“No.” Eliot keeps walking toward the door but his young, over-excited shadow follows him.
“C’mon! It’ll mean so much more if it comes from you!” Breanna continues, bouncing on her heels in a way that reminds Eliot of her youth.
“I’m not sending him that picture of you at that festival.” Eliot grumbles, gently taking Breanna’s shoulders and maneuvering her out of his path.
“But Alec will be so much happier for me if he knows I got on grumpy Eliot’s good side!”
Eliot stops in his tracks, turning around to face the young woman, “Grumpy Eliot?!” he growls.
“See? You’re doing the grumpy face right now! Please Eliot?”
Something about Breanna’s pleading eyes and youthful sincerity break down the emotional walls he’s built up over the years. Eliot sighs deeply, “Fine, but we never talk about this again.”
“Yes!! You’re the best! Thanks Eliot!” Breanna hugs him tightly before bouncing out of the room to tell Parker her good news. Eliot watches the young girl’s retreating figure in shock; wondering just how a kid in her twenties managed to get herself adopted into his family. A chuckle snaps him from his thoughts. He spins toward the voice to find Maria grinning at him.
“What was that about?”
Despite his indignation, Eliot allows his lips to twitch, “Nothing. Breanna wants me to send her brother a picture of her at some geek festival we were at the other day. Seems to think it’ll make him prouder of her if he gets the picture from me.”
“That means absolutely nothing to me, but it looks like you lost that fight.” Maria laughs, “So, three dates. When are you going to tell me about your family?”
Everything in Eliot’s experience tells him to avoid telling Maria anything about the team. Nonetheless, he finds himself biting his tongue to keep it from spilling his secrets. Something about his relationship with Maria feels different from any relationship he’s had since Aimee. He opens his mouth to respond when he realizes his new girlfriend is staring at him expectantly.
“Um...I don’t know.” He sighs, “Maybe I could tell you tonight? If you want?” He mentally kicks himself, annoyed that this woman is making him second guess everything about the security measures he’s placed around his heart.
He’s rewarded with a wide smile as the Marshal grabs his hand, “That sounds perfect. Come on, hun. You can tell me everything on the way to dinner.”
They walk in a comfortable silence for a few minutes before Eliot finds his voice. “They’re not my biological family. The people I work with, the ones you met during that internet privacy heist, I mean, but they’re all I’ve got.” Eliot kicks a loose bit of gravel on the sidewalk, “There’s Sophie, Nate, Hardison, Parker, and Breanna.”
Maria rolls her eyes fondly, bumping her shoulder into Eliot’s, “Tell me about them.”
He almost backs out and puts his walls back up. He’s already told this woman more about himself than anyone outside of the team in years, but the soft look in Maria’s eyes propels him forward, nonetheless. “Breanna, the girl you saw today, she is Hardison’s foster sister. She’s only been with us for a few months, but she’s sweet. She’s hyper, nerdy, annoying, and brilliant, but she’s sweet.” Eliot snorts at the thought of the young woman he’s come to feel responsible for before continuing.
“Hardison – he doesn’t technically work with us anymore. He’s using his technology skills to help people in Africa and the Middle East right now. Still, he’s been dating Parker for eight years, and we still talk all the time. He’s a lot like Breanna: nerdy, annoying, and hyper. Still, he’s a great listener and a really good guy. We’ve been friends for about twelve years now.” Eliot hesitates, “He’s more like my brother really.”
Eliot pauses to clear his throat, uncomfortable with the amount of talking he’s been doing. The thought of Parker brings a soft smile to his face, and he feels compelled to tell Maria about his little sister. “Parker is Parker.” He chuckles softly, “Sorry, there’s really no way to properly describe her. She’s strange. Half the time she acts like an excitable little kid, the rest of the time she’s a strong, mature, smart woman.”
Maria smiles at the soft look on her boyfriend’s face, “She sounds great.”
“She is. I mean – she’s annoying as hell. She lives on sugary cereal and likes to jump off of high buildings for fun, but she has her moments.” Eliot shakes his head fondly.
“That leaves Nate and Sophie. They were like the mom and dad of the group. Nate died last year – heart attack. Nate was a righteous functioning alcoholic. He was ornery, but his heart was in the right place. He was a furnace of rage, but he loved us.” Eliot pauses. “Sophie, on the other hand, is gentle and kind. She’s brilliant and was always able to reign Nate in a little. They got married about eight years ago, but me, Parker, and Hardison watched them dance around each other for years before they finally tied the knot.” Eliot allows himself t trail off, unsure of how or if he should continue telling Maria about his family.
“So. That’s your family?” His girlfriend asks with a small smile.
Eliot allows his lips to twitch, “Yeah. That’s my family.”
“They sound great. Maybe I can meet them sometime?” She responds boldly.
Despite his fears, Eliot finds himself nodding, “Yeah. They’ve been asking to meet you. I’ve just been a little...”
He chuckles, thinking of his ragtag group of thieves and their proclivity for teasing him. He knows the moment they meet Maria all his embarrassing moments from the past twelve years will be revealed but somehow, he can’t find the energy to care. “Yeah”, He finally responds to Maria, “Something like that.”