What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.

Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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75 Godiva Street, Thursday afternoon
It'd taken a few days of gathering supplies and drawing up more plans, but Eliot finally managed to get his house properly secured. He finished screwing in the last bolt on the heavy steel bar that now extended across the center of his front door and stepped back to admire his handy-work. You couldn't hack -- or pick -- a ten pound steel bar.

And yeah, okay, he knew it was kind of overkill. He got that. But the pounding headache that kicked up every time he thought about that, about the fact that he was literally locking out two of the people he cared about most, kept him from thinking about it too hard. He had to lock them out, had to lock the whole world out, to keep them from taking the necklace from him. If he had to he'd put in a goddamn portcullis and moat to keep the thing safe.

Val trotted up next to him and pawed at the door, letting out a little whine. She looked up at Eliot and pressed her body against his leg, then pawed at the door again. Time to go out!

Eliot looked down at her, then back up at the door. The door he'd just finished heavily locking and bolting in such a way that it would take several minutes to get open again.

". . . Dammit."

This was exactly why people didn't have portcullises and moats anymore, wasn't it.

[ooc: pretty sure by now he's alienated anyone who would want to come talk to him, but can be open if I happen to be wrong.]

Alienated? Hell yes. But the thing was...ohana meant family. And family meant that no one was left behind or forgotten.

Even when they were being giant dicks about things.

Which was why Hardison was banging on Eliot's front door. "Yo! Eliot! Open up, man! It's windy out here and there's a squirrel lookin' at me! It's unnatural!"

Hardison was just lucky Eliot already had a good chunk of the locks opened back up. Or maybe Eliot was. It certainly helped add drama to him yanking the door open to glare at Hardison.


Well, hello to you, too, Sunshine.

"Well, I can see this is just gonna be a charmin' display of hospitality," Hardison drawled. "Nah, nah, don't invite me in or anything. I was hopin to have this talk standing on your stoop. Glad you figured that all out."

Eliot scanned the yard behind Hardison. "Parker here?"

Parker could steal the necklace right off Eliot's neck if he wasn't careful. Hardison sucked at lifts. He could risk letting Hardison in -- all he'd find out was that they shouldn't bother trying to bust in while Eliot was asleep.

Right. Because Hardison and Parker both wanted some mangy dog claw and a set of copper-bottomed pans. Your house was a veritable treasure trove, Eliot, for sure.

"Naw. I thought this might be a good conversation for us to have together, first," Hardison said, watching Eliot scan his yard like he was looking for enemy snipers. "But, hey, if you're busy--" being ridiculous levels of paranoid even for Eliot "--we could come back together?"

It was a wolf claw. And it made sense when your mind had been slowly warped further and further over the last couple of weeks. It was clearly the most important wolf claw in the world.

"Nah," Eliot said, still scanning the lawn. He stepped back from the doorway, nudging Val back with his heel to keep her from running outside without supervision. "Come on in. I just need to let Val out the back so she can do her business."

The back door, which also currently took at least a few minutes to get open.

Hardison stepped through the doorway and into the set of some kind of horror movie. At least one for geeks.

"Is--is that recording to video tape? asked, looking up at Eliot's walls. "The Hell, man. Did you decide to set up a menagerie in your basement or something?"

Why else would he need bars and poles and--

"Man, tell me that ain't a bear trap!"

Eliot looked over at said bear trap. "Don't touch that."

Because Hardison needed to be told not to touch the bear trap.

"Val," Eliot called, starting towards the living room and the back door. Val looked from Hardison to Eliot, tail wagging a little hesitantly, then bounced up to lick Hardison's hand before hurrying after.

"All right, I'mma bite," Hardison said, carefully following after Eliot, because he was starting to get legitimately concerned that he'd fall into a pit trap and die if he stepped wrong. "What is going on with you, man? I'd been comin' over to apologize, but this is makin' me think there's something else goin' on here."

Eliot looked back over his shoulder at him as he started unlocking the back door. "I don't know what you're talking about." Metal shutters, locking bar, deadbolt, open the sliding glass.

Val danced around his feet impatiently, shooting looks at Hardison all the while, as though pleading with him to fix her person already, dammit.

He was trying, little Megabyte! He was trying! But being in here was making him start to wonder if maybe Parker's evil-alien-cyborg-clone theory might not have been as out there as he'd originally thought.

"Sure. Yeah a'ight, this is all very normal." If Eliot wanted to play that way, fine. "Look, I just wanted to say that whatever happened--whatever me'n Parker did, we're sorry, man. I mean--nah, not even 'whatever.' We both know what this is really about."

Eliot frowned as he finally got the back door open, gesturing with his head for Val to go out. She looked between the two men again and then bolted out into the fenced in yard. Eliot slid the door slowly closed behind her, leaving it cracked open so Val didn't think she was being locked out completely.

She was the only thing left in his life he didn't see as a threat. He was damn well going to take care of her.

He turned back towards Hardison slowly, resisting the urge to grab onto the claw.

"There's nothin' to apologize for." They hadn't stolen the necklace yet, after all. He'd actually kind of forgotten about the Black Book. There wasn't enough room left in his head for it.

Edited at 2015-03-19 11:21 pm (UTC)

"Really?" Hardison deadpanned. "Then why you lockin' us out, Eliot?" He gestured at all the security equipment. "This is all stuff that I can't hack and Parker can't pick. We ain't seen you in days and when we do, we just fight all the time. That ain't...that ain't how it's supposed to be between us."

There was that headache building again. "I didn't ask you guys to move out here," Eliot said. It was better to just push them away. He didn't need people.

He kinda needed an aspirin, though.

"What? You sayin' it was better before we came here?" Hardison asked. Huh. He always thought that when Eliot punched him in the gut the first time, it'd be physical. "Your life was better before we showed up?"

He was trying to say that he'd be way less paranoid if he didn't know two of the world's greatest thieves were living in town. Just, you know, without saying it.

Also, it wouldn't be true, anyway. He'd be just as paranoid if they were still in Baltimore.

"I'm sayin' I didn't ask you two to move here," Eliot said, starting towards the kitchen. He was pretty sure the first aid kit in there had some painkillers. "But, yeah, I mighta at least been able to run a simple job without you hasslin' me if you hadn't shown up."

"You mean that job you had to call me in the middle of because you needed my help?" Hardison demanded.

Dammit. That wasn't what he'd meant to say. But...damn.

Okay, so he had a point there. Eliot found the first aid kit and yanked out the bottle of ibuprofen, swallowing three of them dry.

"I'd've figured something out."

And probably would have had Interpol actively chasing his ass again.

"Sure," Hardison cracked. "You'da just grabbed the whole laptop and run with it. I'm sure that would've gone over very well with Quinn."

He sighed, rubbing at his chin. "Look, man, I didn't come here to fight. I just want to know what it's gonna take to bring you back to us. Like we used to be."

And, lord, he didn't want to ask but he needed to know.

"Is this about Plan E?"

"Plan -- what?" Eliot frowned. How was it he kept getting lost in conversations these days? "You and Parker planning a job without me?"

Hardison raised an eyebrow. "You seriously gonna catch an attitude about that?" he asked. "Seriously?"

Pot? This was kettle, looking to have a quick conversation about your hue.

"But no, we ain't." Not exactly. Plan E was more like...a lifestyle choice.

Did this mean he was wrong about it? That Eliot didn't know about Plan E?

"Then what the hell is this 'Plan E' thing?" Eliot shook his head, baffled. "Crap, is that -- is the E supposed to stand for 'Eliot?!'"

This was doing absolutely nothing to help his paranoia, Hardison.

Crap. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap!

"Yes, Eliot," Hardison said, rolling his eyes. "E, the most common letter in the alphabet, could only stand for your name. Very good. You guessed."

It didn't count as lying, right? On a technicality?

Sorry, he'd just panicked.

Eliot narrowed his eyes. He didn't believe that for a second.

"Oh yeah? Then what is it, then?"

It was definitely a plot to steal his necklace.

"W-what does it even matter?" Hardison asked, trying to see if he could dance around the subject without outright lying about it. "I mean, you just--you know, you just said we was cool, right? That's all--I mean, there ain't--there ain't nothing else for you to worry about. So who cares? Why you gotta be stressin' about stuff, man? It leads to this kinda craziness!"

...Hardison was terrible at this.

And it was doing absolutely nothing to help Eliot's paranoia.

"You wanna try that again? Maybe try to sound a little less like you're plottin' against me?"

"Whoa, okay, hold up," Hardison said, raising a hand up. "What? How the hell did we get to plotting against you?"

"You come in here, apologizin' for -- I don't even know what, start in on some 'plan E', which you ain't even got a reasonable lie for, and you two've been ridin' my ass for the last two weeks. The hell am I s'posed to think, Hardison?"

"That maybe I was apologizing for whatever in hopes that we could get back to the way things used to be? You know, way in the dim and distant past of, like...three weeks ago?"

Back when things had been normal?

"It's, like, damn man. I move to the island to be wit' y'all and less than a month later, you're boarding up the windows and puttin' locks on the door. So I'm tryna figure out what happened!"

"I don't know what to tell you."

It was true. Eliot didn't have the words to explain what had been going on for the last few weeks, even to himself. His head was pounding, he was stressed out constantly worrying about the necklace, and his fuse had gone from short to non-existent.

"Just -- go home, Hardison. Go find Parker, and leave me the hell alone."

"But we're...we're more than a crew, Eliot!" Hardison was desperate now, trying to reach him, make him see. "We're family! The three of us! We been family for years now! You're really gonna throw that all away for...for what?"

This couldn't be what he wanted! It just couldn't!

"We love you, man! Me 'n Parker both. We love you." His voice cracked, broke. "We nearly died together. The three of us. You promised Sophie that you'd always be there for us... You can't just tell me to go away an' leave you alone! You just can't man. You can't and expect me to listen. You can't and actually mean it."

Eliot leaned his elbows against the counter, his arms coming up to wrap around his head as it throbbed harder, his stomach roiling now in counterpoint. That promise to Sophie, and everything that had gone into him making it -- Parker and Hardison were the only reasons Eliot hadn't gone full-on hermit by now, hadn't fled to the freaking Gobi Desert. They were his family, and he'd do anything -- anything for them -- but he had to protect the necklace.

"Dammit, Hardison," he forced out. "Go. Home."

When had Hardison ever listened?

"Is someone trying to hunt you down?" he asked, finding another possible angle. "Is that what this is all about? Are you in trouble?"

This could absolutely be some kind of 'I must protect them by pushing them away' scenario, now that he thought about it.

"If someone's comin' for you, man, we stand a better chance of all of us comin out of this if we stick together. Anyone messin' with you is gonna have to deal with all of us, so it's better if you just tell us about it now--"

Eliot reached out and wrapped his fist in Hardison's shirt, yanking him forward against the counter. When he looked up into Hardison's eyes, he poured as much of the dark, terrible shit he had inside him into his expression as he could. "Go," he bit off again. "Home."

Eliot was pretty sure he was about thirty seconds from throwing up and collapsing. And if Hardison saw that, he'd never leave.

Edited at 2015-03-21 01:39 am (UTC)

Hardison had always known that Eliot had what his Nana had always described as 'darkness in his soul.' But he'd never seen anything more than glimpses, never stared directly into it.

When you look into the Abyss, he thought, a little giddy, the Abyss is making plans to kick yo' ass.

When Eliot finally let him go, Hardison dropped like a stone, holding up his hands in a placating gesture. He'd never been afraid of Eliot before, not really. Not like this. But looking into Eliot's eyes right then, he'd seen something that wouldn't hesitate to hurt him. Something that might even enjoy it a little.

He scrambled backwards, very nearly tumbling into the bear trap, before pushing himself up. "Eliot," he whispered. "Please, man...What am I supposed to tell Parker?"

She was counting on him to make things right!

Eliot braced his hand against the counter, having learned a long time ago how to hold himself up without looking like he had to hold himself up. "I don't --" He closed his eyes, his nostrils flaring. "I don't care."

What was one more lie on top of all the others?

"Just -- leave. Now." He looked back over at Hardison. "Before I have to break you."

Hardison raised a hand to touch Eliot's shoulder, then let it fall.

Without another word, he turned and left the house.

The sound of the door closing was very loud. And sounded so very final.

Eliot finally let himself sink down to the floor, his arms wrapped around his head again. The headache was actually easing up, now, some combination of painkillers and silence, but he didn't get up again until Val started scratching at the back door to be let back in.


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