What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.

Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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Eliot's kitchen, Wednesday morning
Eliot had slept in.

He was having a quiet morning, a sort of quiet he hadn't had much of since he'd started spending most nights in bed with Parker and Hardison. He closed his eyes before stepping into the kitchen, feeling the morning sun on his face and just breathing in the peace of the moment.

Now. What to make for breakfast?

He grumbled faintly under his breath when he opened the fridge and found the entire thing filled only with orange soda. He could have sworn he had eggs and bacon. Or at least a six pack of beer. "Dammit, Hardison."

He tried the cabinets, figuring he could at least make himself some oatmeal, and had to dodge an avalanche of fortune cookies, only to find that all his dry goods had been replaced with sugary breakfast cereals. "Dammit, Parker."

He had not anticipated this side of cohabitation. He probably should have.

Val ran up to him, barking excitedly. She bounced up on her hind legs and did a little doggy pirouette like a circus dog, then ran over to the back door, beaming at him over her shoulder.

"Yeah yeah." Eliot followed after her. "Keep your damn pants on."

[ooc: for one. NFB, please, for reasons which will become clear]

"I just will, thank you," Kathy said, amused. She was at the sink, filling up a kettle with water. She looked warm and cozy in a fluzzy purple bathrobe and beneath that were flannel pj pants, light blue with black gymnast silhouettes patterned over them. "Tea? I think we still have some of the good stuff I got for you."

You know, Eliot didn't even remember that she was staying here. But of course she was, why wouldn't she? He had plenty of space.

"Sure thing, darlin'." He let Val out to do her business -- pants and all -- then came back over to the kitchen island, where he could watch Kathy go about the business of tea making. "I tell you lately how nice it is havin' you around?"

Neither Parker nor Hardison could appreciate a proper cup of tea.

"Only every time I appreciate vegetables out loud," Kathy teased, getting down two wineglasses from the cupboard with the rest of the tea supplies. "And last Thursday, when I made dinner and the only ingredient that came from a box was the pasta." She grinned at him, dropping tea leaves into the bottoms of the glasses and went back to the kettle which was already starting to make noise. "Though if Hardison keeps replacing the milk with orange soda, I might think about moving out."

"You really been here that long?" He was mostly teasing, but -- that also didn't sound quite right, did it? There was something he was forgetting. "I can handle the milk. Best stuff comes straight from the goat, anyway. It's that he keeps insisting he can replace actual oranges with it." He opened the fridge again, pointing at the rows and rows of bottles. "This stuff ain't even orange."

The bottles of soda sat contentedly in the fridge, a shade of bright blue found in nature only when attached to something poisonous. "Maybe if he were at least drinking Orangina," Kathy mused, pouring the hot water into the wineglasses. "There's pulp in that, so it's at least made contact with a piece of fruit once in its life?"

She handed Eliot's tea over, a curly straw in tucked neatly inside. "What's on the agenda today, Captain?"

Eliot closed the fridge and took the glass, swirling it a little to see the tea's legs. He settled onto the island's bench and nudged Parker's pinata aside with his elbow while he considered her question.

"Well, someone's gonna have to go up and milk the goat," he mused. "And there's always more paperwork to do at the office." Luke's or the school's office, didn't matter. They were both filled to the brim with paperwork. "And you'll have --" He stopped short and frowned harder. She wasn't in school, was she? She'd graduated last spring.

Actually, she hadn't graduated last spring. She really, really hadn't.

Eliot looked down at his tea again, watching it bubble against the glass.

". . . Do you have a job?"

"You gonna start charging me rent, Eliot?" Kathy laughed, hopping up onto the counter and swinging her legs. "I've got a couple of jobs lined up in Baltimore, if that's what you mean. I sent Parker the plans to go over. Shouldn't need a hitter on this one, though. Gonna just ghost in and out, so fast they won't know what hit 'em--or that they have been hit."

"'Ghost'," Eliot said, still feeling a little -- off. "Ha."

Part of him kept half expecting her to go milky-eyed and gray skinned and try to chomp on his neck. He'd had dreams like that before, especially early last summer, right after they got her video and lost contact. He shook his head.

Val started whining and scratching at the back door

"How'd you get back into town? I can't remember --"

Val barked, loud enough to shake the whole kitchen, and started to pound on the door.

"Jesus, Val! I'm tryin' to have a conversation here!"

"She just wants to come in and have breakfast, Eliot, jeez," Kathy chided, hopping down from the counter and then over to the door, hop hop hop. She opened it and smiled down at the puppy. "Hey there, girl. Don't mind Mr. Grumpy. Things are starting to make sense to him. Mostly by not making sense."

She bent over and handed Val her wineglass of tea, then headed back over to her seat on the counter. "What did you say?" she asked. "Sorry, got distracted by the puppy. I've missed her."

"She's a good dog," Eliot agreed, a little helplessly. Val wagged her tail at the praise. "I was askin' -- I don't remember how we got you back."

"Got me back? For what?" Kathy asked, also confused. "Oh, you mean my little prank?" She waved a hand. "Don't worry, I'm sure Hardison is working on something for that as we speak. He's a sneaky one, don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise."

"Back from, not for." He was starting to get very frustrated. The tea wasn't helping. Who the hell had decided that hot drinks went in stemmed glasses?

Probably the French.

"Hang on, what prank?"

"Back from where?" Kathy asked, cocking her head to the side. She ignored his other question, it was irrelevant. "Back from what? Do you really want to know the answers, Eliot? Or should I just get you more tea?"

"From LA." That damn pinata was getting in his way again, trying to get a sip of his tea. Eliot swatted it away and it bit him. "Dammit --" He cut himself off when the thing started clacking its teeth at him.

Well, that was just -- disturbing.

He hopped up from the bench and tried to circle around to where Kathy was with Val, but the kitchen island was too big, and he had to dodge around the stairs to the wine cellar. The pinata trotted along behind him, still trying to nibble on his arm.

It was possible he really didn't want those answers.

"I always said I'd come back," Kathy said reproachfully. "Remember? I promised. I always keep my promises or die trying."

She surfed on Val's back over to the stove, getting further away from Eliot as he tried to get by the stairs. "We should just think about breakfast. Wouldn't that be nice?"

There was another clack-clack-clacking sound, and Kathy leaned over to adjust the blinds, pulling the cord away from where it was clattering against the window pane. "Please stop," she said sadly, like it was his fault the blinds were making such a clamor and it was hurting her feelings. "Could you? Just stop?"

For a moment, he did just that, freezing in place while he calculated how to get around the stupid wine cellar.

He hadn't even known he had a wine cellar.

"I ain't mad that you're back, darlin'," he assured her. "It's the 'die trying' that I got the problem with." He finally gave up on the stairs and just scaled the side of the island. Of course, then there was the island's island, and then that island's island's island. Maybe he could grab the pinata and ride it around the thing, or -- ah. There. Right, he just had to crawl through the cabinets.

The other side opened onto the back yard, putting Eliot's sliding glass door between them now. He tugged on the handle and got it just open enough that he could lean through and talk.

"I'm just tryin' to figure out what's goin' on."

"But it's better when we were talking," Kathy told him, murky gray eyes locked with his. "Can't we just talk instead of you trying to think about things all the time?"

Her hand was pressed against the glass, fish-belly pale. "Please, Eliot, come back inside and have tea." The pinata by her feet bared broken tooth stumps at him.

He was going to rip that damn pinata's head off.


Eliot clamped his hands onto either side of the small opening and tried to force the door wide enough for him to fit through. It wouldn't budge another inch.

"We can talk about anything you want," he told her, gasping a little from the effort. "I just gotta know you're safe first."

She didn't look safe. She didn't look safe at all.

"I'm safe when I'm on the island," Kathy pleaded, while bloodless wounds bloomed long her skin like vines. "You'll keep me safe, won't you? You won't let me get hurt, I know it. You won't say goodbye without telling me you love me."

Except he had. Because he was an idiot. Who couldn't even protect his own --

"Kathy, just hang on. I'm comin' in, darlin', I promise, just hang on for me, okay?"

Except the door was closing now, instead of opening, and no matter how hard he pulled at it, or which angle he tried, he couldn't get it to go the right way. His arms felt like noodles, scrawny, worthless things, and in a few more moments, the door was going to slam shut on his hands.

Edited at 2017-01-12 02:20 am (UTC)

"Eliot..." Kathy was silently weeping now, though only a few muddy tears made it down her face, cloudy and pinkish-red. The pinata had her rainbow dash in its mouth, pulling her away from the door by her gi. "I don't want to go..."

She flung her hand towards him, filthy with jagged nails and streaks of old blood trailing up her arm.

"Kathy!" Eliot just managed to jam his hand through, his fingertips just barely brushing hers before she was yanked out of reach.

The door clamped shut onto his forearm like a set of sharp, tearing teeth, ripping through muscle, tendon, and nerve. But none of it hurt as much watching Kathy get torn away from him again. He pounded his free hand against the glass and bellowed her name.

And slammed awake with the force of a truck, hands clenched painfully tight against the sheets.

"Yo man, what?" A sleepy mumble from Hardison as he half-woke from his own dreams, one arm slung low around Eliot's hip. "You 'kay?"

Not even a little.

Eliot breathed firmly in through his nose, held it for a five count, then slowly exhaled through his mouth. He unknotted his hands from the sheets and shifted one to rest on Hardison's arm.

Or, you know, maybe cling a little bit to Hardison's arm. Just a little. Not too tight.

(Maybe a little too tight.)

"Yeah," he said, voice even grouchier and more gravely than usual. "Just -- dreams."

Hardison disentangled himself from Parker and pushed himself up on the arm that didn't currently have an Eliot clinging to it. It was a little tighter than was comfortable, but in the face of Eliot's obvious (for Eliot) distress, Hardison wasn't going to complain.

"Wanna talk 'bout it?" he asked.

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