Sophie wears Glamour around her like a shroud. Even Eliot has a hard time Seeing through it, and he doesn’t have the first clue what Court she’s from. The first time he does see through her Glamour, he shakes his head and tells her if she dropped it, she could have the world without ever running another con. She laughs and asks where the fun would be in that.
Nate is a wholly human Seer unintentionally blood bound to a fae. It takes him longer than he’s willing to admit, much less accept, that the time they shot each other accidentally bound him to Sophie.
Parker is an Unseelie Changeling who never quite settled. She tells them, eventually, she was nine when she set out on her own. It wasn’t until she met Archie, a Seer, that she knew why she wasn’t normal. It isn’t until she joins their little crew that she starts to accept it’s okay to be different. Eliot has never seen anything like her ability to melt into the shadows and slip through the cracks of people’s perspective, and she beams when he tells her so.
Hardison is also a Changeling, one who has a Gift for recognizing patterns in everything; Eliot guesses that’s why the kid’s such a whiz with computers, when most fae abhor the majority of technology. Hardison honestly doesn’t know what Court he’s from. Years before Eliot even meets the woman, he’s convinced Nana’s the reason Hardison is so well adjusted. Nana turns out to be a no-nonsense Seelie who left the Courts centuries before Eliot even considered it.
Everyone who meets Eliot - well, everyone with strong enough Sight to recognize Eliot as fae in the first place - assumes he’s a Rogue Unseelie. He doesn’t correct them, and can’t blame them, really, when what he really is is so unprecedented. He never tells anyone what he is. No one, not even his team, would believe him if he did tell them. Eliot, according to both Courts, is Tainted. His daddy is a half-breed - half Seelie, half Unseelie - and refuses to answer to either Court, choosing to live among humans instead. And his mama is Seelie… and then some.
Both his parents tell him he was a quiet baby and an easy child, content to observe the world around him. It isn’t until he’s older - well on his way to grown - that he starts changing. He’s stronger than most of their Warriors before he even reaches his majority. His Sight is unparalleled. But his temper is short and his violent outbursts become the most popular gossip fodder the Seelie Court has had in decades.
His mama sends him to live with his daddy, hoping being amongst humanity will temper him. It doesn’t work. He joins their military, and when he’s finished with that, finds even more unsavory uses for his skills. It isn’t until after Moreau that he even bothers to visit home. If drunkenly stumbling into a faery ring in the middle of the night counts as a visit. His mama takes one look at him, and throws him into the Hunt before he can sober up enough to fight back.
He’s done a lot of deplorable things in his time, but nothing compares to the Hunt. Stealing souls doesn’t sit right, and wakes his conscious up like nothing else has managed to so far. So he leaves. One night, he rides out with the Hunt and then just doesn’t come back. The creature he is, the fae he is, the man he is… he doubts even his own mother wouldn’t recognize him if she came looking. No one else has ever escaped it, as far as he knows.
Eliot has always known the Hunt would come for him. He doesn’t even try to hide. Hell, he goes where he knows they’ll be just to screw them out of their precious souls. Eventually, they start recognizing him - not as the one who escaped, but as the one who taunts them, who deprives them of their prey.
He’s ready for them, always vigilant. Even he doesn’t expect the Hunt to come for his team, though. In retrospect, he should have. Sophie is one of the most cunning fae he’s ever known, but she serves herself instead of the Courts. Nate… whatever Court got him would have to trick him to get him, but Seers are valuable, no matter if they’re human or fae. And Parker and Hardison are too Gifted to go unnoticed and unwanted.
Eliot keeps a lodge in Northern California, way up in the Sierra Nevada range. It’s Parker’s idea to get everyone together for Christmas, the year after Sophie and Nate ‘retire’, and it’s been a good long while since Eliot could tell her no. He curses himself in every language he knows when the Hunt thunders across the sky on Christmas Eve. As they come to a halt in the back meadow, Eliot vows that he’ll bring them all a war the likes of which they’ve never seen if they ruin Christmas for Parker.
Nana laughs. “I believe you, boy. Think they will?”
Eliot’s expression shudders. “Didn’t realize I said that out loud.”
Nana smiles. “You didn’t.”
Eliot side-eyes the old fae. “I’ll figure you out one of these days.”
Her black eyes twinkle. “No, you won’t.”
Eliot huffs out a breath, runs a hand through his hair.
“You know they aren’t just coming for you, child.”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
Eliot hangs his head.
“You know what you have to do.”
Eliot raises his head and meets her eyes. “Been a long time since I was that guy.”
“But for them?”
Eliot sighs. “‘Til my dyin’ day, whatever it takes.”
“Prove it,” Nana challenges.
Eliot decides the woman is nothing short of a force of nature as he straightens his shoulders and heads out the back door.
“Damn right I am!” Nana calls after him.
Eliot chuckles and ties his hair back from his face, cracks his knuckles and his neck.
“ You ,” the rider at the front practically hisses.
Eliot grins, slow and dark. They didn’t even come for him - didn’t know he was here. That gives him the advantage. He holds his hands out to the side. “Me.”
The rider turns to someone in the shadows behind him. “Send word to the Queen.”
Eliot rolls his eyes, but bites his tongue. He has no desire to face the Queen, but her presence will make this whole mess go faster, so he doesn’t protest.
Already knowing it’s futile, he prays to whatever deities might be listening that his team stays inside. Almost as if hearing his errant thoughts, he feels them at his shoulders. Nate and Sophie hang back on the porch with Nana while Parker and Hardison come right up behind him.
“You guys should go back inside,” he growls quietly.
“No way, man,” Hardison scoffs.
He can’t see Parker, but he knows she rolls her eyes. “We’re in this together.”
“Ya’ll even know what ‘this’ is?”
“The Wild Hunt,” Parker answers.
Harison huffs out a breath, practically exhaling nerves. “They’re here for us.”
“Damnit, Hardison! If you know why the hell are you out here?”
“You can’t protect us from everything, man.”
Eliot frowns. “From this, I can. I ain’t lettin’ these bastards take you.”
Parker swallows loudly. “What if you can’t stop them? They’re… this isn’t a normal fight, Eliot.”
Eliot reaches a hand back toward her, unwilling to take his eyes off the Hunters.
Parker reaches forward and grasps it like a lifeline.
“You trust me?”
Hardison reaches up, rests his hand on Eliot’s shoulder. “You know we do, man.”
The crowd of Hunters ripples.
Eliot takes a deep breath. “Unless I tell you to… don’t speak.”
Parker squeezes his hand. Hardison squeezes his shoulder. Eliot rolls his neck. Hardison and Parker take the queue and step back as Eliot steps forward.
The Hunters part, and the Seelie Queen strides out in front of them. “This is the one who has caused you so many problems?”
Eliot resists the urge to roll his eyes.
“Stand aside, mortal. I come for what is mine.”
Mortal, Eliot scoffs mentally. Has he really been gone so long?
“Stand aside, mortal!” She demands again.
Eliot’s smile is slow, predatory. “They are not yours to take.”
The Queen’s delicate features contort in rage. “You dare to defy me?”
Eliot can’t help but laugh. It’s taken him a long time, because every child wants to love their mother, but he accepted a number of years ago that his mother was, is, and always will be a raging bitch. She lost his loyalty long ago, and now every ounce of what’s left rests with the people in the house at his back. “When was the last time I did not defy you?”
The Queen’s eyes widen. “C-”
Eliot holds his arms out wide. “The one and only.”
Her features harden. “Then today is a double victory. As I said, I came for what is mine.”
Eliot’s laugh is brittle. “I ain’t yours. And them? They’re mine.”
“I will invoke Names.”
Eliot’s eyes glint dangerously in the moonlight. “I would like to see you try.”
“You dare to test me?”
“ Līt. Escuro. Beleza. Buscador. They are mine. As are you, Cuarto.”
Eliot laughs, honestly, loudly. “Are you so far gone even your Sight fails you? Those Names mean nothing to anyone here.” Eliot tilts his head. “Feeling any compulsion guys?”
“Nope,” Parker chirps.
Hardison snorts derisively. “Not a bit. I thought the Queen of the Seelie was supposed to be impressive.”
Eliot smirks. “Those Names belong to beings who have grown and Changed. They are no longer those Names.”
The air, already frosty, grows heavy with ice as the Queen’s rage grows.
Eliot strides forward, out into the middle of the open space between them. “You cannot Claim that which is already Claimed. These lives, these souls, are mine .”
“Who are you to Claim that which the Queen calls her own?” The lead Hunter demands.
Eliot’s lips curl wryly. “Would you care to tell them, or shall I, Mother?”
The shock that ripples through the Hunters is palpable.
The lead Hunter shakes his head. “The Queen’s son rides among us. He is Nameless, he is faceless.”
Eliot scoffs. “I escaped the Ride years ago. Do you deny me, Mother?”
The Queen’s face is cold, but she shakes her head. “You know well that I cannot.”
“If you do not deny me, then you support that I have the right to Claim them.”
“They belong to the Court,” the Queen… well, if Eliot was less gracious, he would call it a snarl.
Eliot holds a hand out. “Join me.”
She knows as well as he does that he cannot hurt her, and strides into the middle of the clearing. Her eyes widen when he mutters an incantation to prevent the Hunters from hearing them.
Eliot finally gives into the urge to roll his eyes. “I have never been so useless or powerless as you seem to think.”
The Queen nods slowly. “I see that.”
“They are mine, and the Court will not Claim them.”
“That is a Claim you cannot hope to hold.”
Eliot sighs, and switches to a language that none present but his mother will recognize or understand - a language even older than the old Gaelic she tried to Name his team in. “You will hold the knowledge and the fact that they are mine in your mind and your heart, but it is knowledge that will be Bound from you. You will not see it, write it, speak it, remember it. You will have no intent. Their Names are Ladroa, Friki, Encanta, and Cerebro and they are mine. You cannot and will not have them."
"You are too bold. You give me their Names. You have already Claimed them, but you forget I know your name, my son."
"No, you don't," Parker injects quietly He can feel her slight frame at his back, barely brushing against him
The Queen’s gaze snaps to the blonde. “Excuse me?”
“This whole conversation is Shielded?” Sophie asks, from where she and Nate had joined them when Eliot had Named them.
Eliot nods. “She won’t be able to consciously remember anything that’s said, much less use it against us.”
“You know the boy you sent into the Hunt,” Nate says, “not the man who escaped it.
“And I promise you those are two very different people,” Hardison adds, large, warm hand wrapping around his shoulder, grip firm.
Parker reaches up and takes his hand again. “His Name is Valedor and he’s ours as much as we’re his.”
Nate moves up, staying behind Eliot, but putting himself in a more clear line of sight. “Those Names you tried to compel us with… none of them have been us for a long time. Līt and Escuro. Light and Dark, they have not been that since the moments they were born. Meaningless Names given to infants with no personalities. Beleza is Beauty, right? Beauty is only skin deep, and she is so much more. Buscador, Finder; was I ever so boring? Gods, that’s a depressing thought. And Cuarto. Quarter? You Named your own child for what you viewed as an impurity in his blood - one you yourself were responsible for due to your choice of his father.
“All of us are so much more than the surface you See. Ladora, our Thief. She is the best the world has ever known. Friki is only an approximation of Geek, because no word exists for it in any ancient language. He is something new and wonderful. Encanta, Glamour. He,” Nate nodes to Eliot, “told her once that if she dropped her Glamour she could have the world without even trying, and she told him she didn’t want it. Her ability to shift another’s perspective is astounding. Cerebro is, again, an approximation, because the role of a Mastermind did not exist in the capacity I exist in today, but I made all of these people, these beings, coexist and taught them to make the world dance at their fingertips. Valedor, our Protector, has never, and will never, let anyone harm that which is his, and you, your Grace, are sorely mistaken if you think he’s going to surrender that Claim to a poor excuse of a mother and a Queen.”
The light in Eliot’s eyes is feral. “Like I said, they’re mine. If you challenge that, it’ll be the last thing you ever do.”
“You would start a war,” the Queen asks, “over four measly souls.”
“I would,” Eliot answers without hesitation.
“But he won’t have to,” Nana says, gliding up to them.
The Queen actually stumbles back. “Impossible.”
Nana simply smiles. “Don’t forget, sister, I know your Name.”
“You wouldn’t dare. And you’ve never wanted the throne.”
Nana’s smile grows. The dim light glints off too-sharp teeth and predatory black eyes. “No, but for them, I would take it.”