, not yet, she was coming to understand that. As open and honest as he’d been with her, there were still things he was hiding, his darker secrets, his deeper scars. All the things that could end up making her lose him, too, one way or another.
She loved him, but it wasn’t really set in stone. He hadn’t called her, and as the days stretched on, she realized that she could let her feelings fade until he was just a fond memory of something that might have been. She could still walk away, it wasn’t too late for that. And that, she finally understood, was why he hadn’t called her.
So she got on a plane and flew to Boston. Her plan kind of fell apart when he wasn’t at his home, though. Not only was he not there, but peering in the windows she could see the place was barren and empty. He’d moved out. She stood on his former doorstep and wondered how she could possibly track him down. She’d given up on leaving him voicemail days ago, and she didn’t know where exactly he liked to spend his free time, if he was even still in the city.
She really only had one option, and she almost just went back to the airport, but in the end she found herself standing outside the door to Nate’s apartment. And then she hesitated. And she almost walked away. Eliot had made it quite clear he didn’t want to see or hear from her.
But she remembered him showing up out of the blue unasked when she’d needed him. She remembered the way he held her, the way he reached out to her, whether with open arms or just his voice. He’d let her walk away, if she wanted to, but she had to remember, from the start, he’d been the one who called her. It was her job to pick up.
So she knocked, and waited for the door to open, and smiled when she saw Eliot standing on the other side.
Continue on to the next Connections 'verse post