shinealightonme: (leverage parker/hardison)
[personal profile] shinealightonme
July


Eliot'd had the idea that things would change when they reached Boston.

Well they'd reached Boston a week ago and the only that that'd changed was the humidity had ratcheted up a few degrees.

They hit up the office, the bar, all the old haunts, and found them all deserted. Eventually they holed up in the offices, which didn't have power or water but had the advantage of being a nice location and easily defensible.

The former was useful for scavenging, though if Eliot'd had his choice he wouldn't have come into a city. There was more in the way of food and water to be had out in the countryside, and fewer chances you'd have to fight someone over it.

The latter was useful when a couple of thugs broke into the place at the crack of dawn.

Eliot was already awake before the door'd finished swinging open, which meant he really got to appreciate the screams of terror and pain that followed shortly after.

It was three against one – Parker was around somewhere, surely – but the three weren't nearly a third as good as Eliot. They were mostly running off aggression and desperation, not any sort of training or conditioning.

Maybe that meant they should be pitied, but fuck, Eliot'd been having a dream about French cuisine and candlelight and a sultry brunette, and he was all out of pity for guys who picked a fight with him.

He'd gotten one of them down to the floor for good and was about to take out the second when Parker dropped out of nowhere, landed on the guy's back, and grabbed him in a chokehold.

Eliot gaped at her. "Where the hell did you come from?"

"Up!" Parker answered. She was a little preoccupied.

"Up – on the ceiling? Were you on the ceiling?" Eliot batted away a few punches from the third thug and looked up to double check, but sure enough, there weren't any kinds of handholds up there. Just smooth plaster. "Is that some new trick of yours?"

"Old trick!" Parker said. "Very old!"

So just usual Parker being weirdness, then, and not anything he had to worry about, or not anything he had to worry about too much.

Eliot turned his attention back to the third man, with every intention of taking him out, but found that the guy had stopped moving. Stopped breathing.

Eliot was out the front door before he could consciously process what was happening. Which had the side effect of surprising Parker for the first time in months.

It had the greater effect of putting him face to face with another five guys. And these ones gave every sign – posture, build, demeanor – of being a lot tougher than the first three.

"Eliot, stop!" Parker yelled, chasing after him.

"Why?" he asked. "Are they toxic, too?"

"No, they're just, they're not, I think they're just here to talk."

"They invaded our home, Parker," Eliot said, and realized for the first time how mad he was. He was furious. "What am I supposed to do?"

"You could try saying thank you," one of the newcomers said. "We just finished those guys off for you."

"Not something we had a problem with," Eliot spat.

"Yes, I suppose you can protect your own little cave," the guy continued. He had an earring and a soul patch and Eliot decided to hate him. "But we had nothing to do with them, so you can dial your aggression back just a tad."

"My aggression? That guy in there's not breathing."

"Isn't he? Chad," the guy gestured at one of the men standing behind him. "You can let him go now, he's probably learned his lesson."

Chad nodded, and a second later, the third thug could be heard, gasping and wheezing from inside the apartment, before he stumbled out the door. When he spotted the assembly in front of him, he ran back inside and – if Eliot was hearing correctly – jumped out a window.

"Cute," Eliot said. "You're big show of strength doesn't impress me."

"It's supposed to terrify you."

Eliot crossed his arms and looked his most threatening. "I don't scare easy."

He could have stood, toe to toe, with that jackass for the rest of the day if one of the posse hadn't pointed straight to Parker and said. "Forget the goon – she's the one we want."

No. Eliot wasn't letting anyone 'want' Parker.

Except Parker had a little say in that too, didn't she? "Wait."

"I don't like this," Eliot told her.

"I know," Parker said. "But these guys know something. Or they know someone who knows a lot of things. And I think – I think they really do just want to talk."

"So talk," Eliot said.

"In this rat hole?" his new least favorite person asked. "No. We're just the welcoming committee. You need to see Court."

"Who's Court?"

Parker shrugged. "He's the leader. Obviously."

Right, because she was so astute before she had magical powers.

"And what's this Court want to talk about?"

"Isn't it obvious?" the welcoming committee asked. "New world order."

-

The goons led Eliot and Parker through the half-familiar streets of Boston without paying much attention to Eliot.

They did keep trying to strike up conversations with Parker, but that was a dicey proposition at the best of times. She'd chat with them for ten minutes about jewelry appraisal – what passed as small talk, for her – then shut down cold on them when they asked anything normal, like where she was from. And once or twice she'd say something that didn't have anything to do with anything. Eliot didn't know if she was responding to things they were thinking but hadn't said or if that was just her doing small talk.

Eliot was weirdly jealous that Parker was listening to other people's thoughts, and then decided that he really needed to change something about their living situations if that was an actual feeling he'd just had.

He did think, loudly as he could, don't let them know you can read their minds, but didn't have a clue whether she'd heard. Anyway, she wasn't an idiot, so that'd probably occurred to her already. It was just that she couldn't reliably tell what someone had said and what they'd just thought...

"Boston doesn't look too bad," Parker mused. "Half the places we passed getting here looked like crap."

"This ain't exactly Paradise," Eliot said, eyeing a four-story apartment complex they were walking past. Vines ten inches in diameter had climbed up the sides of it, punched holes through the walls, and were well on the way to reducing the building to a pile of rubble.

"Better than Tampa," Parker said.

They hadn't come through Tampa.

"Of course it's better than Tampa," one of the guys snorted. "We've got Court looking after things."

"What've you been seeing?" another guy asked Parker.

"Mostly just ruins," she said. "We were holed up at the start of all this, I didn't see a lot of it go down."

"You'll get your chance," the guy told Parker.

So yeah. They were those kind of douche bags.

They wound up taking Parker and Eliot to City Hall. If there'd been pedestrians on cell phones, honking cars stuck in traffic, and some food carts parked outside, Eliot almost could have mistaken it for a year ago. Parker did have a point – Boston was in much better shape than most of the places they'd been.

Eliot was pretty sure he knew where this was going, so he wasn't surprised at all when the two goons led them into the mayor's office. Typical power-hungry despot, trying to make himself look legitimate. As the swivel chair behind the desk turned around and Eliot got his first look at Court, it took all his discipline not to punch the guy in the face.

Court had the smug, longhaired, clean-shaven face of a twenty-something who thinks he knows better than everyone else in the world despite having seen absolutely nothing of the world. He was also dressed in a suit. An expensive one, that was somehow still in perfect condition, but was clearly meant for someone a couple sizes bigger than him.

"Well, well," Court said, placing his hands in front of him on the desk and standing up slowly. "It looks like I have visitors in my town."

"Boston isn't your town," Eliot said.

Court's goons glared at him, but the man himself just laughed. He had charisma, which might have worried Eliot if Parker were the kind to fall for that, or even notice its existence. "A figure of speech," he said.

"You're living in City Hall," Eliot pointed out.

"I need to live somewhere. Wouldn't you agree?" There was a shift – subtle, but definite – as Court focused his attentions away from Eliot and onto Parker. Of course, Eliot didn't have to feel too neglected since he had two flunkies breathing down his neck, all but begging him to do something they could beat him up for.

"I'd pick somewhere with a bed," Parker said. If she noticed anything weird going on, she didn't show it. "And maybe a shower."

"Perhaps you're right," Court said. "Though we've made some improvements on the original layout here. If you'd like to stay with us, I can promise you'll be made comfortable."

Parker wrinkled her forehead. "Why would we want to stay with you?"

Eliot thought he saw a crack in Court's good temper, at that, but it was gone in a second. "I like to take care of my friends."

Parker honest-to-God looked behind her to see if there was someone else in the room he was talking too, like she was a character in a fucking Bugs Bunny cartoon. Even for Parker, that was too much, which was Eliot's first definite clue that she was playing along. "Us? You don't know us. And your flunkies weren't too polite in bringing us here."

"I apologize for that." Said flunkies shifted to hear their boss say this, and Eliot got the idea that they were going to be in trouble later. It was the first thing that'd made him really happy all day. "But their reasons were solid. I did make it clear to them how important it was to find you."

"Why?" Eliot asked.

Court spared him only the shortest glance. "I like to keep tabs on people like you," he told Parker. "There's so many of us these days, but so few who really know what's happening to them. Running around in the wild, everyone on their own, doesn't give us the chance to really learn what we can do, who we are."

"What if they don't want to learn from you?" Eliot asked again.

"You're welcome to leave, if you like." That, at least, Eliot believed whole-heartedly, assuming that Court was directing it only at him and not at Parker. How he knew Parker had her weird little talent, there was no telling, but he knew. "But I'd ask you to at least give us a try. After all, who benefits from continued ignorance?"

Parker blinked. "The government?"

Court laughed again, which just went to show that he knew less about Parker than he thought. "And we don't have one of those to worry about anymore."

"All right," Parker said, bounding over to Eliot and throwing her arms around him. "We'll stay!" The arms around his sides squeezed all the air from his lungs before he could protest. "Won't we, Eliot."

"It'd be a pleasure," Eliot grunted, somehow.

Court didn't look like he bought Eliot's response for a second, but he seemed won over by Parker's enthusiasm, and that was probably what was going to matter in the long run.

Eliot just hoped that the long run didn't end up being any too long.

-

"You mind telling me what we're doing here?" Eliot asked, quietly as he could manage, the moment he and Parker were left alone in their new digs – some poor schmuck's office, retrofitted to a guest suite.

"I was hoping on finding a shower somewhere," Parker said. "You're kind of stinky by now." She laughed, and grabbed his hands, forcing him to dance around the room with her. "Stinky Eliot!"

From which he guessed she didn't want to talk, or it wasn't safe to talk, or both.

He did go find a shower, anyway. His pride could only take so much.

-

He never did learn the names of any of Court's ever-changing band of groupies, but that was fine; none of them expressed the slightest interest in Eliot, beyond occasionally looking like they'd enjoy wringing his neck, not that that worried him.

All of them were interested in Parker, which worried him constantly.

None were so interested in Parker as the man himself, who, over the course of the next few days, would constantly stop by their rooms, or just happen to run into them on the streets around City Hall, or drop off invitations for Parker and Eliot to dine with him.

Mostly Court and Parker made innocuous small talk, or the closest thing that Parker could manage. Eliot wasn't terribly surprised the second night at dinner when Parker started ranking national banks by their security measures in exhaustive detail. He was just bored, since he'd heard that lecture several times before.

Most of the rest of the conversation came down to Court trying to figure out what Parker could do, exactly. And, props to the crazy girl, she managed to never give him a straight answer, exactly.

"Melt people," she told Court one time, holding out her fingers toward him, wiggling them, and making an 'ooooh' noise. "Just turn their skin and bones to liquid, with the guts running out – "

Court's lackeys took several alarmed steps forward from where they were lingering, trying to pretend they weren't bodyguards.

"She's joking," Eliot scowled at them.

"Well, maybe I could melt someone," Parker pouted. "I've never tried before. Who wants to be my guinea pig?"

The world was just weird enough these days that no one volunteered.

Another time, she managed to put Court off with a lot of vague talk about "aren't we all special, really?" that somehow ended up with her crying on Eliot's shoulder about some bullshit incident involving being passed up in high school for the gymnastics team, which Eliot knew was bullshit because Parker didn't care about teams and hadn't gone to high school.

On the other hand, they never managed to figure out what, exactly, Court could do. And if it was something that could make the endless stream of lackeys – one of whom could stop a man from breathing – obey him, Eliot figured they'd be better off finding out sooner rather than later.

One of the upshots of Court being so enchanted with Parker was that Eliot had a fair amount of time to wander and do his own thing. It only took him a few hours to get the feel for Court's business model. The lackeys went out looking for anyone who had anything good and took it from them, with a side business in kidnapping people, if he and Parker were anything to go by.

No one had been dragged back to City Hall since the two of them, but that made sense. It'd been a few months since Court's highly touted 'new world order.' Whoever they hadn't managed to dig up in that time was probably doing a pretty good job staying underground.

There was one more aspect of Court's set up that took Eliot a little too long to figure out.

"Hey," a might hand clamped down on Eliot's shoulder from above, wrenching him out of the doorway he'd been heading toward. "You're not allowed in there."

"Just looking around, man," Eliot said. "Since I'm a guest here."

The man who'd stopped him – who didn't look like he'd need any kind of enhancements to be able to make Eliot's life more difficult – crossed a pair of very impressive arms over his chest. "You're not allowed in there."

"See they keep you around for your brain, big guy," Eliot bared his teeth.

The guy didn't take the chance to pummel him. Apparently there was some commitment, however mild, to keeping up the pretense that Eliot was a welcome guest in Court's City Hall.

Eliot didn't push the issue any further. If there was anything of value to be found in City Hall, he wasn't going to find it with a couple watchful eyes and biceps hovering over him.

He took to investigating Boston by himself, leaving Parker to discover whatever there was to find at City Hall. The weather was still humid and gross, but being out from under those watchful eyes felt refreshing, and he had a mission.

There had to be people in Boston besides Court and his thugs – there were the guys who'd tried to rob them, plus whoever Court's buddies were stealing from. There had to be others. Eliot was going to find those others and get them to share everything they knew about what'd happened in Boston since April.

That was the plan, anyway.

After two days of walking – stopping by the old offices twice, but there wasn't any sign of anyone having been there in their absence – Eliot hadn't seen another living soul.

Once, he could have sworn he heard footsteps behind him, but there was no one there.

-

Eliot returned to City Hall in a bad mood. He'd been wanting to punch someone for days now, and seeing Boston turned into a ghost town wasn't doing any wonders for his mood.

"Where've you been?" one of Court's goons asked as he returned. Eliot was good about remembering faces, but he'd have remembered this guy anyway; the man was 6' 4" and had a skull tattooed on his forehead, which had to be one of the worst decisions Eliot had ever seen.

"Went for a walk," Eliot growled. "Ya'll can stop worrying and going back to kissing Court's ass."

By this point, it didn't even feel like picking a fight. Eliot was so used to everything he said in this building being treated with condescension and dismissal.

It wasn't much of an excuse for being caught off guard. But it was the best he could offer for why the thug was able to land a solid, skin-splitting punch to Eliot's left cheek, with another landing on his torso.

Eliot reeled, the smack of the wall against his back waking him up and giving him a surface to push off against as he swung back with his own offense.

And watched, dumbfounded, as his fist passed through the man's chest without making contact, without any resistance whatsoever.

"We don't like your kind here," the guy said, grabbing Eliot's right arm and squeezing. Eliot knew exactly how much more pressure the thug would have to use to snap the bone. And he could tell the thug knew, too. "Your time's running out. Don't forget that. This isn't your world, loser."

He squeezed just that last bit harder.

Eliot cried out.

"Don't forget," the thug said, throwing Eliot to the ground and walking off.

-

Eliot remembered. Not likely he'd ever forget that. Forget –

– Parker helping him into a harness, laughing at him because he wasn't thrilled about jumping off a 42 story building, you know, like a normal person –

– Parker going to attach her harness to the rope –

– Parker clutching her head, crying out in pain, stumbling to the side –

– nothing to the side, just air, all 42 stories of it –

– and Eliot, not even sure he'd got all the twisty ties and straps right, not even sure he'd be able to catch her in time, diving after.

Parker wasn't the only one. People all over the world had that same flash of pain. Most of them weren't standing on top of skyscrapers, but plenty of them were driving, or operating machinery, or operating on a patient. The initial loss of life was tremendous.

Not as tremendous as the second wave of destruction.

Not as bad as what happened once people knew what they were doing.

-

Parker came prancing into their room when Eliot had almost finished splinting his arm.

Given that she was honest to god prancing like a dressage horse, kicking up her heels and doing a little spin, Eliot didn't really have a lot of fondness toward her.

"Where the hell have you been?" he demanded.

"Talking to Court," Parker said, "duh."

Because yes, that was where she always was, the last few days, so he could have assumed that. But why was it okay for that to be normal?

Eliot hadn't intended to share any of these thoughts, but everything else in his life was out of control, so why not his own mind. He knew that Parker heard, because she made a squinty angry face at him – not the exaggerated angry face she used on cons, to fluster people into making mistakes. The real one was so close to her neutral expression that it was almost invisible.

Then she stepped further into the room and saw Eliot's arm, and whatever argument they'd been about to have evaporated.

"What happened?" she asked.

"One of your boyfriend's thugs." Okay, Eliot was still allowed one petty swipe, under the circumstances. It was his arm that was fucking broken, while Parker was dancing around like the queen of the freaks.

"You used to be so good at fighting people and not breaking your arms," Parker said, squatting beside him.

"Yeah, well, times change, don't they?"

"Why'd you fight?"

Eliot sighed. Splinting his arm and talking was about half a thing too many to do at once. "Don't know if you noticed this, but they all hate me here."

Parker snorted. "I know that better than you do."

"Really. Because, arm."

"I meant, I can feel it. I can hear it." She reached out, slowly and cautiously, for the splint. "It isn't very nice."

Eliot held his breath. When was the last time Parker had touched him? When he'd tackled her? No, when they'd fought that invisible woman. Parker didn't like physical contact much these days.

The touch of his fingers on his arms was like a fly landing on his skin.

"They're all – changed ones," Eliot said. "They don't like that I'm..."

"You can say 'normal'," Parker told him, tying off the splint with steady hands. "I'm weird, Court's weird, you're normal. I'm used to that."

"If everyone here's one way except me, doesn't that make me the weird one?"

Parker shrugged. "I know you don't think that for real."

"I think they're really gonna kill me if we stay here too long," Eliot said. "And I don't even want to guess what they're going to do to you. I'd rather someone like Court hate me than be obsessed with me."

"I don't know what they can do to us." Parker finished tying the last knot and pulled her hands back, like his skin had suddenly caught fire. "I've been trying to figure it out, but he's – he doesn't think in a straight line. I'm pretty sure we're safe in this room. At least, they can't hear us."

"You haven't got anything out of his brain?" Eliot asked.

"Little bits, and pieces," Parker said. "Like breadcrumbs in that horrible little story about the children that murder the old woman."

Eliot was not going to think about what other fairy tales Parker had totally missed the point of. No, no, no.

"So can't you just follow the breadcrumbs?"

Parker looked him in the eye again, her angry face having slipped back into place at some point. "No."

She somehow managed to storm out of the room without actually leaving it.

Eliot left it at that. He needed a fucking nap.

-

Waking up felt like coming back from the dead and stopping halfway, so Eliot wasn't in the mood to have the first thing he saw be Court's smug face.

"Haven't you done enough?" he asked.

Court and Parker had grim expressions on their faces. Maybe he should have eavesdropped on whatever conversation they'd been having instead of interrupting. But damn it, Eliot was tired of being shut out of conversations. Court was going to listen to him this time.

"Yes, I understand you've been having a bad time here," Court said. "Perhaps you'd prefer to leave. Now."

"Don't have to ask me twice," Eliot said, pushing himself up with his good arm. "Let's go, Parker."

"It's not going to work like that," Parker said, one arm wrapped around herself. "Court here has just been explaining to me how I'm going to stay here."

"Really." Eliot took a few steps toward the creep. "Because I don't need two hands to beat the shit out of you."

"You are just incapable of understanding, aren't you?" Court smirked. "You don't belong here. She does. Come on, girl," he said, holding out a hand to Parker. Showed what he knew. Parker didn't hold hands. "You're one of us."

"No, I'm not," Parker said, stepping away from Court.

"Fine, then." Court gestured toward the door. "If you want to leave, leave."

There was a trick, it was only a question of what. Eliot was cautious as he crossed the room, opened the door, and slowly poked his head through.

There was no one there. Not that he could see. Not that he could hear, or smell, or sense in anyway.

It was possible that the trick was in here, with Court, so Eliot gestured for Parker to go through the door first, facing forward, and departed the room, eyes still locked on Court's.

And somehow – in the space of three steps in a straight line, without looking away from Court – Eliot found himself walking back through the same doorway he'd just left.

"Parker, what just – "

"Sht." She held up a hand to silence him. Her eyes darted back and forth to every corner of the room.

Court stood up, slowly, and Eliot had to give it to him. For the first time since he'd met him, Court actually looked menacing.

"Don't you see?" he asked softly. "This is my town. If I say she stays, she stays."

Screw that, Eliot can be menacing, too. "You won't be saying anything if I punch all your teeth in."

"No, it's not him," Parker said.

"What?" Eliot asked.

"It's not him doing the room thing," she said. "There's someone outside. Court isn't the one keeping us here, he's just telling that guy what to do."

"Isn't that interesting," Eliot said. "Even when you're here alone, you're hiding behind one of your thugs. Can you even do anything for yourself?"

"I can make your life hell," Court said.

"You don't even know the meaning of the word." Eliot curled his hand into a fist. "But you will soon."

"Oh my God now I get it," Parker shouted. "I finally get it – you and your sneaky little mind have been driving me crazy but I finally know now. I get it!"

She laughed and jumped on the balls of her feet like a teenage girl at a rock concert, which sort of put a damper on the fight Eliot was trying to pick with Court.

"You wanna share with the rest of us, Parker?" Eliot said.

"Court has someone who can find people," Parker explained. "She can tell who's been changed and who hasn't. Then Court goes out and recruits them to do his dirty work and feeds them a lot of nonsense about the world order and superiority and all that."

"Yeah, he's got a little cult of freaks. What's so exciting?"

Eliot didn't know what was coming, but Court did. The tin-pot despot lunged at Parker, and ugly look on his face.

Eliot grabbed him and shoved him against the wall. "You don't get to hurt Parker." He squeezed Court's windpipe, enjoying the hell out of the moment. "Got that?"

Court tried to say something, but couldn't get his words out.

"You want to continue, Parker?"

Parker giggled, which after all this time still had the power to give Eliot nightmares. "Oh, this is the good part. This is so, so great."

"Get on with it, Parker."

"You know what Court's power is?"

Eliot sighed. He was going to play along whether he liked it or not. "Greasy hair?" he guessed.

Parker barely let him finish talking before the words flew out of her mouth. "He doesn't have one!" She started laughing so hard she snorted. "He's got all these people running around doing what he says, and they all think he's some big scary tough guy, and he can't do anything!" She whooped so hard she had to sit down.

"Really," Eliot said, turning back to Court and letting the grip on his throat loosen. "That is fascinating. I wonder what all your little supremacist friends would have to say about that?"

"They wouldn't believe you," Court said hoarsely. "You're just a scumbag – "

"Ah, ah, ah," Eliot interrupted. "That's not very nice. Come on, brother, we're in this together now. Team humanity, right? Us vs. them, isn't that what your buddies would say?"

"You wouldn't tell them."

"I would love nothing better. And sure, they might not believe us right away – though they all seem dead sure Parker's opinion is worth something, at least – but they must all be wanting to see proof that you can do something by this point. And what exactly would you have to show them?"

Court glared for a second, but the fight was ebbing out of him, and he wasn't an idiot, just human. "What do you want?"

"I want you to call your dogs off," Eliot said. "Me and Parker walk out of here and you never bother us again."

"I can't let you run around my town," Court said. "That kind of thing damages my credibility."

"Not as much as what five little words from her mouth would do."

"Court doesn't have any powers," Parker piped up in a singsong tone. "Court is a liar."

Eliot counted. "Okay, nine words."

Court grit his teeth. Eliot wasn't the mind reader here, but he could tell that Court was thinking about making some dramatic gesture – spitting in his face, maybe, or head butting him. Eliot kind of wished he'd try it.

Instead, Court broke eye contact. "Fine. Just get out of my sight."

"Gladly," Eliot said, dropping Court. "Tell your goons to let us go."

Court knocked some kind of code on the wall before wrenching the door open again. "Go."

Eliot was all too happy to oblige him, but Parker stopped to whisper something in his ear.

They strode out of City Hall, side by side, and Eliot wasn't going to ask, but he wondered to himself, and that was as good as asking.

"I just let him know what I thought of his hospitality," Parker said.

-

Court proved to be surprisingly good at living up to his word, because that was the last they heard from him, with one exception.

There was a knock on the door, about a week after they'd moved back into the office and Eliot had started to remember how deserted this part of town was.

He pulled the door open, on high alert, to find a tiny wisp of a woman waiting on the other side of the doorway.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

"I'm Lindsey," she said. "Court's sister."

"Ooh, this is the one!" Parker said, scurrying up to the door and pointing at Lindsey like maybe Eliot would think she was talking about someone else. "She's the one who found me."

Lindsey looked annoyed at having her thunder stolen and stuck her hands on her hips like she was trying to look threatening. "Yes, I did," she said, in a tiny, whispery voice. "And I could do it again, any time."

"Congratulations, you have magic person GPS," Eliot said. "What the hell are you doing bothering us with it?"

"I wanted to settle things," she said.

"We did settle things," Parker pointed out. "With your brother. Eliot didn't hurt him too badly, did he?"

"My brother went too easy on you," Lindsey said. "I'm here to fix that mistake."

"Shoulda brought some of the goon squad with you," Eliot said, hoping the splint on his arm came off in more of an 'I've survived worse' kind of way than a 'I'm in a weakened state' kind of way.

"We both know why I can't risk that," she answered. "But I don't need them to hurt you."

"No, but they'd've helped. Especially since you just gave us a heads up that you're gunning for us."

"There doesn't need to be any more trouble here. You just need to leave."

"And your brother needs to keep his promises, or he's going to have a whole lot more trouble on his hands."

Lindsey exhaled violently. "My brother is not a planner. He is not the bright one. But he is an unfortunate necessity. People listen to him. People don't exactly follow me into battle."

"Funny," Eliot said. "Why'd you think there's a battle that needs fighting, anyway? All that nonsense about new world orders, that didn't come from Court either, did it."

Lindsey's eyes were cold in a way even Eliot didn't see very often, not outside active battle zones and torture chambers. She might be 90 pounds soaking wet, but she sure as hell wasn't harmless. "I don't like you in my town," she said precisely.

"Too bad," Eliot answered. "We got business here."

"I suggest you finish it. Soon."

Parker stepped back, her face looking troubled.

Lindsey, whatever else their differences, apparently shared Court's love of dramatic flair, because she left before either of them could get the last word in.

"I don't like her brain," Parker said.

"Breadcrumbs?" Eliot asked.

Parker shook her head. "It's like plunging straight into the oven."

Eliot wasn't terribly worried about Lindsey, oven or no oven. She looked like she'd put up a hell of a fight if it came down to it, but if Eliot wanted to stay in a place, there wasn't much that was going to push him out.

But that was the question. If.

Eliot shut the door. "It's been four months, Parker," he said. "How much longer we gonna wait here for a sign?"

Parker didn't answer.


August


Eliot admitted, in the spaces of his mind that he knew Parker had always shared, that Nate and Hardison and Sophie were dead.

They left Boston.



-continued in Part 3-
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shinealightonme

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