AN: Sorry this chapter is more descriptive than actual conversations, but I needed to get some back story in there. The next chapter should be a little better. And thanks again to everyone for the positive reviews and know I really appreciate hearing from you!
I Have Hours, Only Lonely
My Love Is Vengeance
That's Never Free
Somewhere in Eliot's Past
Eliot smiled to himself as he walked to the barn to check on the horses for the night after leaving the kitchen and his sister who had just called him 'little' behind. He'd never admit it to anyone, especially Emma, but his height or general lack of compared to her two inches over him, didn't really bother him. He'd always been taught by their father that it didn't really matter what people saw, it was more important what they didn't see. And Eliot could hold his own. Always had and always would.
He kind of liked the fact that being a little shorter helped him move faster and he was able to scale rocks and rough terrain more easily than most boys his age. He was good at sports and while basketball would never be in his future (he didn't really care for the sport anyway), he knew football was. He was good at it and it was because people didn't really see him coming until it was too late. He liked being on the junior high school's team and looked forward to trying out when he hit high school next year. He liked being the one that surprised others when they'd already dismissed him so easily because of his height.
And it wasn't just sports that Eliot excelled in. He liked that he could move through crowds of people and not be noticed. He had a stealth about him and he liked that. His father told him it was because of his Cherokee heritage. He said that Eliot was built like an Indian warrior of old. And Eliot liked that idea; being a warrior. He loved hearing his father talk about their heritage and he knew in his heart that everything he was and would ever be was all about who his family had been. If nothing else, Eliot believed very strongly that who his family had been was who Eliot would one day become. He longed to be a real warrior in this world and he'd decided recently that he was thinking about seeking a career that would in some way allow him to help people who couldn't help themselves. He'd decided he was going to enter the military instead of going to college when he graduated from high school.
He hadn't told anyone about his decision, but after hearing from his aunt and uncle how his cousin Evan was planning on entering the Air Force, he was thinking he may say something soon. But something about Evan entering the military had Eliot thinking. He'd been surprised at the news because Evan had never made any kind of remarks about ever being interested in the military before. In fact when his twin brother Eaton had joined, he'd made rude comments. He'd acted like an ass in front of his parents about the whole thing and Eliot's parents had seemed even more upset about Evan's display than his own parents had.
Eliot didn't know the two men that well because they were almost eight years older than him, but he liked Eaton and didn't really like Evan much at all. From what Eliot knew of him, Evan was always getting in trouble in one way or another, especially with the law. Eliot remembered his Uncle Marty having to bail him out of jail on several different occasions, so it was a little surprising that suddenly Evan would want to be in such a structured organization such as the military. The man hated being told what to do and as far as Eliot was concerned the guy was a bully and a coward. He was always blaming others for everything that went wrong with his life. He never took ownership of his own actions.
But Eaton was the exact opposite of Evan. He cared about people and he said as much when he'd decided to enlist in the Air Force almost a year ago. He was currently stationed somewhere in Nevada near Las Vegas and that's where Eliot's aunt and uncle were living now. They'd moved out there after Eaton had been permanently stationed. Eliot admired Eaton and his choice to help others and that was one of the reasons he'd decided on the military. But he was thinking more about joining the Army instead. He wanted a chance to be a more hands on soldier and he didn't really care for flying much.
Eliot finished up with the horses giving them some extra hay and grain for the night as his thoughts kept going back to his visiting relatives. His mother had two step-brothers, Uncle Marty and Uncle Ross who lived in Wyoming. Eliot didn't know much about his mother's father other than he'd died unexpectedly when she was young and her mother had remarried to a widowed man with two sons of his own. She loved both brothers as if they really were her blood, but Uncle Marty was her favorite.
Eliot smiled 'cause they'd all heard how Uncle Marty had taken on a couple bullies that had been tormenting his little step-sister not long after they'd come together as a family. It was no secret that the boys hadn't really liked the idea of being saddled with a sibling especially a sister, but that day changed their lives forever and cemented the bond between the two that to this day hadn't even cracked as far as Eliot knew.
He thought he'd go back and tell his visiting relatives good night before he retired to his room to study for that dang history test he had tomorrow. Eliot hated tests, but he was good with history. He had a head for facts and tidbits always stuck in his mind. Some things seemed useless, but always seemed to pop up when he needed them. He had a knack for remembering things, but tests terrified him. They put him in a worry mode and it took Emma to come to his rescue once when he'd thought he'd simply just rather keel over and die than face a math test he had coming up.
She had taught him a trick about treating tests like they were nothing more than classroom work. Just pretend he was doing a homework assignment in class and handle them as if they weren't all that important, because in reality they really weren't what made him smarter. Learning is what made him smarter, tests were just a way to gauge what a person knew. So Eliot had tried that, and he'd been surprised at how right she was. He just treated the tests as another paper to fill out and he'd actually improved dramatically over the past few months.
But this test would be different. They were currently learning about the Trail of Tears in history class and Eliot felt a personal bond to the people that had been forced from their homeland in Georgia to be relocated to Oklahoma. He had descended from a survivor of this injustice and knew that what they'd endured in their journey was wrong. His father had told him that in the Cherokee language the event is refered to Nu na da ul tsun yi – the place where they cried – and that nearly a third of the group died. Eliot knew the numbers of the dead varied because no one had a real record of who these people really were since they didn't really care, but he was willing to bet that the total of 4, 000 that is cited in his history book was probably low from the stories his father's father's father had passed down.
Eliot knew if he'd been a young warrior in that day and age, he'd probably be dead now because he would have fought for their freedom to remain on his land and so he could understand the heart that most of his ancestors put in their stories of the past. He hated what had been done to his ancestors, but he hated seeing what happened ot others' ancestors as well such as the slavery issues leading up to the civil war. Eliot believed no man deserved to be put above another simply because of the color of his skin. Everyone was human and therefore his equal. He smiled when he remembered how Emma called him a bleeding heart loyalist.
She understood though, things got to her too. She'd never tease Eliot too harshly about his feelings though because she was very protective of her brother. She sometimes told him that he 'felt' too much though and he needed to learn to control himself or he'd be taken down by the wrong person. And then she'd call him a girl or call him Ellie or something before running off. All of it just made Eliot smile. He loved her and his family and he'd take care of himself.
Eliot knew she was right though. He did need to keep his feelings more hidden, but it was just so damn hard to put them away whenever something that he knew was wrong was being done to another person. He'd gotten into a couple scrapes already just from protecting fellow schoolmates from bullies. He hated bullies more than anything and he didn't tolerate one person trying to control another in any way. He especially hated any kind of abuse in any way.
He had only known a loving family so it was hard sometimes to understand how some mothers or fathers could actually abuse their kids. His parents would never hit him just because he was in their way. They might punish him and Eliot knew his mamma would whoop his ass if he did something wrong, but it was basically just a saying. She'd never actually laid a hand on him that he could remember. He couldn't remember her ever hitting any of his siblings either. He knew that just seeing the hurt look on her face at something he did was more than enough for Eliot to take whatever punishment came.
Now his father was a different story. The man never abused any of his kids either, but if they'd needed their butts whooped he did it. No problem. And Eliot could understand that. However as they grew older, his father didn't follow that guide much anymore. He sided with his wife in punishment when it was doled out on Emma and Eliot. They were older and busting their butts wouldn't make a difference other than they hurt for a little while. He was smart enough to know that they needed something that would make more of an impact, like taking away their riding priviledges. That killed Emma more than Eliot, but it hurt him too.
Horses were their life here on their small ranch, but Eliot could live without them easier than Emma. Now if his dad took away his books or his guitar, then that would get to Eliot more. He loved reading and learning and music was what he used to help control his feelings. He used music to keep his emotions in check.
Eliot shook off these thoughts though as he walked past the open window of the dining room to head for the front of the house so he could avoid seeing Emma who he knew was still in the kitchen doing dishes. He chuckled as he thought about the fact he really had used just about every dish in the cabinets for their dinner.
As he passed the window though the conversation he heard gave him pause. He suddenly stopped altogether at the sound of his name being used in the discussion between the four adults still seated at the dining table. His name had been used along with Evan and Eaton's. Eliot listend quietly as he heard what he never even suspected in his thirteen years and couldn't believe he was hearing now.
"Well as long as the kids never find out the truth that's all I care about. Especially Eliot. The other children don't worry me as much, but Eliot? He won't rest until he knows every single detail. He won't rest until he has the truth and that's something he can never know. The turth would ruin this family and I have to think of my other children. I know you understand that Marty." Came Eliot's mother, Mary's voice.
Uncle Marty's voice came then. "We understand, Mary. Really we do and we agree. Eliot would be the one most hurt by this. Marie and I have decided that we will destroy any trail that can connect the children to Evan and Eaton. I promise you, if you agree with our decision, then Evan will not get the answers he's demanding. I promise you he will not learn anything from us anyway." The man paused as if he was thinking of what to say next before he slowly continued. "We made both of you a promise over twenty years ago and we will stand by that promise. We just wanted the both of you to know what Evan was up to and what we suspect is the real reason he decided to leave for the military. You have the right to know."
"Thank you for that Marty." This was Eliot's dad's voice, Jack Spencer. "But you're wrong. We don't have the right to know. We forfeited those rights that day long ago." His father's voice seemed to choke up here as Eliot continued to listen.
His mother picked up for his father. "Jack's right. We gave up any right to know anything when I…when you had to raise Evan and Eaton. We forfeited a lot of things that day…" Eliot couldn't help but hear the break in his mother's voice as he heard her raspy voice pause during the converstation. He heard his father move from his chair to come console his wife. Eliot could feel his father doing it and he knew something wasn't right with this whole conversation.
What did his parents mean he thought. What had they given up? And what's more what did they want to hide from all of us kids especially me? What had happened twenty years ago?
Roughly about 3:00 PM
Nate sat at the table in his sort of kitchen dining area and he watched Hardison across the room clicking away on his computer. The boy was working his fingers off trying to find something on Eliot. Nate sighed as he took in the fact that Parker was outside the window behind him working with her gear as she climbed up the building to just throw herself off again. And again. And again. He sighed has he counted this as her eighteenth time so far.
He couldn't help thinking his team was trying to deal with things the only way they knew how. They were dealing by doing what they were good at. Sophie was sitting next to him and was watching to make sure he didn't do what he was good at. Namely reaching for the whisky bottle that she kept subconsciously moving farther and farther away from his hands.
Nate sighed again as he looked longingly at the bottle, but he tried to push the urge to just get up and get the damn bottle because he knew no matter how quickly he moved, Sophie would beat him to it. He turned from the bottle to look in her deep brown eyes as she continued to keep one eye on him and the other on the bottle.
He'd told them about the call he'd made to Eliot's friend and that he would be here in the next couple of hours with help and that the man had a good idea where Eliot might be. Nate had asked Hardison to start working on checking all the surveilance cameras he could hack between them and Eliot's safe house for anything out of the ordinary. The problem was that when Eliot had been taken it had been dark and they didn't even know how he'd been transported, but at least it was something that kept Haridson busy.
He hadn't told them who the man that was coming to help was or how he was related to Eliot. That was Matthew's business if he wanted the team to know any details. All the others knew was that the man was from Eliot's military days and that he'd help. That's all they needed to really know for now. They just needed to concentrate on finding Eliot. It was just that simple.
Eliot needed to know when he came back that he still had his privacy. And his secrets. They all had to know that the team cared for each of them, but that the others would also respect their privacy because their secrets were what made them who they were today. Eliot especially needed to know that he was protected from any invasion of privacy. Nate knew how much the man felt he was not a good man and that no matter how much good he'd done in his life he'd never be clean of the blood on his hands from his past life.
But Nate knew in his heart that Eliot was not a bad man. He didn't think Eliot had ever really been a bad man. He'd been through some tough times, made some choices that had taken him down one road instead of another and that led to bad things, but the choices he'd made were what made him a good man. He'd made choices in order to protect others. Eliot was always doing things to damage himself in order to save others no matter what he led you to believe.
Yes, he'd done bad things, but that didn't make him a bad man. Nate truly believed that whatever things Eliot had had to do in the past, he'd had to do. He'd done bad to somehow do good. Nate seriously doubted that the Eliot Spencer he knew had ever made a decision to harm another living soul just because he had wanted to harm them. The man he knew was weighed down too much by his heart. The man had too much guilt in his soul and a bad man didn't care about guilt. Eliot carried that guilt with him everywhere everyday until it damn near broke his back. He'd had a bad life, but he'd tried. The trouble with Eliot Spencer was that no one could make him believe it because the man was his own worst enemy.
Nate thought about the package sitting on the coffee table where he'd put it a little while ago in preparation. He'd promised, he thought. Eliot had given him the package back before they'd gone to San Lorenzo to rescue General Flores and to take down Damien Moreau permanently. Eliot had given him instructions that if anything happened to him, he wanted Nate to deliver the contents of the package. The package contained letters; 7 letters to be exact and Nate had been angry when he'd discovered what Eliot had been thinking.
It was almost as if Eliot had planned on not coming back; as if taking down Moreau would be his last act on earth, but during the plan ride over he'd thought of what Eliot had done to protect him and the Italian in that warehouse and Nate knew then that Eliot was being realistic. Damien Moreau would not let Eliot out alive this time if Nate's plan failed. He knew then that Eliot had been working behind the team's back in secret to try and take down Moreau alone so he could protect them.
It finally dawned on him as he sat in his seat on that flight, sipping at his constant drinking companion that Eliot did know exactly what Moreau was capable of. Better than anyone in this world and that by keeping his history with Moreau a secret from them he was protecting them from the man's wrath. If the team didn't know of Eliot's link to Moreau, then Moreau would not go after them. He'd only take down Eliot because he knew if you wanted to end this team his best shot was to take out their hitter. Take out Eliot and they'd be forced to break apart as well. Then they wouldn't be any threat to him.
No matter how smart they each were, they were no match for Moreau without Eliot's protection. But what Moreau didn't know was that Eliot was much more than just their hitter. He was their friend, their brother, their family. And if Moreau took Eliot, he'd face their wrath in a thousand different ways. They may not have been able to take him down after losing Eliot, but they would have been able to make his life miserable.
That was something Eliot hadn't thought of because he didn't think he was that important to anyone, least of all them. The man didn't realize that they not only depended on him, they loved him. Eliot was the backbone of this team. Anyone could be trained to be a hacker. They'd never have the flair Hardison that had, but they'd be competent enough to do a job. Ditto for Parker. The girl was just too crazy to be duplicated, but Nate knew he could find another thief to do a job. He'd miss Hardison and Parker, but the team could move forward. They'd just never have his heart like those two did.
He could also find another competent grifter, although he'd never replace Sophie as the woman he loved, that wouldn't be possible. But the point was anyone could be replaced on skills alone. But to make them all a family, they needed the other things like Hardison's flair, Parker's crazy, Sophie's… well just Sophie.
But the person who kept them all in line was Eliot. He was Hardison's friend, his brother. The two fought like brothers, but Eliot would take a bullet for Hardison. And Parker, Eliot knew Parker was crazy but he would throw himself off a building for her. Hell he had thrown himself off a building for her. And Eliot watched out for Sophie and not just because she was important to the team, but because she was important to Nate. Eliot had sent Sophie flowers and Parker a plant for Nate and Hardison when they'd needed to know they were appreciated when the guys hadn't even thought about doing that.
That's the kind of man Eliot Spencer was. He wasn't bad. Bad guys didn't go around rescuing puppies and sending flowers for others. They didn't remember everyone's birthdays or favorite foods or their passions. Eliot did. Eliot remembered Sam's birthday and he would watch over Nate whenever he could on that day. No, Eliot was all they had and they were going to get him back no matter what, Nate thought. He smiled at Sophie as she continued to study him.
"Thinking really hard there aren't you, Nate?" She spoke softly just for his ears.
"Always." He smiled again as he thought of all the times this woman sitting next to him had stood by him too.
Then he made a decision. He'd promised Eliot then and even if they got Eliot back, the team needed to know how much Eliot really did care for them. He'd give them their letters and hold the others back until he actually needed to send those. There were letters for each of them Hardison, Sophie, Parker and himself. The other three were for Eliot's sister, Aimee and Eliot's father. No matter the outcome, they needed to know just how important each of them were to the man.
"Parker!" Nate turned to the window and yelled just as he saw a flash of blonde hair go sailing by. "Get in here, I need to update you guys on a couple of things. Hardison park your screens for now and let's meet up at the couch."
Parker slowly climbed in the window and unhooked her rigging line to drop just inside on the floor and then she bounded over to perch on the back of the couch just as Hardison dropped down in front of her with his bottle of orange soda in his hand.
Nate turned to Sophie and pulled her to her feet to lead her over to the couch and let her settle down next to Hardison while he walked around the coffee table to stand in front of them with the package lying there between them.